The UK and Europe

People’s Vote Wins Backing from The Times and Guardian

Denis MacShane / Dec 2018

Photo: Shutterstock


Two important national newspaper columnists, Owen Jones in the Guardian and Philip Collins in The Times today (14 December) now agree that the time is fast approaching when the nation’s political leadership should look at holding a  people’s vote

In addition, Sir John Curtice, the doyen of national academic commentators on all matters of voting also writes in The Times that a new referendum should be held.

Owen Jones is as close to Jeremy Corbyn and the mass Labour-left Momentum movement's thinking as it is possible for a journalist to be. With his 760,000 Twitter followers and endless left activism to his name he is by far the most influential journalist for the young radical left who flocked to Labour in 2016 and voted out Tory MPs in the 2017 general election.

Jones argues that  Labour should campaign on the basis that a vote to Remain in a new people’s vote “would mark the start of a rebuilding of Britain. It could present its manifesto as a cure to the ills that drove the 2016 upheaval. It could paint the Tory Brexiteers as the establishment.”

Jones may indeed be correct that a defeat for Brexit cannot be argued from one central messaging service that reproduces the disastrous Remain campaign of 2016 with a handful of top business leaders and cabinet ministers telling the voters what to do.

For those who would like to stay in Europe tt would be better if Labour, the LibDems, the SNP and the Tory remainers all appealed to their voting communities rather than try and make a minestrone of different political reasons for staying in Europe.

There is a great deal of room to promote the original European ideals of peace and building down nationalisms.

But Jones now lines up with more centrist left Guardian commentators like Polly Toynbee or Rafael Behr and with the Guardian’s house liberal Tory columnist, Matthew D’Ancona.

In The Times Philip Collins, close to the Blairite wing of Labour,  makes a more convoluted case for Theresa May to offer a referendum on her deal versus a straight forward Remain vote.

The problem with this is that the so-called deal is now sinking fast. Mrs May  tried without success to get EU leaders to change it and drop the guarantees for peace in Ireland that so outrage the DUP and hard-line Tory anti-Europeans.

 The 25 page wish list political declaration begins by affirming that the EU will uphold "the indivisibility of the four freedoms” while the UK will secure "the ending of free movement of people between the Union and the United Kingdom.”

 You cannot simultaneously have both the 4 freedoms of movement (capital, goods, services and people) and end free movement. Much of the declaration which has zero legal force is riddled with similar contradictions.       It is hard to hold a referendum on words that demand completely opposite outcomes. Her deal is a dog’s breakfast and both the Commons and the people don’t want it.

The former chair of YouGov, top pollster Peter Kellner writes in The Times that if there was a new referendum on Remain vs No Deal Remain wins 57-43 per cent. If question is 3- way Remain has 54 per cent, leaving the EU without a deal 28 per cent, Mrs May’s deal just 18 per cent.

Everyone will come to the people’s vote with different expectations and different ideas on the ballot paper question. But they are coming and that is the important development.



Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane

December 2018

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