10,000 Labour members and supporters have contacted the Party’s policy forum demanding Labour votes down the Government’s deal and backs a People’s Vote on Brexit.
Representatives of Labour’s National Policy Forum will begin meeting in January to discuss the eight major issues decided at Conference as commissions for the year ahead. The International Policy Commission, which will consider Brexit, meets this Wednesday, January 9, as elected NPF members, NEC members, Trade Union bosses and Shadow Cabinet members sit down to discuss the Party’s position on Brexit.
Campaigns including People’s Vote and Labour for a People’s Vote have been asking their supporters who are members of or support the Labour Party to send public submissions to Labour’s policy forum process demonstrating the strength of support for a People’s Vote.
5,521 Party members and 2,373 Labour supporters have sent email submissions via the People’s Vote campaign tool, and over 2,000 submissions from Labour for a People’s Vote supporters have been made online ahead of the meeting, which will be attended by Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Brexit and Foreign Secretaries.
Submissions to the policy commission are printed out by Labour’s policy staff and are studied by Policy Commission members during the meeting as part of Labour’s policy-making process.
One submission from a former local constituency chair, Bill McCarthy, states: “We have seen in the past, when the Party leadership takes on policies that are adamantly opposed by the bulk of the membership, the damage that can be done, particularly to the morale of the activists. If we do not see a change to the policy on Brexit, the lack of enthusiastic members will be reflected in our performance in the local elections in May and in any General Election. At the very least we must oppose a Tory government and propose a further referendum to establish the mood of the country now.”
In a separate development, Labour for a People’s Vote’s CLP motion will be debated in over 100 CLPs during January. Organisers expect that a significant number of constituency parties will pass the motion, which calls for Labour members, who overwhelmingly support a second referendum and remain, to be given a say over the party’s Brexit policy. The motion states that “Our Party is democratic. Given the dramatic change in circumstances and the growing prospect of no deal, it is essential that Party members have the opportunity to decide on a new course of action.”
Labour for a People’s Vote were behind the similar push for conference motions in summer 2018, which resulted in an unprecedented number of motions passed before conference on a single issue. Labour for a People’s Vote is separately sending dozens of motions to the London Labour Party conference which will meet on 2 March. While this conference cannot set national policy, organisers hope that a strong showing for pro-People’s Vote motions will put additional pressure on the leadership and NEC.
Grassroots activists calling for a second referendum were this week also joined by a range of senior Labour figures on the Left, many of whom have worked with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for decades. Ann Pettifor, Manuel Cortes, Laurie Macfarlane, Mike Buckley and Zoe Williams have set up the Left EU Strategy and Policy Commission, which will set out a clear remain and reform agenda for the Labour Party to adopt in any new referendum campaign. Organisers believe that a re-run of 2016 will not satisfy leave or remain voters, and that a clear programme of reform of the UK and EU is needed to promote social justice and equality. Members expect that Labour will support their agenda in a new referendum campaign.
Labour’s Policy Commission meeting comes just days after a YouGov poll of 25,000 people found that Labour risks losing millions of supporters if it either votes through some form of compromise deal or fails to instruct its MPs to oppose Brexit.
The poll indicates that Labour’s share of the vote would slump another eight points - to 26 per cent – and 16 points behind the Conservatives if its MPs vote with the Tories to bring about Brexit. This would be even worse than the 28 per cent share of the vote of won by Labour in 1983 under Michael Foot, representing its most dismal electoral performance since the 1930s.
Conor McGinn MP, a leading supporter of People’s Vote and member of Labour’s International Policy Commission, said:
“Theresa May’s deal is bad for my constituents and bad for Britain. It will weaken workers’ rights, undermine environmental protections and leave us with all the big questions unanswered.
“Labour’s members and supporters are clear that they want us to honour our Conference pledge that if we can’t get a general election then we must move quickly to support a People’s Vote with remaining in the EU as an option.
“I along with other Policy Commission members will be studying these submissions. It is clear from the strength of feeling of our members that we must have a serious discussion about how Labour moves forward towards supporting a People’s Vote when Theresa May’s deal is rejected in Parliament.”
Mike Buckley, Director of Labour for a People’s Vote, said:
“Theresa May’s deal would leave the UK poorer and with less say over the running of our economy than any other country in Europe. The only democratic way ahead is a public vote on the deal vs continued EU membership – the public deserve a chance to give their verdict on May’s disastrous negotiations.
“A return to 2016 however is not enough. Our country is in dire need of reform, all the more so after eight years of Tory austerity and failure. The Labour Party should use a People’s Vote campaign to put forward a Remain and Reform policy programme that, if enacted in government, would make both the UK and the EU fairer, more equal and more secure. We can only deal with the shared crises we face, including climate breakdown, global instability due to the increasing belligerence of Russia and the unpredictability of a US led by Donald Trump, and insecurity caused by an over-reliance on the market and a lack of public investment and control, by working together with our European partners.”
