Tom Watson warns Jeremy Corbyn Labour will lose next election unless it backs second EU referendum
Tom Watson has warned Jeremy Corbyn that Labour will lose the next general election unless it firmly backs holding a second EU referendum.
The party's deputy leader said he was braced for Labour finishing behind the Brexit Party and the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats when the EU election results are announced over the coming days.
In a fresh warning to the leadership, Mr Watson said he "feared" traditional supporters had ditched the party on Thursday over its “mealy-mouthed” stance on a fresh vote.
Writing in the Observer, he said: “Once results are in, we must channel our frustration into preventing this mistake repeating itself and winning those voters back.
“Never again can Labour policy on the most crucial issue of our generation find itself on the wrong side of its members and our voters.
“Never again can we find ourselves hedging our bets when we needed to make an historic choice about which side we’re on.”
Labour’s conference last year overwhelmingly voted to back a so-called People’s Vote in order to avoid a “damaging” Tory Brexit or if the party cannot trigger a snap General Election.
However the top team is split over whether to push for it, with figures such as Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry appearing more enthusiastic about the proposal than Mr Corbyn.
Mr Watson said he would support Labour campaigners in trying to firm up the party’s stance and warned that failing to do so would mean Labour “will not have the opportunity to be the radical reforming government”.
“I want the reports of high turnout in Remain areas to reflect a huge gain in votes for Labour, but I fear that won’t be the case," he added.
“Pessimistic predictions put Labour in third place in this European election behind both Nigel Farage’s far-right party and the born-again Liberal Democrats.
"Even optimists have us in second place and nowhere near the percentage of votes we would need to win a general election.
“This was the first election I can remember where Labour party members, not voters but party members, said they couldn’t support us.”
“One member I met in Bristol broke down in tears as he told me that after 44 years of voting Labour he was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time.
“Our performance is a direct result of our mealy-mouthed backing for a public vote on Brexit when it is being demanded loud and clear by the overwhelming majority of our members and voters.”