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There is no magic ‘stop Brexit’ button for Labour. There never has been

6 114 846
01.03.2019

The problem with recommending good options for Labour on Brexit, with regards to their electoral prospects, is that none exist. Here is a party whose members and existing voters supported remain, but which cannot win a general election without leave voters. The only six seats lost by Labour in 2017 heavily opted for Brexit in the referendum, such as the ex-mining community of Mansfield and post-industrial Stoke-on-Trent South. And 41 of the top 54 Tory-held target seats – without which Labour cannot form a majority – voted leave. As long as Brexit dominates and defines political debate, Labour will suffer. Its popular domestic policies are sidelined.

Corbynism is an insurgent project, with a clear sense of “the people versus the elite” at its heart; but in order to keep its electoral coalition together, it has been forced to triangulate on the most important political issue of our time, sapping it of the radical energy it thrives on. Brexit has unleashed a culture war, too, which divides and polarises Labour’s electoral coalition.

Labour is now set to commit to an amendment tabled by backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson: it would allow Theresa May’s deal to pass in exchange for a referendum. There is one minor hiccup with this plan. Unless the parliamentary arithmetic has changed – dramatically so – this amendment will be voted down, decisively so. The vast majority of Tory MPs will vote against, but........

© The Guardian