Labour appeared to be no closer to backing a People’s Vote after a marathon six hour negotiation over the Brexit motion to be put to conference on Tuesday.
Over a hundred local parties had submitted Brexit motions, with around half said to be in favour of a People’s Vote on the government’s final deal with an option to remain. They were bolstered by unions including the TSSA and the GMB who have already come out in favour of the campaign.
They wanted a chance to shift Labour’s position, not satisfied with Labour figures who for months have repeated Keir Starmer’s insistence that a People’s Vote must be held in reserve as just one option “on the table”.
But when it came to last night’s compositing meeting to thrash out an agreed motion to put to conference, Labour’s position remained almost stationary.
The 300-strong meeting erupted when first presented with a motion that would leave a People’s Vote firmly on the table, at one point leaving Keir Starmer almost completely isolated in favour of the leadership’s fudge.
But Starmer was able to mount a remarkable comeback, using a series of cosmetic but convincing compromises to quietly bury any real commitment to a People’s Vote.
The marathon six-hour debate ended very much where it started, with a motion that left a People’s Vote languishing on the table. Starmer’s ‘concessions’ did nothing to change Labour’s preference for an election in the event of no deal and referred ambiguously to a “public vote” rather than an in or out People’s Vote.
By some accounts that means Labour has gone backwards. John McDonnell has already insisted that the “public vote” referred to in the motion would not include an option to remain, following Unite chief Len McCluskey.
People’s Vote chiefs insist they have made a significant step forward, provoking an angry response from other anti-Brexit campaigners who think the motion will deny members a real say on a second in-out referendum, making a mockery of the Labour leadership’s promise to be “a more democratic, member-led Party”.
Indeed, this could be a decisive failure for remainers. With Brexit fast approaching, this conference was a scarce opportunity to get Labour’s formal backing for a People’s Vote.