Labour hopelessly split on Article 50

The vote on the Article 50 bill exposed deep fissures within the Labour party, says Matthew Partridge.


Jeremy Corbyn: unable to build bridges
(Image credit: 2017 Getty Images)

Last week the government published the text of a bill allowing it to trigger Article 50. However, Corbyn's insistence that Labour MPs support the bill triggered a revolt by dozens of his own MPs, says the FT. Indeed, several frontbenchers have resigned over the issue, while others have pointed out that on "other contentious votes" Labour MPs received a free vote. Labour "faces a uniquely painful conundrum", says George Eaton in The New Statesman.

While "almost all of its MPs and two-thirds of its voters backed Remain", it "represents some of the most europhile seats in the country and some of the most europhobic". The problem is made worse by Corbyn, who is unable to "build a bridge between the two sides". Unless Labour finds some special formula it "risks losing Remain voters to the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Greens, Leave voters to Ukip and both to the Tories".

Corbyn isn't the first Labour leader to have dealt with a party split over Europe, says John Rentoul in The Independent. Indeed, "since the 1950s, Labour and the Conservatives have taken it in turn to be divided over Europe". Unfortunately, "on 24 June last year, the Tories snapped together, united (apart from Ken Clarke) behind Brexit".

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What makes this schism particularly "deep and irreconcilable" is that it "has divided all factions in the party: Blairites, Corbynites and the group in the middle whom the Corbynites call Blairites, but whom the Blairites blame for paving the way for Corbyn". However, the reality is that "no leader could avoid the votes on the Bill to trigger Article 50".

"There is a good case for Labour accepting that Britain must leave the EU, since that is what a majority of the country has said it wants," says Rafael Behr in The Guardian. However, if it wants to push "an alternative vision of the nation's post-European destiny, one that is kinder and more reasonable than May's rock-hard Brexit", it will need the help of those Tories "alarmed by the illiberal turn events have taken". They "should examine the paltriness of their compensation for the years of loyalty to Cameron and May" and "summon a more rebellious spirit".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri