Labour set for policy shift as left and Labour grassroots turns against Brexit

The latest press release in the run up to Labour conference.

9th August 2018

  • Countdown to Labour conference begins, with unprecedented number of local parties set to submit anti-Brexit motion
  • Almost 200 constituency parties debating motion to “stop Tory Brexit and win a radical Labour government”
  • Key left figures behind Labour for a People’s Vote, with Momentum now likely to hold vote among its members
  • Surge in grassroots support for left wing anti-Brexit campaign, as thousands attend “The Left Against Brexit” rallies

Labour looks set for a strengthening of its Brexit position, as an unprecedented number of constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) look to submit motions in favour of a People’s Vote. The countdown to the conference begins in earnest on August 8th with the motion submission now open.

Labour for a People’s Vote, which launched in June with the support of key left wing figures within the party, has put forward its motion in well over a hundred constituencies across every region and nation of the UK.

Because of the Labour Party’s rules, CLPs only have a small window between August 8th and September 13th in which to pass conference motions. Nine CLPs have already agreed to submit the Labour for a People’s Vote conference motion before submissions even opened, with around 130 set to consider it prior to the deadline. Delegates at Labour conference will first decide whether to debate Brexit as a policy area, and then decide whether to support the motion.

The movement in CLPs follows a series of large town hall meetings held across the country last month. The ‘Left Against Brexit’ tour, run by Another Europe is Possible, has drawn hundreds of local activists to meetings in Manchester, London, Liverpool, Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham with speakers including Ann Pettifor, Catherine West, Manuel Cortes, Zoe Williams, Billy Hayes and Marina Prentoulis. It will continue in late August and September with events in Glasgow, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Cambridge, Northampton, Newcastle, Norwich, Cardiff, Cornwall, Plymouth and Oxford.

The conference motion argues that “the Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the future of the NHS.” It continues: “Tory Brexit will mean a future of dodgy trade deals and American-style deregulation, and undermine our rights and freedoms. This binds the hands of future Labour governments, making it much harder for us to deliver on our promises.”

If passed, it would commit Labour to voting down Theresa May’s deal in October, and then calling for a general election, with a commitment in its manifesto to holding a People’s Vote. If a general election could not be achieved, Labour would campaign for a People’s Vote as a means of bringing down the Tory government.  The motion also argues for “taxing the rich to fund better public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing the anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.”

The push for motions at Labour conference comes alongside a major shift inside Momentum, the grassroots group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.  A petition, started by Tower Hamlets Momentum activists Alena Ivanova, has ostensibly now obtained the 4000 signatures it requires to trigger a vote of Momentum members on backing a strategy to stop Tory Brexit.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union which supports Jeremy Corbyn, said:

“Brexit is a Tory con trick for the benefit of the richest 1%. It will rob workers and drive down wages. The wealthy chums of Boris, Gove and Fox will line their over-filled pockets on the back of burning workers’ rights and attacking the rest of us. It’s them – the ruling class of this country – that are to blame for the fact that their austerity has seen our living standards fall. Yet they have the gall to try and pin the blame on migrants for their class war which is making us poorer. Labour cannot collaborate with their Brexit agenda as it’s out of Bannon’s fascist notebook”.

Ann Pettifor, an economist who advises Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, said:

“I am no fan of the EU elite. I voted out in 1975 and I have fought the advance of neo-liberal orthodoxy for decades. But Brexit isn’t just about Britain’s membership of the EU. Its right wing proponents are the British franchise of a global movement, stretching from Trump in America to Orban in Hungary, Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France.  Its effects will be to bolster these far right and neo-fascist movements internationally, and domestically to further deregulate the economy and attack working class people. That’s why I’ll be backing a People’s Vote at this year’s Labour conference.”

Daniel Round, a Momentum activist who passed the motion through Stourbridge CLP, said:
“The motion passed because Labour members in Stourbridge are worried about the disastrous effect a Tory Brexit will have on the lives of working class people here. In such a heavily Leave voting area, there has been a lack of political confidence to speak out, but now campaigns such as  Labour for a People’s Vote are, I think, making an impact. This is working because we’re putting forward  an explicitly radical,  pro-Corbyn position.  If we can win here,  I’m optimistic that we can win at party conference.”

Marina Prentoulis, a spokesperson for Another Europe is Possible, said:  

“Time is up on the Brexit process, and the only version of Brexit we are going to get is a Tory one. If Labour comes to power before Exit Day, we will be faced with a choice between No Deal and an off-the-shelf Norway style deal – a choice between economic catastrophe and a becoming a rule taker with no say in the making of EU rules. No one voted for this, and implementing it isn’t the democratic option. Democracy means giving the people the right to determine their own future, with a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal with an option to stay in the EU if it is rejected.”

Ana Oppenheim, a Labour and Momentum activist in Hornsey and Wood Green, said:

“I am a proud supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and a proud supporter of a People’s Vote. Those two things are not contradictory – quite the opposite. As a Polish migrant in this country, this is personal. Tory Brexit is about telling me that I am not welcome. This is about the whole trajectory of British society. We need a future of solidarity and hope, and a radical government that can make it happen, and that means fighting against a project which will make us poorer, meaner and more isolated.”

NOTES

ENDS

1. For more information please ring Michael Chessum on 07964791663

2. The full text of the Labour for a People’s Vote motion can be viewed at the bottom of this page: https://labourpeoplesvote.org/clp-motion

3. The Left Against Brexit tour has at least 19 dates across the UK, drawing thousands of activists into discussions. The tour’s website can be viewed here: https://www.anothereurope.org/tour/. A report of recent events can be viewed here: https://www.anothereurope.org/the-fightback-is-on-massive-turnout-for-left-against-brexit/

4. Labour Party conference will take place in Liverpool between 22nd and 26th September. Each constituency party can submit either one motion or one rule change to the conference. Motions can be submitted between August 8th and September 13th. Delegates will vote in a priority ballot at the beginning of conference to determine whether or not Brexit is debated. Voting at party conference is split 50:50 between union and CLP delegates.

5. Momentum’s constitution allows for a ballot of all members on a campaigning question if a petition can gain the support of 10% of the organisation’s membership. Alena Ivanova’s petition has over 4,000 signatures. It can be viewed here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-tory-brexit-momentum-petition

6. Recent polls have shown surging support for a People’s Vote, with a majority of voters backing one: https://news.sky.com/story/public-opinion-is-shifting-sharply-against-brexit-sky-data-poll-reveals-11453220

7. Wellingborough, Castle Point, Mid Norfolk, Croydon North, Tooting, Vauxhall, Bath, Eastbourne and Stourbridge CLPs have pre-agreed to submit a version of the Labour for a People’s Vote conference motion prior to the opening of motions. Around 130 CLPs are set to debate it before the deadline on September 13th, with dozens more having passed motions in support of the campaign.


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