THE BLOG
27/09/2018 10:22 BST | Updated 27/09/2018 10:22 BST

Labour's People's Vote Fudge Shows Just How Much They Care About 'The Many'

If Corbyn is going to lay claim to supporting the wishes and aspirations of ‘the many’ then he should stop deferring to ‘the few’ in his party that back Brexit

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Labour’s Brexit paralysis reached a new level of pitiful as the much awaited wording of the motion on the People’s Vote was announced.

A huge surge of support for a national referendum on the final Brexit deal has been seen across the country, not least amongst the ranks of Labour members and supporters with reports of anything up to 90% of members calling for the cross-party People’s Vote campaign to be debated during Labour’s conference this week.

Amidst what appeared to be suspicious ground-laying statements from the leadership expounding their support for Brexit, there were echoes of Corbyn’s previous stance during the referendum campaign where he quite plainly supported Labour’s remain policy in name only. Promises that he would ‘adhere’ to whatever conference decided seemed lukewarm at best.

I suspected at that point there were manoeuvres in the background to make any motion more palatable to him and the rest of the leadership and that now appears to be the case.

The proposition is simple. That the exact nature of any ‘deal’ for our departure from the EU would be put to a national vote. This was not to be a re-run of the first referendum, but a vote on the deal itself. The original vote was on the principal of departure. The final pre-exit vote would be on terms of our leaving, something that neither side in the referendum debate in 2016 would have known, despite claims to the contrary.

Yet the wording of the motion to be debated at the conference took hours to agree. I live 170 miles away from remain voting Liverpool, but I could smell the sickly odour of boiling fudge from here. Then, after a 5 hour meeting, a two page motion was concocted containing the key phrase :

“If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

This isn’t a motion on the People’s Vote. The vote itself is reduced to the level of a footnote. Only if there’s no general election will Labour support it. And even then, only after they’ve exhausted all other options.

If anything it’s a weaker position than they have now, especially after John McDonnell’s further clarification that the option to remain in the EU might not even be on the table. It’s essentially another push to get a general election which Labour are convinced they would win, despite evidence to the contrary and the fact that it‘s unlikely that one will be called before the Brexit deadline.

Ultimately the leadership, and those pulling their strings, have got their way. Corbyn can polish his democratic halo by claiming that he’s prepared to ‘adhere’ to the vote, knowing full well that he’s not signing up to anything remotely binding. It’s an example of cynical manipulation of the wishes of the party membership that gives lie to the claims of being “for the many not the few”.

I’ve never made a secret of my disillusionment with Corbyn. Recently that has turned from mild distaste to a pronounced dislike. But I still had some respect for his integrity. That has now all but evaporated.

It seems that the wishes of the many can always be trumped by those at the top, just like every other authoritarian regime around the world. And just like those governments, their leaders will cloak themselves in the mantle of democracy while subverting that principle for their own ends.

This essentially leaves Labour in a bad place, with all pretence of respect for the views of the vast majority of their members being jettisoned. They still have no coherent position on Brexit and now risk losing the support of all but the most starry-eyed Corbynistas, who no doubt will continue to tie themselves in knots as they accept the spin on this betrayal as being some kind of clever strategic move.

Meanwhile, the party will persevere with their dogged mantra of the fabled ‘6 tests’. Tests that everyone already knows will fail any deal that has been proposed or would be accepted by Parliament or the EU. Yet Labour still seem to be in ‘wait and see’ territory. When are they going to apply these tests? The day before we potentially crash out of the EU with no deal, or the day after we leave with a bad one? To use the vernacular : it’s time they pooped or got off the pot.

Having now effectively scuppered any real chance of a vote on the terms before we leave, we have nothing left to rely on other than the vacillations of Labour policy and Tory infighting, and the promise of a ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament. That, I suspect, will turn out to be as toothless as Labour’s motion on the People’s Vote this week. Even if it doesn’t, a rejection of the deal at that point will mean us crashing out of the EU. There will be no option to end this madness and remain inside. We will be left with the worst of all worlds with neither dominant political party offering any workable alternatives.

If Corbyn is going to lay claim to supporting the wishes and aspirations of ‘the many’ then he should stop deferring to ‘the few’ in his party that back Brexit. 65% of Labour voters opted for remain, that number is now reported to be over 70% or more.

Now is not the time to hide behind finagled votes and cynical machinations. If the many outweigh the few, then give the many what they want. Unless that slogan only counts when the many agree with you or if few aren’t named Jeremy, John or Len.