Labour deputy leader Tom Watson blasts Corbyn’s ‘mealy-mouthed’ support for a second referendum on Brexit
- Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said his party needed an ‘inspiring’ message
- He said Labour should back a People’s Vote before May’s European elections
- Polls have shown Labour and Mr Farage’s Brexit Party competing for first place
Labour cannot beat Nigel Farage at the upcoming European elections if it ‘sits on the fence’ on Brexit, the party’s deputy leader has warned.
Tom Watson said Labour needed an ‘inspiring’ message and had to show ‘real leadership’ to counter Mr Farage and his newly formed Brexit Party.
Polls for the hastily arranged European Parliament elections have shown Labour and the Brexit Party battling for first place.
Mr Watson said Labour would profit by backing a second referendum but many of his colleagues fear it would damage the party in northern England.
Nigel Farage (left) and his Brexit Party will win the European Parliament elections if Labour ‘sits on the fence’ on the EU, deputy leader Tom Watson (right) has warned
Mr Farage visits the Shoreham Aircraft Museum in Kent today, just over a month before likely European elections which his Brexit Party could win
Writing in the Observer, he said: ‘Labour won’t defeat Farage by being mealy-mouthed and sounding as if we half agree with him.
‘We won’t beat him unless we can inspire the millions crying out for a different direction.
‘We won’t win if we sit on the fence about the most crucial issue that has faced our country for a generation.’
Citing a YouGov survey carried out last week, Mr Watson said Labour would cut Mr Farage’s tentative polling lead by backing a second referendum or People’s Vote.
According to the poll, the Brexit Party would be 10 points ahead of Labour if Jeremy Corbyn’s party backs a customs union Brexit.
But that lead was cut to three points in a hypothetical scenario where Labour supports a second referendum at the probable elections on May 23.
The polls have diverged wildly so far with the Brexit Party five points ahead of Labour in one study and Mr Corbyn’s party 15 points ahead in another.
Mr Farage accused Mr Watson of breaking his promise to the British people, claiming a second referendum would be ‘a total insult’ to Labour Leave voters.
Mr Watson said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) would profit by backing a second referendum but many of his colleagues fear it would damage the party in northern England
‘I now intend to wholeheartedly target Labour lies and dishonesty in the weeks ahead,’ he warned.
Mr Farage won the 2014 European elections as leader of UKIP but has since broken with the party.
Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of the leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg – will be among the Brexit Party’s candidates.
Mr Corbyn has toed a careful line on Brexit, infuriating many of his Remainer shadow ministers who have demanded his full-throated support for a second vote.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has demanded that any deal reached in talks with Theresa May must be put to a public vote.
Pro-European MP Owen Smith has also said he would only back a Tory/Labour deal if it secured a second referendum.
Polls show that most Labour voters back Remain, but many of the party’s heartland areas in northern England voted to Leave.
Some Labour MPs have warned that a second vote would ‘damage the trust of many core Labour voters and reduce our chances of winning a general election’.