Labour conference Remain defeat – snap reaction

Bank the positives and win the special conference

Paul Mason
Sep 23, 2019 · 3 min read

My snap reaction to the Labour conference decision to back a Second Referendum but leave the position on voting Remain to a special conference once we know the shape of the deal is…

Positives outweigh the negatives. They are

  1. A lot of people, including Stalinists and Lexiteers, are now strongly behind the People’s Vote. Their myopic refusal to back it on 30 April at the NEC cost us the European elections, but their Damascene conversion should boost Labour’s vote in the coming general election.
  2. The vast majority of CLPs, the Scottish, Welsh and NI parties, are already signed up to Remain. We can now sign up as many as possible PPCs and MPs – making clear that it is impossible for an incoming Labour government to back any other option but Remain
  3. For the first time in years we’ve had a democratic debate between seriously rival positions at conference. The participants were young, diverse and articulate – we’ve shown the world what a reinvigorated social democracy looks like.
  4. NEW! The 26 Labour MPs gagging to vote for Boris’s Deal now can’t.

Just as the changing situation opened up the possibility of Labour supporting PV, it will now push Corbyn, whether he likes it or not, towards a Remain position.

Because if Johnson gets a deal we cannot back that. We can however spring a Kyle-Walker type amendment imposing a PV, which is now Labour’s official position.

If Johnson does not get a deal by EUCO, and defies the Benn Act, we can justifiably stage a no confidence vote and usher in an interim government. Then we go to an election promising PV, with a majority of Labour candidates signed up to Remain.

I might have even voted for Composite 14 but for the fact I know it was providing cover for actual Lexiteers who want Labour to do a deal and then advocate it in the referendum.

This is now impossible, as the majority of the Shadow Cabinet would walk if Corbyn’s dishevelled advisers tried to make it happen. The Fisher resignation is a signal of how isolated the true Lexiteers really are – shutting down the card vote is the last bureaucratic stunt they will ever get away with.

A lot of people are appalled at the boorish loyalty cult that was evidenced on the floor of conference, and at the shutdown of the card vote. I’ve been in the Labour movement since 1979 so I am not shocked. This is the price you pay for having a party run by reformist trade union bureaucrats, and we are long way from achieving a member led, open, internationalist party – but I knew that already. Sorry if it’s a shock to some.

So I’m looking forward to the election now – I think PV plus a radical economic offer may be enough to win it, but the compromise we’ve reached now has to be owned by the people who voted for it.

If it does not produce a poll bounce for either Labour or Corbyn, no-one can now blame Starmer, Thornberry etc for this. Our members will have to get used to “learning by doing”.

What we need urgently is a united Labour remain campaign, pulling in all forces and all MPs around the single aim of winning the special conference to Remain.

What we don’t need is defections to the Libdems or a leadership challenge by the right – though I expect we will get both.

Mosquito Ridge

Resist the right!

Paul Mason

Written by

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Former economics editor at BBC Newsnight. Author of Clear Bright Future: A radical defence of the human being

Mosquito Ridge

Resist the right!

Paul Mason

Written by

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Former economics editor at BBC Newsnight. Author of Clear Bright Future: A radical defence of the human being

Mosquito Ridge

Resist the right!

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