All too predictably, the Establishment and centrist-friendly media have ignored what Labour’s amendment to the government’s Brexit motion actually says this morning and instead are presenting it as a Labour ‘pivot’, or at least partial move, toward supporting a new EU referendum.
In fact, Labour’s amendment is perfectly clear about what it calls for – and represents an intelligent and perfectly-pitched move to keep Theresa May on the back foot while continuing to represent all the population, unlike any other party leader at the moment.
What it really says
The amendment itself makes clear that it is demanding that the government makes time for any necessary parliamentary procedures to avoid a hard Tory Brexit:
… and instructs the UK Government to secure sufficient time for the UK Parliament to consider and vote on options to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. Those options should include:
i) negotiating changes to the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration so as to secure a permanent customs union with the EU, a strong relationship with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, and dynamic alignment on rights and standards, in order to command a majority in the House of CommonsLabour’s Brexit amendment
ii) Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons
Labour’s own announcement of the amendment states clearly that the amendment represents no departure from the policy agreed at last September’s party conference, which has seen Labour leading in most polls and Corbyn the strong – and strengthening – bookmakers’ favourite to be the next PM:
Labour’s conference policy – and Corbyn’s stance – refuse to allow the party’s opponents, whether centrists or even further right, to paint Labour into a corner for their own political agenda and to the detriment of most people in this country, leavers and remainers alike.
The party is rightly keeping all options open until the outcome of the current process is known – and refusing to give way to its opponents attempts to box it in. This puts the spotlight back on the architects of the current chaos instead of allowing them to divert attention and blame onto Labour – though of course this has not prevented the Establishment media still trying to do it anyway.
The so-called “people’s vote” campaign has depended on being able to claim national support for a new referendum without actually having to demonstrate it. The prospect of a parliamentary vote does not fill its advocates with joy – but Labour’s amendment correctly respects the role of Parliament in any outcome.
Labour’s Melanie Onn, who is no Corbynite – she backed Owen Smith in the 2016 leadership contest – exemplified why many MPs have no appetite for another referendum when she issued a statement listing the many reasons she will not vote for one if a motion comes before the Commons:
Onn highlighted the persistent leave sentiment in her northern ‘Labour heartland’ seat, along with the arrogance and lack of actual planning of “people’s vote” campaigners.
For the many, not a vocal few
She also, rightly, fears the divisiveness of a new referendum – and the fact that a new vote would not be likely to resolve any issues, even if the government against all odds put one forward including a ‘remain’ option.
It seems the people of the UK largely see the situation the same way. In spite of propaganda to the contrary, there does not appear to be any widespread appetite among the electorate for a new vote:
The official Opposition would be foolish, in these circumstances, to ‘pivot’ to a new referendum to please a vocal minority – and it has not done so, in spite of the frantic spin of pro-referendum campaigners and Establishment media eager to misrepresent this latest move.
But at the same time, Labour has kept options open so that it can react to evolving circumstances, rather than blundering into the trap its opponents have been desperately hoping it would.
Corbyn has managed a remarkable feat that even most of his supporters did not see coming.
By respecting Labour’s conference policy and keeping the pressure on the government – and boxing in opponents whose real aims had little to do with democracy and everything to do with another attempt to damage Labour electorally – Corbyn has maintained Labour’s position as the only party treating all the public and Parliament with respect.
All Labour supporters and voters should welcome that, regardless of their personal feelings about Brexit.
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