If Jeremy Corbyn really believes in democracy, he needs to uphold the result of the EU referendum

If Jeremy Corbyn really believes in democracy, he needs to uphold the result of the EU referendum

Finally! The mask seems to be being lifted for the leadership of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn accepted in his pre-conference interview with Andrew Marr that 40% of Labour voters supported Brexit. This acceptance, however, seems to be wholly at odds with his also stating that he could accept a second referendum if Labour conference delegates backed it, in the name of ‘democracy’.

If democracy is truly the central focus of Corbyn’s mission, then surely upholding the biggest plebiscite this country has ever seen should be the priority?

Democracy cannot be used as a doctrine when it suits the political agenda. Democracy is not to be cherry-picked.  

Even if one overlooks the democratic objectives to a Labour policy of a second referendum, surely they can see that it would be a disaster electorally? One just has to look at the recent poll commissioned by Global Britain, which shows that a minimum of nineteen Labour seats would be at risk if this policy were adopted. These seats, not surprisingly, are predominantly in the Midlands and the North of England – areas which predominantly voted Leave and have felt disconnected and overlooked by Westminster for decades.

In Angela Smith’s constituency, 73% of the electorate believe that regardless of what an MP believes personally, they should respect the 2016 EU referendum result. For Ms Smith, a party-wide adoption of a second referendum would be catastrophic for her electorally. And if a snap election were to be held within the next six months, which is not an impossibility, core working-class voters who have voted Labour all their lives would have to seriously question their vote. The democratic core of the Labour Party would have been jeopardised and, as a result, so would its electoral success.

Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership team surrounding him have emphasised the importance of the views of the membership being heard in policy decision-making. This is an admirable focus. However, it should not be done to the detriment of the wider base of Labour voters and supporters. It must be noted that the entire Labour Party membership represents a mere 4% of Labour voters in the 2017 general election. Although this should not be understood as the membership being redundant in significance or importance, it should be considered when adopting a policy which is a U-turn from the manifesto on which Labour MPs were elected.

The British political system, resting on representative democracy, has been looked upon by much of the world with awe and respect for centuries. And yet countries such as Zimbabwe and Russia are looked upon by the international community with contempt as undemocratic countries. The primary reason for this distinction is the question of respect for the votes of the citizens of the country. If the 2016 EU referendum were to be overturned, it should be looked upon with exactly the same contempt as a rigged election in Zimbabwe. Great Britain, once a bastion for democracy, would no longer be able to pass judgement on the importance of democracy in supranational organisations such as the United Nations if the biggest plebiscite this country has ever seen were overturned by the ruling class. We would have become the arch-hypocrites on the international stage.

And let us not be fooled by the argument for a second referendum, that ‘circumstances change, and so we must be able to change our vote’. Under that premise, every election and referendum which has been and ever will be held in the future, will be liable to a re-run the next day. Circumstances change momentarily in politics; as Harold Wilson famously said: ‘a week is a long time in politics’.

This is a moment for Jeremy Corbyn to truly assert himself as a leader, push against the anti-democratic wings of his party and put forward a positive left-wing Brexit message. Without one, Labour will be out of power for the next decade.