Chair's message to members - 4 March 2019
Dear Member or Supporter
Labour's recent announcement of support for a referendum is welcome. But we must not think that it means that a referendum is in the bag.
Although his office denies it, the timing of Corbyn's statement is presumably to prevent more departures to the Independent Group of MPs. Chuka Umunna & co deserve the credit for unsettling Jeremy Corbyn. He has changed his tone because the departing MPs have shown that Remainers can no longer be taken for granted; they have the option to depart from the Party. So Remainers supportive of the two main parties should capitalise on the moment by joining the groups working to change policy in the Labour (and Conservative) Parties - listed in our blog Remainers in the parties are fighting back. The socialist campaign group Another Europe is Possible has drawn up a motion for constituency Labour parties calling on Labour not just to vote for a referendum but to campaign for one - and then back Remain.
Corbyn's statement might just be the latest in a series of Labour statements designed to keep Remainers happy while the Party Leader pursues a hard Brexit. The approach - "Strategic Ambiguity" - has proven to be highly successful. Eventually such policies run out of road. But Jeremy Corbyn's hold over the membership might allow him simply to drop the commitment once the moment of danger has passed.
The official Labour amendment for debate last Wednesday was wholly pro-Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn's "jobs-first Brexit" has now been defeated twice in the Commons. Nonetheless, he made clear that he will continue to press his own Brexit plans alongside backing a public vote. That is hardly the firmest commitment to a referendum or to Remain. It is like promising to nationalise the railways while also promising just to privatise the East Coast Mainline.
There are many ways in which the leadership could subvert a call for a referendum and so obtain the Brexit that Corbyn and his inner circle want: they could allow or encourage Labour MPs to breach the whip and vote for Brexit; they could refuse to vote for another party's pro-referendum motion and word their own in a way designed to put off supporters; they could offer a choice of Brexit or Brexit?; they could wait with backing a motion until "the time is ripe" and find that time never comes.
Even if official Labour was wholly on side, the numbers for a referendum would still not be there yet in Parliament. So that is why we need to continue to press for a referendum: we must keep up the work of persuading voters to contact their MP, and do so ourselves. We will all be there on 23 March.
The theme of the march is the referendum: Put it to the People. But the referendum is not a destination, just a means to change course (the only valid democratic means to do so). In practice only those who wish to change course will support it. We could appeal to the ERG with a three-way choice once No-Deal has been voted down. But the best way to create support for a referendum is to create support for Remain. The harms of Brexit are not enough. We must make the positive case for EU membership. And given how little time there is we must start now.
And then we have to remember that we would still have to win the campaign. There is a widespread belief that the opinion polls mean that the referendum result is a sure thing. It's not. A narrow win would not settle the question let alone heal the country. If you go into a campaign you roll the dice. Anything may happen. That too argues for starting the Remain campaign now.
London4Europe Referendum Campaign Role
We have been getting ready. We had a successful meeting in the new year with EM local branches, other local pro-Remain organisations (find your nearest here) and representatives of the People's Vote campaign. The L4E Committee has now met to decide our role in the Remain campaign and discussed it with the PV campaign.
We will continue to engage with both the Remain campaign (PV campaign until that has been set up) and local campaigning organisations to ensure that we all work in harmony.
Our role will focus on:
- supporting local organisations by providing communication channels to our members, feeding lines to campaigners through blogs and social media, and running training and best practice events;
- filling gaps in the coverage provided by local organisations, including by promoting co-operation and providing flying squads to places that cannot be covered locally;
- running mini-campaigns within the overall framework in support of individual members who have an idea and the capacity to implement it.
In order to do that we will wish to appoint a Volunteers Leader to manage those of you who have volunteered, followed by appointing team leaders for specific projects. We will also invite ideas for mini-campaigns. Please look out for future messages. Soon we will conduct an audit of skills of existing volunteers. Please do pre-register now as a volunteer with London4Europe.
What you can do
London4Europe members are already highly active through their local organisations and other pro-Remain campaign bodies - thank you! If you have not yet joined in, then now is the time. We only have three weeks to change the UK's destiny. The need now is to focus on EU membership - including the benefit that the only way to stop having to talk about Brexit is to Remain.
Your local branch or Remain organisation is already making the Remain case on the streets in your area - please join them - and if you are wondering what the point is this article from EM South Southwark will tell you on the back of their record of achievements. You can find other ideas for what you can do here; and if you are wondering why bother? this article from Helen Rennie-Smith, Chair of the highly active EM Wandsworth and Merton branch will tell you why.
This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.