While Chuka Umunna worries about his suit, Barry Gardiner tears apart Newsnight spin over the second referendum

Barry Gardiner sitting next to Chuka Umunna on Newsnight
Support us and go ad-free

Labour has announced support for a second referendum – should certain conditions be met. And it didn’t take long for the media to spin it as a victory for the new Independent Group against Corbyn.

But Labour’s Barry Gardiner gave a spirited defence on BBC Newsnight. He put the media straight on Labour’s long-held Brexit strategy. And he also included the added bonus of unsettling Chuka Umunna by touching his expensive suit.

Gardiner to the media: “Don’t give me that!”

Labour has suffered criticism for not supporting a second referendum on Brexit. But now it’s likely to do so, the media still find fault and spin it as a defeat.

Newsnight host Emily Maitlis pointed to Umunna and said to Gardiner: “It was this lot that scared you”. Many of the so-called TIGs, after all, claimed they resigned over Labour’s Brexit approach. The suggestion was that Labour changed policy out of fear of losing more MPs.

But Gardiner didn’t hesitate to put both Maitlis and Umunna in their places on this:

Maitlis then used Labour’s Brexit announcement to suggest there was an internal party conflict. She also implied the decision was made despite Corbyn’s resistance – all without evidence.

Gardiner was quick to call her out on this. And he also reminded her that Labour has a long held conference position on a second referendum since September 2018. This suggests its Brexit stance wasn’t forced, but had always been planned:

Gardiner acknowledged that he still held some deep concerns about a second referendum:

Labour’s position on a second referendum hasn’t changed, if the media paid attention

As Gardiner highlighted, the Labour Party never ruled out supporting a second referendum on Brexit. A motion passed by Labour members at the party conference in 2018 stated that if Labour couldn’t get a general election, all options were “on the table”, including a public vote.

As musician Billy Bragg pointed out:

Since its conference, Labour has failed to win a vote of no-confidence in the government. And so a general election has not happened.

Also, Labour’s preferred soft Brexit deal could struggle to get through parliament. This is because it includes a customs union and close alignment with the EU single market. This is opposed by many people who feel this would not deliver a true Brexit.

Labour also feels May’s deal breaks its so-called ‘tests’ on things such as workers rights. And it is unlikely a Labour amendment to May’s deal, to ensure these tests are satisfied, would pass in parliament.

Further, Labour also refuses to endorse, or allow, a no-deal Brexit.

Because all the above options have been exhausted, or are unacceptable to it, Labour was always likely to be left with no choice but to back a second referendum. This is the option of last resort to avoid a damaging Tory Brexit in any form.

Labour’s Emily Thornberry has also further clarified the position:

Don’t touch Chuka’s fancy suit

There was a revealing moment during the Newsnight exchange when Gardiner put his hand on Umunna’s suit. As a former Newsnight employee pointed out, Umunna seemed less than impressed:

Umunna is known for his love of expensive suits and not wishing to hang out with “trash”. His personal tailor once wrote a blog on Umunna, describing him as her “most stylish man of the month”. In it, he was further described as:

a gentleman who shows exceptional style and wears tailored suits with effortless grace.

She described how she dressed Umunna for his, “achingly classy church wedding”. And Umunna was reported to be a guy who “oozes a cool demeanour” and who is:

a style role model whose smartly tailored wardrobe shows pride and respect for himself, his constituency and his country.

Aside from being protective of his suits, Umunna also possibly dislikes Gardiner for saying on Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the Streatham MP may have left Labour because he knew he’d never become party leader:

Suits are the least of Umunna’s worries

Predictably, the media are ignoring the fact that a second referendum under such circumstances has always been Labour policy. Instead, they are spinning it as a dramatic U-turn against the resistance of Jeremy Corbyn. And also as a victory for Labour quitters in the Independent Group.

But the reality is that Labour has now stolen from the independents their main weapon: a second referendum. And as they don’t seem to have any other policies to campaign on, it looks like Umunna & Co might need to look beyond careers in politics to fund their suits in the near future.

Featured image via Twitter – BBC Newsnight

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us