THE BLOG
08/01/2019 08:34 GMT | Updated 08/01/2019 13:46 GMT

Labour Faces A Massive Risk With Young People If They Back Brexit

What is clear from our campaigning across the country is that young people feel entirely let down by Labour

On Sunday, it was announced that the biggest Brexit poll to date - conducted by the highly respected YouGov - had released its findings. 25,000 people from across the United Kingdom were surveyed on their views, on all things Brexit-related. It showed a number of clear results; firstly, that there is growing momentum for a People’s Vote across the United Kingdom, with 53% backing a vote on the Brexit deal. It was also brutally honest about the public’s dislike of the Prime Minister’s deal, with 22% supporting it – rising to only 28% amongst leave voters.

But the findings for senior leaders in the Labour Party are what is most stark. If Labour backs the Government’s deal, its support would slump to just 26%. Perhaps more worryingly for Jeremy Corbyn and company, even if they simply allowed Labour MPs to make up their own minds – a so-called free vote – they would still drop to 26%.

This message is even more amplified amongst young people and students. We both represent organisations - Our Future Our Choice, and For our Future’s Sake - which are led by young people, campaigning for a People’s Vote. What is entirely clear from our campaigning across the country is that young people expect the Labour Party to reciprocate their support - and so far, we have been entirely let down.

This is an exceedingly dangerous place for our party to be.

In fact, we can reveal that Labour’s strong showing amongst 18-24 year olds - currently at 56% - would be severely damaged if they back Brexit, or are seen to facilitate it. We would drop to just 40% backing from young people - over a quarter of our entire youth support.

Even if we allow a free vote on the issue, that number is fairly steady - anything other than full opposition to this Brexit would leave us at 42% with young voters. 

The United Kingdom is suffering, after a decade of Tory-imposed austerity. We know that part of the country are simply on their knees, and another Conservative Government would punish them further. We’re members of the Labour Party because we believe a radical Labour government could address the issues facing the country, with a host of socialist, inclusive and forward thinking policies. We may not get the chance, and that would be heartbreaking.

On 15 January, Parliament should finally get a meaningful vote on the Prime Minister’s universally disliked Brexit deal. If - as expected, it falls - all eyes will be on the Leader of the Opposition, as the Labour Party’s (and his) future will be defined by his response.

Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party, is defined by three characteristics. He is known as a man of principle who fights against injustice and prejudice. He is seen as someone who listens and genuinely cares about Labour’s membership. And he is obviously passionate about getting young people involved in politics.

These are all reasons why young people and students campaigned and voted for him in their droves in 2017.

The unfortunate reality is that on Brexit, our leader is on exactly the wrong side of all of these three issues. We know that Brexit will hit the poorest the hardest, that 86% of Labour members (and higher still for young members) back a People’s Vote. We know that young people and students loathe this Brexit deal, and all forms of Brexit.

Groups like OFOC and FFS are full of young diverse people, who believe in Corbyn’s vision for a better politics and UK society, but are concerned that the Labour Party are going to sell them out.

We hope this polling of young people, finally convinces Labour’s leadership to get off the fence, and back a People’s Vote. For the good of the country, the Labour Party and for young people everywhere.

Cathleen Clarke is student mobilisation co-ordinator for Our Future Our Choice

Jason Arthur is a member of the Labour Party and co-founder of For our Future’s Sake