Claudia Webbe publicly schools Tom Watson on conference resolution wording after Watson’s attempt to pile pressure on NEC members to do differently
Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) member Claudia Webbe was forced to publicly rebuke her party’s deputy leader Tom Watson for ‘divisive’ behaviour at the weekend, after the latter’s attempt to rally pressure on NEC members to include a commitment to a ‘confirmatory ballot’.
Opponents of Brexit have switched from calling for a “people’s vote” to the idea of a “confirmatory vote (CV) on any deal” – perhaps considering that the idea of confirming a deal is more marketable than trying to explicitly overturn the 2016 referendum. However, as the calls are for a CV to include ‘remain’ as an option, the difference is merely notional.
Watson – who stormed out of this morning’s Shadow Cabinet meeting – had tweeted his 285,000 followers to message NEC members with a call to include a CV in Labour’s manifesto for next month’s European Parliament members. The move was criticised as meaningless gesture politics, as MEPs have no power to call any kind of UK vote, but is expected to be damaging to Labour in any general election campaign. Watson’s ploy backfired when Webbe rebuked him and left-wing members responded that they did not want any further public vote except a general election.
Watson responded to Webbe’s rebuke with an attempt to justify his move and Webbe was forced to reply with some education about her own background – and what Labour’s conference policy actually says:
The policy agreed by Labour’s 2018 annual conference in Liverpool is routinely misunderstood or misrepresented by those pushing for a new public vote, who are currently claiming that it contains a ‘commitment’ to one. But the full wording is as follows:
Conference believes that there is no satisfactory technological solution that is compliant with the Good Friday Agreement and resolves to oppose any Brexit deal that would see the restoration of a border on the island of Ireland in any form for goods, services or people.
Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power.
If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.
This should be the first step in a Europe-wide struggle for levelling-up of living standards, rights and services and democratisation of European institutions Labour will form a radical government; taxing the rich to fund better public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.
Note that there is no mention of a ‘vote in all circumstances’. Instead, the resolution lists options that Labour will keep on the table to defeat a ‘Tory Brexit deal’.
The conference motion therefore boils down to three options, which Jeremy Corbyn is expected to ask the NEC to confirm when it meets this afternoon:
- A Labour Brexit (no referendum)
- A negotiated Brexit (no referendum)
- If May forces a Tory Brexit Labour support all means to stop it including a new vote
This is also entirely in line with Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto, which saw the party record the largest increase in its vote since 1945.
Tom Watson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s a pity that so many people – including some union leaders – are presenting a badly misleading view of Labour’s conference policy as they push for a commitment to a new public vote.
It’s a scandal that an unpaid NEC member needs to educate the deputy leader of the party in what it actually says as he pushes for something contrary to it.
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