NEC member Webbe forced to remind dep leader Watson what party’s Brexit policy says

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:

  1. A Labour Brexit (no referendum)
  2. A negotiated Brexit (no referendum)
  3. 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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  1. It has been clear to me right from the beginning that the “People’s Vote” campaign is a Blairite construct whose real purpose is to undermine the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Alastair Campbell has just been on the Daily Politics, constantly trying to push the idea that there is a problem of “leadership” in the Labour Party.

    1. I agree with you completely about the peoples vote – you only have to look at those involved to see that you are absolutely right.
      Regarding Alastair Campbell – Along with Tony Blair this man dragged our party into the gutter – spinning , smearing , waging an illegal war – and most people view him with the same level of hostility as Blair so his snide comments and criticism don’t bother me. During the 2015 leadership election Jeremy’s popularity increased every time Tony Blair criticised him. No reason to believe Campbell’s nastiness won’t have the same effect today

    2. “the “People’s Vote” campaign is a Blairite construct”

      In simple terms : that’s a brainless statement that simply illustrates the poverty of minority Lexit politics that doesn’t get it. In any way.

      Conclusion : You really don’t have to be entirely gormless to support the Tory policy of Brexit – even if it helps.

  2. I must admit I am having some difficulty in understanding how a party that has declared in its policy document that “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.”
    could go into a GE without promising a confirmation referendum. The whole election campaign would be dominated by JC being challenged for being hypocritical and cowardly.

    Are we perhaps getting a hint why this has been a secretive process rather than an open and transparent one.

  3. This article highlights the utter dishonesty of the People’s Vote campaign.

    It does not have the honesty to openly admit that its sole objective is to overturn the largest democratic mandate in UK history because it knows to do so would be electoral suicide and would guarantee defeat for their campaign. They know that their proposal simply does not have the support in parliament or the country, so instead dishonestly couch their demands in the terms of wanting a second referendum and sneakily adding a remain option on the ballot.

    It is a dishonest, undemocratic campaign. Nothing more and nothing less.

    The leader of the campaign is Tony Blair, who is on the record as stating that he does not want a socialist Labour government to be elected and that a ‘rugby tackle’ would be required to prevent that outcome.

    The rugby tackle is the People’s Vote campaign. Labour members who are foolishly supporting this dishonest and cowardly attempt to sabotage the election of a Labour government should be thoroughly ashamed at themselves. They are assisting a war criminal in his attempt to destroy the Labour party.

    They are betraying the party and country by supporting this undemocratic campaign, as the only beneficiaries will be the Conservative party.

    They are effectively campaigning for the Tories to remain in power.

    1. Well journalists of every description and the members of other parties just for starters and if there were leaders TV debates members of the public. Is that enough for you to be getting on with.

      If you put yourself in JC’s shoes for just a moment how would you counter being challenged on live TV by an experienced political journalist that given what was stated in Labour Party policy (highlighted in my OP) isn’t it cowardly and hypocritical of you [JC] to refuse to guarantee a confirmation vote on any deal.

  4. To Steve H: before commenting further please read CLaude Webbe’s explanation of what Labour Party policy is.

    1. I already have and I fail to see how it impacts on the question I asked you or what I’ve said above.

      Have you managed to come up with an answer yet. As I said above I can’t find a credible answer to the question I posed, can you?

      1. You don’t understand JC’s approach to leadership. It’s based on ascertaining the will of the Party, and then implementing it. I have no doubt that he will do the same today. You’ll find that JC has been consistent all the way through. He isn’t Blair. He doesn’t ask a few cronies to back him up, and then impose his personal wish on everyone else.

      2. tomlondra 30/04/2019 at 2:28 pm

        I sincerely hope and trust that this proves to be the case.

        My apologies for pushing you on my question. I would have been very seriously impressed if you had managed to come up with a credible answer. Unfortunately someone will have to find an answer to this if a CV isn’t promised.

  5. I see that Kezia Dugdale is stepping down as an MSP.

    She has always struck me as about as useful as a balloon made of string.

      1. Thanks for the link. It took me quite a while to read the whole piece, as I couldn’t stop laughing at the sub header…

        Former Scottish Labour Leader says she wants to ‘rebuild faith and trust’ in politics.

      2. NVLA 30/04/2019 at 6:35 pm

        We’ve finally found some common ground.

      3. There is always more that unites us than divides us.

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