The Labour Party is facing internal conflict over the issue of a second referendum after shadow home secretary Diane Abbott added her voice to the increasing calls for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to endorse the policy.
“We want to be clear now. We are foregrounding what was always Labour Party policy – a people’s vote,” Ms Abbott told Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, despite the party having campaigned on a manifesto pledge in the 2017 General Election to respect the referendum result.
“Our position is that ideally, we want a General Election, if we can’t get a General Election in time we would support a People’s Vote,” she added.
Abbott has said that she would want Remain to be an option on any such ballot and that she herself would vote Remain if given the choice.
Her calls echo those of shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry who has already called for a second referendum and shadow chancellor and long-term Corbyn ally John McDonnell who said putting the vote to the people was now the “only option”.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 24, 2019
Mr Corbyn is believed to be stuck in the middle of a fierce dispute within his own party over whether or not to back a second referendum with Remain as an option as many Labour MPs represent constituencies which voted to leave the EU.
One such MP, Lisa Nandy, who represents the Wigan constituency which voted 63.9 per cent to leave, said: “There is huge frustration amongst Labour voters who voted leave in towns like mine to see leading figures from the Labour Party out calling for a second referendum before there’s been any serious attempt to implement the result of the first.”
She went on to say that “this could be the final breach of trust with this working-class electorate” and that “the chances of a Labour Government without winning the trust of people in these towns is absolutely zero”.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 8, 2019
Ms Nandy believes that a second referendum would increase support for a no-deal Brexit, saying that “very few people have changed their minds and if there is a shift in this area of the country I think it’s towards no-deal Brexit”. Her Labour Party colleague Gloria De Piero tweeted in support, saying “same situation in Ashfield”.
The dispute comes after Labour suffered humiliating losses in the EU elections over the weekend, falling into third place behind the newly formed Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. It was widely seen that Labour’s policy on Europe was unclear as Mr Corbyn had appeared to try and placate both Leave and Remain voters by steering a vague middle way.
In the end, the party suffered as a result, with parties with a clear message on Brexit either way, such as the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats — whose slogan was B*llocks to Brexit — seeing the most support.