Commentators claim Corbyn interview signalled ‘significant shift’ in Labour’s position on new referendum
Social media, fuelled by media commentators, have been claiming that a Jeremy Corbyn interview broadcast on the BBC’s Marr programme signals a ‘significant shift’ in Labour policy: a move to complete backing for a new referendum.
This is untrue.
Corbyn told Marr that,
I want us to get a good deal and then have a decision in the public after that
However, he was answering a question about his personal preference – and does not appear to have been referring to an in/out referendum at all.
Corbyn’s comment quoted above – not shown on the programme but included in the transcript of the interview – was in response to Marr’s question, “Do you personally want to leave the EU?“
Corbyn’s response must be understood in that context – and his reference to a “decision in the public” understood in the context of the rest of the interview, where he explains what kind of ‘decision’ he was talking about:
‘Not a re-run’
Corbyn is explicit that he was not referring to an in/out referendum:
You present the whole thing as though it’s a re-run of 2016. It’s not. What it is is a situation we now face of what we do, of the new relations with Europe in the future.
Corbyn makes it clear that any new public vote – if one happens at all – would be on the nature of the UK’s new relationship with the EU, not a ‘re-run’ of the 2016 ‘leave v remain’ referendum.
Deal or no-deal
Corbyn then goes on – throughout the rest of the relevant section of the interview, as shown above – to contrast a potential ‘good deal’ with the no-deal, disastrous Brexit of hard-right Tories. One in which the aim would be a fire-sale of public assets to the US under Trump and a bonfire of our rights.
In context, the issue discussed on Marr – but not presented as that by the wider media – was a potential ‘deal or no-deal’ public vote; one about how the UK leaves and what the future relationship with the EU will be – not about whether the UK leaves.
This fits entirely with the information available from the Labour Party today, which indicates that Labour’s position is unchanged – the party continues to prioritise a general election, but is keeping the option of a public vote open if Labour can’t secure either a general election or a Brexit deal along the lines of Labour’s plan.
Highly-placed Labour sources went further, confirming that any kind of new public vote is still only an option and that Labour’s
next preference, if a general election can’t be secured, is a “sensible” compromise to break the deadlock, prioritising the protection of jobs, rights and living standards.
Yet again, the waters are being muddied by a combination of people hearing what they wanted to hear in today’s interview – and some seizing on it for their own purposes.
Labour’s position is unchanged – and Labour activists need to focus on reminding people that Corbyn and his team are trying to unite people across the Brexit divide. Only Labour is in a position to do that – and only Labour is even trying to.
Whether you’re from Bolton or London, the real issues are the same – leaving or remaining will not solve those fundamental problems in the way our society works.
A change to a Labour government will – and a message to people reminding them how Labour speaks to the issues they face every day in real life will endure long after Brexit is a page in a history book.
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