Pro-EU MPs were accused of using Brexit as “disgraceful” attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership during a fiery debate at Labour’s conference.
Darryl Telles, a delegate from Hove, delivered a dressing-down to anti-Brexit campaigners in a passionate speech from the podium on Monday morning, as he urged members to respect democracy and accept the referendum result.
But pro-EU campaigners fought back, with one member taking to the stage to accuse the party of letting the Tories “do what they want with Brexit” by deciding not to hold a meaningful vote on the issue during the four day gathering in Brighton.
Yesterday, delegates did not back Brexit as a subject to be voted on, prompting some to accuse the Corbyn-backing group Momentum of organising a “fix” by asking its supporters not to include the issue in a list of “priority” motions.
Brexit was discussed during the Monday morning session, and the tension in the hall quickly grew as speaker after speaker took to the stage to either support or attack the decision.
The biggest ovation was given to Telles, who said: “Who in this hall thought it would be a good idea on the first day of conference to organise a Stop Brexit campaign outside this conference.
“That’s a disgrace. The real intention of that campaign is to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”
Telles compared stopping Brexit to the Monty Python ‘dead parrot’ sketch, and in a reference to the Labour leader’s love of Arsenal, said: “You have as much chance of stopping Brexit as Jeremy Corbyn has of wearing my Tottenham shirt. Get real.”
He added: “To the MP who said it was silly and undermining decision not to have a vote, well I’ll tell you what is silly and undermining, standing as a Labour parliamentary candidate and saying you are standing against Jeremy Corbyn.”
Jean Roberts from Brent Central also backed the decision not to have meaningful debate on Brexit, telling the conference hall: “We are not all agreed which is why I’m pleased of the fact we’re not going to have a vote.”
But Cameron Clack, from Stamford, drew boos from the audience as he said: “Yesterday you voted away your chance to remain in the Single Market, you voted away your chance to stay in the EU, you voted away your chance to stop this disastrous Brexit.”
He added: “We will be remembered as the opposition who let the Tories do what they want with Brexit.”
Owen Dickinson, a youth delegate from Sedgefield, prompted cries of “rubbish” as he explained why he did not back Brexit as a contemporary motion.
He said: “We are debating Brexit today, we did not need to take up more time to discuss Brexit when we can use it to discuss things like our NHS,, we can use that time to discuss the housing crisis, we can use it to discuss the rails and indeed Brexit will most likely be discussed this afternoon, that’s almost guaranteed.”
“Contemporary” motions on the UK quitting the EU lost out in the party’s “priorities” ballot of party members and trade union affiliates on Sunday.
Instead, conference will discuss and vote on on eight other issues: housing, social care, the NHS, rail services, workers’ rights, investment and growth, public sector pay and the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The row came a day after Labour’s election chief Andrew Gwynne told HuffPost UK rows over Brexit could tear the party in two.