The Labour coup’s second candidate, Owen Smith, has begun to set out his stall for the Labour leadership contest. But his campaign has begun with a PR diisaster.
In his very first headline grabbing statement, Smith made a false promise to the eligible voters that would make a cold-hearted conman blush. In fact, it made the campaign promises of Vote Leave look credible.
The MP for Pontypridd has vowed that he will hold a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if elected leader, saying:
A lot of people are angry that they were quite clearly misled by the Brexit campaign. We should give them another chance. That does mean a second referendum or a general election when the terms are clear. The Labour government should be committing to that.
But it appears it will be the membership and affiliated supporters who’ve been ‘quite clearly misled’ by Smith if they vote for a second referendum through him.
Quite the opposite from offering Britain a second chance, EU governments have been trying to speed up Brexit from the moment we voted for it. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said:
This process should get under way as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe.
EU institutions don’t want to encourage other referenda on member state membership by setting the precedent that they can change their mind if they get a result they don’t like.
Further reducing the chances of a second referendum, the EU’s position has remained consistent. Back in February, The BBC concluded:
A second renegotiation?
“Non, nein, nee” has been the message from Brussels.
While European Council President Donald Tusk said that if Britain voted to leave:
That is what will happen.
Even if Smith managed to convince EU leaders to back revoking a Brexit vote, that’s only the first hurdle. 17 million Britons voted for Brexit with the highest turnout in an election since 1992. It’s simply not feasible to ignore such a strong vote for Leave.
Promising to override the EU referendum is not only a hollow gambit for the leadership. Stepping back from the credibility of the vow, a second referendum would set the precedent that future democratic exercises are not final. Trampling on hard-fought universal suffrage is not the answer – fighting for a more informed electorate is. Breaking up media monopolies and therefore democratising the control of information, as planned by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, would be a vital step in establishing a better standard of referendum campaigns in future. Educating the electorate is the way forward, not retroactively overriding democratic will.
Coming from a Blairite MP who wants to turn Labour into a “credible opposition”, this empty promise is not a good look. One might go so far as to say that a man attempting to appear credible, found to be staking his leadership on a promise he cannot keep, constitutes something of a PR disaster.
But for Smith, the chance to make political capital out of the post-Brexit outrage trumps the truth. This blatant disregard for values coupled with an eagerness for power is worrying from someone hoping to lead the Labour party.
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Featured image via YouTube.