September 20, 2021

Jeremy Corbyn could be ordered to back Remain by senior Labour figures

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Jeremy Corbyn is facing Brexit humiliation today as Labour activists stage a massive revolt to force him to support Remaining in the EU.

The stage has been set for a crunch showdown at the party’s annual conference in Brighton – with the Labour leader’s authority at stake.

Mr Corbyn has been desperately struggling to stay on the fence over Brexit, saying he wants to fight an election and try to negotiate a new deal with the EU before deciding whether to back Leave or Remain in a second referendum.   

But party members have taken a wrecking ball to his tortuous stance, and are pushing a motion that would commit Labour to battling to stay in the bloc whatever the circumstances. 

The votes this afternoon look to be on a knife edge, with Mr Corbyn and his union allies lining up against the party rank-and-file and an array of shadow cabinet figures.

Members will vote on three separate motions – two that are effectively identical supporting the leader’s position, and the rebel call for the party to campaign ‘energetically’ for Remain at an election. 

Amid intense behind-the-scenes arm-twisting today, public services union Unison declared it will oppose the leader’s Brexit fudge.

But the Momentum pressure group appears to have handed Mr Corbyn a lifeline by signalling its activists will be in his camp, rather than with the Remainers. 

In an extraordinary split, its founder Jon Lansman this morning made clear he did not agree with the decision, tweeting that ‘members should feel free to vote with their conscience’. 

Defeat is unlikely to be terminal for Mr Corbyn, but would be more evidence that his grip on power is loosening. A poll suggested today that 54 per cent of Labour’s voters from the 2017 election now believe he should quit.   

As the battle for Labour’s soul gather pace last night, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry warned that it risked losing a third of its voters unless it abandoned Mr Corbyn’s ambiguous Brexit stance.

She told the Labour leader that the party must decide ‘now’ whether to back Leave or Remain. 

John McDonnell, once seen as Mr Corbyn’s closest ally, also made clear he thought Remain would always be the best option – although he left open the possibility that he could side with the leader.

‘I think people should express their own jugdement on this,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘There will be some who think we can get a (better) deal, but there will be others like myself who think you cannot get a better deal than Remain.’  

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has also said Labour should campaign for Remain in a referendum. 

Meanwhile, another shadow cabinet member, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said Mr Corbyn had already conceded that his senior team will be free to endorse staying in the EU, whatever the party’s official position.  

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured left at the Labour party conference in Brighton) is at war with his party over Brexit as activists demand he full-heartedly backs Remain

Emily Thornberry (pictured speaking at a People’s Vote rally in Brighton yesterday) warned that the party risked losing a third of its voters unless it ditched its ambiguous stance

A poll suggested today that 54 per cent of Labour’s voters from the 2017 election now believe he should quit

John McDonnell (pictured posing for a selfie at Labour conference today) said he personally believes there is no Brexit deal that would be better than EU membership

The Brexit spat has dominated Labour’s conference in Brighton, despite a series of high-profile and high-spending promises – including abolishing private schools. 

What will happen on Brexit at Labour conference today? 

The Labour Party’s ‘democratic’ process is notoriously fiendishly convoluted.   

The conference will vote this evening on three motions. Two are almost identical, and describe Mr Corbyn’s favoured approach.

He has been desperately struggling to stay on the fence over Brexit, saying he wants to win an election, and try to negotiate a new deal with the EU before deciding whether to back Leave or Remain in a second referendum. 

One of these motions states: ‘Our party leader has made our way forward abundantly clear: a public vote on a deal agreed with the EU giving people a final say between a credible Leave option and Remain.’ 

The third motion is the Remainer call, which says the party must ‘energetically’ campaign for Remain at an election. 

‘Labour must reflect the overwhelming view of its members and voters, who want to stay in the EU,’ it states. 

It is theoretically possible that all three could be passed – in which case Labour officials say they would all be party policy, despite being contradictory.

Even if the Remainer motion alone goes through, officials said it will not necessarily end up in the manifesto – even though Mr Corbyn pledged yesterday to ‘obey’ the will of conference.

The final decision on that rests with the Clause 5 committee, made up of Mr Corbyn, the shadow cabinet, the ruling NEC, and unions. 

The votes are expected to start around 5.20pm, but the results might take hours to emerge if there is no clear winner from a show of hands. 

Mr Corbyn will today urge members to back a plan that would see the party’s manifesto promise a second referendum, but without saying which side it would campaign for.

As PM he would then attempt to negotiate a new deal with Brussels before calling a referendum. 

Under his blueprint, the party would stay neutral about whether to back Remain or the Labour-negotiated deal until members make the decision for him at a special conference.

But Ms Thornberry said yesterday that members should ‘thrash it out’ this week, adding ‘We’re all here. I don’t see why we can’t make the decision now.’

She warned that Labour risked haemorrhaging support if it goes into a general election without being ‘truthful’ about being a Remain party.

‘The polling does show that we could lose 30 per cent of the Labour vote to the Greens and the Lib Dems unless we are clear about where we stand on Europe,’ she told a fringe meeting at the conference.

‘I want Jeremy to be in No 10 and my view personally is that the best chance of doing that is to speak truthfully, which is we as a party are a Remain party.’

She was joined by other senior Labour figures, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, who urged delegates to refuse to support ‘any compromise on Brexit’. 

In a Facebook post appealing to members, he wrote: ‘Do not accept a fudge, do not delay us setting out what our stance would be in any future referendum.

‘Labour has come to a crossroads. Labour is a Remain party and we need to make this official by making it our policy to campaign to stay in the European Union under all circumstances – and to whip our MPs to back that position.

