Young Labour activist NATHAN BORODA on why Labour now needs to ditch the ‘constructive ambiguity’ on a People’s Vote and fully embrace a second referendum.
Watching last night’s European election results was devastating for me as a Labour member. Seeing our fantastic MEPs across the country lose their seats and the work of our amazing activists to get some brilliant candidates elected go to waste was really difficult.
But we can stop the tide with one simple policy change.
Last week, polling from MRP showed that Labour would be reaching 38% of the vote, an astonishing 27% ahead of the Tories and 8% ahead of the Brexit Party, if we got fully-behind a People’s Vote.
And yesterday’s results showed that polling in practice, finishing behind the Liberal Democrats in many places and losing votes to the Greens. Whilst we, of course, lost some votes to the Brexit Party as well, we should remember Labour lost 4 times more to pro-Remain parties.
Our policy of ‘constructive ambiguity’ may have served well at the last general election, but it clearly cannot survive another.
So it’s time to get off the fence on Brexit and get behind a People’s Vote.
I’m not one of the people who thinks that our party’s position is a conspiracy of malign influences from die-hard Eurosceptics in the Leader’s Office, I do think it’s a sincere electoral calculation. I just think it’s the wrong one.
It’s, of course, true that in order to win the next General Election we need to win back seats that predominantly voted Leave. But at the moment they’re not voting for us, in part, because we’re seen as not being able to make our mind up on Brexit.
Crucially, let’s remember that these seats aren’t homogenous. Let’s take two examples of seats that neighbour Bury, where I’m from. In Bolton West, a Brexit seat which is 20th on our list of target seats. 42% of people voted to Remain, substantially more than the Tories’ 936 majority there. In Rossendale and Darwen, 57th on our target list, over 40% of people voted to Remain.
In fact, Nigel Farage held a rally in Bolton during the European Election campaign, in which he barely made a positive case for leaving the EU, instead making vague references to ‘democracy.’ Labour should have been more robust in responding that democracy didn’t end on 23rd June and that the British people, and not just Farage and the Brexit elite, should decide what happens next.
We can’t be competing with two other Brexit parties in these constituencies, and by embracing a People’s Vote we have the opportunity to be the only credible force for Remain and Reform.
We can win in seats like Rossendale and Darwen, with the eight point poll lead we’d have if we backed a People’s Vote.
With public service cuts, the rising threat of climate change and continued underinvestment in the North, Brexit is by no means the most important issue to working people in Britain. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that our relationship with Europe won’t be the dominant issue for our elections in the next five, 10 and even 20 years.
As long as we are ambiguous in response to Brexit, the British people will not be ambiguous in their response to us.
There will be many hot takes in the coming days on the results of the European Elections. What they mean for the political parties, how it changes the dynamic in the Conservative leadership election and what it means for Brexit, and the country.
But surely, this abysmal result for Labour can only mean one thing.
It’s time for a Labour to embrace a People’s Vote.
– Nathan Boroda is a For our Future’s Sake (FFS) supporter from Bury in North West, and also campaigns with the Labour Party.