EU referendum: Labour Party Reaction

Is it possible to be at once astounded and utterly unsurprised? That’s the feeling on the Labour side this morning after hundreds of thousands of its voters refused to follow the party line and instead voted to leave the EU.

Murmurs of a swing to Brexit had been growing for weeks. Labour’s canvassers and MPs reported strong resistance to Remain in its Northern heartlands, much of it swirling around high levels of immigration . And the fears were borne out in spectacular style, as one after one the big conurbations Labour has dominated for years backed Out. There were some notable exceptions – the anti-Boris and anti-Murdoch Liverpool being the starkest – but these could not summon enough votes to turn the tide across the country.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Labour vote did not move lock-step to Leave. The party’s voters further south were among the most trenchant supporters of Remain, with huge tallies racked up in the inner London boroughs, Bristol and smaller cities like Oxford and Brighton. The cultural chasm between the two sides widened dramatically last night, perhaps irredeemably.

And what next for Jeremy Corbyn? The Labour leader has been quick out of the blocks this morning, dismissing any suggestion he was responsible for the result and urging a speedy exit from the EU. But recriminations within his parliamentary party are already underway, as anger mounts about Corbyn’s insouciant tone and lines his advisers have been pushing shadow cabinet members to take. The decision to leave the EU will have grave consequences for the Conservative Party; but it may well be Labour that is damaged beyond repair.

Robert Isherwood

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search