One of Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbenchers has been “bollocked” but not sacked after he voted for a fresh referendum on Brexit, HuffPost has learned.
Shadow Health Minister Lord Hunt of King’s Heath backed a cross-party amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to pave the way for a fresh poll of the public on the final EU deal.
The Lib Dem-led amendment on Monday night aimed to give Parliament a vote on whether to adopt a brand new referendum to endorse or reject whatever Brexit terms Theresa May hammers out with Brussels later this year.
Lord Hunt defied his party’s whip in backing the move, one of 51 Labour peers to do so, even though the Government won the overall vote.
But Labour’s official policy is not to back a second referendum and as a member of the shadow ministerial team Hunt broke collective responsibility in breaking ranks.
Hunt – a former minster under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - was hauled in for a “full and frank discussion” with the party’s leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, and with Shadow Chief Whip Lord McAvoy.
“He was given a bollocking,” one source told HuffPost, but was not fired from his post.
Brexit minister Steve Baker had demanded his dismissal.
“If Labour want to be taken seriously as a party which respects the decision the people took in the referendum, they must remove Lord Hunt from their front bench.
“All their behaviour to this date has shown a determination to disrupt a successful Brexit, but failure to act now would demonstrate a contempt for those who voted for it.”
Hunt in fact reappeared on the frontbench late on Monday, with no objection from Brexit minister Lord Callanan.
Introducing his amendment yesterday, Lord Newby, the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, said it was designed to “give the people who started the Brexit process a chance to have a final say on its outcome.”
Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft added: “It’s increasingly clear the public want a final vote on the final deal. The Brexit dangled before them no longer seems to be on offer. The people are waking up to that now.”
But the Lords disagreed, voting the amendment down by 260 votes to 202.
Just nine Labour MPs backed a similar Lib Dem amendment for a second referendum in the Commons last year, including former frontbencher Daniel Zeichner.
On Monday night, May suffered her most damaging Brexit defeat so far after the House of Lords voted to give Parliament a say over the terms of any future EU deal.
Peers voted by 335 to 244 for a cross-party amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to ensure MPs get a ‘meaningful vote’ on the outcome of the Prime Minister’s talks with Brussels.
The hefty majority of 91 was powered by 19 Tory rebels - including Michael Heseltine, David Willetts and former Chief Whip James Arbuthnot - and 68 independent crossbenchers.