Answering the “gotcha” question of the moment – how would you vote in another EU referendum? – Jeremy Corbyn replied that he would vote Remain. He also reiterated that he voted Remain in the referendum last year.
When asked the question, he replied:
“There isn’t going to be another referendum, so it’s a hypothetical question but yes, I voted Remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind on that.”
Theresa May, who also voted Remain, failed to answer the same question during an interview on LBC this week. Instead, she claimed not to “answer hypothetical questions”, and said she would have to weigh up the evidence and come “to a judgement”, like she did last time.
In contrast, other government ministers, including Jeremy Hunt and Liz Truss, have said that they would now switch from Remain to Leave in the event of a second referendum.
It is admittedly a harder question for the Remain-backing, Leave-delivering Prime Minister to answer, but Corbyn’s reply was a lesson in how to address the politically sticky question.
As my colleague Stephen writes, the Labour leader may be a Eurosceptic but his main priority for Brexit is to approach it in a politically pragmatic way.
Not blocking the Brexit process, exploiting the government’s divisions, condemning the slow negotiations, and sending Remain-sympathetic messages like this is a formula that works for just about everyone he’s trying to please in a bid to make his “government-in-waiting” electable.
Corbyn’s reticent campaigning ahead of the referendum was vindicated in the election result, when voters didn’t flee from Labour either because it was the party of Remain or pro-Brexit. His statement that he’d vote Remain again has a similar effect. While Labour’s line in the Commons on Brexit votes means it is respecting the result, Corbyn is ensuring that it is known he supported Remain. When voters come to blame a party for the negative consequences of Brexit, Labour under Corbyn is unlikely to get it in the neck.