Lib Dems want a People’s Vote to stop Brexit. Corbyn can’t say what Labour would do

The Sunday morning political programmes can be summarised as follows: Tory psychodrama (Sophy Ridge had three rounds of it), Labour obfuscation and Lib Dem consistency and clarity.

Just imagine that you were the Leader of the Opposition. You’re supposed to be showing leadership on the most important issue of most of our lifetimes. You talk about how you want a General Election, though you haven’t actually bothered to do anything to make one happen.

Then you’re asked what your policy in that General Election would be on the said major issue. Surely to goodness you would have something to tell people. You wouldn’t go on about how it still had to be decided by some party meeting. Surely you would have done that preparatory work already.  I mean, you’ve been going on about this General Election for months.

At least, if you wanted to show that you had even basic competence to run the country, you would be able to say where your party stood. If your policy was coming from principle and value, it would be instinctive.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine any of this. It’s actually happening. The two paragraphs above is pretty much what Corbyn said on Marr this morning. And it’s pretty much what Rebecca Long-Bailey said on Sophy Ridge.

Corbyn did say, though, that if there was no General Election, he’d prefer a Brexit deal to a People’s Vote. He thinks he can go back to the EU and get what are essentially terms of full membership without being members. He said he wanted a customs union that enabled us to have a say in trade deals. And a unicorn that poos glittery rainbows. He didn’t say that last bit, but he might as well have done.

No wonder that Tom Brake tweeted:

Compare and contrast with a brilliant interview from Vince. He was incredibly clear and consistent.

  • Lib Dems want a People’s Vote because we oppose Brexit
  • Lib Dems oppose a Norway style compromise because we’d have all the expenses of EU membership but none of the say on policy
  • Cross-party working is happening and essential not just now but after this is all over to bring country together

He also highlighted the YouGov poll that stated that if Labour enabled Brexit, their support would plummet and ours would rise to a point that we would overtake them.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • So much common sense spoken by Vince Cable and Jo Swinson regarding the Brexit negotiations but I await Tuesday’s vote with some trepidation as the voices of reason are so often beaten by extremists from left and right. I just hope that there is enough sensible people from all parties to win the vote for the sake of everyone in the UK.

  • David Becket 13th Jan '19 - 12:22pm

    When you see the tweets associated with Vince’s interview you see how toxic this has become.

    The most common theme is “We voted to leave the EU, we did not vote for a deal”. Some of them add insults about Vince, but that is twitter for you.

    There is no way we are going to be able to convince these people, but we do have to reach out to those remainers who take a more balanced view.

    We are going to have to produce a way forward, that tackles the other problems facing the UK. We need to use emotion, and we need to counteract Farage who is very good at getting his message over. We need to avoid the project fear nonsense promoted by Osbourne.

    Some in the remain campaign are talking about not having a leader. I am not convinced. If we can find a suitable leader from outside the political establishment that might be a good idea. We cannot have it led by a politician who was part of the government that introduced austerity, which is mainly the cause of the current political upheaval in both the UK and Europe.

  • Caron, Corbyn did say what he’d do..

    1) Vote against May’s deal (so much for ‘cosying up to the Tories’ )

    2) If/when May’s deal, and her imaginary plan ‘b’, fails to call a vote of no confidence.

    3) In the unlikely event of winning such a vote (turkeys, especially Tory ones, don’t vote for Christmas) call for a GE. If, as is likely, such a vote failed then, in his own words when asked whether Labour would push for a second referendum if there was no general election, Corbyn said: “We’re then into that consideration at that point.”

    Sounds pretty detailed to me!

  • All seems very simple to me. May loses the vote by less than anticiapated. Tries to come back with some minor changes but is advised against because Whips know will be defeated. May resigns, Liddington takes temporary charge, cabinet recommend aanother referendum and delay article 50 for 6 months. Labour try vote of no confidence but that too will inevitably fail. Parliament agrees to Cabinet proposal. Piece of cake!!!.

  • Joseph Bourke 13th Jan '19 - 2:12pm

    Vince came across very well, in a statesmanlike fashion, making it clear that this was not about party politics but about the future of the country.

  • The Labour party are desperate to keep Corbyn on his wall for all seasons. He keeps falling off and comes down on the side of Brexit, but they push him back onto it. We then have people who tell us “You misunderstand Jeremy, he’s a tactical genius who is just a waiting his time”, I fear they are badly deluded and will eventually have to eat large portions of humble pie or more realistically will chant “Move on nothing to see here, I know, you know” as Jeremy commits to a red unicorn themed Brexit.

