A public vote is Labour policy.
Elections matter. They set the tone of political debate, they set some parties on the road to power and others into decline.
Winners govern, the losers watch from the side lines. Tomorrow’s European elections are no different.
These elections matter for at least three important reasons. First – Brexit, which for obvious reasons has dominated the campaign.
Those of us who want to see an end to Brexit, and to do that democratically, want to win a public vote to put any deal that passes parliament against remaining in the EU as a choice to the people.
The only way to do that is to win a vote in parliament, and the only way to do that is to have a majority of MPs on our side.
For all the criticism of Labour, a public vote is Labour policy – witness Corbyn on the Marr show on Sunday: ‘If we can get [a deal] through Parliament, then I think it would be reasonable to have a public vote to decide on that’. No ifs, no buts: that’s a commitment to a confirmatory vote.
Some may conveniently forget that without Labour, Brexit would have happened by now and these elections would not be taking place.
It’s Labour opposition, led by Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer, that has prevented Brexit and twice made a public vote the winning option in indicative votes.
Labour is not the bad guy – the bad guy is running the Brexit Party, and beating him in these elections should be our number one aim.
The division of the Remain vote between Labour, the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK only helps Farage win.
The D’Hondt system is not truly proportional, its bizarre system of dividing votes means that parties with bigger vote shares win out. It’s first past the post with a nasty sting in the tail.
It was probably designed to keep out extreme fringe parties, but now that one of them is set to gain the biggest vote, the system is going to backfire.
As a result, Remain supporters in some regions are likely to vote Green or Change UK, thinking that they’re doing the best thing for the cause, only to find that they’ve allowed an extra Faragist MEP to win instead of a remain-backing, public-vote-supporting socialist Labour candidate.
Remainers need to think beyond Monday morning’s headlines. We don’t just want to win the next stage of the Brexit battle, but to make sure we’re still at the heart of Brussels – fighting there for what matters.
MEPs sit for five long years, time that we hope and expect to still be members of the EU.
Sending as few Brexit Party MEPs as possible to Brussels has to be in all our interests.
Their presence will hardly encourage the EU to give us the further extension we will need for a public vote to be held.
Meanwhile every Labour MEP lost makes a Socialist President of the Commission less likely, potentially preventing a radical policy programme that could benefit millions.
Lib Dem and Green MEPs, even if they did beat Farage, would not vote for a Socialist President; the Green’s European Parliamentary group is considering voting for the centre right candidate to run the Commission, hardly the radical socialism the continent needs.
Finally, these elections matter for our hopes of winning a Labour Government and ending the years of Tory austerity.
It’s undeniable that we are losing support to more explicitly Remain parties because that’s the future that our voters want.
We would be foolish to think that these voters are leaving us for just one vote, and that then things will go back to normal.
The two-party system has been decaying for decades, and arguably the shot of life it got in 2017 was due to Remainers from smaller parties backing us as the best means to stop May’s hard Brexit.
We can win voters back – but to do so we need an offer more explicit than the one we have now, with a commitment to a public vote, and a commitment to both remain and reform to create a socialist Europe.
Remain means not just keeping the rights and protections we have right now but having the chance to create a truly socialist Europe.
That’s a policy project that could help the many in Greece, Bulgaria and the Balkans just as much as the many in Sunderland, Liverpool and the Welsh Valleys.
Our job now is to get out on the doorstep and make the case for Labour. Our brilliant Labour candidates deserve it.
Mike Buckley is director of Labour for a public vote
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