New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
27 February 2019

Labour MPs are lobbying for a free vote on a second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure from MPs in Leave constituencies not to whip in favour of a second vote.

By Eleni Courea

Multiple Labour MPs in Leave constituencies are pressuring Jeremy Corbyn not to whip on the vote for a second Brexit referendum.

Corbyn announced on Monday that Labour would back a second referendum if the party’s own Brexit deal outline is voted down. Labour MPs in Leave-supporting seats are now calling for a free vote on that second referendum proposal, to allow them to vote whichever way they want rather than follow a party line.

Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley and one of three Labour rebels who voted for Theresa May’s deal, said that “it is is clear that there is a huge dispute within Labour on whether we should have a second referendum, therefore we should have a free vote.”

An MP in a Leave seat said there had been a lot of backlash in her constituency following Monday’s announcement. “It was quite a shock when it came. We said in our manifesto that we were going to deliver Brexit while retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union, and now it feels like we’ve gone down a completely different path. A free vote would be within my interests,” she said.

Another MP in a Leave seat said he would struggle to vote for another referendum. “I honestly can’t understand the confidence of the ardent remainers as to winning such as vote, and with the current government in charge I shudder to think what options would be put to the public to vote on.”

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

A third MP in a Leave seat predicted that there would either be a free vote, or shadow ministers would be allowed to vote against the whip and keep their posts. “[A free vote] will probably happen as the leader can’t afford to lose more frontbenchers, although people got away with it last time and didn’t have to resign. I think discipline has broken down anyway so I’m not sure it matters—people will do what they need to do.”

Last month, eight shadow ministers abstained on an amendment by Yvette Cooper to delay Brexit so as to prevent no-deal, even though the Labour leadership whipped in favour of it. They were Gloria De Piero, Melanie Onn, Tracy Brabin, Judith Cummins, Yvonne Fovargue, Mike Kane, Emma Lewell-Buck and Jim McMahon.

A ninth shadow minister Julie Cooper, who is the MP for Burnley, wrote in her local paper the Burnley Express this morning that she has “no intention of voting for a second referendum”.

Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley, called for a free vote in a tweet on Monday, saying that she would not support a second referendum and warning that Labour was in danger of overturning a manifesto promise. Gareth Snell, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, told Corbyn in the Commons yesterday that he “cannot vote for a second referendum no matter how much lipstick is put on it”.

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, criticised the decision to back a referendum in the Guardian yesterday and said that though it might “help the party through a difficult week” it would cause many more problems in the long-term.

The amendment for a second referendum is likely to fail if a sizeable chunk of Labour MPs vote against it. Just eight Conservative MPs have backed calls for a public vote (nine if you include Anna Soubry who has since quit the party). That’s not enough to counteract the expected number of Labour rebels. Fourteen Labour MPs voted against Cooper’s amendment to delay Brexit on 29 January, and a further 12 abstained.

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change