Times ‘scoop’ claiming Corbyn switching to back ‘referendum and remain’ always thin, exposed further by day’s developments
Late last night, Sky’s Sam Coates trailed a ‘scoop’ by one of his former colleagues at the Murdoch Times.
The article claimed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was about to switch to a full ‘referendum and remain’ position during today’s meeting of the Shadow Cabinet, at which a briefing document would be circulated warning Labour’s top front-benchers that the party must switch to full support for a new referendum and that Labour must campaign for remain:
Labour’s policy – perfectly clear and simple in spite of media claims to the contrary – is to enact Brexit, keeping a new public vote only as an option in case there is no alternative to prevent a no-deal exit.
The article claims that a:
senior Labour source confirmed that Mr Corbyn was endorsing the shift in policy, adding: “It is a moment.”
An unnamed ‘senior Labour source’ covers a multitude of sins, of course. It is entirely easy to imagine Tom Watson briefing the media in this way, but that does not mean the assessment is accurate – and other ‘senior Labour sources’ would say the opposite. So the premise of the claims was thin to begin with.
But events during the day have made clear just how thin and misleading.
When the Shadow Cabinet briefing document came out in a tweet by the BBC’s Paul Twinn, it did none of the things trailed in the ‘scoop’. Rather than advocating support for a new referendum and a campaign for remain, it warned that there is no evidence that such a switch would win remain voters – and emphasised the serious risks to Labour in its leave-voting heartlands of any such move, without any corresponding gains or reward in ‘winnable Remain majority areas’:
That this paper said the opposite of what Labour’s hard-remain faction want was obvious from the reaction reported by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg in response to her colleague’s post:
The content of the paper and the absence of any suggestion of a switch to remain makes it perfectly clear that the ‘Labour source’ spitting feathers was one of the hard-remainers.
That reality was further underlined by the reaction of another pro-EU ‘left’ pressure group, as reported by one of the BBC’s better correspondents, Iain Watson:
Corbyn, meanwhile, has said that he intends to consult with unions and with party members before making a decision on Labour’s next steps. Meanwhile, the ‘mainstream’ media have focused the wording in Corbyn’s statement that a deal would be subject to a public vote.
However, Corbyn made the same statement in Dublin – and specifically said he was referring to it – so his statement today contains nothing new about a public vote. But while the media are casting old news as some kind of change, they are ignoring the most important sentence in today’s statement:
This will of course depend on Parliament.
Corbyn knows – and the media know, as do the hard-remainers – that there is no consensus in Parliament supporting a public vote. And there will be none unless there is a new general election.
In Dublin, which he again specifically pointed to, Corbyn made that link perfectly clear:
But faced with the threat of No Deal and a Prime Minister with no mandate, the only way out of the Brexit crisis ripping our country apart is now to go back to the people. Let the people decide the country’s future, either in a general election or through a public vote on any deal agreed by parliament.
For Labour any outcome has to work for our whole country, not just one side of this deliberately inflamed divide.Part of Corbyn’s Dublin speech last month
In other words, Corbyn’s ‘public vote’ includes a general election – and he knows that it is in fact the only kind of public vote that can ‘break the deadlock’.
In Dublin, Corbyn also closed off the avenue of any ‘new referendum’ in the sense that most advocates of a so-called “people’s vote” want – because he added that any new vote should not be a ‘repeat of the 2016 referendum’.
And, most lethally for the claims of the ‘scoop’, none of today’s developments, nor the briefing paper, nor Corbyn’s statement, commit Labour to campaigning for remain if there was a new vote on a proposed exit rather a general election.
Today’s media narrative has been a case study in the attempts of the Establishment to paint Corbyn into a pro-referendum, pro-remain corner and to airbrush out the fact that only a general election will do anything to solve the parliamentary impasse on Brexit.
Nothing that actually transpired in the end supported the spin.
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