November 25, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
At last Jeremy Corbyn has explained his Brexit position in a way that makes sense. On the BBC’s Question Time programme, in which the four main party leaders were interviewed by a studio audience, he was asked which way he would campaign in the referendum he says the Labour Party will hold.
Corbyn’s answer is to go to Brussels and negotiate what he calls a ‘credible’ Leave deal, which he will then put up against Remain in a referendum. He will not take a side in that referendum, remaining neutral in it. This, Corbyn argues, gives him the credibility to deliver whatever the result is.
He’s right. Hard though social media is trying not to understand his position, Corbyn can more credibly deliver the outcome of a second referendum if he is neutral during the campaign.
Interestingly, the Conservatives are lambasting his ‘lack of leadership’ in not taking a side during a referendum campaign. They have short memories.
Cast your mind back to 8am, Friday June 24th. Britain had voted to leave the European Union. The Conservative Prime Minister who called that referendum, campaigning for Remain with no intention of even planning for let alone delivering a Leave result, is standing outside 10 Downing Street resigning.
David Cameron, according to the people attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his leadership in his proposed referendum, was somehow showing leadership in 2016.
Really? Let me get that straight. David Cameron campaigned for Remain, and when the result didn’t go his way, he resigned, stating in simple terms that he lacked credibility to deliver a Leave vote after how he had campaigned. He resigned, leaving the next Conservative Government to deliver a policy in which it didn’t believe, for which no planning had been done, with incomplete instructions from the electorate. That’s leadership?
Of course it isn’t.
So, whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to be neutral in a second referendum, do remember that what it does is to ensure that when the result happens, he is in a credible position to lead its implementation.
Defenders of Cameron’s decision to stop any planning for a Leave vote say that once he and his Government backed Remain, our constitution says the civil service couldn’t plan for an alternative. This ignores what happened in 1975, when the Cabinet Office had a group that planned for a ‘No’ vote, despite Harold Wilson leading a Government that campaigned for ‘Yes’ with an ‘agreement to differ’ for No campaigners in the Cabinet (Wilson was NOT neutral). If Corbyn and his Government stays neutral, there really IS nothing to stop the Whitehall machinery from planning to deliver BOTH outcomes. Governing is delivering.
That is the type of leadership we didn’t see after the 2016 EU Referendum.