Labour chair distances himself from article in which he calls People's Vote supporters sneery 'left-wing intellectuals'

PUBLISHED: 16:26 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:26 29 May 2019

MP Ian Lavery speaking at a Labour poster launch. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

MP Ian Lavery speaking at a Labour poster launch. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Labour's party chair Ian Lavery has claimed a newspaper column - in which he branded Labour supporters of a People's Vote sneery "left-wing intellectuals" - was taken out of context... despite appearing to write it.

Lavery's article was applauded by some in the party that do not support a People's Vote.

But it was widely criticised by Remain campaigners who believed that the chair was showing opposition to a key component of party policy.

In a thinly-veiled warning to the Labour leadership, Lavery said Labour should not support a People's Vote, because it was backed by "left-wing intellectuals" who knew nothing about the working class.

He argued Labour would not win the general election attempting to appeal to the 48% who voted Remain.

The column in the Guardian reads: "As someone who has opposed a so-called public vote, not least because parliament has no majority for it in principle and nobody has the faintest idea what we would actually put on the ballot, I have been doggedly attacked by certain sections of the party, as well as those on the outside," he said.

"It does feel that a certain portion of 'left-wing intellectuals' are sneering at ordinary people and piling on those trying to convey the feelings of hundreds of thousands of Labour voters. Perhaps, in reflecting on the results, we should consider the effect all of this has had."

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It prompted the Labour Against Brexit group to call for Lavery's resignation.

They tweeted: "If you're opposed to a public vote and going as far as to break the whip and campaign against one @IanLaveryMP then at least have the good grace to resign as party chair.

"We polled at 14%, it's indefensible to argue to carry on with the same policy."

However, Lavery appeared to distance himself from the newspaper column.

He tweeted: "I am disappointed that an article I have written for the @guardian has been taken out of context and its message misconstrued in an editorial piece published this afternoon. I have spoken to the Guardian and am assured that this will soon be corrected."

He did not respond to questions from his followers on what particular aspect of the column he disagreed with.

It follows a spat between the MP and Paul Mason, the former BBC journalist who is a campaigner for a Jeremy Corbyn government, who also called for Lavery to resign.

He said earlier in the week: "I'm calling for your resignation as well. If people actively obstruct the leader, brief against him, refuse to enact decisions they are not doing their jobs - and how can we have a party chair who breaks the whip?"

Mason said he was unhappy with Lavery for breaking the whip to abstain during votes in March and April when the leadership ordered MPs to support holding a public vote in certain circumstances.

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