Top Corbyn ally Len McCluskey warns Labour against second Brexit vote with blast at 'metropolitan moralising'

Posted On: 
19th December 2018

The boss of the powerful Unite trade union has publicly dismissed calls for a second Brexit referendum, saying Labour risks shattering its electoral base if it backs one.

The Unite chief has already warned MPs against supporting a second Brexit referendum.

Unite’s general secretary - whose union is Labour’s single biggest financial backer - said those pushing for a fresh vote had “no interest in a Labour victory at the next general election”.

But his remarks triggered an angry backlash from Labour MPs pushing for a second vote, with one branding the Unite boss a “windbag”.

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Labour has said it will only campaign for a fresh vote on Brexit if Theresa May’s EU deal is voted down in the Commons and its preferred option of pushing for a general election is unsuccessful.

But Mr McCluskey warned that supporting a second referendum risked shredding the party’s support among working-class communities who backed Leave in 2016.

“Bluntly, there is no route to a parliamentary majority without London, nor without the Midlands and the North, and of course Scotland,” he wrote in a piece for the New Statesman.

“There could be nothing better designed to blow that alliance apart than a second referendum, as things stand.”

The union chief - who has already privately warned MPs about the risks of backing a second referendum - raised the prospect of Labour spending “months visiting Mansfield and Middlesbrough telling the people there that they made a stupid mistake”.

And he added: “They voted above all against an out-of-touch elite whose neoliberal policies had taken from them much of what they once had and left them with nothing in its place.

“Their world is no different today to what it was in 2016, a fact no amount of metropolitan moralising can get over.

“Many of those arguing for a second referendum have no interest in a Labour victory at the next general election.

“That is obviously so with regard to the Liberal Democrats or the Scottish National Party – but I suspect it may also be the case for some of the Labour advocates of this course.”


But the Unite chief’s comments drew a swift backlash from some Labour MPs sympathetic to a so-called ‘People’s Vote’.

Ilford’s Wes Streeting said: “With so many Unite jobs at risk, it’s striking that the General Secretary of that once great (and once largest) union chooses this moment of national crisis to bleat on again about the internal politics of the Labour Party to talk down a People’s Vote. Lions led by donkeys.”

Meanwhile Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray branded the United boss a “late entry for windbag of the year”.

He tweeted: "There is no Brexit dividend, no jobs 1st Brexit & no benefit to Unite members. What will he say when his members lose their jobs? It seems supporting the cult is more important than doing what is best for the country."

Eloise Todd of the Best for Britain campaign, which is calling for a second vote, meanwhile said: "The truth is that the people who are shifting in the biggest numbers from leave to remain are  working Labour people across the country - and most Labour constituencies are now majority Remain. 

"The country has moved on, and the will of the people needs testing in early 2019 - that will be nearly 3 years since the 2016 vote and delivering on an out-of-date mandate would be an insult to democracy."

Mr McCluskey's comments come after Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner warned that a second referendum could undermine "democracy in itself".

The Shadow Education Secretary said last week: "People made the decision and you can't keep going back saying: Would you like to answer it a different way?"