Labour MP submits Queen's Speech amendment on NHS privatisation

John Mann respectfully regrets that "a bill to call a referendum on reversing NHS privatisation was not included in the Gracious Speech".

Inspired by the Tory EU rebels, the pugnacious Labour MP John Mann has submitted his own amendment to the Queen's Speech. The amendment is identical in wording to the Tories' but substitutes the words "EU referendum" for "a referendum on reversing NHS privatisation" (you can see both below). 

A rather lengthier amendment has been submitted by Green MP Caroline Lucas, requesting that the government "recognise that its programme fails to address either the worsening climate crisis or that austerity is failing; call on your Government to heed warnings that urgent and radical cuts in emissions are needed to prevent global temperature rises of 4℃ or more by the end of the century; urge your Government to recognise that, to fulfil its own commitment to keep warming below 2 degrees, around 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground; further call on your Government to end austerity and instead reduce the deficit through an economic programme that prioritises investment in jobs, especially in labour-intensive green sectors and that pursues a goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, with policies for rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies; and further call on your Government to lift the council borrowing cap to promote council house building, to tackle the cost of public transport starting with bringing the railways back into public ownership, to end cuts to welfare and take other steps to build a resilient and stable economy."

If the EU referendum amendment, which has been signed by 53 MPs, is selected for debate by the Speaker, a vote will be held on Wednesday evening. 

Demonstrators protest against the government's Health and Social Care Bill in central London, on January 31, 2011. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.