  • Sandra Hammett 13th Jan '19 - 3:10pm

    I’d say the LibDems should pickup the gauntlet that Corbyn finds too hot to hold by standing on a a platform of Remain and Reform.
    Corbyn can’t lead it because personally he wants to leave and once in power will continue Brexit because those who swung the vote for him want it.
    But if we promote Remain and Reform we are not changing our stance on Remaining but we may be able to attract those who voted leave over any number of issues with the EU. By simply holding out for Remain we dismiss the concerns of half the the country.
    Calling for Remain and Reform now would increase the numbers of Remain votes in a second referendum. Who knows Jeremy Corbyn might start calling for a People’s Vote, if people are starting to coalesce around his idea.

  • David Becket 13th Jan '19 - 5:14pm

    Remain and Reform is a good platform. As far as the EU is concerned we need two or three eye catching Reform policies

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Jan '19 - 6:12pm

    Unfortunately we don’t have them, David and Sandra, and can’t very well invent them now. The EU is anyway in such a state of turmoil – confrontations with the Visegrad countries and with the populist Italian government, Macron’s internal opposition, moves to give France and Germany an integrated defence and security role – that it may be best to discuss what reforms are necessary if and when we are re-established inside. Anyway I don’t think it is right that we would be ‘dismissing the concerns of half the country’, Sandra, by simply supporting Remain. It wasn’t half the electorate that voted Leave, and the Leavers had varied concerns, some of which have proved to be not well founded. We’re actually offering a way of escape from grim realities of leaving.

  • How about getting Nick Clegg to debate Nigel Garage on television. Just a thought.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jan '19 - 6:50pm

    @ David Becket,

    “Remain and Reform is a good platform. As far as the EU is concerned we need two or three eye catching Reform policies”

    Good idea. If we stay in the EU, all we have to do is have 28 countries all with similar minded governments who will agree on the necessary changes to the European Treaties. Then, in addition, and in case any of them decide to duck their responsibility and pass the question directly on to their electorates, we just need to be sure that they too will vote for the necessary changes.

    Are the Lib Dems up for a challenge?

  • Peter Martin 13th Jan '19 - 7:18pm

    Jeremy Corbyn has to ride two the two horses of Remain and Leave. The Labour party is much more divided over Brexit than the Tories.

    Most Labour MPs cannot reconcile themselves to Brexit, who try various tactics to seek to prevent it. There is a small group of pro Brexit Labour MPs, and a slightly larger group who fear for a backlash in the working class heartlands if it is seen to stop Brexit. But even together they are in a minority. The membership is in favour of Remain, whilst Labour voters are more evenly split . There is no way JC can keep everyone happy.

    The last Labour Manifesto was for the implementation the referendum result. I’m not sure what the next one will say. It can’t really come down for or against. The best course for the JC is to oppose as much as he can of what the government does, and to try to unite his party by concentrating on trying to force an early election, but at the same time knowing he’s unlikely to get one.

    Even if he won the next election he just doesn’t have enough support in the PLP. They would very likely get rid of him, or sideline him, by declaring independence from the wider based party of the Labour movement and look to build a coalition with other remain forces. That would be a disaster for Labour!

    In other words, his only hope is that the issue is sorted, one way or the other by the time of the next election. That way it will be the Tories to blame for whatever state we are in at the time.

  • Peter,

    ” his only hope is that the issue is sorted, one way or the other by the time of the next election. That way it will be the Tories to blame for whatever state we are in at the time.”

    Only works if Jezza is seen to have clean hand’s and at the moment as he’s just sitting on his hands the charge of “Jezza is Trzza’s little helper” is very hard to disprove. When asked “Well Jezza what did you do to stop it” and being unable to answer the question will not endear him, after all Peter tis always the junior partner in a coalition that gets punished most, sad but undoubtedly true.

    As an aside Peter as a brave Brexiteer it is irrelevant anyway, because you believe Brexit is all for the good, in which case the Tories are a shoo in anyway as a successful Brexit would ensure their election. I always wondered how the Lexiteers could not see that fact, still I’m sure it makes sense to them, perhaps permanent opposition is what they crave.

