Time to ditch the People’s Vote organisation – but not a People’s Vote

Many Liberal Democrat candidates at the next election are going to be surprised  to  find that the People’s Vote campaign will be recommending voting for their Labour opponents – and sending activists to back  that on the ground. 

Liberal Democrats have generally been very supportive of the campaign  which is supporting  our core policy on Brexit and have been happy to promulgate its messages , help at its events and donate money to it. All of that has helped give it credibility – but that credibility may now be used against us. 

According to leaked documents in the Guardian and  the Sunday Times (£) the People’s Vote Campaign are going to be recommending that Lib Dem and Green voters in some constituencies  vote Labour. According to the  leaked document, James McGrory, Director of the People’s Vote organisation says (my emboldening):

In some cases we will be asking Labour supporters to vote for other parties such as the Liberal Democrats. In many others we will be asking supporters of the Liberal Democrats, the Greens or others to vote Labour.

We can expect Labour candidates who are endorsed by the People’s Vote campaign to be using this endorsement to squeeze our vote. 

This is madness – Labour is a pro Brexit party and Corbyn has made  it clear time and again that  what he wants is a Labour Brexit

Anyone elected as a Labour MP will be voting to put life long Brexit supporter Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the negotiations. 

The People’s Vote campaign have a track record on this – they pressured Femi Oluwole to drop out of the Peterborough by election for fear it would  harm the Labour vote.

This doesn’t mean of course that Lib Dems should stop supporting the people having a final say on whether we leave the EU. It does mean that as a Party and as individuals we should be careful to avoid anything which gives  the People’s Vote campaign  more credibility or resources.  We may not be able to avoid this altogether – if there is another big march they will have a role in organising it, but our dealings need always to bear in mind that anything positive we say about them may  be used by  Labour candidates against us in those constituencies where the People’s Vote campaign are recommending a vote for Labour. 

* Simon McGrath is a councillor in Wimbledon and a member of the board of Liberal Reform.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “Anyone elected as a Labour MP will be voting to put life long Brexit supporter Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the negotiations.”

    Well……. I know that’s not the case after a conversation I have had with a long time personal friend who just happens to be a Labour MP.

    I’m also surprised Mr McGrath ignores the fact that his own M.P. tweeted ‘100% right’ when Emily Thornberry the Labour Party would be “off our bloody rockers” not to back remaining in the EU in all circumstances.

    I suppose party tribalism tends to put blinkers on people, but there’s a danger of not
    scoring a goal by kicking the corner flag.

  • Barry Lofty 6th Aug '19 - 10:44am

    A very timely piece by Simon McGrath as I too have noticed that messages from The People’s Vote Campaign have become more and more Labour Party orientated, a great shame when the remain side cannot afford to become fragmented at this crucial time.

  • Simon McGrath 6th Aug '19 - 11:11am

    David Raw : “Anyone elected as a Labour MP will be voting to put life long Brexit supporter Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the negotiations.”
    Well……. I know that’s not the case after a conversation I have had with a long time personal friend who just happens to be a Labour MP”
    which bit isnt true ? That corbyn isnt a life long brexiteer? that if there is a GE , Corbyn won’t become PM?

  • David Raw believes that a vote for Labour is a vote for Remain. He also writes “I suppose party tribalism tends to put blinkers on people”.

    I agree – we are an evidence-based party, and the evidence is that Corbyn is a life-long Brexiteer who wants to engineer a ruinous Brexit that he can blame on the Tories in order to implement his equally ruinous socialist programme.

    David Raw may have ” a long time personal friend who just happens to be a Labour MP”, but perhaps he should follow the evidence when it comes to the Labour Party, Corbyn and Brexit.

  • What do we expect? We have to be realistic. There are hundreds of seats where we got less than 5% last time, recall 360 lost deposits. We can hardly expect people to view us as a viable winner in those places, can we?

  • I dislike tactical voting, and hate electoral pacts… but it seems to be a necessary evil at the moment & is something that the general public are becoming more keen on – with many remain supporters demanding a unity candidate.

