Nigel Farage is making most of the noise in the European elections thus far. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the progress being made by the parties that are firmly committed to a second referendum or remain.
I said last week that these pro-Remain parties (Liberal Democrats, Green party, Change UK, Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru) had lost some momentum by not fighting on a common platform. Even so, their collective performance in opinion polls is still proving remarkably sound.
Take a look at the YouGov poll published on Monday. This puts Mr Farage’s Brexit party on 34 per cent of the vote. But then add up the scores for the pro-Remain parties. The Lib Dems are on 15, the SNP on 3, Plaid Cymru on 1, Greens on 11 and Change UK on 5.
Taken together that puts the pro-Remain parties on a total of 35 per cent, 1 point ahead of Mr Farage’s party.
Because all the pro-Remain parties are running separately, this will not translate into nearly as many European Parliament seats as the Farageists will win. Still, the total votes cast for parties that want remain and a second referendum appears to be growing.
All this, of course, puts Labour on the spot. If Jeremy Corbyn’s party (currently on 16 per cent) were to make a solid commitment to a second Brexit referendum, then support for a confirmatory vote would be well over 50 per cent — allowing the People’s Vote movement to claim a clear victory.
But Labour is muddled over whether to advocate a second referendum and remain. On Monday Tom Watson declared that Labour was “a Remain and reform party”. But Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, has said “Labour is not a Remain party now”.
As for Mr Corbyn, he came up last week with the impenetrable statement: “We are not trying to win the votes of just leavers, or just remainers. Instead we’re reaching out to everyone. Labour will never be the party of the 52% or the 48%.”
As Polly Toynbee writes in Monday’s Guardian: “What a useless voting guide that is for more than two-thirds of Labour voters and almost all Labour members who want to vote remain.”
Labour is now paying for this confusion. As they prepare to go to the ballot box, many of these pro-Remain Labour voters face a stark choice: do they stick with Labour’s muddled position on Brexit or do they cast a clear vote for Remain by voting for the Lib Dems and others?
According to Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, the YouGov poll shows that about 48 per cent of traditional Labour voters are preparing to vote for parties that are firmly pro-Remain and pro-second referendum.
If that kind of shift is truly realised at the polls, Mr Corbyn will have a real problem on his hands.
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