Labour and Liberal Democrat activists have reached the same conclusion: trust the leader

Activists in both parties are worried about the course their leaders have set out. But they judge that the consequences of rejecting it are worse.

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The first two conferences of the 2019 season have seen the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party do the same thing: put their doubts about the wisdom of the leadership’s Brexit strategy and vote to back their leader.

In Bournemouth, far more activists than the fewer than one in ten who voted against Jo Swinson’s plan to switch her party to a full revoke position had grave reservations. But they judged, in my view correctly, that the political damage to their party of their leader being humiliated and defeated in their first conference as leader outweighed any downside risk of backing a position of full revocation.

In Brighton, similarly, many Labour activists, not to mention MPs, trade unionists and the various affiliated groups that make up the Labour movement, have grave doubts about the wisdom of Jeremy Corbyn’s “have a referendum on a deal as yet to be negotiated, position of the government TBC” approach. But they have backed the move because they, too, have weighed up the risks and decided that inflicting the humiliation of a conference defeat on their leader is a worse blow than adopting a Brexit strategy that they are very worried about.

Are Labour activists similarly correct? I don’t know – but we’re likely to find out before this year is out, if, as looks likely, we end up with another election sooner rather than later.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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