Sunday shows: McDonnell and Chakrabarti on blocking no-deal Brexit

The Sunday shows were dominated by Tory leadership contenders, with no-deal-advocating Esther McVey on Sky and “conviction Brexiteer” Dominic Raab on The Andrew Marr Show. Justine Greening ruled out standing.

Representing Labour, John McDonnell was interviewed by Sophy Ridge and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti spoke to Marr. They were asked about deputy leader Tom Watson’s view, expressed today in the Observer, that Labour must back holding another referendum or risk losing the next election. Both sounded more positive about the idea than ever. They also discussed other ways of blocking no deal.

Ridge on Sunday

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, talked about Labour’s Brexit policy and the European election results being revealed tonight.

  • On what Labour should do next, he first avoided directly confirming that the party should back another referendum but said it should work across the Commons to prevent no deal: “I think the next step for us now is bringing the other opposition parties together for a discussion about where we go from here… and yes, talking to a number of Conservative MPs as well.”
  • Pressed on another referendum, he said Labour must “bring the other opposition leaders together, talk through and get agreement on a way forward and if that does include going back to the people, then yes, let’s now have that discussion”.
  • On the European elections: “I think we most probably will get a good kicking in the election results tonight. We’ll see, we’ll see, we’re braced for that but you know, we had to do the responsible thing. I know it was hard, it was difficult, it was a hard road to follow, but someone had to be there and say can we bring the country back together again? It would have been easy to have gone to one side, to the Remain side, and to have ignored all those people who voted Leave – that’s not the nature of our party. We’re the party that is trying to bring people back together again. That’s been difficult electorally for us in these elections, of course it has, but now we have got to move on.”

The Andrew Marr Show

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti talked about another referendum and how else Labour could prevent a no-deal Brexit.

  • Asked how Labour plans to stop no deal if another general election cannot be forced, she said: “By any means necessary. My colleague John McDonnell just this morning has been reaching out to leaders of other parties.” She said this would involve more votes in the House of Commons and “then quite possibly a confirmatory vote”.
  • Marr pointed out that another referendum is not be enough in the face of a Prime Minister intent on pursuing no deal. She said: “We can try and trigger a vote of no confidence and hope that some sensible, moderate Conservatives who realise what a catastrophe no deal would be… We hope that in those circumstances moderate Conservatives would help break the deadlock.”
  • Asked whether Labour will push a vote of no confidence immediately after a new Tory leader is elected: “I think that it’s time for a general election. This new leader should seek a mandate. Yes, I think that would be a very good idea.”
  • On the European election results: “I think it’s very likely that it won’t be a great night for the Labour Party.”
  • She sympathised with Tom Watson’s view and said that as well as reaching out to other parties, Labour should reach in to its membership. She sounded more positive about holding another referendum than she ever has before.
  • On freedom of movement: “We’re not an anti-immigration party. We are a pro-movement party. Of course movement has to work for everyone.” She added that EU citizens should “be able to come and go – not completely freely, but we want that movement”.

Pienaar’s Politics

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was still adamantly against holding another referendum, and highly critical of Tom Watson. He advised the leadership to “hold your nerve” and stick to its current Brexit plan, which aims to deliver on the 2016 result.

  • “Tom Watson’s already out, surprise surprise, trying to take on the role of Prince Machiavelli, but I’ve got news for Tom. Machiavelli was effective. He’s a poor imitation of that. If he’s trying to turn Labour members against Corbyn and in his favour, then he’s going to lose disastrously. And there will be others in the coming days who try and do the same. Now is the time to hold your nerve, because a general election, which is the only thing that will resolve this situation, is closer now than anything.”

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