Labour to vote with Lib Dems on People’s Vote

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CAMDEN’S Labour group are lining up to vote in favour of a Liberal Democrat motion calling for a People’s Vote, it has emerged this evening, with support for remaining in the European Union being included on a new ballot paper.

Members met last night to discuss how to approach the test laid for them by Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt and Flick Rea ahead of Monday’s full council meeting. There is not unanimous support for the wording and it may be one of those evenings where you have to look out for the apologies for absence and tactical toilet breaks, but the majority have agreed to vote in favour. There is no free vote here and Labour councillors will have to break the whip if they vote against the Lib Dem motion.

Significantly, in terms of the local Brexit positioning, Labour will not try to add an amendment calling for a general election as a first choice route out of the deadlocked negotiations.

This cuts across the national Labour stance, which in turn has been digested by some left-winger as undermining Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and company.

It also in theory contrasts with Holborn and St Pancras  MP Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary who waved the possibility of support for a People’s Vote and a Remain option with a spot of adlibbing at the Labour Party conference. This drew a lengthy ovation, but his words have not hatched official party policy, however. Several Labour speakers quickly dampened down the sentiment.

One or two Labour councillors I’ve spoken to, however, say they do not wish to make life difficult for Mr Starmer particularly, but felt there was no time left for tinkering with the message as the Brexit endgame approaches.

Note also, there is an unofficial Labour pledge not to filibuster through the meeting to avoid reaching the motions; as the party was mildly accused of at the last meeting. This may also be because Labour would love to get to a second debate on the agenda about austerity, where members are lining up like baseball players approaching the mound.

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Naturally, the Lib Dems are ready to sell the People’s Vote motion, if it gets through, as their victory. That’s a thought that horrifies Labour members but it is the second time they have brought of a motion of this kind. Cllr Porritt, pictured above, said this evening, after learning of Labour’s stance through the tweets of West Hampstead councillor Peter Taheri: “I am really pleased that Camden Labour has decided to do the right thing.” She added that she hoped Mr Starmer would take up a similar position.

Labour leader Georgia Gould, when approached by the CNJ, confirmed that the party would support the motion. Labour will bring their own motion on Brexit – which includes the first preference of an election – but it’s fourth on the running order and the council will be breaking speed records if they reach that one.

All of this will, of course, not play well with the Conservatives; some Labour members have cast the post-election line-up on the opposition bench as ‘the Brexit boys’, a reference to the gender ratio in the group but more relevantly to leader Oliver Cooper and Henry Newman’s support for exiting the EU.

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Expect more complaints that the council is using up time and resources – each council meeting costs around £10,000 to put on – on a national political issue rather than local affairs. There were unimpressed looks at the Lib Dem placards outside the Crowndale Centre/Town Hall before the last full council meeting. Cllr Cooper skirting round the back was too quick for the camera.

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