MPs must be free to vote for their constituents on Withdrawal Agreement
As the SKWAWKBOX has reported, electoral experts have dismissed claims of a surge in the remain vote in local elections at the beginning of this month, while Labour strongholds that voted leave in 2016 saw a ‘stay home’ protest by many Labour voters.
For the European Parliament elections next week, the Brexit party is currently topping polls of voting intention in spite of a complete absence of any policies beyond leaving the EU – and the well-known Thatcherite leanings of Nigel Farage.
The only party that can hold the field against the extreme right’s attempts to exploit anger among Brexit supporters in Labour’s heartlands is Labour – and the SKWAWKBOX has long advocated that the party must drop all talk of any new referendum for the sake of a country that desperately needs a Labour government.
Labour honoured the decision of its annual conference last September, supporting motions for a new public vote three times with a ‘three-line whip’ – the strongest available discipline. On all three occasions, the votes were decisively lost and many northern MPs were forced to defy the whip in order to respect the wishes of their constituents.
Continuing to pursue such an option, one that has no prospect of success and that damages Labour in the minds of voters, is impossible to justify – and Labour must also be seen by the public to fulfil the core part of its conference policy and its manifesto promise: respecting the 2016 result.
The news that Theresa May is bringing her deal back to the Commons on 4 June presents Labour with a choice. If the party’s leadership tries to ‘whip’ MPs, especially northern MPs, for the new vote it will be viewed and spun as Labour ‘trying to stop Brexit’, fuelling anger among Labour’s traditional working-class support.
This would be an absolute gift to the far right, which by then is likely to have been emboldened by a strong protest vote for the Brexit party next week.
To cauterise this problem properly, Labour needs to drop the notion of a public vote completely – but as a first step in the right direction it must allow its MPs a free vote in the Withdrawal Agreement debate.
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