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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

More Labour Brexit chaos

Kudos to Keir Starmer, who is taking a brave stand on Brexit in the face of a very unhelpful Labour Party leadership, and in particular for the unscripted line in his speech yesterday that appears to have thrown a very large cat in amongst his party's Brexiteer pigeons.

His problem though, as this piece in The Spectator makes clear, is that he is not just ranged against the Kate Hooey's and Frank Field's of this world. It is the party leadership that are determined to fudge and prevaricate on Labour's position and do all that it can to take us out of the EU, despite the vast majority of Labour party members wanting to remain:

From the moment Keir Starmer left the conference stage after setting out Labour’s Brexit position, rumours began to circulate that all wasn’t as it seemed. When the shadow Brexit secretary spoke in the conference hall this morning, he received a standing ovation for pledging to keep all options open on Brexit – including the option to remain in the EU; ‘Nobody is ruling out remain as an option.’

However, less than an hour later and dissent has broken out on the conference hall over the party position – and whether the shadow Brexit secretary correctly articulated the official policy. As Steerpike reports, that passage of the speech was not in the official text sent to hacks – leading to suggestions that it was not approved. Notably, the reception among Corbyn’s allies has been lukewarm at best.

I understand that the line was ad-libbed. Unsurprisingly, those comments have caused a row here at conference. While pro-EU members are pleased, others are at pains to say that Starmer is wrong – and that Labour policy does not include the option to remain in the EU. Len McCluskey’s deputy Steve Turner has taken to the conference hall stage to correct Starmer. He says Starmer was wrong and – adopting the John McDonnell line – that any public vote on the terms of departure rather than the idea of remaining in the EU. This is what the shadow chancellor said yesterday in an interview – and something Len McCluskey has also echoed.

As the magazine says, although there is a lot of noise over Labour’s ever-changing Brexit position, all the signs suggest that Corbyn and McDonnell are against a second referendum that could allow the UK to remain in the EU. Until that changes, Labour’s policy on a second referendum is flimsy at best, what ever Starmer gets up and says.

Not only are Labour failing in their role as an opposition, they are in as much chaos as the Tories on Brexit. Only the Liberal Democrats are united behind a clear position of a people's vote on the final deal, which could enable the UK to stay in the EU.
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