April 30, 2019
Labour's big day
We do not have the foggiest idea what the Labour Party's national executive committee will decide today. The NEC meets to agree the manifesto for the European elections. The big debating point is whether or not to support the second referendum.
We think the outcome is more open than widely predicted. Jeremy Corbyn has been resisting pressure from inside his party to accept a second referendum as the default position. The Guardian suggests that there could be compromise - a second referendum as a price for a Brexit supported by the Tory party or a no-deal Brexit - but leaving the door open to a Tory/Labour deal without a second referendum. As the Labour supporters of the single market and Norway options keep on pointing out, there can be no cross-party deal unless Labour drops the idea of a second referendum. A compromise would keep it alive, but it would clearly not satisfy the second referendum supporters. They want Brexit reversed. They don't want a compromise.
There have been reports that some NEC members, including trade unionists previously supportive of Corbyn, may be shifting their position. 100 MPs have written to the NEC in favour of a second referendum. A much smaller number of MPs are lobbying against it.
No matter what Labour's NEC agrees, we see no majority for a second referendum in the current parliament. But today's debate is important as it sets the agenda for a potential early general election. There are strong electoral arguments for Labour to support a second referendum. It could regain some of the lost support in Scotland, but would stand to lose several marginal seats in pro-Brexit constituencies in the north of England. There is also a shift of views within Momentum, the left-wing group within Labour that supports Corbyn. The Labour leader will therefore tread carefully. This would point to a compromise, but the politics of Labour can never be taken for granted.