A poll out yesterday shows Labour on 16%, the Brexit Party on 34% and the Tories in 5th on 10% behind the Greens and the Lib Dems. Labour is clearly having some issues with its' message, appearing to be almost as divided as the Tories are over Brexit and is being punished in the opinion polls. The centrists in the party have been speaking out and trying to move the party forward on its’ official Brexit position. They are not wrong to do so. The official position was the correct one to take at the start of the Brexit process.
Labours official Brexit policy is (my wording):
Reject a no deal Brexit
To negotiate a non-damaging Brexit deal.
If that isn’t possible then to push for a general election.
Finally, if that isn’t possible to keep all options open including another referendum.
Since the referendum result all our Brexit deadlines have come and gone, no progress has been made and the “fuck the lot of you” vote pandered to by the Brexit Party is growing.
Labours problem right from the start is that it isn’t in power - so points one, two and three are not within its’ gift to produce. It’s still a good position to hold when trying to bring the Conservatives to the table early in the process and engage in a cross party solution.
There is a bit of carrot, a deal might get opposition support so Theresa May wouldn’t have to prostrate herself for the ERG. There is also a bit of stick, if you don’t include us we’ll push for a general election and you only have a minority government.
It was exactly the right position to take against a weak conservative government riven by its’ internal euro-sepsis. However, Theresa May scared of the hard-right enclave within her party, and worried about leadership challenges after that 2017 election did everything she could to keep the whole process within her control and resisted all attempts for anyone else to have any input into the process. Her pride and misconceived egotism has driven this process more than anything else.
It hasn’t been possible for Labour to force a general election either. After the 2017 result we are left with a minority Conservative government propped up by a billion pound bribe to the DUP. Even at the height of her post-chequers problems in December 2018 with the SNP, the Lib Dems and many of the centrists within the Labour party pushing for a confidence vote in Parliament, it was absolutely clear that a vote was going to fail.
Opposition parties simply did not have the numbers to carry it. Mr Corbyn was right to resist calls to put one forward and shouldn’t have caved and called one when he did.
This is where the problem with the official position starts to bite and was a massive missed opportunity to pivot to a new position. After this vote the Labour leadership are still pursuing stages 2 and 3, despite circumstances putting the country firmly at the “finally” stage.
Labour had left that last stage open and ambiguous. They hadn’t guaranteed a people's vote, but despite that they have whipped for it twice in amendments. At this stage it is the only credible option left.
There is no deal to be done with the Conservatives, there is no general election to play for, there is no other credible alternatives. We need to back a people's vote between the specific terms we have in the Tory/EU negotiated deal and remain. From where we are now it is the only way forward we have left. Labour now need to fully support a people's vote and tell members and voters which option on the vote they will be campaigning for.
Labour needed to have acted before this but there is still time to move forward. Labour need to:
Call time on the negotiations with the Conservatives but be fully open. Detail what they offered and how little compromise came from the Conservatives.
Call an extraordinary conference to get a new official position ratified. It should be for a people’s vote with remain as an option.
Back the new position as voraciously as they have backed the old position.
If they can get that done before the 23rd, then the publicity of them doing it is their campaigning publicity for the Euro elections.
[Edit - 14/05/2019 - Corrected poll %'s]