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Tue, 14 July 2020

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Tom Watson: Labour facing 'catastrophic' election and Tory landslide unless it backs Remain

Tom Watson: Labour facing 'catastrophic' election and Tory landslide unless it backs Remain
3 min read

The next general election could be "catastrophic" for Labour and result in a Conservative landslide unless the party backs Remain in a second EU referendum, according to Tom Watson.

In a memo sent to Labour MPs and peers, Mr Watson also accused party bosses of doctoring an analysis of last month's European election results presented to the Shadow Cabinet at a key meeting last week.

Labour's deputy leader has said that the party must give full-throated backing to a so-called 'people's vote' and make clear it supports the UK remaining part of the European Union.

At last Wednesday's special Shadow Cabinet on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn confirmed he supports a referendum on any Brexit deal approved by MPs, but stopped short of saying whether Labour would campaign for Remain if it ever took place.

Mr Watson's memo, which has been seen by PoliticsHome, said an 18-page analysis by Labour polling expert Greg Cook which was presented to the meeting had been amended to dilute its pro-Remain message.

He said: "It is right that we take a long hard look at such material because they have such deep implications for the future of our party and much more besides.

"Much of the document I saw was an accurate and fact-based reflection of the state-of-play. That is what we have always come to expect from Labour’s staff. However, the summary section that was leaked to the media bore little relation to the evidence of the main report.

"Instead, it was a series of assertions based on no evidence. I fear this episode is another part of a process that for too long has concealed the risks of maintaining our current Brexit ‘strategy’ from the Shadow Cabinet, MPs and the wider party.

"The truth is that all the evidence from recent elections and independent polling is that our current position on Brexit – the defining political issue of our time – has confused many of our voters, lost us the support of many others and significantly damaged our party’s prospects."

Mr Watson said that polling analysis he had commissioned revealed "the huge challenge confronting Labour as we prepare for a new Prime Minister and a possible General Election".

He added: "It shows that if Labour continues on our current course, we risk a catastrophic loss of votes to parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens that could enable a Conservative landslide.

"We cannot afford to do this, either for the sake of our party or our country. I have not reproduced the main report in this memo because, as far I know, that has not yet appeared in the public domain.

"Suffice to say, it was significantly better than the summary. And you can draw your own conclusions about why the latter was leaked while the former remained secret."

The Shadow Cabinet is expected to further debate Labour's Brexit position when it has its regular weekly meeting on Tuesday.

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