Labour conference was a big win for a People’s Vote and the party’s moderates

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 27 September 2018

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer opens a debate on Brexit during the Labour Party's annual conference. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer opens a debate on Brexit during the Labour Party's annual conference. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The Labour conference saw a struggle in the party over backing for a People’s Vote. Be under no illusions – we won it, says RICHARD ANGELL, director of Progress, Labour’s centre-left movement.

Policy-making at Labour conference is a bit like the EU. Months of build-up, a myriad of different positions, posturing from all sides, consolidated in a six-hour meeting through the night in a windowless room for everyone to emerge in the early hours to give their own briefings.

Finally, there is open debate and a clear decision – taken in the best interests of all: backing for a People’s Vote to solve the problem of Brexit.

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago the leadership of Momentum stitched up their own delegates and denied the Labour conference a debate on the biggest issue facing the country.

Furious that the priority for the hard left leadership was on saving Jeremy Corbyn’s blushes, not stopping a Tory hard Brexit, members from across the party worked to get a vote at this year’s conference. Progress launched the LabourSay.EU campaign and this week we won.

To everyone’s surprise, John McDonnell had spent the year working against party members having their say and this week he brandished his Leave-leaning credentials, indicating that the party was reluctant to have a People’s Vote and insinuating that Remain would not be on the ballot even if one did take place.

That could not be further from the truth.

The spontaneous standing ovation for Keir Starmer’s slapdown of McDonnell’s muddying of the water and his own clear message – if there is no general election Labour will campaign for a People’s Vote with a Remain option on the ballot – showed the unity of the Labour movement behind a public vote on Brexit.

The subsequent vote among delegates underlined it. Together Labour can stop the Tory hard Brexit.

Now conference is over and the matter resolved, this must be the party’s focus. In Liverpool, delegates hardwired fighting Brexit into the Labour movement.

We believe a no-deal is not good for Britain; Theresa May’s motion is not good for Britain; a single market is the only Brexit that has a chance of delivering for working people.

We know that Jacob Rees-Mogg will never let the prime minister bring home this Norway-style deal – so Labour must vote down the deal.

If we win, this government will not just have failed in Labour and Remainer eyes but in the eyes of the country. The remaining authority of this government will have evaporated.

Britain needs a general election to change the government and renegotiate a new relationship with Europe.

However, if no general election can come to pass, Labour said ‘all options on the table’ including a People’s Vote.

The reality is, with all other options ruled out, a People’s Vote is the table. And it is the very thing that could turn the tables on the Tories and Brexit.

Richard Angell is the director of Progress, Labour’s centre-left movement

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