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Leading left Labour figures fall in behind the right’s push for Remain

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Issue 2677
John McDonnell backs Remain
John McDonnell backs Remain (Pic: Sophie Brown/Wikipedia)

The Labour Party has taken a big step towards full support for remaining in the racist, neoliberal European Union.

High profile Labour politicians close to leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the People’s Vote campaign march on Saturday—really a march for Remain.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the crowd, “Labour is a Remain Party.”

It flew in the face of a decision by ordinary Labour members at their party conference just last month to reject campaigning for Remain.

Other speakers even closer to Corbyn—shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott—were more careful.

But they also edged Labour closer to backing Remain.

McDonnell said Labour would respect another vote to Leave but that “we believe that our future best lies within the European Union itself”. Abbott simply said, “I am a Remainer.”


A big shift is underway to push Labour towards backing Remain in any future referendum.

In addition, there is an attempt to say Labour should back a referendum on any Brexit deal—not just on a “credible leave option,” as Labour’s conference policy says.

That was confirmed by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer.

In practice it means Labour could back any move to have a second referendum—in which Starmer says Labour should back Remain—before a general election.

Some Labour politicians opposed the shift—though Corbyn stayed silent.

Party chair Ian Lavery MP tweeted that Labour “is NOT a Remain Party, it’s NOT a Leave Party. It’s a SOCIALIST Party.”

Others highlighted a mass rally for Corbyn in Liverpool as proof that Labour can win an election.

Yet simply holding rallies of Labour activists while Labour’s top politicians faff around with the right wing Remain campaign isn’t a good enough alternative.

The rallies need to be much more like the ones during the 2017 general election—widely advertised to draw in much broader numbers of people, not just Labour activists.

Crucially they need to be part of an election campaign that puts action over austerity, the climate crisis and racism—not Brexit—at its centre.

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