Notes to editors:
- YouGov conducted the fieldwork for this poll for the People’s Vote campaign between December 21, 2108 and January 4, 2019 among 25,537 adults. The full fieldwork can be found here: https://bit.ly/2s9hzCn
- Typical submissions, published on the Labour Party policy forum website (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions)
Bill McCarthy, submitted on January 8 2019:
“I have just stood down as Chair of my CLP after six years, so I feel free to speak in a personal capacity.
“At the time of the referendum I would estimate that Labour party members in my CLP split 7/1 in favour of remaining. This split is now probably closer to 9/1.
“We have seen in the past, when the Party leadership takes on policies that are adamantly opposed by the bulk of the membership, the damage that can be done, particularly to the morale of the activists. If we do not see a change to the policy on Brexit, the lack of enthusiastic members will be reflected in our performance in the local elections in May and in any General Election.
“At the very least we must oppose a Tory government and propose a further referendum to establish the mood of the country now. I would like to see us withdraw from the Article 50 process (which we now know we can do unilaterally) to give time for the issues to be sorted out and a referendum to be organised, if necessary. Quite where that leaves us and the European Elections - heaven knows!” (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/labour-policy-on-brexit-1)
Anne Hignett, submitted 8 January 2019:
“I despair of the Labour leadership's stance re Brexit:
“Purporting to support the unemployed and low paid yet supporting Brexit, which will further devastate their lives;
“Purporting to value democracy yet utterly ignoring the views of most party members and Labour voters, specifically by not supporting a People's Vote and remaining in the EU. The leader's behaviour often seems surreptitious rather than promoting open debate;
“Pretending that membership of the EU poses an insurmountable block to nationalising service industries in the UK - not true;
“Utterly failing to be a consistent, proactive parliamentary opposition throughout the entire Brexit proceedings;
“The Leadershi [sic] has entirely failed to provide positive , constructive, restorative leadership at a time when society is so bitterly divided.
“As a regularly active Party member, I will not now campaign or vote for a Labour Party which is so unresponsive to its membership and which seems willing to allow the UK to be plunged into unnecessary decline, isolation and bitterness.
“I am distressed that the Leadership also seems unwilling or unable to work across the spectrum of opinion ( always an inevitable characteristic of a political party) valuing and resolving difference but instead excluding and disparaging difference. Thie [sic] latter has caused untold damage within the Labour Party.” (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/labour-leadership-and-brexit)
David Cox, submitted on January 3 2019:
“After attending the Labour for a People's Vote meeting in Birmingham last month I am more than ever opposed to the current so called "deal" before Parliament and a No Deal exit from the EU would be a self-inflicted disaster for the country.
“We know that the majority of the Labour membership and Labour voters want a second referendum on the terms of the "deal" that the Conservative Government aided by the DUP and some Labour MPs have negotiated. If Britain is to have any influence internationally in the future it needs to be part of the collective efforts of democratic and progressive partnerships with our European neighbours.
“The Leadership needs to have the courage start leading over the critical few days left to us to stop this unfolding disaster. The public has the right to think again and Labour should be using every Parliamentary tactic and alliance possible to stop a Tory Brexit. We know that the last Referendum was corrupted and based on poor information and outright lies. To be allied with UKIP is a travesty of everything Labour stands for.” (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/labour-for-a-people-s-vote-1)
Jason Kelly, submitted on January 3 2019:
“Once the deal is voted down, it is right that Labour should seek an "immediate" general election, as stated in the conference motion agreed in September. However, if a general election is not possible (which is looking likely as the DUP have said they will support the Government if the deal is voted down), then Labour will need to be explicit on which other "options on the table" it will be supporting. The conference motion specifically names "campaigning for a public vote" as an option. Indeed, it is the only option mentioned. Therefore, it is crystal clear which option party members currently favour.
“If there is a general election pre-Brexit, then Labour should, as a minimum commit to a public vote on the Brexit deal with remain as an option. Given the high level of member activism and wider support for this, this will be a key factor in energising the grassroots to get out and campaign for a Labour Government. Without it, I doubt the party will be able to rely on as many activists getting out on the doorstep.” (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/brexit-public-vote)
Stephen Todd, submitted on January 3 2019:
“The party needs to campaign for a second referendum with the option to remain in the EU.” (https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/brexit-vote-on-remain-or-may-s-deal)
Margaret Ellis Morris, submitted on January 3 2019:
“I urge the leadership to listen to the views of the majority of members and press for a People's Vote.”
- International Policy commission members:
- Emily Thornberry MP
- Keir Starmer MP
- Nia Griffiths MP
- Dan Carden MP
- Cath Speight (GMB)
- George Howarth (MP)
- Richard Corbett (MEP)
- Yasmine Dar (Members)
- Navendru Mishra (Members)
- Nick Donovan
- Bryony Rudkin
- Paul O'Kane
- Mohammed Azam
- Carol Turner
- Tom Unterrainer
- Olivia Blake
- Charlotte Austin
- Len McCluskey
- Dave Quayle
- Tony Dayle
- Gordon McKay
- Sonny Leong
- Georgia Gould
- Clare Moody MEP
- Conor McGinn MP
- Emma Reynolds MP