In Depth

Could Labour win back power by backing new Brexit vote?

Poll finds that endorsing ‘people’s vote’ would bring party net gain in general election

Labour could win enough extra votes to bring it to the brink of general election victory by backing a second referendum on Brexit, according to new polling data.

Half of those quizzed by YouGov for research commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign regarded Brexit as the single most important issue facing MPs.

Of the total 5,122 respondents, most of whom were Remain supporters at the 2016 referendum, “26% said there would be more likely to vote Labour if Jeremy Corbyn’s party supported a public vote on the outcome of the Brexit talks”, reports the London Evening Standard.

That equates to an average of 2,400 voters per seat, and more than 1.5 million in total.

Former YouGov president Peter Kellner, who analysed the data, said that while some Labour MPs argue that backing a second referendum could cost the party net votes, the poll figures do not bear this out.

He said: “Of the respondents who currently support Labour and voted Leave in the referendum, only 6% put Brexit at the top of their concerns and say they would not, or be less likely to, vote Labour if the party backed a popular vote. This is just 2% of all Labour supporters, or just over 200,000 voters in all.

“In other words, the non-Labour voters that the party could win over outnumber the Labour voters that the party risks losing by almost nine to one.”

Labour’s official policy on a second Brexit referendum is to not completely rule it out, but to argue strongly that a better option would be to hold a general election.

But more motions “calling for a people’s vote have been put to the party conference than for any other issue, mostly from Momentum-backed constituencies”, according to The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee. The Tories “have made such a mess of Brexit that ‘let the people decide’ should be an easy message”, she adds.

Some Labour MPs remain unconvinced. In an article on political blog LabourList, Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Gareth Snell insists that a second referendum would “simply underscore the narrative that Westminster elites don’t care about the voices of real people”.

For the Labour Party, a people’s vote “would be the pinnacle of that electoral disconnect”, he argues.

“We may satiate the siren voices of the middle classes and metropolitan big cities, but by turning our backs on the traditional Brexit voting headlands, we doom ourselves to another Tory government and reinforce the view that ‘we know best and you should know your place’”, Snell concludes.

Nevertheless, several trade unions have thrown their weight behind the idea of a second referendum, and a rally for a People’s Vote is due to be held on Sunday in Liverpool, right outside the party’s main conference event.

But The Independent believes that the party leadership “will likely stick to its commitment to keep the option of a vote on the table, without giving explicit support to one”.

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