    That said, I would handle the PV organisation with gloves & at arms length. I think they’ve proven themselves to be both untrustworthy, overtly partisan, and incompetent on more than a few occasions. Local parties should work with them where they feel their Labour candidate is genuinely worthy & will stand up to the leadership, but otherwise stay well clear.

  • Sorry SImon. I could not disagree more.
    So you’d rather see a Tory/Brexit Party MP by splitting the vote.
    I think we need to get our priorities right.
    Brexit trumps party politics in my book.
    Peoples Vote have said that they would only endorse Labour MP’s who are opposed to Brexit and/or who support a second referendum.
    There’s plenty of time for politics as ‘normal?’ after Brexit has been resolved.

  • @Paul Pettinger “If you think Jeremy Corbyn is so bad for the country why did you register as a Labour supporter and vote for him back in 2015 Simon?”

    Installing Corbyn as Labour leader has meant that Labour is now recast as a socialist party, and is hastening its destruction as an electoral force. This is good for the country.

    @P.J. “Peoples Vote have said that they would only endorse Labour MP’s who are opposed to Brexit and/or who support a second referendum.”

    As leavers never tire of pointing out, Labour was elected on a leave manifesto in 2017, meaning they can claim 85% of voters backed Leave parties. Labour MPs may be remainers, but their leadership is Leave and working for Leave to further their own Socialist/Marxist ends. Ultimately Labour MPs will be whipped to vote for a Labour Brexit and cravenly they will support it.

  • Must off failed the niceness test again 😉
    Bless just bless

  • Mark Blackburn 6th Aug '19 - 1:03pm

    Another article which discusses political parties more like they were football teams. Us activists might behave that way sometimes in our tribalist mindset, but the voting public don’t. With all due respect to the Lib Dem PPC there, I wouldn’t have a moment’s hesitation recommending voters for example in Uxbridge to vote Labour to try and unseat Boris Johnson, where the Lab vote was ten times that of the Lib Dem. Main priority – get the Tories out, stop Brexit – then argue with Labour – most of whose voters and members want to Remain anyway, regardless of their inept leader.

  • Lib Dems should not fight the election calling for a people s vote but to remain . The gen. is in effect a people s vote. Why call for a vote when that is what we will be in the middle of. If Lab remain mps want our support they should run as independent against Corbin

  • John Marriott 6th Aug '19 - 1:15pm

    Are the cracks appearing in the the alliance for another referendum? Don’t be so prissy! If you want another referendum you need to stay united in your aim and, if you get one, you should be willing to accept the result, which might not be to your liking.

    As usual, my friend, David Raw, makes perfect sense.

    “Must off failed”? Don’t you mean “Must HAVE failed”? I guess I’ve got a bad case of the Rees Moggs! Bless!

  • Depends if you want to read it phonetically or grammatically. As a teacher you probably only have one choice, as an oik I always have the other.

  • The PM has pushed us to the verge of No-Deal Brexit. We now have a stark choice — be resigned to that or get MPs across the Commons to vote to revoke Article 50. Compromise hasn’t worked (poor Theresa!) and there is no time for a general election or new referendum, which may take us no further in any case. Brexiters are playing hard ball, time for Remainers to do the same. All-out war, even if we don’t want it. Take courage and take back control, sensible MPs!!

  • Brian Robinson 6th Aug '19 - 1:29pm

    Now, if we’re going to get sidetracked talking about grammar, I fully endorse David Mitchell’s most recent column: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/04/jacob-rees-mogg-tough-on-grammar-relaxed-on-social-misery

  • @ Simon Mcgrath “Anyone elected as a Labour MP will be voting to put life long Brexit supporter Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the negotiations. ”

    I’m not sure which world you’re in, Simon, but guess its Mitcham & Morden. If so, do you include your M.P., Siobhain Mcdonagh in this ? Have you not noticed that she got ( 33,000 votes in 2017 – Lib Dem under 1,500) and is on the right of the party ? (Far too right some some would say, supporting the Blair War and Academy conversion of successful local government schools).

