In Brief

Margaret Beckett says Labour is handing votes to Nigel Farage

Former Labour minister says the party must back a second referendum

Margaret Beckett

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will win the European elections unless Labour presents itself as the natural home for Remain voters, claims former Labour minister and People's Vote supporter, Margaret Beckett.

After polling suggested the former UKIP leader’s new party currently holds a five-point lead, Beckett said: “These elections have proven to be rich hunting grounds for Nigel Farage’s brand of extreme rightwing politics before and may be again.”

Noting that the survey suggested Remain voters are split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party, the Greens and Change UK, she continued: “The message of this poll is loud and clear: it suggests that if anyone can stop Farage winning it is Labour – and only if we back [a] people’s vote.” 

Yahoo News describes the polling showing a lead for the Brexit Party as “a huge blow” for Labour and the Tories, sending a “shockwave to the heart of Westminster”. The Evening Standard said Beckett’s intervention saw her demand that Corbyn “get off the fence”. 

However, Labour is divided over the prospect of a second referendum. While shadow ministers, including Emily Thornberry, Sir Keir Starmer and Tom Watson support one, it is understood that party chairman Ian Lavery and several of Corbyn’s key aides are opposed. 

The European elections are due to take place on 23 May unless parliament can pass a withdrawal deal. The Liberal Democrats have announced their candidate list for the elections, with party leader, Vince Cable, saying: “We will fight these elections on a clear message: a Liberal Democrat vote is a vote to stop Brexit.”

The opinion poll suggested that Labour would lose votes to the Lib Dems if its manifesto for the elections proposed going ahead with Brexit, even with different terms such as a customs union.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Cable said the campaign would be transformed if Labour came out in support of remaining in the European Union.

“I find it difficult to see they could do that given that Jeremy Corbyn has said repeatedly he is there to deliver Brexit, but it certainly would change the nature of the argument,” he said.

The YouGov poll of 1,855 voters on Monday and Tuesday puts the Brexit party on 27%, followed by Labour on 22% and the Tories on 15%. A high proportion of people said they did not know who they would vote for or that they would not vote. 

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