By Rick Parnet
When Boris Johnson’s new Brexit bill passed its second reading on 20 December, six Labour MPs broke the party’s whip to vote in favour and a further 32 had no vote recorded. For quite a number that will have been a deliberate abstention.
The 32 include party chair Ian Lavery, shadow cabinet members John Healey, Jon Trickett and Andrew Gwynne, and frontbenchers Jim McMahon and Carolyn Harris.
Supporting or even failing to oppose the Tories’ plans, which constitute an aggressive assault on the interests of the working class and democracy, is an abdication.
The argument circulating that, because the Tories have won a clear majority, Labour has no right to oppose their plans is laughably absurd, but also deeply alarming. It could apply to numerous other regressive policies they included in their manifesto – like banning all-out strikes in transport, or their promise to launch a new attack on Roma and traveller communities.
The fact the Tories won the election does not mean the Labour Party should lie down and die.
That is particularly the case because, in fact, a clear majority of voters supported a party committed to a second referendum on Brexit (52.5pc to 46.5 for the “get Brexit done” parties).
And it is a hundred times the case because since their victory the Tories have gleefully dropped even the minimal and doubtful safeguards they included, under pressure, previously – on workers’ rights, on a No Deal Brexit, on environmental and consumer protections, on parliamentary scrutiny, and on child refugees and the rights of EU citizens.
Despite the election defeat, we should continue to oppose Brexit. But this goes even deeper than that.
Lisa Nandy is a pro-Brexit apologist for nationalism, and voted for the Tories’ plans before the election. Yet this time she has forensically dissected and eloquently denounced their cynical back-tracking – and voted against. It is ridiculous that all Labour MPs cannot live up to at least this standard.
Those who are genuinely concerned about their constituents’ pro-Brexit views should get a backbone and tell the truth, namely that only by voting against could they stand up for their constituents’ interests.
Labour members should call the MPs who refused to oppose the Tories’ disastrous Brexit plans to account.
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