Corbyn ‘will announce Labour’s backing for second referendum within days’ to revive party hopes after election humbling, say close allies
- The Labour leader has faced huge pressure to commit to a decisive line on Brexit
- Senior party figures have said he could back a People’s Vote in the coming days
- Shadow Labour minister Diane Abbott said there was ‘no inherent contradiction’ between holding a new vote and respecting the 2016 referendum result
Jeremy Corbyn could announce Labour’s backing for a second referendum within days, it has been claimed.
The party leader has faced huge pressure to commit to a more decisive line on Brexit since his party was thrashed at the European elections last week.
Labour fell to an embarrassing third place behind the Liberal Democrats, who took a much more avowedly pro-Europe position – prompting calls for Mr Corbyn to back a new public vote.
Now senior Labour figures have said he is poised to back a second referendum, the Mirror reported.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving his home in north London on Monday) could announce Labour’s backing for a second referendum within days, it has been claimed
One shadow Cabinet minister said a decisive move would ‘give our membership confidence again that they can get back on the doorstep’.
Mr Corbyn has toed a careful line on a second vote, concerned that Labour would be wiped out in its former northern heartlands if it was seen to be sabotaging Brexit.
He has demanded a general election and spoken only vaguely of keeping a second referendum on the table.
But his position has come under fierce scrutiny after Labour’s embarrassment at the European polls.
Labour finished behind the Liberal Democrats in pro-Remain London – including in the party leader’s own Islington backyard.
After the results came in Mr Corbyn inched closer than ever before to backing a so-called People’s Vote, saying any Brexit deal ‘has to be put to a public vote’.
Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott (pictured in London) said there was ‘no inherent contradiction’ between a new vote and respecting the 2016 result
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (pictured) said Labour could unite the party and country by ‘taking the issue back to people in a public vote’
Pro-EU MPs Wes Streeting and Ben Bradshaw both spoke of difficult doorstep experiences as Labour was derided for its equivocal position on Brexit.
Yesterday shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott insisted Labour was moving towards a ‘clearer line’ on Brexit.
Ms Abbott said there was ‘no inherent contradiction’ between respecting the result of the 2016 referendum and having another poll.
‘I’ve always argued that it’s perfectly possible that Leave would win again but we’re supporting a People’s Vote strongly now because it’s the right thing to do and it’s the democratic thing to do,’ she said.
She went on: ‘Our position is that ideally we want a general election – if we can’t get a general election in time, we would support a People’s Vote.’
Trade union boss Len McCluskey (pictured), an opponent of a second vote, demanded that Mr Corbyn stick to his existing position of trying to keep Leave and Remain supporters together
Deputy leader Tom Watson has also backed a second referendum, saying: ‘We’ve lost many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of potential votes in that election because we got it wrong.’
He told the BBC: ‘The time is now to show some humility, to listen and to move very, very quickly.’
And former prime minister Tony Blair said he had voted Labour ‘without great enthusiasm’ as he too pushed for the party to throw its weight behind a referendum.
He said Mr Corbyn ‘has got to come to a clear position’, telling Sky News: ‘The one that is very obvious is that both party leaderships have made the same mistake, which is to think that it’s possible to sit on the fence on Europe and appeal to both sides.
‘What the European elections show you is that isn’t possible.’
This map shows how the Brexit Party topped polls almost everywhere in England and Wales. The Tories did not come first in any council areas
However union boss Len McCluskey has urged Labour to stick to its current position and try to bring Leavers and Remainers together.
The leader of the Unite union has urged Labour to stay united, ready to govern to ‘transform the country’ despite the party’s poor showing in the Euro polls.
‘The blame lies firmly with the Tory party which has handled the Brexit process disastrously causing despair and disillusion among voters driving many to (Nigel) Farage and his simplistic offer,’ he said.
‘Labour has been the only party that has sought to unite the nation on Brexit and this is an honourable objective that must not be abandoned.
‘This is the time to hold our nerve because the true prize is the very real possibility of a looming general election.
‘That is the opportunity for Labour to go to the people to present its programme to transform our country, rebuilding our communities and restoring hope to those who feel abandoned by Westminster.
Alastair Campbell was yesterday expelled from Labour after he admitted he had not voted for the party for first time in his life, in disgust at the party’s stance on Europe
‘Faced now with the serious prospect of a no deal Tory prime minister, Labour must stay united and show the country that it is ready to lead.’
Meanwhile the party was engulfed by a further row after Mr Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell was thrown out of the party for supporting the Lib Dems.
Speaking outside his north London home, Mr Campbell said he will appeal the expulsion and warned Labour faces ‘oblivion’ unless it clarifies its Brexit position.
‘I think that there are people in Jeremy Corbyn’s office, senior positions in Jeremy Corbyn’s office, who have recommended voting against the Labour Party,’ he said.
‘You can interpret the rules in all sorts of different ways, but one thing I know is I’m not going to leave the party just because some random email comes in telling me that I’ve been expelled.’
Mr Campbell, a key player in the New Labour era, declined to rule out shunning the party again in a snap general election and said it would ‘depend’ on its Brexit policy.
He described his rapid expulsion as ‘strange’ and said ‘people will inevitably draw the contrast with the lack of rapidity in dealing with cases involving anti-Semitism’.
Labour rules say members who support a party other than Labour are automatically ineligible for membership.
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