    In June 2015, she nominated Liz Kendall, (Blairite) for the leadership and Owen Smith in the failed attempt to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016. In 2018, she offered her support to Labour MP Chris Leslie when he faced a confidence motion from his CLP.

    More happily, she’s a 100% Remainer involved much stuff pro-remain and anti-Corbyn……

    I’ve come to a view that party tribalism will result in Brexit. I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong…… but it’s unlikely she’ll “be voting to put life long Brexit supporter Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the negotiations.”

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '19 - 2:38pm

    @ Martin

    “Since the Labour Party does not back remaining in the EU in all circumstances…..”

    They do. Don’t ask me to explain the logic, but, if they are elected the plan is to renegotiate a deal with the EU. Just possibly, there might be a few extra commas in the WA than in Theresa May’s version. That then will be submitted to the electorate for approval which won’t of course be given. Most MPs will campaign to Remain.

    It’s all bollocks to use a favourite Lib Dem word.

    This convoluted policy won’t appeal to Leavers. Possibly it might appeal to some Remainers.

  • I live in Con/Lab marginal where the Lib Dem polled 3% in 2015 and 4% in 2017. (the Greens even less). Please tell me how I should vote? The Lib Dem aint going to win, we know that much.

  • Please tell me how I should vote. Like hundreds and hundred of thousand probably millions I live in a marginal seat where the Lib Dems polled under 5%. the Greens even less, at the last two elections. We have to be realistic, after all we lost 360 deposits last time round did we not?

  • Paul Barker 6th Aug '19 - 3:35pm

    There is minority of Labour MPs who have Voted against Brexit but most will be loyal to The Party.
    Labour still haven’t decided on their position on Brexit in any General Election, they will meet to decide when The Election is called. Does that sound odd to you ? Its not if the plan is to cut The Membership out of the final decision.
    The background is that we are all waiting for Backbench MPs to pluck up the courage to take back control. So far there are no signs of that happening.
    Right now lots of people still dont believe that Brexit will actually happen, the Betting on this is evenly balanced.
    We need to be building a Progressive Alliance that can handle an Election after Brexit because that may be what we get. Can you honestly imagine Labour campaigning to rejoin ?

  • John Marriott 6th Aug '19 - 3:53pm

    @Brian Robinson
    Me and ‘frankie’, sorry, ‘frankie’ and I, have been here before. He’s the first to admit to an idiosyncratic use of the English language, and I was trying to be funny. As you can see from his reply, he’s entered into the spirit. Sorry if I failed in your case.

    As you might gather, I’m not that impressed with this kind of debate. The real ‘sidetracking’ in my opinion is Mr McGarth’s article. Surely, if you really support a ‘People’s Vote’, the last thing you want to do at the moment is to find excuses to jump off the bandwagon. Mind you, as ‘frankie’ might have said; “I could of told you that”, and he might also want to add; “Once a teacher….”

  • John Peters 6th Aug '19 - 4:03pm

    “The PM has pushed us to the verge of No-Deal Brexit.”

    It seems unfair to blame Boris for the situation.

    The EU are refusing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. This is the very agreement rejected by the Lib Dems on at least three occasions.

    Do you not as a party accept your culpability?

  • Andrew McCaig 6th Aug '19 - 4:10pm

    I am afraid that by quoting Guido Fawkes you greatly lessen the strength of your arguments.
    That website is the enemy of everything we stand for.
    Find links from somewhere with at least some vague track record of truthfulness please

  • The simple fact is that Labour campaigned and won seats on a 2017 manifesto that promised Brexit. As a result, despite voters’ and MPs’ views, Labour support has been counted in eh Leave column. Corbyn fully supports Leave (as long as the Conservatives are blamed for it) as it will enable him to implement his socialist vision on the ashes of the British economy.

    Labour MPs cannot be trusted to disobey their whip. We should under no circumstances work to get them elected.

  • David Allen 6th Aug '19 - 5:46pm

    Sounds as if Simon McGrath would prefer to see No Deal Brexit implemented, rather than allowing any Labour people any chance to help get it stopped!

