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.

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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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10 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    I sympathise with the comment that the media have been obsessing about the blue on blue war. Perhaps your correspondents might actually check how many speeches & visits Corbyn has done rather than repeat comments made by people, none of whom have any reason to give him any support.

  2. Ep says:

    Labour is more than just its leader. Labour activists have been pounding doors for weeks, getting the message out that Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, are supporting the Remain campaign.

  3. More Silent Majority says:

    poor jeremy if he is refusing to listen to the people instead he is demanding they do it his way shows just how undemocratic and autocratic he is. and his methods just show yet again how inept he is. we know he would prefer we were subservient to a world socialist government, and would do anything fair or foul to hoodwink us into it.

    …and poor david, thinking you can negotiate with those oligarchs that run the EU is like trying to negotiate with the tiger that is devouring you from the legs up.

  4. Phil Denner says:

    I guess this is partly Corbyn bashing,: much of what the other pro staying politicians have done has been inept. The real underlying problem is that the press have been against for decades and politicians in power have wanted to protect their backs by being seen to be working defensively. Has any PM actually presented a pro EU stance? Even Blair liked to boast about stopping things rather than defending them. All important EU law has to be supported by the UK in Council and passed by UK Parliament but politicians have often allowed the belief that the new rules were somehow imposed by Brussels. They reap what they and the owners of the media have sown.

  5. Alan says:

    Mr Corbyn’s surprise is surprising in itself. Does Mr Corbyn actually believe we see a difference between the parties, let alone a minor detail of political theatre, euphemistically termed a referendum?

  6. Ron Swanson says:

    Could it be something simple like the “official colour” of the remain campaign is blue that of leave is red?

  7. Richard says:

    Mr Corbyn gave a keynote speech on Remain.
    What did the press report?
    What were the headlines?
    That a few people were slightly discourteous to a BBC reporter.
    It is no wonder that confusion reigns when the mass media do not report in a fair and balanced manner re: Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

  8. Kevin Nussey says:

    It is not surprising people don’t know which side Labour is (95%) on. A Loughborough university study showed that only 4% of BBC news reports conveyed a Labour view in recent weeks. I’ll say that again because it is so shocking as to be almost unbelievable – only 4% of reportage. So much for balance. So much for its duty to inform. Hardly anyone reports what Corbyn – the Leader of this nation’s second biggest party – actually says. They talk about whether he is wearing a tie or whether he’ll be overthrown in a summer coup or tell us that his supporters booed a BBC correspondent – anything to avoid printing the words in his speeches. He has travelled the length and breadth of the country speaking to packed houses while the media tell us what Boris Johnson has to say about bananas. There’s no chance of a proto-fascist press being fair, but the BBC? Perhaps Channel 4 could make up the deficit???

  9. David W says:

    When elected as leader, the media, Tories and Labour themselves spent a great deal of time telling us that Jeremy Corbyn was a joke. The UK public was convinced so is not interested in his opinion. He is however still the leader of the Labour party and C4 news I would hope would give his views more air time in the sense of balance

  10. stephen collier says:

    How on earth can you flog something that you don’t believe in and have never believed in. Sorry, but once a man I truly admired is now nothing more than, well….nothing. If Tony Benn, Barbara Castle, Eric Heffer, Terry Fields, Jack Jones and so on were alive today they would all give him such a verbal bashing he wouldn’t know what hit him. A wimp of a man.

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