All roads lead back to Brexit and yesterday was B-Day for Labour. The Party formally decided Labour’s position on Brexit – only three years after-the-fact. How did they do this? The very technical, 21st century technique of… a show of hands.
Labour’s two opposing factions went head on; splitting the Party leadership down the middle, with Leader and Deputy Leader staring each other down from either side of the ravine each with their own posse of Shadow Cabinet members furiously defending their position. On the one side, Jeremy Corbyn’s lukewarm “wait and see” approach that stated Labour would wait until three months after an election to decide what side of a second referendum they’d campaign for, during which they would try and achieve a deal. On the other, Tom Watson’s definitive policy to Remain.
Despite the attempted coup to try and remove Watson from position that marred the start Conference, all the signs suggested that Labour would soon succeed the Lib Dems as the party of Remain. Even the trade union UNISON broke ranks with Corbyn to back the motion.
Yet in a huge victory for the Corbyn, the motion that would have forced theLabour Party to back Remain was rejected. Cue Conference to descend into the chaotic scenes you might expect when you use a display of hands to collect votes from hundreds of people on what is the most divisive issue in British politics. Indeed, even the Labour National Executive Committee appeared confused as to whether the motion passed or not. To a perplexed audience, Chair of the NEC Wendy Nichols stated she had initially believed the vote had passed, only to be overruled by Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby. Calls for a recount via card ballot were rejected by the Party’s leadership.
Quite aside from uniting the Party, the vote has simply served to widen the internal chasm, with Remainers convinced they have been stitched up by theParty leadership. This Conference, Labour have completely failed to present themselves as a unified party and it hardly bodes well for a future General Election. If the Party can’t get its members to agree with them, how will it convince the public to? Certainly, this shambolic Conference will give theConservatives hope, right? How much worse can theirs be? Or will it even happen considering the Supreme Court ruling this morning?