On the eve of the Labour party in conference, the leader of Unite the union, Len McCluskey is urging delegates to unite behind the Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit.

Writing in the New Statesman today (Friday 20 September), McCluskey says that Labour is now the only one of the political parties seeking to unite the nation. He condemns the Tories and the Liberal Democrats for posturing like ‘demagogues’ and turning their backs on half the population, and praises Corbyn and Labour's approach, which is to negotiate the best possible Brexit deal then put it to the people alongside an option to remain.

Len McCluskey writes: “Let the people decide. What could be clearer — or more honourable — than that? In these divided times, where the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, two parties aspiring for government, have opted for the polarising messaging of the demagogue, Jeremy Corbyn is saying that Labour will not dictate to the voters but instead work for them and with them.

“The Labour leader is saying, elect me into No 10 and the party I lead will honour the vote of 2016 and do its utmost to secure the best possible Brexit deal. He will then put this back to the people but, in order to also honour the views of the 48 per cent, it will be the Labour deal versus Remain on the ballot paper. The people will decide.”

McCluskey also writes that it is correct that Corbyn does not taint talks with the EU before they are underway by declaring how he would vote in a confirmatory referendum: “The ultras on either side of the referendum fence will never be satisfied but this should not deflect Labour and our movement from our responsibility to bring our country together. But it would be wrong — plain daft, in fact — for the party to take a position before any deal.

“No trade unionist would ever go into negotiations with an employer stating where they will stand on any deal before discussions have even begun. It is no different for Corbyn and Labour in this instance; negotiate in good faith with honest intentions, a message I would like shadow cabinet members to declare received and understood.”

The Unite leader also admits that if adopting a leave or remain policy only would be a sure fire way to secure a Labour government, then he would embrace this approach: “I have spent many a long night poring over the electoral map of the UK, searching for how Labour could achieve power if it came out for one side or another. So desperate am I for a Labour government to undo the damage of this punitive government that if a clear Leave or Remain position guaranteed victory, I would accept it.

“Try as I might, however, I cannot see where the votes to give us the seats would come from — and, more importantly, I cannot find anyone within the party who can show me either. Yes, we may pile up some more votes in safe Bristol or London seats but this would be at the expense of those in Wales, Wakefield and Wigan.”

He calls upon his fellow delegates to act as one in support of Jeremy Corbyn: “I make this plea to our friends across the party. Whether you are a constituency delegate or a trade union delegate, an MP, or an affiliated society member, we are as one because we are trade unionists, we are socialists and, above all, we are democrats. Do not let us be divided or defined as anything other, either by our enemies or by Brexit. Support Jeremy, support this Brexit position.

“When a general election comes, we will go to the people with a platform of hope and reform, ensuring that nobody, no community is left behind. We have a programme that will transform this country for the better, healing the dreadful wounds of austerity inflicted because the Tories told a staggering lie about the economy and the Lib Dems enabled them.

“As has been said before, Brexit is a process, it is not a destination. It is for us to articulate that destination, the vision of the country we seek to build together and for one another. We stand for unity, equality and democracy. Let the people decide.”


Link to piece in the New Statesman: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/09/jeremy-corbyn-should-not-be-forced-choose-side-brexit-people-must-decide

For more information journalists only please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832861 [email protected] or Alex Flynn 07967 665869 [email protected]

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Notes to editors

• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.