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Labour Shows Support for Second Referendum—but at What Cost?

The loss of millions of voters and a divided party could be consequences for Corbyn.

This week the Labour Party officially announced that the party would, as a collective, seek out and support efforts for a second Brexit referendum, fulfilling their expectations of being the party to oppose Brexit and to remain within the EU. It is a move which should put to an end any speculation of further MP departures and it finally, after what seems like months of disarray, gives Labour a clear and common goal to rally behind.

The roots of Labour grow from the working classes. It was created as a genuine opposition to the rightwing conservatives and the centrist Liberals at the turn of the 20th century, and over a century later, the party is showing that at least some of those core values are still at heart.

The decision to officially announce they are pushing for a second referendum provides the British people with a major political party that not only opposes Brexit, but also had—until it was rejected in parliament—a safe form of Brexit which would have attempted to protect UK jobs.

It has been a turbulent time for Labour over the last few months. The party’s inability to address and remove the antisemitic fibres seemingly sewn into the fabrics of its existence has seen several MPs leave the party. Whether this syphons votes away from Labour remains to be seen, but if the party cannot eradicate those from within who are guilty of antisemitism then the next GE could be one to forget. I’m all for the idea of a Labour government, but at present that is all it is, a dream.

The departure of MPs could not have come at a worse time for Labour. It shows the fragility of the party at a point where total unity is required by all parties within parliament. Who knows what some sort of cross-party agreement might have done for Brexit negotiations?

Whichever way it is viewed, MPs leaving is bad news for Corbyn. The talk of pushing for a General Election is all well and good, but the party looks in no way fit for government. Dissatisfaction with Corbyn is high at the moment, as it has been for over three years, for most of his leadership there has been rumours of a split. The fact that those MPs chose this time to leave the party shows partial unprofessionalism on their part, as well as coming across as shambolic. When MPs of a party are leaving because they can no longer consciously tell their constituents that their leader is fit to be Prime Minister, something is seriously going wrong.

It's beneficial that Labour has made a stance, especially as it is an attempt to prevent a no-deal Brexit—something which I have always seen to be the worst outcome in the poor situation that is Brexit. The first step for many Labour MPs would be to see no-deal removed from the table, however, those who support remaining in the EU are determined to see a second referendum.

Since the dust has settled since Labour’s announcement on Monday, it’s become easier to see where its members stand. The betrayal of a large portion of its supporters is perhaps the most relevant issue being raised by those MPs critical of supporting the second referendum. Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley, tweeted on Monday night:

“Labour in danger of overturning an election promise to respect the 2016 Referendum result. We can’t ignore millions of Labour Leave voters. There are Labour MPs like me who will not support a second ref.”

This is of upmost importance. Labour might get their second referendum and see the UK remain in the EU, yet they risk alienating millions of voters who wanted the party to get behind the decision of the original Brexit vote. The question for Labour leadership will ultimately be: Is the loss of a noticeable number of voters, consequently lengthening any odds of winning the next election, worth it to reverse Brexit? The answer to this could be closer around the corner than we think.

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