  • David Becket 13th Jan '19 - 8:00pm

    @ Peter Martin
    Reform could be on our approach to Europe. We should take a bigger part in EU decisions, we should not copper plate all EU decisions, we need to look at more flexibility we have in immigration (as others have done) and we should be leading those countries who do not want greater integration. No treaty change there

  • The Andrew Marr programme was quite refreshing in the face of the way the BBC have been handling things. Mrs May has actually had a softer ride than she deserves from the broadcaster funded by the licence payers. Yesterday one of their political correspondents used the phrase “wrecking Brexit” which seemed to me pretty loaded1

  • Geoff Reid. Like at least 80% of the population I do not watch these political programmes. However I wrote to the BBC several times in 2016/17 complaining about their bias on the News, it was always “when we leave, not if and when”. It was as if they were in the pocket of Downing Street. Think the penny is at last beginning to drop, although they continue to deny the majority of people appear to prefer a Referendum out of the options available, after a heavy defeat on Tuesday, which seems highly likely.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jan '19 - 9:01pm

    @ David Beckett,

    “we should be leading those countries who do not want greater integration. No treaty change there”

    That would have been a viable option before Maastricht. The old EEC/EC worked reasonably well. However the treaties that have followed have pushed the EU into a ‘neither one thing nor the other’ status. It’s neither a collection of independent states nor a single USE type state. So it needs to move back to the old EEC or forward to the USE. Both require treaty change.

    Highly asymmetric immigration patterns are a symptom of a more general malaise in the EU. In any case the EU, the people who run it rather than the people who live there, are insistent on the principle of the 4 freedoms.

    @ Katharine

    “The EU is anyway in such a state of turmoil”

    It’s good that someone on LDV, besides myself, has noticed this! The turmoil is the problem. People look across the channel and they don’t like what they see. From a left perspective, the harsh treatment of Greek people by the EU just about clinched my opposition. Just imagine the outcry if the Westminster government froze the bank accounts of all Scottish people in a dispute with the Holyrood government! It was really inexcusable – no matter who was right and wrong at government level.

  • Sandra Hammett 13th Jan '19 - 9:33pm

    By standing just the Remain platfom we appear to those who voted Leave to be adhering to the status quo, ignorant to the state of flux politics around the world. By coming up with much needed Reforms we address the reasons that caused Brexit and attempt to fix them.
    We can bridge the gap between Leave and Remain, conceding that the EU isn’t perfect. But it can be improved and it will be worth it.
    Remain and Reform.

  • The Lib Dems nailing its flag to remain as a single issue (which sooner or later, will stop being a major issue in most people’s eyes) is one of the worst political misjudgements in modern history.

    A new generation is desperately needed, who are refocus the party on the issues that actually matter to people – housing, cost of living, education and health.

  • John Marriott 14th Jan '19 - 8:02am

    You are so right! As my friend David Raw might say; “Time to stop being a ‘one trick pony’”. By the way, are you any relation of ‘Michael 1’, or perhaps an earlier incarnation? Either way, it’s good to know that there are other people out there who recognise that there was life before and there sure will be life after Brexit. It’s the ‘during’ that is driving some of us mad!

  • Sandra Hammett 14th Jan '19 - 10:16am

    Michael & John Marriott
    Completely agree that we require much needed non-Brexit policies, it’s just that I feel our current response to Brexit should Remain and Reform.
    Get Labour on side and improve chances of winning a second and possibly a third referendum.

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Jan '19 - 1:11pm

    I love the slogan Remain and Reform but unfortunately it doesn’t answer the problem of being seen as a one trick party. We aren’t, of course, as anyone can see from our press releases. I believe we should link social justice to our Brexit stance as Jo Swinson does in a previous post. At first I thought you meant that by reform Sandra because I think our country’s domestic policies need reform more than the EU but I struggle to find a catchy phrase to embody this.

  • Sandra Hammett 14th Jan '19 - 4:01pm

    Sue Sutherland & Martin
    The party (and that includes the leadership) need to come up with credible policies of reform for both the UK and for the EU, which will address domestic issues like social care and EU reforms such as greater democracy. Policies that can interrelate ie connecting NHS staffing with freedom of movement or be dealt with in isolation.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Jan '19 - 5:33pm

    Michael & John Marriott: Brexit will remain a major issue for many decades, regardless of what happens in the next few months. As for being a “single-issue” party on the issue, there is a letter in today’s i paper asking why the Lib Dems aren’t taking a *stronger* lead against Brexit. Brexit is the main political issue of the moment, and feeds into practically all other issues that are of any importance. It would be odd if we did NOT have a clear stance on the subject.

