Labour Members Want A People's Vote – What Is Jeremy Corbyn Waiting For?

Corbyn still refuses to unequivocally back another vote – the longer the party waits, the bigger the threat of a Boris Johnson-led no-deal Brexit, Labour activist Kira Lewis writes

John McDonnell said on Monday that he expected “white smoke” to emerge from Tuesday’s shadow cabinet meeting on Brexit, and that the leadership would finally hold “a more definitive position” on another referendum. As a young Labour member campaigning for a People’s Vote, I had prayed that he was right.

And yet, leaks from those at Shadow Cabinet show that yet again, nothing has changed. Corbyn still refuses to unequivocally back a People’s Vote, and it is a choice that seems increasingly undemocratic.

Not only is he now ignoring calls from his Shadow Chancellor, members of the Shadow Cabinet, and deputy leader, he is more importantly still ignoring his members. Especially younger members, who voted most overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union and whose future is at risk from the increasingly likely prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

With Parliament in deadlock and likely prime minister Boris Johnson refusing to rule out no-deal, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the only way out of this mess is a People’s Vote with remain on the ballot paper. The longer the Labour leadership takes to unambiguously adopt this position, the more we are at risk of a devastating no-deal.

Jeremy Corbyn has always said that democracy is a fundamental principle of the Labour party – however his position on Brexit has been anything but. A poll in January solidified what we already know – that the majority of Labour members back a People’s Vote on Brexit – three in four, in fact. On Monday, the argument for the leadership changing position was made even stronger, with a poll by YouGov showed that 64% of trade union members wanting a People’s Vote. These are the people who elected Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party (twice). You would hope that he would listen to them.

And yet, Corbyn is still shying away. If Labour members, union members, and the Shadow Cabinet back a People’s Vote, as we know they do, then it is only democratic for the leadership to do so. No matter Seamus Milne’s or Len McCluskey’s personal opinion.

Labour is first and foremost a democratic socialist party, but it is not democratic or socialist to ignore the voices of our members on this, or to allow the possibility of a no-deal Brexit that would devastate socialist institutions like the NHS.

The evidence is there, Labour members back a People’s Vote, and now with the Shadow Chancellor himself calling for Corbyn to change his mind, it begs the question, what exactly is the leadership waiting for?

Kira Lewis is a Labour activist and campaigner with For Our Future’s Sake


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