Jeremy Corbyn's decision to impose a three-line whip instructing Labour's MPs to vote in favour of triggering article 50, in my view, is not in the interest of the country or the party. Yes, the country has voted by a majority (52% to 48%) to leave the European Union. The question now is on what terms. Jeremy Corbyn, in explaining his decision, said:
"Labour is in the almost unique position of having MPs representing constituencies in both directions, and very strongly in both directions. I say to everyone: unite around the important issues of jobs, security, economy, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future outside the EU, but in concert with friends, whether those countries are outside or inside the EU."
So far so good. However, if you want to exert the maximum leverage on the government to uphold these principles, then allow Labour MPs to vote in accordance with their constituents' views and their own belief. The government will still probably get a majority in favour of triggering article 50 anyway, but the size of the majority matters.
The voice of Labour MPs voting against, added to that of the SNP, the LibDems, the Greens and a number of Tory MPs, will send a powerful signal to the government to listen to the views of those opposing a hard Brexit.
I was delighted when Jeremy Corbyn became Leader of the Labour Party, as he represented an alternative distinct vision of how the country should be run. Democracy will always work better if voters are given a choice at the ballot box. He himself has voted according to what his belief and conscience told him, defying in numerous occasions what the Labour Party machine wanted.
In this case, he and the Labour Party campaigned to remain in the EU. Did he really believe imposing a three-line whip would show strong leadership? All it has done is to create a problem from nothing. It has helped the Tories paper over the chasm that exists in their own party, where senior figures were disagreeing with one another on remaining/leaving the EU.
There are also divisions within the Conservative Party with regard to membership of the European single market, and its importance to the British economy. Theresa May has signalled that Britain will be leaving the single market. All of that is now being drowned by this self-imposed unnecessary disarray within the Labour Party.
The Supreme Court has given Parliament the duty to shape what sort of Brexit we should have. Let us use that opportunity to frame the debate in ways that serve the British people, whether they voted remain or leave.
This can only happen if the government is compelled to listen. Jeremy Corbyn wants this government to listen to his concerns regarding "jobs, security, economic rights, justice", yes indeed. Now put the maximum pressure on the government by allowing your MPs to have a free vote on this vital issue that will shape Britain's future for generations to come.