9 Jun 2016

EU – Corbyn ‘very surprised’ voters don’t know which side Labour’s on

It is “a very big problem” for the Remain campaign, just about their biggest headache: Labour identifiers who don’t know what Labour thinks about Europe.

It is nine months since Hilary Benn managed to extract a commitment to Remain from Jeremy Corbyn. Those nine months have not seen a clear political message conveyed.

In West Bromwich today I found only one in 10 who thought Labour was for Remain. Everyone else I asked thought they were for Leave.

West Bromwich is exactly the sort of area giving the Remain camp sleepless nights. It is a Labour stronghold but Ukip got one in five votes in the referendum and Leave’s strength goes comfortably well beyond that. One senior Labour figure said they thought Brexit would pick up 60 per cent of the votes around here.

The Remain camp desperately wants this problem addressed and today started with Sadiq Khan alongside other Labour figures in The Shard. Mr Khan said: “David Cameron can’t win this.” He said it was “time for Labour to step up”. He said Jeremy Corbyn was “now working his socks off”, which might beg the question what he was doing before.


Jeremy Corbyn has been visiting a Sikh temple in West Bromwich alongside the local MP, his deputy, Tom Watson.

Just before he went into the temple I asked Jeremy Corbyn if he took any responsibility for the extraordinary numbers of people who think he’s on the other side? He said: “I find that very surprising.”

I pointed out the Remain camp aren’t surprised and have been tearing their hair out for some time. He said “it is very clear where we are” and blamed media obsession with the blue-on-blue Tory war. The Labour leader has been very clear that he fears what he sees as a right-wing faction of the Tory Party coming into power after a Brexit vote and supervising Brexit in a very libertarian way.

I asked how he’d feel about Brexit if it wasn’t what he sees as a right-wing crowd supervising it. He said that wasn’t the issue in front of us, which I suggested was exactly the sort of line that confused people looking for a strong position on the EU.

The Remain camp is now trying to set days aside for Labour’s Remain camp and pointing media at its events in the hope they’ll get coverage and connect with voters. They have two weeks to repair the problem.

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