‘It’s time for Labour to commit to stopping Brexit, not only by promising to give the British public the final say, but by pledging to throw all our energy behind the campaign to stay in the European Union.’

Mr Corbyn took time out to visit the WWF stand at the conference centre in Brighton today

Union baron Len McCluskey has poured fuel on the flames of the Brexit row by demanding a shadow cabinet clearout of those who do not support Mr Corbyn’s stance 

Mr Corbyn tried to put a brave face on his conference woes as he listened to Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard’s speech on stage in Brighton today 

Deputy leader Tom Watson, who survived a bungled effort by Mr Corbyn’s allies to oust him over the weekend, delivered a stark message that Labour must support Remain. 

At a fringe rally he said: ‘We are a Remain party. We are a European party. We are an internationalist party. 

‘That is who we are. Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe.’

More than half of Labour voters from 2017 election want Jeremy Corbyn to QUIT 

More than half of Labour voters from 2017 want Jeremy Corbyn to quit, a damning poll revealed today.

Some 54 per cent of his supporters at the last election now say he should go – and the view is shared by 58 per cent of the wider population. 

Earlier this week polls found Mr Corbyn’s popularity ratings have plumbed new depths at a net minus 60, below the worst level recorded by his left-wing hero Michael Foot in the aftermath of the Falklands War.

Labour has also been trailing the Tories by 15 points on voting intention as the unashamedly pro-Remain Lib Dems siphon off the party’s supporters.   

A YouGov poll for the Times today found that 54 per cent of Labour voters from 2017, and 58 per cent of the general public, think that Mr Corbyn should resign.

A third of the much smaller group who currently say they will vote Labour said that he should quit.

One in three of his voters also think Labour Brexit position is confusing, and two-thirds of Remain voters say the same.

YouGov surveyed 1,650 adults on September 18 and 19. 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that she would campaign for Remain at a second EU referendum, while Nia Griffiths, Labour’s defence spokesman, said that Brexit would leave Britain worse off.

However, union baron Len McCluskey urged members to stick with Mr Corbyn.  

‘Let me say here that Jeremy Corbyn is a thousand times right in trying to speak to our whole country at this time of crisis,’ he said.

‘When we have the Tories dismissing half of our nation. And the Liberals are writing off the other half.

‘It is only Jeremy’s Labour that puts social justice first, that says whether you are Leave or Remain’ matters less than your class.

‘We should not let anyone define or divide us as Leavers or Remainers.’ 

Yesterday poured fuel on the flames of the row by demanding a Shadow Cabinet clear out of those who do not support Mr Corbyn’s stance.

Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, the Unite general secretary said: ‘We must go into an election united and when we have a policy on Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn makes it clear that that is the policy then that is what leading members of the Shadow Cabinet should argue for.

‘If they find that they can’t argue for it because they feel strongly, well of course they have that right but they should step aside.’

The conference will vote this evening on three motions. Two are almost identical, and describe Mr Corbyn’s favoured approach.

The third is the Remainer motion, which says the party must ‘energetically’ campaign for Remain at an election. 

It is theoretically possible that all three could be passed – in which case Labour officials say they would all be party policy, despite being contradictory.

Even if the Remainer motion alone goes through, officials said it will not necessarily end up in the manifesto – even though Mr Corbyn pledged yesterday to ‘obey’ the will of conference.

The final decision on that rests with the Clause 5 committee, made up of Mr Corbyn, the shadow cabinet, the ruling NEC, and unions.  

Mr Corbyn yesterday defended his plan. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘What we have said is that we would want to hold a consultation, a special conference of our party at the point that we have got this offer from the EU, we’ve got this as a Remain – and hopefully reform – option.

‘Because I do think even those that are strongly in favour of Remain would recognise the EU needs to have some reforms.’

In response to MPs and activists calling for the party to come out in support of Remain now, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I will go along with whatever decision the party comes to.’

Conference delegates will today vote on whether to accept Mr Corbyn’s plan, which was yesterday approved by the party’s National Executive Committee.

But there will be a separate vote on a motion that would commit the party to campaign “energetically” for Remain during an expected snap election. 

Around 100 constituency Labour parties had put forward separate motions calling for an unequivocally pro-Remain stance.

Mr Corbyn was embroiled in bad-tempered exchanges with the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday as he denied his time as leader was coming to an end.

In an interview, he said rumours of his demise were ‘wishful thinking’ from critics – suggesting they included Marr himself. He insisted he will serve a full five-year term if elected PM.

However, a senior Labour figure told MailOnline Mr Corbyn was ‘terrified’ at the possibility of Boris Johnson resigning and the Queen asking him to be PM. 

‘If Jeremy had to become PM he would find that terrifying,’ the senior MP said.

‘He doesn’t like taking decisions, he doesn’t want to be the person who has 20 text messages to deal with before he goes to bed at midnight, and is woken up at 6am with more demands on his time.’

They said Mr Corbyn had never been prepared for the pressures of running a party, let alone a country.  

‘He’s happy when he’s got something to push back against,’ the MP said.

‘But when power becomes more real and he’s got to reconcile competing interests, he just can’t do it.’  

In another blow today, a YouGov poll for the Times found that 54 per cent of Labour voters from 2017, and 58 per cent of the general public, think that Mr Corbyn should resign.

A third of the much smaller group who currently say they will vote Labour said that he should quit.

One in three of his voters also think Labour Brexit position is confusing, and two-thirds of Remain voters say the same.

Yougov surveyed 1,650 adults on September 18 and 19.

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