Jeremy Corbyn was in Scotland for a four-day visit last week. On a trip to the old cotton mills of New Lanark he spoke of his confidence that Labour could win more Scottish seats in the next general election. But it appears Corbyn is out of tune with public opinion and his own membership on more than one issue.
Scotland has a staunchly pro-European outlook. It voted to remain in the EU by 62 per cent in 2016 and since then the Remain sentiment has only grown. Scottish people are acutely aware that splintering off from Europe could cripple the health service, choke trade and deter talented people from coming to live and work here. So if the Labour leader is looking to win seats here, he’ll need to revise his policy.
A recent YouGov poll projected significant Labour losses if the party maintains a position of support for Brexit going into any future snap election. It could fall to 19 per cent support if it chooses to ignore the tidal wave of anti-Brexit sentiment that grows stronger every day as the consequences of no deal unfurl.
Corbyn says a Labour government would preside over an “economic renaissance”, but it can’t evade him that his ambitious plans will be impossible if Brexit goes ahead. Trade restrictions would torpedo hopes for any such growth.
Campaigners are working to wedge a People’s Vote motion into the agenda for Labour’s conference in Liverpool in four weeks’ time. But time is running out. We have only got a window of a few months to start putting these plans into action.
This catastrophic vision of job losses, shortages, potential medical emergencies, is not what the people were sold. Corbyn has declared his intentions to pursue single market and customs union access, in some ambiguous form. Yet it doesn’t escape most people’s notice that we have a pretty good deal on that front already. There is no way he can dress up the fact that any deal Theresa May manages to secure won’t match the unique package we have today.
Labour voters, by 67 per cent, are in favour of staying in the EU and 59 per cent of the party’s target voters want a vote on the end result of these haphazard negotiations. It could not be clearer.
Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis has been on a nationwide tour of Britain heralding the value of a people’s vote, and, as he so aptly puts it, Labour’s stance makes it “an accomplice to Brexit”. In this time of national confusion and concern, people need more from the opposition. Keir Starmer said nothing was off the table, and as welcome as that is, there’s a sense of urgency building that the Labour party is not recognising. When both parliaments return next week after the summer break it will be the final Brexit countdown and if we let this chaos rumble on until March, it’ll be the health service, small businesses and people that will suffer.
Corbyn has maintained a stubborn and belligerent stance on Brexit which stands in the face of both the evidence and public opinion. The polls show voters are sending him a very clear message so it’s a wonder he’s speaking so positively about his electoral prospects now that it’s clear less and less people support his vision.
My message is clear. Give the British people the final say on whether the deal the prime minister manages to bring back from Brussels is good enough. There is plenty of room in a democracy to change your mind.
Willie Rennie is the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and member of the Scottish parliament for North East Fife
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