Amidst more stories from a media seemingly intent on driving as much of a wedge as possible between Labour’s two sides, Keir Starmer explains the precarious position the party finds itself in over Brexit and the triggering of Article 50, whilst articulating the 'broad church' aspect of Labour’s approach.
In a letter to constituents seen by the Guardian, he said:
“I know that many people have urged me to reflect the 75% remain vote in Holborn and St Pancras by voting against article 50 and resigning my post in the shadow cabinet.
“I see the argument, but that would prevent me pressing Labour’s amendments, it would prevent me questioning the government relentlessly from the frontbench over the coming years and it would prevent me fighting as hard as I can for a Brexit on the right terms. It would be to walk off the pitch just when we need effective challenge to government.”
Starmer has also given a robust defence of the party’s stance in an interview in Progress, the magazine of Labour’s centrist pressure group, saying he wants to speak for both leavers and remainers.
“It will be wrong for the Labour party to rip up its history and tradition of representing a broad group of people, as a broad church, and have no greater ambition than to represent half the country. We need to be a party that aspires to govern, and a party that aspires to govern has to be able to represent and speak to all of the country,” he said.
Corbyn has sympathy of many, seemingly caught between a rock and a hard place, with the party’s supporters so split between ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ constituencies but others have criticised him for not taking a more defined stance. On Facebook, Mark Súileabhán defends his position "He has a chance of Tory remain MPs supporting some of the amendments if he doesn't oppose the bill. If he opposes the bill then there's no chance of that happening, plus it will boost the UKIP vote in Labour leave constituencies. Voting against the bill might make some feel better about themselves, but it's politically naive at best, and idiotic at worst. Do you really want UKIP gaining parliamentary seats on Labour?
A better strategy for Labour supporters now would be lobbying Tory MPs who are in remain constituencies to support the amendments, you can bet that's what Corbyn and Starmer will be doing behind the scenes.”
Blogger Chelley Ryan’s view was clear cut "Labour does not have the numbers to block Brexit due to an overwhelmingly united Tory party. Therefore aiming to block it is both undemocratic and futile. It would be empty gesture politics which could potentially cost us all our Brexit supporting seats. Yes, it would be a gesture which would give some Remainers a temporary high, but that high would last only until they realised the Labour party was electorally finished and they’d be ruled by the Tories forever! If you want to ensure we avoid the hardest of Brexits, signing Labour up to electoral suicide is not the best way to do it.”