Donald Brind on the turnout worries within the Labour IN Campaign
Senior women in the Labour party are becoming increasingly concerned that the EU referendum could be lost because women stay away from the polls on June 23rd.
They see a campaign dominated by male voices and polluted by noise from the increasingly vicious Blue on Blue attacks. Labour pro-Europeans fear the arcane battle within the Tory tribe will depress interest in the campaign among Labour voters and especially among women and young people.
There is a two to one majority among Labour voters in favour of Remain, according to YouGov but this only count if Labour voters are sufficiently enthused to actually turn out to vote.
The two key figures in the Labour campaign to stay in Alan Johnson and shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn are regarded as doing a good job. And the party leader Jeremy Corbyn struck a positive note when he entertained delegates from the Party of European Socialists in London last week. As on many issues the Corbyn world view harks back to late 70s and 80s but when anti-Common Marketeers dominated the party and pro Europeans defected to create the SDP. His flirtation with Brexit is, it seems, over.
Labour became the pro-Europe party in 1988 charmed by the fraternal embrace of Jacques Delors, then President of the European Commission. His speech to the TUC in Bournemouth was rewarded with a standing ovation and the singing of â€œFrere Jacquesâ€.
As the French Socialist observed “Nobody falls in love with a Common Market”. The Labour movement in Thatcherite Britain liked what they heard about his plans for a Social Europe in which “the internal market should be designed to benefit each and every citizen of the Community.” This would involve improvements to “workers’ living and working conditions, and to provide better protection for their health and safety at work.”
The battle lines today are remarkably similar to the formations established in the late eighties.Â
For instance, watch Nicola Smith of the TUC arguing against Tory Jacob Rees Mogg on Channel Four News that Brexit would at risk put workers rights like paid holiday, parental leave, health and safety and equal treatment for part-time workers that are guaranteed by the EU. Mogg barely tried to rebut he charge arguing instead that it was more democratic for these issues to be decided at Westminster.Â Except, of course, Jacob, your Tory majority is based on support from fewer than one in four of the electorate. Yet you are pushing through the deeply partisan Trade Union Bill. Trade unionists would rather take their chances with Brussels even if the high hopes generated by Delors in Bournemouth werenâ€™t fully realised.
Delors’ appeal was reinforced by the fact that he was the latest on the Tory Prime Ministerâ€™s list of enemies, even if not quite on a par with General Galtieri of Argentina or Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers. Less than a fortnight after the TUC she repudiated the Delors approach in her speech at the College of Europe in Bruges: â€œLet me say bluntly on behalf of Britain: we have not embarked on the business of throwing back the frontiers of the state at home, only to see a European super-state getting ready to exercise a new dominance from Brussels.â€
Since her words have biblical value for many in the Tory party itâ€™s worth recalling another line from the Bruges speech.
Margaret Thatcher declared: “Britain does not dream of an alternative to a European Community or of a cosy, isolated existence on its fringes. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community”.
Very helpful for David Cameron and his Tory allies in the Remain camp.