Tuesday 28 May 2019 - People's Vote

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Morning Briefing: The big shift towards a People's Vote

You could feel the change in attitudes yesterday as everyone came to understand what really happened during the European parliamentary elections. There was a recognition that the political landscape had changed, that it wasn't the same as before. A People's Vote has become a bigger reality in the wake of the results.

Big shift towards a People's Vote

For an election that wasn’t supposed to happen, the outcome became more and more profound as more results were announced. And it was a different outcome than many of the pundits and pollsters had predicted.

The Brexit Party killed UKIP, but with less than a third of the vote across the UK, won no mandate for no deal.

No, it was the shift towards parties that back a People’s Vote that was the most important news of the European parliamentary elections.

The Lib Dems, Green Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Change UK won more than 40% of votes, compared to 35% for the no deal-backing Brexit Party and UKIP.

The nation appears to be polarized but the shift towards a People’s Vote is clear and unambiguous.

The election results are a clear verdict on the government’s failure to deliver promises for Brexit that can’t be delivered, with no stable majority for any specific way of leaving the EU and Labour’s failure to give full-throated backing to a new public vote, with the party losing four times as many voters to overtly pro-People’s Vote parties as to the Brexit Party. It would have been eight points clear of Farage if it had adopted a People’s Vote as policy.

The election has had instant and powerful ramifications for the two main political parties. 

For Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, the internal debate has shifted immediately to whether to support a People’s Vote, while even in the rabid no deal madness of a Conservative leadership contest with an unrepresentative 160,000 members, some sensible voices are trying to make themselves heard.

Labour signal they are ready to move towards full support for People's Vote

The Labour leadership signalled a move towards changing their policy on a People’s Vote after the disastrous European Parliament election results.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “listening very carefully” to the internal lobby but declared that his preference was a General Election while any Brexit deal “had to be put to a public vote”.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell hardened his position in accepting the need for a People’s Vote, joining senior politicians such as Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, Deputy Leader Tom Watson and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.

But there is still an internal battle to be won with key figures and unelected advisors like Seumas Milne surrounding the leader insisting the "policy has not changed". What is interesting is that some of Corbyn's closest allies such as Diane Abbott are now supporting a public vote. She said on the Today programme: "There is no contradiction between respecting the result of the 2016 referendum and holding a People's Vote."

Pressure on Corbyn also came from Tom Watson, who has given his backing to grassroots groups (including campaign Left2030 supported by Paul Mason) demanding a ballot of all members or a special conference to formally shift the position, as he believes the party cannot wait until its autumn conference to fully support a second referendum. This would have to be granted by the national executive committee (NEC).

Jeremy Hunt breaks ranks to become the "no no deal" candidate

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has this morning declared that it would be “political suicide” for the Tory Party to push through a no deal Brexit, breaking ranks with most of his leadership election candidates in the wake of their catastrophic European elections performance.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “The results contain a simple message which we ignore at our peril: if we attempt a general election before we have delivered Brexit we will be annihilated.

"Attacked by the Brexit Party on the Right and the Liberal Democrats on the Left, we will face extinction. Any candidate for prime minister whose strategy leads inexorably to a general election is offering a prospectus for disaster.”

It is a significant and welcome recognition of the parliamentary arithmetic and the lack of a mandate for no deal. Trying to force through no deal could devastate the Conservative party. As could calling a general election. But given there isn't another deal available, Jeremy Hunt should recognise that there is no other way forward than a People's Vote.

Former Downing Street advisor Nick Hargrave wrote in Conservative Home that a People’s Vote was the best way for a new Prime Minister to get through the Brexit nightmare without losing a General Election.

Meanwhile, PM Theresa May is travelling to Brussels for a post-EU election summit: it is hard to imagine how grim that would be for her.

It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today. 


Graphic of the Day

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Video of the Day 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell signal a different approach to a People's Vote.

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Tweet of the Day 

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More Brexit news…

Anti-Brexit parties won majority (HuffPost)

Labour collapse pushes Corbyn closer to backing new referendum (Times £)

Tom Watson warns Corbyn that September decision would be too late (PoliticsHome)

Top Brexit comment...

Ian Dunt: European elections - Remain triumphant (Politics.co.uk)

John Rentoul: Emily Thornberry has blown Labour's split wide open (Independent)

Robert Hutton: Tory's Game of Thrones (Bloomberg)

Paul Mason: Corbynism is now in crisis - we need to fight Brexit (Guardian)