Labour's Brexit Policy Has 'Hit' Party In The Polls, Admits John McDonnell

One survey put Labour just one point ahead of the Lib Dems.

John McDonnell has admitted Labour’s Brexit policy has led to it taking a “hit” in the polls.

Amid internal battles over how strongly the party should be pushing for a second referendum, the shadow chancellor said on Tuesday that in “deep in my heart I’m still a remainer” but added he was trying to find a “compromise”.

Jeremy Corbyn has admitted that Labour needs a clearer message on Brexit after a raft of his MPs warned the party was “haemorrhaging” votes to the pro-Remain Lib Dems and Greens.

Following a backlash among MPs and activists last month, Labour finally added the “option” of a second referendum on its election leaflets.

But critics have claimed the party is being outflanked by a clearer pro-EU message from rival parties.

Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, has said the party is one of “remain and reform”. But Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, has said the party is committed to taking the UK our of the EU.

Keir Starmer, the shadow brexit secretary, has said Labour MPs are unlikely to back any cross-party deal unless it was put to a public vote.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in London today, McDonnell said Starmer was not “promoting” a second referendum but acknowledging “there are a large number of MPs who will not sign up to anything unless there is a public vote”.

A YouGov study for the Times for the upcoming European elections put the Brexit Party in the lead on 34%.

Labour was in a distant second on 16%, just ahead of the Lib Dems on 15% and the Greens on 11%. The Tories were in last place on 10%.

Asked if Labour was suffering in the polls as it was looking “both ways” on Brexit, McDonnell said “we are taking that hit as a result and I accept that”.

“Sometimes you have to do the right thing. It would be easy for us to go one way or the other and then completely divide society all over again,” he said.

McDonnell said Labour was the “only party which is trying to bring people back together again”.

Theresa May’s cabinet agreed today afternoon to continue talks with Labour but acknowledged it was “imperative” to get withdrawal legislation through parliament before the summer break.

Asked about the ongoing talks between Labour and the government, McDonnell said “we don’t think there is a deal there yet”.

“Our big problem now is, if we are going to march our troops in parliament to the top of the hill to vote for a deal and then that’s overturned within weeks, I think that would be a cataclysmic act of bad faith,” he said.

Labour is worried May’s successor as Tory leader will scrap any deal agreed with the prime minister once they take over.