Article by Mike Hough
The People’s Vote campaign could be forgiven for feeling more bullish of late. Firstly, a larger than expected crowd marched in London to demand a new referendum on Brexit. Secondly, a new poll from Survation for Channel 4’s The Big Brexit Debate found that should a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union be held now, 54% of people would vote to stay in the EU. Thirdly, Transport Minister Jo Johnson resigned from the Government attacking Theresa May’s plans and demanding a new referendum.
Therefore this would surely indicate that the momentum is with the campaign? However, there was also one piece of news last night which overshadowed all of these developments. In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his belief that Brexit cannot be stopped and that “what we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted to leave.”
Now, why does this matter so much?
Well, in order for a People’s Vote or second referendum to become reality, there needs to be a majority in the House of Commons. With the Government obviously opposed, the position of the Labour frontbench becomes critical. If as Corbyn suggests the Labour frontbench remains opposed to this proposal then there is no viable path for a new referendum to pass through Parliament. No motion in Parliament can succeed without support from either of the two main frontbenches.
Recently there had been indications that the Labour Party’s position was softening. At the Labour Party Conference, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion which stated Labour “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.” Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer also received a standing ovation when in his conference speech he suggested that remaining in the EU could be an option in any future public vote. Maybe, though we were reading too much into events at Conference?
Of course, Labour and Corbyn may seek to row back from these latest comments. This morning Labour spokespeople have been quick to claim that nothing has changed in light of these remarks. Yet, the comments provide us with a clear view of Corbyn’s current thinking on Brexit. This is not a leader seeking a new referendum or who even appears to want to overturn Brexit.
And for the People’s Vote campaign that is fatal.