    That’s not to say that People’s Vote should be given an easy ride. They should be asked to explain why they are prepared to endorse candidates from a party which has not commited to supporting a People’s Vote. A good answer might be that they should only consider endorsing Labour candidates who can make a personal pledge to do so.

  • There is a legitimate concern that Remain parties will split the vote and a Tory Government returned with a majority. To avoid this the remain parties (SNP, PC, Greens, Alliance and Lib Dem’s) should all agree to avoid standing against one another in their top target seats and fly under a ‘remain’ brand e.g Lib Dem for Remain, or ‘Greens for Remain’.

    As far as Labour goes I’d suggest that the Lib Dem’s and others avoid working to unseat MPs who are in favour of a referendum in Labour/ Tory marginals providing that with a nudge and a wink Labour return the favour. That means we effectively ask Lib Dem campaigners to go to neighbouring constituencies if that would be more helpful.

    This would effectively counter Dominic Cummings plan which is effectively to abandon remain seats in favour of Midland and Northern targets.

    A good result for remain voters would be to see the Lib Dem’s return 50 – 80 MPs with Labour basically clinging on in the majority of seats. A bad result would be to see the Lib Dem’s fail to take mainly Tory seats because Remain voters voted Labour and split the vote whilst Labour lost seats to a unified leave vote.

    A great result would be a Lib Dem victory but for now we should focus on ensuring we stay in the EU

  • I agree with Graham: we should be campaigning for remain, not another bloody referendum.

  • It’s been obvious for some time that the People’s Vote campaign is aimed mainly at getting the Labour party to support the cause, which is why they almost never acknowledged the brilliant work done by this party, but fall over themselves to congratulate a Labour supporter who inches closer to their view. The same was the case for the SNP who were very reluctant to support a vote on the deal for months after their campaign had launched. It’s understandable they spent a lot of time courting those who need to change their mind, but the consequence of them never needing to court our support is that our role is diminished. In some cases, they make digs at us in the hope of currying favour with Labour/SNP.

    That might have been fine as a temporary tactic to persuade a particular group to get involved, even if it does feel a lot like we are being used and neglected, and it’s apparent that a lot of the attempts to persuade are curtailed if they think it’s going to interfere with Labour’s ability to get elected. It often seems that their preference is to have Labour to support a PV, but if they don’t, they’d still prefer a Labour MP to a PV voting LibDem.

    I think we’d be daft to create a rift with the PV campaign, but we need to take things into our own hands more, and remind people that it was an idea very much initiated by ourselves (and near simultaneously the Greens).

  • Indeed Jennie turn the screw on the tagalongs, a bit like wee Moggd and Co did to Theresa. A stark choice was always going to be the conclusion of this tragedy. Can’t we compromise, I can hear the cry; wouldn’t that be nice, if we could but we don’t live in nice times and it is delusional to think we do. So revoke or crash out, anything else just prolongs the uncertainty and if the Tories with their merry Lexiteer allies prevail well they won’t prevail for long the pain will be to much.

  • John Marriott 7th Aug '19 - 8:08am

    @John Peters
    “The EU are(sic) refusing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement”. And why shouldn’t it? After all, we signalled that we wanted to leave the EU. Surely the U.K. is the odd man out here. Goodness me, its collective patience must be well and truly exhausted.

    I’m currently reading the diaries of Anthony Eden’s Parliamentary Assistant, Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh, “Descent to Suez 1951-1956”, and there are some gems contained therein. Clearly, by then Winnie was really not up to it anymore; in fact, because of recurrent ill health, neither was Eden. Mind you, even if he had been really fit, I wonder whether he would have been any better, believing as he did that the U.K. could still mix it with the big boys. We all know the rest.

    So, in my humble opinion, there’s not much to choose between what happened in 1956 with what is happening today – a prime minister with delusions of grandeur, in today’s case, egged on by unaccountable individuals, whereas, back then, wiser counsels prevailed, plus a threat from Ike to ruin the pound. However it still ended in national humiliation and it could happen again. I sincerely hope not.

