As little as I want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, it may come as a surprise to some that I will, in fact, be voting for Labour in the European elections on the 23rd May. As others have mentioned, Labour isn’t explicitly a remain or a leave party, and their position on Brexit has been unclear, arguably due to the fear of losing voters across the country. However, it isn’t just Labour which is split on whether Brexit should or shouldn’t happen, as the country as a whole is divided on this issue. I don’t support Brexit and do believe it will be disastrous for this country, yet I also recognise that leave won the majority. Alas, as hard as it is to say in this case specifically, I respect those attempting to stick with the vote and deliver Brexit. But, as I’m sure many are aware, there is no version of Brexit that will not damage the lives of many people.
Labour’s position on Brexit is a controversial one as in an attempt to appease both the leave and remain voters they’ve decided to honour the referendum while also aiming to remain part of a negotiated customs union and have access to the single market. They’ve decided to take a stance which is somewhere in the middle of both, and I can see why. Although I’m aware that it’s a huge risk – strong Leavers and Remainers are unlikely to vote Labour considering they’re lacking a firm position. However, it must be acknowledged that Labour voters all over the country are split between leave and remain, and for a party desperate to triumph in the next election, I recognise their desire to appease both sides.
On the 9th May, Corbyn launched Labour’s European elections campaign in Kent, where he strained the importance of his desire to ‘bring our country back together’. Ultimately, the party has focused more on the idea that the country is split for reasons other than Brexit, and in Corbyn’s own words, the ‘real divide in our country is not how people voted in the EU referendum’ but is ‘between the many and the few,’ to utilise his party’s slogan.
Fundamentally, Labour is desperate to avoid ruling out anything that will lose them votes, and while the country suffocates under almost ten years of Tory austerity, I understand their desperation. As Corbyn stated during his speech, the party will ‘never accept the government’s bad deal or a disastrous no deal’, as they’ve outlined to instead push for either their alternative deal or, as some would say ultimately, a general election. If neither of these options prevail, which is becoming increasingly likely considering the recent breakdown of the cross-party talks, the party will finally back the option of ‘a public vote’.
It’s certain that Labour’s position on the already divisive issue that is Brexit is far from simple, and unlike the other parties, who for the most part either back Brexit or are consistently pushing for a People’s Vote, Labour have taken a more complex stance. Which, for many, will not be a viable option at the polling station. Principally, Corbyn aims to not just gain the votes of either Leavers or Remainers but instead aims to find a ‘common ground’, noting ‘we‘re not trying to win the votes of just Leavers, or just Remainers. Instead, we’re reaching out to everyone’.
This rejection of labelling voters as neither leave or remain is one Corbyn attempted to stress repeatedly throughout his speech. He mentioned that unlike the other parties, Labour ‘will never be the party of the 52% or of the 48%’. Some people will say this position is just not good enough at this time of severe political upheaval. This, paired with the firm position held by parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Change UK, highlights that Labour is concerned about taking a firm view towards either side, due to what I believe is the fear that they will cast out the voters they desperately need in the next general election. Yet, regardless of this, I’ll still be voting for them, and I doubt my reasoning is one others might expect.
In essence, I’m voting Labour because I’m voting tactically. I recognise that at least according to the polls, the Brexit Party are looking to take the majority, and Labour, being second in the lead, are their biggest threat. This gave me a choice: either vote Labour, or risk voting for a smaller party, who may have a firmer position against Brexit, but lack the ability to pose a threat against the Brexit Party. I don’t disregard anyone who takes this risk and votes for an anti-Brexit party, yet I do worry that it will not help in preventing the hard leavers from taking their place as MEPs.
For me, it is either vote for a smaller party who strongly oppose Brexit under any circumstances, or vote for Labour, and attempt to prevent the Brexit Party from gaining mass support. Every vote matters, and in a country full of political upheaval, I’m taking the option which prevents what I see as the worst possible scenario.