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Jan '19 - 7:38pm

    Reform the EU
    Revive our NHS, our schools, our communities, our welfare system

  • Sandra Hammett 14th Jan '19 - 9:40pm

    We are already fighting for the lowering of the voting age, devolution and proportional representation for the UK.
    We should be calling for similar reforms in the EU.
    Remain and Reform.

  • @ Sue Sunderland & Sandra Hammett, etc – some outline suggestions for Lib Dem messaging could include …
    Remain (and celebrate the positive economic, social, cultural, environmental, security and political benefits, as well as the future potential, of EU membership – bold vision required!) …
    Reform the EU (by extending democratic control by the elected European Parliament, decentralisation, openness, transparency, accountability, etc, etc) …
    Revive … (broadly as you suggest)
    Re-engage with the “left behind” millions – by a revived determination to tackle social and economic injustice, inequality and insecurity, poverty, homelessness and other consequences of austerity (for which our party must, unfortunately, accept its share of responsibility due to our flawed record in the 2010/15 Coalition Govt); we must seriously address the genuine grievances which helped to fuel the Leave vote …
    Re-unite our divided society – by championing traditional liberal values of pluralism, diversity, inclusivity, interdependence, mutuality, toleration and respect
    Rebuild trust … and Repair/Renew our broken and failing U.K. democracy …

    If we manage to secure a “final say” referendum (which is still quite a big assumption), any successful Remain campaign needs to involve a broadly based coalition and be founded on the politics of hope and unity, not fear and division. We need to promote a positive, optimistic and internationalist message of wide-ranging, progressive, liberal and credible change, both within the U.K. and the wider EU, not a stale appeal to maintain the “moderate” status quo.

  • @Alex Macfie

    ” Brexit will remain a major issue for many decades, regardless of what happens in the next few months.” – in the eyes of the average Lib Dem member, quite probably. To the average voter, they’re fed up to high hell of hearing about it and are going to punish brutally any party trying to cling to the remain/leave battle that has politically paralysed the country for the past 3 years. I cannot understand the madness of tying the party to a position which effectively rejects 52% of the electorate in a heartbeat, plus the heavy chunk of the remain vote which don’t agree with another vote.

    You cite the ‘i’ newspaper – this is not a publication that the kind of people the Lib Dems need to start voting for them read. The party cannot just appeal to middle class europhiles.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Jan '19 - 6:27am

    @Michael: Brexit will remain a major issue for decades because whatever is decided will have major social, economic and political effects on this country for decades, and therefore the WHOLE POLITICAL CLASS will be talking about it. It’s not as if the Lib Dems are the only people talking about Brexit at the moment; do you really think we have that much agenda-setting power? EVERYONE in politics is talking about it, and everyone in politics will continue to talk about it for a long time yet. Brexit supporters may find it convenient to declare that it’s a settled issue, that the debate ended on 23 June 2016, but the reality is that Brexit is still a contentious political issue and you can’t simply declare you’ve won and no-one can talk about it anymore. That’s not how politics works, it’s not how democracy works.
    As for the ‘i’ paper, on Brexit its letters pages are overall fairly evenly balanced between
    pro and anti- Brexit opinion. I don’t know where you get the idea that its readership is mainly “middle class europhiles”.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Jan '19 - 7:06am

    Can all of you stop the EU-reform nonsense, please?

    A majority of UK politicians are demonstrating since 3 (and many since 40) years, that they do not have a basic understanding of the EU’s governing principles. Neither do most Britons (and many contributors here). A remaining UK should first learn the basics again, and spend some years eating humble pie, to make sure its reform proposals make sense and find support.

    A classic is: “extending democratic control by the elected European Parliament and decentralisation”. Don’t you see the contradiction? The EU Parliament approves all EU legislation, but does not initiate it, exactly to protect the supremacy of (decentral) nation-state governments. Only they can set the EU agenda in the Council of Ministers (IF THEY CAN FIND A CONSENSUS!).

    The tedious need to find a consensus is the EU’s only hope to survival. An EU Parliament that routinely overrules members would very quickly destroy the whole concept (and would give leavers a real argument). The principle that sovereign nations, through their democratically elected representatives, set the agenda in consensus, a Commission (selected, unelected experts, who derive their authority from the support of the nation states, just like Whitehall) run the legislative machinery, and a democratically elected Parliament that votes on legislation is the very enactment of democracy on European and national level and the subsidiarity that everybody wants to govern their relationship.

    The robustness and rigidness of this construct, which somewhat protects it from unqualified (see above) and malicious (see Hungary, Poland, Romania, Brexit, Trump, Putin) attacks is, to be very clear, the last bulwark of liberal western civilisation on this planet. Discredit it at your peril.