    Now, Mr Peters, you are entitled to your opinion. However, playing the rôle of ‘agent provocateur’ might make you feel better and might elicit a few excited responses from some LDV regulars; but I doubt whether it will produce many converts to your point of view.

  • John,
    Brexi’s and Lexi’s are on the whole not looking for converts, they are looking to look like “the man”, the “I’m still relevant people, listen to me” ; tis the last whitterrings of a dying generation whose time has come and is rapidly going. Look at their heros, Thatcher, Benn, Shaw, Powell et al, all dead, all long gone. Even their present champions try to be pound shop versions of previous politicians, just look at young Winston Depeffle.

  • John Peters 7th Aug '19 - 8:31am

    The EU made it quite clear the Withdrawal Agreement would not be renegotiated. Labour, the Greens, the SNP, and the Lib Dems rejected the Withdrawal Agreement on multiple occasions. And yet you somehow try to blame Boris for saying we will now be leaving without agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement. What did you think would happen?

  • Steve Comer 7th Aug '19 - 9:10am

    The quote that generated this piece was this:
    “In some cases we will be asking Labour supporters to vote for other parties such as the Liberal Democrats. In many others we will be asking supporters of the Liberal Democrats, the Greens or others to vote Labour”
    Seems quite logical to me, the object of the People’s Vote campaign is to defeat Brexit supporting MPs. I doubt they will be advocating voting for Labour MPs like John Mann or Graham Stringer!
    The reality is that Labour was second in 2017 in far more seats than the Liberal Democrats were, so any tactical voting campaign starts from that premise.

    I remember being harangued in the street in Bridgwater by a Labour candidate when delivering ‘squeeze’ leaflets in 2001. He said we were spreading lies, that only HE was the real challenger and he would win the seat from the Tories from third place. (Sadly the Tory majority increased slightly, and as for Labour? Well they came third again….).
    Tactical voting is not great, but is made necessary by First Past the Post. The alternative is a return to the ’80s and long term Tory Government on a minority of votes.

  • @Fiona indeed. Labour’s involvement in anything like this, People’s Vote, “progressive” alliance etc, is all about increasing Labour MPs at the expense of everyone else.

    We need a fundamental shift in British politics away from the two party duopoly. The last thing we should be doing is trying to prop it up. And to answer @theakes’ “please tell me how I should vote” question, the answer is simple. It makes not a jot of difference whether you vote Labour or Conservative. Getting as many Liberal Democrat votes as possible is the best way to expose our rotten system for what it is and get it changed.

    FPTP works on tipping points so it’s vital that we try to get there.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '19 - 11:13am

    @ John Marriott,

    John Peters makes a fair point when he says “The EU are refusing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.”

    Lib Dems were against it as much as anyone else. It was only an “agreement” insofar as Mrs May agreed it. The problem for the EU was that she didn’t have the authority to agree anything. Possibly they aren’t used to the concept of Parliamentary democracy.

    If the EU had cared to ask anyone who had even a basic understanding of the process of UK governance, they would have been well advised to check as they went along just what was and wasn’t going to be accepted by the Parliament. As it was, they didn’t and so there seems to have been a lot of wasted time at the negotiating table.

    The alarm bells started to ring for me when the EU ruled out parallel trade talks at an very early stage. That was a big mistake on their part. But maybe they’ve decided they don’t need their best customer? We do have a trading gap of around £90 billion with the EU. If we don’t even have a the start of a plan on our future trading relationship then the sort of problems that have cropped up with the WA were always going to crop up.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Aug '19 - 12:15pm

    One of the (no doubt many) weaknesses of the Labour Party is its reluctance to recognise when a leader needs defenestrated and then doing it. The Tories have never suffered from this weakness. Labour must now get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. Only then is a pro-EU progressive victory possible. I find it very difficult to imagine the Lib Dems plus Greens etc delivering on this crucial task on their own. We need Labour under new leadership and taking a new direction.

