Labour denies ‘laughable’ claim that Jeremy Corbyn is in pocket of pro-Brexit advisers

Party hits back at Margaret Beckett over ‘great influence’ of leader’s aides, insisting: ‘Jeremy has his own views and takes his own decisions’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 26 June 2019 17:27
Jeremy Corbyn’s close aides will accept no-deal Brexit and 'don’t give a toss' about Labour members' views, says Margaret Beckett

Dame Margaret Beckett’s claim that Jeremy Corbyn is in the pocket of his pro-Brexit advisers has been dismissed as “laughable” by the leader’s spokesperson.

He hit back at the former foreign secretary, who alleged that aides with “great influence” over Mr Corbyn were blocking a shift to outright support for a fresh referendum.

“The idea that Jeremy doesn't make his own decisions, or decide what he wants to do, is laughable,” he insisted.

“Jeremy has his own views and takes his own decisions and decisions are not taken for him by anybody.”

The spokesperson also appeared to back away from suggestions of an immediate vote of no confidence when new Tory leader Boris Johnson – or Jeremy Hunt – enters Downing Street on 24 July.

He said it would be mounted “at the time we judge it to have the greatest chance of success” – which is widely assumed to be after the summer recess.

A row broke out when Dame Margaret condemned “the leader's office” for the paralysis in the shadow cabinet, which again failed to agree a shift to fully back a Final Say on Brexit.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, the veteran Labour MP attacked aides who “don't give a toss” about the views of Labour members, adding: “They just are determined to make sure we don't do anything to impede Britain leaving, if necessary with no deal.

“I think there are people very close to him, with great influence with him, who are and have been from the beginning passionately opposed [to EU membership]”, Dame Margaret alleged.

Her target is believed to be “the four Ms” in Mr Corbyn’s team, all known opponents of a fresh Brexit referendum and some with a long antipathy to the EU.

They are Seumus Milne, his director of communications, Karie Murphy, his chief of staff, Andrew Murray, his political adviser, and Len McCluskey, the head of the powerful Unite trade union.

The spokesperson also insisted Mr Corbyn was striving to “find a common position” on a further referendum, which was expected to reach a conclusion “in the next few weeks”.

He added: “That's his way of leading, it is to try and bring people with him and find common ground and that's what he is doing here.”

Labour MPs demanding another referendum are desperate for Mr Corbyn to start campaigning for it – and to guarantee the party would back Remain if it took place.

They were alarmed, last week, when the leader said any referendum ballot paper should contain “real choices for both Leave and Remain voters”, leaving open the question of which he would back.

The spokesperson owned up to shadow cabinet splits, with some members urging “commitments about what should be on the ballot paper”.

Labour “expects” Remain to be one option, he said, but said “parliament must decide” the alternative, saying Labour’s softer Brexit proposals were still “on the table”.

The comments will alarm Final Say supporters, implying Mr Corbyn is still some distance from full-throated backing for Remain.

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