    The next European elections could seriously endanger all this. Minimising the UKIP contingent should be a central consideration parallel to winning back UK membership.

  • Innocent Bystander 15th Jan '19 - 10:05am

    Calls for reform are not nonsense and blind devotion to all things EU is what got us where we are. Defend and explain the Strasbourg / Brussels pantomime.
    This highlights the problem. The Council is not “consensus” at all. It’s horse trading, back door deals and pork barrel politics where the biggest dogs (France and Germany) bark the loudest. The little nations play along to keep the Euros flowing from Germany their way and they know if they object (and a couple have tried) the Franco – German enforcers will soon bring them to heel.
    The British problem is acute. We are never going to be allowed in the Franco German club but are too big to be dictated to as Italy lately was.

  • Sandra Hammett 15th Jan '19 - 11:35am

    All things can stand a little improvement, the LibDems just need to be seen and heard to be the ones leading the way. Things change, it’s called evolution.
    Remain and Reform.

  • Thank you, Martin.

    Innocent Bystander, there is a difference between blind devotion and a realistic assessment of the desirability and realism of so-called reform proposals. Consensus between parties with diverging interests always involves horse-trading. A consensus is worth something only if it resolves a conflict. Or are you suggesting that all EU members, e.g. the UK, should naturally agree on everything?

    Is it not remarkable that the “Franco – German enforcers” are accepting the principle one country one vote on most matters? I recently hear rather loud barking from Hungary or Greece. Do you find it unreasonable for a recipient of solidarity payments to adhere to agreed underlying rules, or the payor to insist on adherence?

    Sandra Hammett, I am all for reform if it is well thought through. Coming from a credible party also helps. The 4th UK party in 2019 is a rather improbable source of credible and impactful EU reform ideas, at home or abroad. But the role of passionate supporter as it is and will evolve (hopefully with UK input) is available.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jan '19 - 6:21pm

    Arnold, led back to this thread by a helpful reference in another, I think the reason why we want to search out valuable reforms to suggest for the EU is so that we can help to persuade more of the uncommitted, uncertain voters in the hoped-for new Referendum to back staying in.

    I guess we have may have much to learn for ourselves before we can do that with confidence. Your description of the processes is a helpful reminder, as a start. But I do wonder where actual power lies in that system for which you claim democracy. Where do the drivers for action come from? The Council of Ministers, the Commission, or the Parliament? For how much of the year does the Parliament sit? Is it not possible that the good legislation we can cheerfully cite to voters, on environmental matters and on workers’ rights for example, has arisen from the Commissioners, or the Council of Ministers, rather than from the Parliament? I wonder how the Commissioners work with Europe ministers in the 28 Parliaments? I myself want to learn much more about all this, though probably ALDE is sufficiently well informed for its active Lib Dem members to be able to propose reforms.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jan '19 - 11:46am

    Jeremy Corbyn is under attack from Tories led by Theresa May for his associations with a variety of controversial people and controversial organisations. Lets concentrate on Ireland, north and south.
    Gerry Adams has resigned as President of Sinn Fein and been replaced by a younger SINNer. He denied IRA membership and was never convicted of any offence, although he was interned. When has elected as an MP in Belfast West he did what Sinn Fein usually do and declined to take up a seat in the Commons. Former PM David Cameron thought that the issue of the Commons oath could be dealt with, but he was wrong. Gerry Adams told the then Speaker of the Commons, Betty Boothroyd, that the issue was not just the oath but the entire situation of Northern Ireland in the UK.
    Gerry Adams has since been elected, in a multi-member seat, to the Dail, in the Republic of Ireland.
    Sinn Fein have since gone into coalition with the DUP, founded and then led by the late
    Ian Paisley (not to be confused with the current Ian Paisley MP, his son).
    Since the most recent elections the Northern Ireland Assembly has not met, which is increasingly shameful for the DUP leader, the DUP MPs, the PM and the Northern Ireland Secretary.
    There is one Independent Unionist MP, representing North Down, Sylvia Hermon, well respected.
    Northern Ireland representation in the Commons is thereby unbalanced. The PM depends on the DUP votes, such as in Labour’s defeated motion of no confidence.
    If Jeremy Corbyn has any influence with Provisional Sinn Fein these days it might be in his interest to use it in his campaign for a UK general election.
    Liberal Democrats should take advice from the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and from their former leaders and former Assembly ministers.

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