Why it’s easier for Labour to force a new referendum rather than a General Election

Article by Mike Hough

So the Labour Party conference is over. A conference which briefly threatened to ignite over anti-Semitism, deselection and Brexit ultimately passed by quite successfully. The main headline (probably) from Liverpool was that Labour would prefer a General Election to a new referendum.

Now, although that may be the preference of the Labour Party, it is my opinion that it will be easier for Labour to force a second referendum. Not necessarily straightforward but nonetheless easier.

Without any support from the governing party under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, there is no way for Labour to reach the numbers needed to trigger the clauses in the Act. The two triggers of course are a vote of no confidence in the Government or as in 2017, two-thirds of Parliament voting for a General Election.

Let’s look at the first trigger. No matter the level of discontent, no Conservative MP will vote with the opposition in a Vote of No Confidence against their own party. Also given the current leadership of the Labour Party, you can forget the DUP joining Labour to vote against this Government.

Secondly two thirds of Parliament voting for a General Election. Given the current political climate it does not take a genius to work out that the Conservative Party will not vote for a General Election. One thing that continues to unite the Conservative Party is the fear of a Jeremy Corbyn government. Thus quite simply there aren’t the numbers.

However, a second referendum. Now the reason this is slightly different is because of the position of Conservative MPs. MPs such as Anna Soubry, Philip Lee and Justine Greening have already expressed the support. We know that there are others as well who are sympathetic. It is not hard to envisage a situation where 10-15 Tory MPs vote with an opposition motion to force a new referendum. More than enough in the current arithmetic.

Yes it would also require a united Labour Party. And that is far from guaranteed. There will be dissenters on the Labour side of course. But in a parliamentary climate where you need the backing of Tory MPs to succeed, it is far easier to envisage a situation where a sizeable number vote for a second referendum.

Maybe, just maybe this is where the Labour Party will end up!

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