The fallout from the European Parliament Elections shows the Shadow Cabinet is starting to shift position. It's time for the party leadership to join them—and come out clearly for a second voteby Jane Merrick / May 28, 2019 / Leave a comment
The message for Labour at the European election results could not have been clearer: voters have switched in their droves to pro-remain and pro-referendum parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, even in those so-called “Labour leave” areas in the north of England. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party must now show those voters the same courtesy and give them clarity in return.
Instead, Monday morning’s post-results analysis from the Labour leader offered the same ambiguousness and triangulation of the election campaign. Writing on Facebook, Corbyn said Labour would “reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide” and then the issue “will have to go back to the people”—either through a general election or a public vote. Frustratingly, the leader’s position has barely changed since before the polls opened last Thursday.
What has changed, however, is the number of senior Labour figures who are now shifting towards a clearer position on a second referendum. Tom Watson and Emily Thornberry have called for clarity from Labour on a second vote—but that was their position all along. But on Monday morning John McDonnell tweeted that it was time to “unite our party and country by taking the issue back to people in a public vote,” clarifying that while he still wanted a general election he realised this is “difficult” to secure and “if, as likely GE not possible, then I support going back to the people in another referendum.”
The shadow chancellor’s words are significant because it shows where the balance of power in the shadow cabinet is shifting. Diane Abbott echoed this message when she tweeted: “We have to take the time to analyse the EU vote. But, when we come in third after the Brexit party, that is a clue something is wrong with our strategy. We need to listen to our members and take a clearer line on a public vote.”
While the phrase “public vote” still carries some ambiguity, the shadow home secretary’s “clearer line” remark shows where the wind is blowing in the shadow cabinet.
Calls for an internal ballot of Labour party members on their position on a second referendum have since escalated. When asked about this prospect in a TV…