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    Is Labour About to Commit Political Suicide Over a 2nd Brexit Referendum?

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    Neil Clark
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    The calls within the UK Labour Party (and without) for Jeremy Corbyn to commit to a 2nd vote on Brexit have reached a crescendo at the party's annual conference. Nevertheless, they should be resisted as Labour changing tack on Brexit would be an error which is likely to hand the next vote, which could come as early as this autumn, to the Tories.

    Imagine the scenario. Labour announces its support for the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign. Theresa May, who has been in great difficulties herself during the Brexit negotiations, decides to hold a snap poll, posing as the Churchillian leader who is prepared to Stand Up For Britain’ against the European Union.  Labour meanwhile are depicted as unpatriotic lackeys of Brussels, latter-day clones of Lord Halifax, asking the public to vote again on an issue they already voted on in June 2016. 

    Result: a Tory election victory of at least 30 seats.

    Now, there are all kinds of complexities about what a ’People’s Vote’ would entail. Would staying in the EU be on the ballot paper? But even if it wasn’t,  committing to another referendum, however sensible it might seem to some, would enable the Tories to level the utterly toxic charge that Labour was trying to derail Brexit. ‘You voted for Brexit in 2016’, Theresa May would tell the electorate, as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ plays in the background. ‘And now Labour want you to vote again!’. 

    READ MORE: 'It’s Like the Suez Crisis': Ministers Warn Hard Brexit May Break Up UK

    It’s no use complaining about the jingoistic mood music that would accompany a ‘Khaki’ election held with the Tories posing as the defenders of the nation against the unelected Eurocrats. Or the loss of key Brexit supporting marginals in the north of England and the Midlands if Labour was seen in any way, to be trying to obstruct Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

    Support for a 2nd referendum might go down well with some London-based newspaper columnists, but it won’t cut the mustard in Lancashire,  West Yorkshire or Teesside. As you’d see for yourself on election night, as the results started to come in. 

    Up to now, Labour’s policy on Brexit has been pretty smart. It supports Britain leaving the EU, but staying in some form of customs union- a nod to the 48% of voters who did not want to leave. 

    It was Labour’s support for Brexit, but not a ‘hard’ one, that helped it to do so well at the last election and defy the negative predictions of out-of-touch Inside the Tent commentators. 

    Around 11% of 2015 UKIP voters switched to Labour in 2017. That doesn’t sound too many, but it made the difference in a lot of seats. Election experts Professor Ron Johnston, of Bristol University, and Professor Charles Pattie of Sheffield University, found that the collapse of the UKIP vote helped Labour win 21 of the 44 constituencies where the Tories had won by less than ten percentage points in 2015. 

    Not only that, it helped Labour hold on to seats, like Halifax and Dewsbury, that the Tories would have been confident of capturing. 

    Labour’s backing for a three-line whip on sending off Article 50 was also the right move, as Matt Zarb-Cousin noted in the Guardian. 

    READ MORE: UK Ministers to Ask May to Offer New Brexit Plan After Salzburg Talks — Reports

    But all the good work that Labour has done in bringing UKIP supporters on board, will be lost if the party shifts its position now. Labour will be accused by the Tories of betraying patriotic working class-voters in its traditional heartlands. The Sun and the Daily Mail will have a field day. 

    You’d have to be as blind as a bat not to notice that those within the party who are clamouring most loudly for a second poll, are the people who have been the most implacable enemies of Jeremy Corbyn and the democratic socialist policies he espouses. 

    The so-called ‘centrist’ Chuka Umunna, referred to party members who wanted the de-selection of  Blairites like him as ’dogs’ in his infamous ’call off the dogs’ comment,  but now he is saying it is ’very important’ the party’s leadership should listen to the members on a second Brexit poll!  

    READ MORE: Labour Party Could Enter Government By Backing Fresh Brexit Vote – Polls

    Tom Watson, surely the most un-supportive deputy any UK political leader has ever had, is throwing his weight (not quite as considerable as it was before he went on a diet), behind the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign. Without any sense of irony the man who has been treating the views of ordinary members with utter contempt the past three years, says ‘we have to respect the views of our members’.

    Is it any wonder there is so much disillusionment with politics, with two-faced hypocrites like Chuka Umunna and  Tom Watson around?

    ​Pro-war Blairites and Brownites, the very same people who have been accusing their own party of being riddled with ’antisemitism’, and who have been complaining about members of the party for quite some time now, are at the forefront of the campaign for the ‘ People’s Vote‘, and that should give all genuine progressives pause for thought.

    The stakes could not be higher. If Labour does change tack, then it would effectively be game over for the chances of a left-wing government led by Corbyn coming to power, transforming our economy to suit the many, not the few, and changing our foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. 

    The Tories, with Theresa May getting her ‘Falkands bounce’, would be in for another five years, Corbyn would go and enormous pressure would be exerted on Labour to move back to the ‘centre ground’ of support for crony capitalism and war. The Establishment will have won and some very powerful people will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

    ​​Make no mistake, there are a lot of decent, well-meaning folks who have grave concerns about Britain leaving the EU and who think the public should be consulted again on the issue. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that there’s another agenda lurking here, which actually has nothing to do with the EU. It’s that those out to derail the Corbyn Project and keep things exactly as they are believe that a campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’, is the best way to do it.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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