Chair's message to members - 21 December 2018
Dear Member or Supporter,
So, Jeremy Corbyn chose wording for his pretend no-confidence motion that would not trigger a general election. He succeeded in strengthening Theresa May's position, with declarations of loyalty from the DUP and, improbably, Rees-Mogg. But the main purpose surely was to look active and oppositional while actually postponing again the point at which Labour starts to look at options for addressing Brexit, rather than how to get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
Nor will the envisaged series of indicative votes on different Brexit options at the end of the Parliamentary debates help Remainers much. Presumably Labour will put down an amendment calling for "Jeremy's Better Brexit" and whip in favour of that. I assume Labour would whip against a referendum at that stage.
But suppose that none of the other Brexit options is carried as an amendment to the Government's motion. Presumably Theresa May's unloved deal would also be lost on the final vote, though with the Government now again talking up no-deal and business being so short-sighted that loss is not a certainty.
Assuming the deal fails, would Jeremy Corbyn still be able to put off calling for a proper no-confidence vote? The 2018 Labour Party conference resolution says "Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power.". "Immediate" does not really allow for a lot more prevarication.
But what if Jeremy Corbyn bottles it again - understandably: it is hard to believe the Parliamentary arithmetic will have turned in favour of a general election in January. Well, the Conference resolution says "If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.". Surely, Jeremy Corbyn not calling a no-confidence vote because he thinks he will lose is just one way to "cannot get a general election".
Perhaps Theresa May will do another of her U-turns and call for a referendum - appealing over the heads of MPs directly to the electorate to save Brexit. That would solve a lot of problems. But it's not where I would put my money.
So that suggests the week commencing 21 January - a month from today, not even 70 days to the statutory Brexit Day - as the point when the Labour leader finally has to decide between supporting Brexit and trying to stop it by calling for a referendum with the option to Remain. Corbyn has been a lifelong Eurosceptic, with his 2016 Remain vote the exception. In addition to a Lexit view he also needs to consider whether it is better electorally to upset his Remain or Leave voters.
Alastair Campbell said: "it may be time to face up to the fact that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn will do everything to make sure a People's Vote won't happen". You will have your own view on whether Campbell is right. If he is then Labour pro-Remain MPs would face their own dilemma: whether to prioritise supporting Corbyn or opposing Brexit. Perhaps the Christmas break is the time to think that though and consider what to do if Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party does not provide a vehicle for stopping Brexit. But in the meantime I hope that Labour MPs, party members and voters will make clear to Corbyn their determination that Brexit should be stopped; and that he listens.