The Co-Chair of Vote Leave on why it isn't just the Conservative Party that is split over Europeby Prospect Team / April 26, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Labour Party already has “a division between MPs and members—and now we’re introducing one between MPs and significant swathes of our traditional voters.” So argues Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and Chair of the Vote Leave campaign—the official campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.
Gisela’s concern comes as Frank Field—Labour MP for Birkenhead—has said that in campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU his party has written “the second longest suicide note in [its] history.” (The first being the hard-left manifesto pushed by former Labour leader Michael Foot in 1983.) He argues Labour’s stance will push its traditional voters into the arms of Ukip.
In an exclusive interview with Prospect, Stuart said: “I don’t even think [campaigning for “Remain”] is in the long-term interest of the Labour party…. You’re facing a UKIP that wants to do in England to the Tories what the SNP did to Labour in Scotland. Rather than the Labour Party reaching out on this issue to significant sections of our voters who actually want to vote Leave, we’re not giving them an opportunity. We’re not even the party that—like the Tories—says we’re officially neutral [on the question of whether Britain should leave the EU]. You can be a Labour voter but go either way.”
Focus on party divisions over Europe has generally been concentrated on the Conservatives—over 130 of the party’s MPs will vote for Leave, in opposition to David Cameron. Stuart’s comments suggest there might be another split worth paying attention to.
On the issue of Labour’s leadership siding with David Cameron and George Osborne on the EU, Stuart said “I’m puzzled that people who in the past…were European Union rebels with me, including our current leader, have changed their minds and are now propping up a Tory government.”