Jeremy Corbyn, December 2017. Photo: Flickr/UN Geneva Jeremy Corbyn, December 2017. Photo: Flickr/UN Geneva

Labour announcing it will support efforts to push for a second referendum is a mistake, here’s why:

John Rees

There is no majority in the Commons for a second referendum (which is stupid, destructive idea anyway), so this is just a retreat forced by the Watson/TIG pressure… it’s wrong and self-harming.

I wrote this at the end of last year. In a famous phrase, nothing has changed:

‘There is no solution to this political crisis in a second referendum. Indeed, a second referendum would allow the government to claim that it has consulted the people on the key issue of the day, will respect their view, and remain in office.

A second referendum is practically the only political manoeuvre which can now save the Tory government.

It would of course, not even address the issues of austerity and plummeting living standards which, outside the political class, are the issues uppermost in working people’s minds.

The majority of MPs would like to remain in the European Union, but party divisions, and the irremovable obstacle of the popular vote for leave, prevents them from assembling a majority to enact the favourite outcome of big business. A second referendum might give that chance. But it would do so at the cost of postponing a general election, lengthening perhaps fatally, the period over which the momentum of Corbynism has to be sustained to win a general election.’

Isabel Carr

In the LP’s composite Conference motion – which today’s move is being rationalised as an inevitable/planned outcome of – it says:

“Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power. If we cannot get a general election [my emphasis] Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

Did I miss the bit where the LP left/leadership really swung its weight behind the ‘getting an immediate general election’ ahead of this?


Regardless of your view on Labour backing a second referendum (I personally think it is a terrible idea in principle and from a tactical point of view), none of us should be in any doubt about the immediate cause of this move at this particular time.

It hasn’t come about because Corbyn is playing the long game or because of the successful lobbying efforts of “Another Europe Is Possible”, it is rather a symptom of the Labour left’s organisational weakness and its failed attempt to compromise with a saboteur Parliamentary Labour Party that never accepted its authority to begin with.

Instead of building on the insurgent mass politics that gave us the Corbyn leadership and wiped out the Tory majority, the Labour left has instead diverted its energies and tied itself up in a series of compromises with the Labour Friends of Israel and the Euro-maniacs – of whom the most extreme honoured these ingenious overtures by ditching the party. The Corbyn project is once again in peril.

Kevin Ovenden

Putting to one side the strongly held feelings on the left about Brexit…

The idea that the British state and politically engaged ruling class go for a second referendum (of whatever permutation) to try to resolve their difficulties is an extraordinary proposition.

I personally doubt that they will. But if they do, it would mean again throwing into the air and to fickle fortune the central axis of the future of British capitalism. And with no firm anticipation of the result, still less of its political effects.

Those would go far beyond severe crisis in both the big, alternating parties of government.

If, somehow, the ruling class and state do end up in that position, it will not mark the end of the political turmoil, but a new phase of it.

But that won’t be contained in the (English) two party system either. It will be much more chaotic and politically violent.

Park Brexit for a moment. Is the radical left in Britain remotely prepared for this?

Recent becalming and running for cover suggests that far too much of it is not.

There is a race against time to change that.

Martin Hall

A defeat for Corbyn and the left, plain and simple, wherever you stand on Brexit.

This hasn’t come about because of left reform arguments. It has not come about because of pressure from the membership and grassroots.

It has come about because of intense pressure from the Labour right, its friends in the corporate media and the establishment in general. Its first choice of party, the Tories, cannot deliver remain or a version of Brexit so near to it as to be the same. The establishment cannot countenance a Corbyn government.

Labour’s move will not get it off the hook with the intensely Europhilic section of the centre in and out of Labour. Why did you not do this in 2016, they will say. Even if a second referendum does not happen, and I think this move may make a deal more likely in the coming weeks, Labour will now be seen as having reneged on their promises.

More to the point, the spirit of insurgency harnessed to such effect in two leadership elections and the last general election, recedes further into the background. It may not survive in its current form.

Jonathon Shafi

Understand the pressures. But Corbyn backing a second EU vote is a mistake. This will, if it transpires, only aid the neoliberals and the far-right. The fight for a socialist perspective on leaving the EU must though continue. Even if those arguing it find themselves in a minority.

The further the left moves away from an independent position on such questions, the more we become tied to the system and the more space exists for the far-right. And we are still in the opening phases of a political and economic crisis in which an independent left is indispensable.

Hillary Stephenson

The Labour right’s strategy worked. A small number of MPs resigned. Tom Watson then threatens Jeremy “if you don’t make changes they’ll be more resignations”. The leadership backs a second referendum. One of those who resigned – Angela Smith MP – goes on Channel 4 gloating about the announcement. There isn’t a majority in Parliament for a second referendum. A swathe of the electorate becomes further alienated from Labour. So who is damaged the most? Jeremy Corbyn. Slam dunk.

It is not a conspiracy theory to say the Labour Right has a strategy to undermine the leadership and that it has achieved some of its main objectives. It’s widely reported in the press. Remember this from last summer?

“Lord Mandelson and Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, were joined by about 10 moderate Labour MPs for a barbecue at Mandelson’s London home on July 24.

“The discussions also included how to get Corbyn to back a second Brexit referendum and the leader’s handling of the anti-semitism crisis engulfing the party.”

I wonder who those 10 MPs were?

Tagged under: