This is my first experience as a delegate at Labour Conference and I’m really enjoying it. However today is the day I’ve been dreading. According to media speculation – often wrong I know but often right too – today is the day Conference has a show down over Brexit. The thought of it puts a knot in my stomach. I don’t like conflict at the best of times, but I like it even less when the conflict is between comrades and allies and no one knows for sure what the best outcome is. I also know my opinion on this puts me on the fringes of the membership, or so I’m told. I’m a Remain voter who believes the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum should be respected. In my own personal experience as a so called ‘influencer’ on twitter, a lot of Labour members agree with me. As do a lot of voters. However the majority of Labour members at Conference disagree. I only have to glance around at the proliferation of Red bags, adorned with the slogan, ‘Labour can stop Brexit’ to know that.
However there is someone of some weight who does agree with me and who has, like me and many others, had to suck up the party’s move towards an ever more Remain position, and that is Jeremy Corbyn.
Our current position is to negotiate a Labour Brexit deal if we win a GE, and then put that deal back to the public in a Referendum against remain. Despite my antipathy towards a further Referendum, I can live with this position. A lot of Leave voting members can live with it, albeit with a fair level of disappointment, and naturally Remain supporting members can live with it because it offers them a good shot at reversing Brexit. And that’s why I believe we should stop here and not move any further toward a Remain position exemplified by MPs like Emily Thornberry and remainer members who want to commit our party to campaign for Remain against a Labour negotiated deal, a position that is roundly and understandably mocked by Brexiteers whenever it is discussed because it casts doubt that any future deal will be negotiated in good faith.
Jeremy Corbyn has put it on public record that his personal preference is for the party to remain neutral until we at least know what a Labour deal looks like, and then hold a special conference to decide which option to recommend. He clearly wishes to be a neutral figure in any event and possibly give MPs the freedom to campaign as they see fit.
This is dismissed as a fudge, when really it is the only unifying position on offer, especially now the Lib Dems have thrown their weight behind revoke. The fact its the only position that can hold the disparate Brexit factions in our own party together is a sign of what it can achieve in a General Election. Whether voters voted Leave or Remain, they can just about live with our offer on Brexit. Add to that a list of exciting, life transforming policies and we can bring our broken country together. But if we take one more step towards Remain and we disenfranchise our leave voting members and many people like me. Polling shows that positions on Brexit have hardened in the country. In my view the Remain campaign should bear some responsibility for this. Many Labour voters get frustrated with Tory voters and privately grumble about the way they ‘believed the lies, voted against their own interests etc’ but never make this the foundation of their campaign to win them over because they know it would have the completely opposite effect and alienate them forever. Unfortunately the Remain campaign have patronised Leave voters publicly and without considering the impact this has on those voters. In contrast Jeremy Corbyn has never talked down to or patronised leave voters. He not only knows that’s a counterproductive thing to do, he just doesn’t look down on anyone. That’s why we need our leader to lead our party on this. His skills as a natural born peace broker must be utilised. His well proven political wisdom will lead us to a GE win. I just hope Conference stands by him.