Labour activists from constituencies that voted to leave the EU in 2016 are reporting that the “mood is changing” in their local areas. Many of the Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) that have passed motions in favour of a fresh EU referendum are based in pro-Brexit seats, according to anti-Brexit group Another Europe is Possible.
The left-wing organisation spearheaded by Michael Chessum, who worked on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, has been phonebanking activists for months in order to make the pro-EU views of the party grassroots heard by the Labour leadership and national executive committee (NEC). Members of the shadow cabinet and ruling body – both made up of Corbyn allies – have so far been largely quiet on the subject of endorsing another public vote.
Ana Mosaic, an activist from Old Bexley and Sidcup, which voted by 62.4% to leave, said: “We are in the strong Brexit-supporting constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup, but the mood is changing. Locally we have seen cuts to adult social care, youth services and continued wasted spend on temporary housing and a huge increase in targeted burglaries. We need the focus on these pressing issues and trust our leadership to now support a second vote with Remain on the ballot, campaigning to vote to Remain.”
Another Labour activist in a pro-Brexit seat, councillor Phil Barlow from Braintree (61.5% Leave), commented: “It seems obvious to me we now need to take this process back to the people. The difference between the referendum of 1975 and 2016 is that in 1975 the terms of the arrangement were clear. After 2016, nobody can claim to know exactly which bit of the club people voted to leave, and certainly parliament doesn’t seem able to work it out.”
But the Remain campaigners have taken inspiration from 1975 in one way. As well as a campaign for another public vote, the motion promoted by Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) calls for an emergency party conference on Brexit – like the one that took place in 1975. As previously reported by LabourList, the demand has been backed by soft-left group Open Labour, TSSA chief Manuel Cortes and Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel.
LabourList also understands that party member Gerard Burke, from Milton Keynes, has gathered the signatures of 3,500 Labour members on his petition calling on the NEC to convene a special conference on Brexit. He hoped to hand it to general secretary Jennie Formby at Labour HQ today, but was instead told by a member of her office that the matter was for the NEC’s organisation committee, which already met this week and will not meet again until March.
When LabourList asked a number of NEC members whether there was any support on the ruling body for a special conference, responses made clear that the idea had not ever been discussed in formal meetings – despite activists petitioning for the emergency gathering and lobbying for it via emails. One member replied that they were “not sure of the details of how it would work”.
AEIP notes that dozens of CLPs have already passed their motion, and many more are expected by the end of the month with hundreds ready to debate it. While the model motion resolves to strengthen the Labour Party policy position in opposition to Brexit in a number of ways – from including it in doorstep campaigning to urging Labour MPs to vote down Theresa May’s deal – it also makes a case for policies largely associated with the left wing of the party.
Unlike the People’s Vote campaign, which is cross-party, and other pro-EU groups within Labour run by Corbynsceptics, AEIP welcomes the implementation of a “radical manifesto” that would lead a Labour government to “halt and reverse privatisation, expand common ownership, protect migrants’ rights, tax the rich to fund public services and abolish the anti-union laws”.