Labour is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand it looks increasingly likely that the party will be forced to back a People’s Vote on Brexit over the coming days, succumbing to the wishes of its membership which consist largely of the same youthful demographic that voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union.
But on the other it has to answer to an electorate that voted 60/40 in favour of leaving the EU in Labour constituencies, with huge swathes of its working class, Northern belt still committed to seeing a full Brexit delivered regardless of the cost.
Which leaves the party in a tricky position. Trapped between its membership and the electorate Jeremy Corbyn risks alienating voters whichever way he chooses to turn. If he chooses to support a People’s Vote it will undoubtedly bully spirits among the party’s 500k plus membership – some 85 per cent of which back a vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations – but it will be perceived as a betrayal of democracy among the electorate, the majority of whom backed Leave in the referendum.
A sample of this morning’s newspapers highlights his dilemma. Where the I and The Guardian use the Liverpool marches to show how Brexit could help the party “come together”, Brexit-supporting titles such as The Express and The Daily Mail take rather conflicting views, with the former accusing Corbyn of “betraying Brexit”.
So it comes as little surprise that Labour decided to go with the most hazy of all political motions this morning by giving members a vote on “keeping all options on the table” on Brexit. Although that could include the option of a new referendum it doesn’t commit to it, preferring instead to drive for a general election that would allow Labour to take control of negotiations if won.
But without a strong stance on Brexit one way or the other a general election is unlikely to help either Labour or the Brexit process. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell optimistically told the BBC that the party could strike a Brexit deal with the EU which “brings the country together”. Yet as one of the most divisive issues of a generation there is little common ground to be found.
Fractious politics looks set to rule for some time in Britain, and those who attempt to claim the middle ground could be thrown into the abyss.