Labour’s Brexit policy was too complicated for the doorstep

It must be simpler and more up-to-date.

While I was disappointed last weekend at Labour’s European Union Elections Results, I can’t say I was surprised.

I knew Labour was set for a bad night in London, but I hoped it would be better outside the M25. It wasn’t to be.

A bad policy on Brexit, and a lack of campaign funding led to the worst national election result in over a century.

Across London, a small army of volunteers campaigned tirelessly. From editing twitter videos in our lunch break to leaving work early to race across town and canvass, a group of strangers came together to work for some excellent London candidates.

But despite our best efforts, we kept coming up short on the doorstep by failing to answer the same question.

That question, people’s primary concern, was about Labour’s stance on Brexit.

Ninety seconds in front of busy parents or a sleepy student is not enough time to restate our conference policy.

It’s not enough time to explain the caveats and the conditions in which Labour backs another referendum and it’s not enough time to counteract whatever bollocks they heard on the radio from Len McCluskey last week.

We tried to provide a condensed and precise answer to our three paragraph policy – but it wasn’t enough to convince people on the doorstep to vote for a pro-European Labour candidate.

The results are conclusive. They show the importance of a clear Brexit policy.

It was simply not enough to reheat policy that was made back at September’s conference.

So much has changed since then. We’ve had three votes on the withdrawal agreement, two rounds of indicative votes, two new political parties formed and one prime-ministerial resignation.

No one in that composite meeting back in Liverpool could have foreseen the crisis we find ourselves in now; the composite motion is not fit for purpose. It needs updating.

As a result of our inaction and indecision, the Liberal Democrats gained more votes and seats in London than Labour. There’s no way to spin this one as anything other than a disaster.

London is a stronghold for the Labour party; filled with Labour councillors, Labour MPs and a Labour Mayor. All of these seats are now under threat.

Going into future elections, the Liberal Democrats now know they have an active and passionate base, one deeply behind their flagship policy on the issue of the day – something we can no longer rely on.

An issue of even greater concern is the percentage of university students that voted for the Liberal Democrats last week.

Almost one in three votes cast by those in major student cities, a useful proxy for students, were for a party that betrayed them nine years ago by trebling tuition fees. Labour can no longer take students and young people for granted.

While Lisa Nandy claimed overnight that we were overly focused on London, Labour’s appalling results were spread across the UK.

The talented Clare Moody lost her seat in the South West and Labour lost three seats in Scotland.

These Labour MEP’s should have been sent to Europe to promote Labour values across the European Union.

They should have gone to Brussels to help with fighting climate change and promote socialist policies on Labour immigration and tax reform.

Instead, the party let them down and they now find themselves jobless. It’s not good enough to claim that our result was good in comparison to the Tories. Better solutions need to be found.

Two election defeats in three weeks are not ideal for a party seeking to be the next government. Last week results showed we cannot even take our base for granted.

But there is hope: Fact Check released data yesterday which showed that backing a People’s Vote and Remain would improve our chances in an election.

Even a 5% swing back from the Lib Dems would see us gain 47 seats compared to 2017.

It’s now time for clarity surrounding Labour’s Brexit policy. If the leadership thinks they have a better policy on Brexit than a confirmatory referendum, they should ask the members what they think.

Although the right people have been making the right noises, we have to speak with one voice.

That voice must be for a confirmatory referendum on any deal, support for Remain, and a commitment to transform Europe for the many, not the few.

Cathleen Clarke is a member of Our Future, Our Choice and a member of Momentum

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9 Responses to “Labour’s Brexit policy was too complicated for the doorstep”

  1. Jason

    Don’t be so bloody stupid. Labour’s policy was to be yes each Monday , Wednesday , Friday and no on Tuesday , Thursday . They took each week-end off !

  2. Alasdair Macdonald

    Yes, blame the ‘bloody voters’! The voters knew exactly what Labour was trying to do and punished them for it.

    However, I doubt if Labour, particularly in Scotland, can come back from this. All the possible positions on a wide range of issues, including Brexit are covered adequately by other parties which have been much more honourable in their stance.

  3. Barry Edwards

    Our opponents had simple slogans so we needed a simple phrase in response, one that hits the head and the heart.

    My suggestion, if we now move to supporting a confirmatory vote, is

    “Britain, broken by the Tories, not the EU”.

  4. peem birrell

    ” Labour lost three seats in Scotland”

    Wow! – they only had two…

  5. Chester Draws

    A policy to re-run the referendum is the absence of a policy.

    Those who vote Leave will regard it as basically an invitation to Remain — why else run it again, unless it is to ensure the correct answer is achieved.

    Those who vote Remain will regard it as taking an unnecessary risk, and voting for the LDs at least gets Leave as policy without risk.

    But that’s the modern Labour Party for you — contradictory policy on most things. On the face of it being for traditional working class having good jobs, while also having an environmental policy that will actively reduce industrial jobs. Being for Europe while also advocating nationalising industries in a manner that the EU will prohibit. Being for cheaper housing, while regulating the industry so much that private enterprise can’t build quickly enough.

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