Sunday Shows Round-Up: Tories Braced For A 'Kicking' As Labour Split Over Referendum

Brandon Lewis, Helen Whately, Barry Gardiner, Andrew Gwynne, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Jo Swinson on the pre-election TV tour.

It’s local elections on Thursday and the European elections are likely to follow. The looming polls dominated this morning’s Sunday shows.

Will the Tories even campaign?

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis conceded there is “frustration” in the party over where it was on Brexit. “I share that frustration,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

And asked when the Tories would launch a campaign for the European elections, Lewis dodged.

“Our first priority is to not have to fight the European elections. I think we should be looking to do everything we can to respect that 2016 referendum.

“If and when we are at the point where we know we are definitely fighting those European elections then we will take some decisions about that.”

And played down reports about donors deserting the party, insisting that 2018 had been a “record peacetime fundraising year”.

Over on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, Tory deputy chair Helen Whately admitted the local elections “are going to be a difficult night for us”.

She admitted they were a chance to “kick the government” and said she had seen “more anger than before” on the doorstep.

Professor Michael Thrasher, Sky News’ election analyst, predicted the Tories were on course to lose 405 council seats.

Labour splits over second referendum

For Labour, the electoral picture is better. But the party is focused on its NEC meeting on Tuesday whether to promise a second referendum in its European elections manifesto.

Many MPs want a referendum or a confirmatory public vote to be held whatever Brexit deal is agreed. But senior Labour figures on the Sunday shows this morning stopped short of that.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, said to offer a referendum whatever the deal would be to “change the party’s policy” agreed at conference.

“The party policy at that conference was, to stop a no-deal or to stop a bad Theresa May deal, and we couldn’t get our deal through or something pretty close to it as we’ve outlined it, then of course we would want to have a second referendum. That’s party policy,” he told BBC Radio 5′s Piennar’s Politics.

Meanwhile Long-Bailey told Ridge a referendum was not a red line for the party in talks with the government.

“Our party policy has always been that firstly we want to get a Brexit deal that puts our economy and living standards first and protects our environmental protections, workplace protections, health and safety standards,” she said.

And Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator, also did not agree that a referendum should be held on any deal. Instead he said he would back one to stop “a bad Tory Brexit or a no-deal scenario”.

Lib Dem fightback?

The Lib Dems launched their European election campaign on Friday. Jo Swinson told Marr voters should back them as the party was the “original and best” pro-Remain party.

And she dismissed the claim Change UK had “eclipsed” the Lib Dems. “If we want to deliver this, that was only ever going to be able to happen if we convinced others to join that cause,” she said.

It appears as if any attempt to form a pro-referendum alliance has failed. But Swinson said she wanted to have a “positive working relationship” with Change UK.

“I think that’s what people expect, us to be able to, in a very practical way, work with people whose values we share, because we need that working together if we are to stop Brexit,” she said.

Swinson, who is likely to stand to replace Vince Cable, would not be drawn on the looming leadership contest in her party.

But she added: “I’ve got a lot of ideas for what the Liberal Democrats need to do, and there’s going to be a discussion within the Liberal Democrats – in the not-too-distant future, exactly, and I’m very happy to come back and set that out at the time.”


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