  • Nigel Quinton 7th Aug '19 - 12:26pm

    Boris and his puppet master Cummings have clearly decided that the remain side remains too split to be effective, and this article is further evidence they are right. We have to find a way to work with Labour if we are to stop brexit. That might not be easy, but it is essential.

  • @John Marriott & John Peters
    “The EU are(sic) refusing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement”.
    But that is just the emotive spin Brexiteers are putting on matters; given nothing Johnson et al have said so far changes the fundamentals of the WA and the Irish backstop, there is no rational reason for the EU to reopen negotiations.
    We can expect to see more temper tantrums and emotive misrepresentations of affairs from the Brexiteers in the coming months as they find the world doesn’t revolve around them…

  • Peter Hirst 7th Aug '19 - 1:40pm

    Without Labour coming out more strongly in favour of a second vote and remaining, I don’t see how we can support them as part of a remain alliance. Labour may be the major opposition in numbers but their strategy seems to be to appeal to everyone and no-one. We might have to do a deal with them to avoid a no deal Brexit though only with strong safeguards and a fair share of remain candidates, base on polling rather than existing seats.

  • Surely if parties fighting on a remain manifesto win an election that’s an end to any further action following the dodgy referendum of 2016. Those parties would be mandated to revoke article 50 even if, somehow, the election is gerrymandered to take place after we no deal brexit. The EU can either cut the new govt some slack, or not, that need be explored with them in advance.

  • Richard Elliott 7th Aug '19 - 4:02pm

    The basic premise of this article is wrong and too tribal. Many Labour MPs (and a few Tories) are as pro-remain as we are and are anti-Corbyn. If we have an election this year a pro-remain “understanding” is essential. There are a number of Tories and Labour, who if endorsed by the Peoples Vote as robustly remain, should not be opposed by another remainer if they are in danger of losing their seat to a brexiteer. Marginals where we are in a chance of winning would be excluded. While a few might come over to us in the meantime, but nearly all will stay – having remainers in the two ‘big’ parties for now is essential. And if Corbyn does badly he will be out and replaced by a remainer. Yes there will be no formal pact with Labour but there needs to be a number of seats that we don’t stand against remainers of all parties where there is a credible leave threat. Time to get serious we have to do everything to get a remain parliament. And it will be in the longer-term interest of our liberal cause as well as our duty to the country.

  • The big question is why Tom Watson, David Lammy and the many other passionate remainers continue to support Corbyn, when they know very well he’s a Brexiter to his bones and will sell them out as soon as he gets any power. Do they want to see an impoverished communist Britain outside the EU? Maybe it’s misplaced loyalty, maybe they are putting their careers before the country, but if they can’t topple him (difficult since he’s cemented himself in like a limpet), then they should have the guts to leave. I respect Alastair Campbell for doing exactly that, and if others were to follow his lead then Corbyn and his hoary band of renegades would fade into irrelevance and we might stand some chance of staying in the EU

  • This assumes that is the *government* elected in any GE that would be key in determining direction on Brexit. That could well be the case, but, if Parliament wrests control of the process, then all that matters is the *parliament* elected in any GE. In that latter case, I can see the argument in favour of tactical remain voters backing explicitly remain Labour candidates.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Michael BG
    Joe Bourke, A 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax would be expected to raise about £5.7 billion in the first year and £6.95 billion in the second and a...
  • Adrian Hyyrylainen-T
    Excellent article Chris - explains so eloquently the more complex nature of gender and the fact that Gender critical people argue “you can’t change biologic...
  • Joe Bourke
    Harold Wilson didn't stop the Vietnam War but he did keep the UK out of it, devalued the pound, increased the bank lending rate to 8% and made big cuts in defe...
  • Joe Bourke
    Rachel Reeves like the Libdems is proposing a basic fiscal rule (the Golden rule) that says (outside of recessions) governments shouldn’t plan to pay for curr...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Joe, Good point about the Vietnam war having an affect on inflation at a time when both the £ and the DM were defined against the $. I fail to see how an ...