Labour’s chairman has been targeted by media this week over his abstention in Commons Brexit votes
Labour Chair and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has been heavily targeted by the media and by right-wing Labour MPs for his decision to abstain on a Labour-supported amendment earlier this week. The amendment called on the government to put any Brexit deal to a further public vote.
Lavery has frequently been a target of the right because of his closeness to and staunch support for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
But while the media and so-called ‘centrist’ MPs have attacked, the popular Lavery has received expressions of support from colleagues across the Brexit spectrum. Some of them told the SKWAWKBOX what they think of Lavery and why they support him.
Ian Mearns – “Ian was absolutely right”
Fellow north-easterner Ian Mearns is one of twenty-five MPs who signed a letter this week calling on Jeremy Corbyn to refuse any talk of a new referendum in his discussions with Theresa May, after May had to ask for Corbyn’s help to find a solution to the Brexit deadlock.
Mearns told the SKWAWKBOX both about the policy aspects of the votes this week – and the constituents both he and Lavery represent:
Supporting another referendum was only ever on the basis that our party couldn’t secure a deal that was to our liking. Our manifesto – and our conference policy – said that we would respect the 2016 referendum result.
Now that May, after all her time-wasting and prevarication, has decided to enter negotiations with Jeremy, that rolls us back a couple of steps in the process conference decided – the conference policy was never to put a deal that was to our liking to another referendum, it was only to defeat a bad deal.
Let’s not forget that Ian and I and almost all the others (who signed the letter) voted in support of the Yvette Cooper amendment to take no-deal off the table. We stick with the 2016 result as long as we can get a deal which is to our liking – and whether we get that deal or not is still unsure.
If we get a good deal, pushing for another referendum is counter-productive – especially for MPs representing constituencies like ours. And it’s premature given where we are now.
The MPs who support the idea of another referendum almost all come from very safe constituencies, but if you look at the recent ‘revoke’ petition, almost none of the people who signed came from constituencies like mine and Ian’s – and in 2016 we were seeing a fourteen-point difference in favour of leaving.
As history has shown us since 2016, the north has been largely ignored by this government – and for decades by successive governments before that, including Blair’s. People up here are crying out for significant political change, so from that perspective Ian was absolutely right to stand up for our voters. I understand that some people are really upset,
Laura Pidcock – “he’s fought for working class people all his life”
Labour front-bencher Laura Pidcock is a remain voter whose constituents voted to leave the EU in 2016. She told the SKWAWKBOX:
Ian Lavery has fought for working class people his whole life, he is a dedicated servant of the Labour Party and he is a principled man. He loves the Labour Party and works so hard every day to make sure we are prepared for power.
Dan Carden – “a giant of the trade union and Labour movement”
While Mearns and Lavery represent heavily leave-voting areas, in Liverpool over 58% of voters opted for remain. But Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden was emphatic in his backing for the Wansbeck MP – and in his understanding of his decision this week:
As Chair of the Party Ian Lavery has transformed the way we operate in our communities and engage people in politics.
Ian is a giant of the trade union and Labour movement who understands and speaks up for the concerns of his constituents.
Labour must never again take for granted the support of our working class heartlands and left behind communities and I know Ian is driven by that commitment.
Laura Smith – “Ian was quite right”
Sixty percent of voters in Crewe and Nantwich voted to leave the EU, a year before Laura Smith won the seat in the 2017 general election. She signed this week’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn. Ms Smith told the SKWAWKBOX:
Ian is an uncompromising socialist that wants nothing more than to see Jeremy as Prime Minister, leading a radical programme for change to rebuild and re-balance our economy.
At the last election, Labour promised to respect the referendum result. I firmly believe we need to focus our efforts on achieving a deal that lays the foundations for that programme we are united around.
Like me, Ian believes the membership are key to Labour’s success in the next election and respects the democratic mandate of last year’s conference decision. However, the recent motions went beyond that policy.
I know that he did not take this decision lightly but he understands the gravity of the current situation. Everything is at stake and Ian knows this.
Grahame Morris – “Ian recognises public opinion outside London and was quite right”
Former front-bencher Grahame Morris’ Easington seat voted leave in 2016, by a ratio of two to one, although he personally is said to have voted to remain. In spite of his personal preference in 2016, Morris was another of the twenty-five MPs who put his name to the letter asking Corbyn to reject the idea of another referendum. He told the SKWAWKBOX:
The country is divided and it is important to recognise that a large number of Labour MPs like Ian Lavery representing majority leave constituencies in which the current push from what is considered to be a metropolitan elite for a People’s Vote to frustrate or reverse Brexit is being interpreted as ignoring the will of the majority in the traditional Labour areas. Ian Lavery recognises the weight of public opinion outside of London and was quite right to abstain in the votes.
A senior Labour insider told the SKWAWKBOX:
The point that a lot of commentators ignore is that there’s a huge difference in living standards between the North and the South in general and away from the major cities. There needs to be a socialist alternative to address the root causes of why people in these former heavily industrialised areas decided to leave – and the “people’s vote” gang are not offering it.
12.9 million people voted for our brilliant manifesto in 2017, which promised to respect the 2016 outcome – including many who couldn’t afford to go to conference but support Jeremy and the project. We can’t turn our back on these people because they’re the very heart of our movement and its bread and butter.
Ignoring our democratic process could result in disaster not just for Jeremy but for the party as we know it – and for the country, which is desperate for the change Labour represents. The real challenge is to bring both remain and leave supporters together to deliver for the many and not the few.
As last night’s by-election in Newport West showed – Labour won but with a reduced majority in the leave-voting seat, while UKIP and the Tories benefited – any move by Labour to overturn or block the referendum result would be a huge misstep that would prolong the hardship of the millions suffering under the Tories.
Ian Lavery recognises the electoral reality as well as the moral imperative of respecting the votes of the huge numbers of people who voted to leave the EU in 2016.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that many of those pushing hardest for a new referendum recognise that electoral reality just as well as Lavery does – and are pushing so hard because they know it would risk derailing Labour’s prospects in the next general election.
Whatever the tactical moves in the Commons, many MPs and huge numbers of Labour supporters know it too – and Ian Lavery has their complete support, as well as their appreciation of his enormous value to the movement.
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