One would be forgiven for thinking that Jeremy Corbyn was trying his hand at stand-up comedy when, in announcing his support for a second referendum on Brexit, he expressed the hope that, in so doing, Labour would help unite the country. There are quite a few problems with this.
First of all, as I’ve noted on this blog before, as a way of convincing traditional Labour voters in Wales and the northern heartlands that Labour is listening to them and as impotent as decisions made in the Islington and Westminster echo chambers, supporting calls for a second referendum isn’t the way to it. By having a second referendum or whatever formulation of weasly words it might pass itself off as, it will alienate the very Labour voters who voted for Brexit in the first place and who Labour are hoping to attract back
Secondly, the divisions that were exposed in the country by the first referendum and present Brexit debacle are incredibly unlikely to be healed by having a second referendum. If the EU elections have taught us anything, it is that the divisions that were present in the first referendum are just as prevalent now as they were then. Possibly more so, as possibly the abject failure of the government to deliver on the referendum result and Labour’s inability to offer a sensible, coherent and above all consistent statement of its views exacerbates the very problem it creates. Indeed the mother of all parliaments has been a right mutha.
Thirdly, supporting calls for a second referendum, it might be seen as a panicked response to the collapse of the Labour vote in the EU elections and nothing more. Say what you will about the Brexit Party and the Lib Dems, at least they both had a clear message that separated them from each other and the two main parties. This gave voters who supported either position a home for their vote. As various commentators have observed, what the electorate needed was clarity, and suddenly discovering at this late stage that a second referendum is needed is nothing short of the very worst political opportunism.
Fourthly, in supporting calls for a second referendum, Corbyn may have needlessly created problems for Labour from which they may never recover. Namely, what should be on the ballot? It’s all well and good to call for something, but much harder to decide how to answer that call. The problems Labour has had with dealing with allegations of anti-semetism will be as nothing if it has to deal with what is, and what isn’t on the ballot. And they think after all this internal wrangling, an answer will agreed on fast? It makes me think of what my Irish uncles would say to me when I was being stupid, “Will you ever stop acting the eejit and cop on at all?”