There will be a lot said about yesterday’s election results and the message to Labour, but for me there is an overriding point that must be heard. Whatever Farage and the Tories say, these results were not an instruction to get on with Brexit. In Sheffield, and across the country as a whole, the combined vote for those parties wanting a further public vote and remaining in the European Union beat those that that campaigned to leave at any cost.
I am deeply disappointed by the results in our region and particularly at losing our second candidate Eloise Todd, founder of Best for Britain and a leading campaigner for a ‘people’s vote’. As I feared under the D’Hondt voting system, splitting the ‘remain’ support meant that the Brexit Party took 50% of the seats with just 36% of the vote.
Labour was punished for an ambiguous message; I heard it time and again from our supporters and members on doorsteps and street stalls. Our conference policy was right to explore all the options, but when the cross-party talks collapsed people wanted to hear clearly that we had moved to the next step of backing a further public vote in line with that policy.
There were big variations across South Yorkshire, our region and the country with voters dividing differently. The country is deeply split and, reflecting that division, Parliament is paralysed – unable to resolve the conundrum of delivering Brexit without damaging the country.
At this crucial point, the Tories are engaging in a self-indulgent sideshow of electing a new leader, as Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill quietly drops off the agenda. Pitching to a party membership that yearns for the hardest possible Brexit, the winner will be trapped by damaging promises. But nothing will change the Parliamentary arithmetic.
In this situation, we need a further public vote to break the impasse. It won’t easy and it carries risks, but we must give the people a final say and, as I set out as a Shadow Brexit Minister in Parliament, that should be “between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU”.