Wednesday 27 November 2019 6:00 am

A second referendum would come at a cost

Brexit is testing traditional party loyalties almost to destruction.

According to pollster Peter Kellner, the Tories could grab more than 50 seats from Labour, largely in areas where it’s been assumed that people simply don’t vote Tory.

At the other end of the debate, Brexit is leading people into uncomfortable compromises. People who never thought they would countenance Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left politics are talking themselves into favouring a minority Labour government on the grounds that it would likely bring about a second referendum.

For some, a form of Corbyn government is preferable to any form of Brexit. Indeed, die-hard Remainers, including City PR tycoon Roland Rudd, will be campaigning on this basis right up to polling day — seeking to identify the voters for whom there is no price too high for stopping Brexit.


Rudd, and what’s left of the fractured People’s Vote campaign, is focused on encouraging tactical voting to deny Boris Johnson a majority.

The logic then runs that Labour will be supported in government by the Lib Dems or the SNP but will be moderated and constrained by the Commons and Corbyn, while technically prime minister, will simply be a stepping stone to another referendum.

This proposition suffers from a number of fatal flaws. Firstly, a second referendum would deepen and inflame the divisions opened by the first one. No good can come from it.

Secondly, a deal with the SNP would bring about another referendum on Scottish independence — something that would be ruled out by a Tory majority government.

Finally, it isn’t viable to claim that Corbyn could be in office but not in power. If he emerges from the negotiations of a hung parliament as prime minister, then that’s it — he’s in charge and very much in power.

Even if he lacked a working majority and even if many of those who voted for him saw his job solely as enabling a second referendum, a high price would have been paid.

A very high price. As the chief rabbi said on Tuesday night, “a new poison — sanctioned from the very top — has taken root” in Corbyn’s party.


That poison is anti-Jewish hatred, and Corbyn is responsible for allowing it to fester. Last night, he wouldn’t even apologise for it.

So as uncomfortable and as unfair as it may be, the question for Remain-voters isn’t whether Corbyn represents their best route to another referendum, it’s whether their conscience could ever allow them to put him in office.

Main image: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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