JEREMY CORBYN is facing a crunch battle at Labour’s conference this week over whether it should back a second Brexit referendum.
More than 80 per cent of party members are now in favour of a public vote on whether Britain should leave the EU, a poll shows. But key backer Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union, has said any fresh referendum should only have the power to force the government back to the negotiating table.
The conference is expected to vote tomorrow on whether the party should back some form of public say.
But officials were last night debating how the question put to the members should be worded.
Party leader Mr Corbyn said he was more focused on pushing for a General Election but added: ‘Let’s see what comes out of conference. Obviously, I’m bound by the democracy of our party. There will be a clear vote.’
More than 5,000 people, including several Labour MPs, marched through the streets in support of a new people’s vote as the conference got under way in Liverpool yesterday.
Some of them will be disappointed if the wording of the motion put to the party stops short of opening the door for members to back a new referendum on staying in the EU.
But Mr McCluskey, whose union is Labour’s biggest financial backer, said it would be wrong for any referendum to ask: do you want to go back to the European Union?
‘The people have already decided on that,’ he told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday.
‘We very rarely have referendums in this country, the people have decided against my wishes and my union’s wishes but they have decided.’
Mr McCluskey added: ‘There are significant numbers of traditional Labour supporters who are saying “we’re going to vote Conservative because we don’t trust Labour to take us out of the EU”.’
He added his main priority was to force a general election that could put Labour in power and allow it to obtain a good Brexit deal.
He said if Theresa May was defeated in Parliament over her withdrawal plans she would have to resign.
A poll of 1,000 Labour members has shown 93 per cent would vote to stay in the EU if given a new chance, while 86 per cent want there to be a referendum on the final deal.
A separate poll has found the party would gain 1.7million votes — but lose 200,000 — if it campaigned for a referendum on the final deal. Mr Corbyn estimated about 40 per cent of Labour supporters had voted Leave in 2016, while 60 per cent had voted Remain.
Corbyn: I’ll die fighting all racism
JEREMY CORBYN has insisted he ‘will die fighting racism in any form’ after he and union chiefs came under fire for their response to the anti-Semitism row engulfing the party.
Mr Corbyn was yesterday challenged on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to apologise to Jewish people but retorted: ‘I am an anti-racist and will die an anti-racist.’
The Labour leader also said it was ‘hurtful’ and ‘offensive’ to compare his actions to those of Enoch Powell, as former chief rabbi Lord Sacks had done.
Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, told a fringe meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement it was ‘difficult for all of us to have to accept that we have a problem with any form of hatred in the party’, calling on Jewish groups to ‘re-engage’ with Labour.
Vote makes it easier to deselect MPs
THE Labour Party conference last night voted to make it easier to deselect MPs.
Previously, Labour MPs faced a re-selection contest if at least 50 per cent of their local party members voted for a ‘trigger ballot’. But now the threshold has been lowered to just 33 per cent, according to reports.
Labour critics of Jeremy Corbyn had feared the change would make it easier for his backers to replace MPs with candidates who are more supportive of him.
But those in favour of the shake-up said it would help end the ‘job for life’ culture among some MPs who, they say, are out of step with party members.
It comes after Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Gavin Shuker lost no confidence votes.
■ THE rich are on ‘borrowed time because a Labour government is coming’, Jeremy Corbyn told a rally at the World Transformed Festival yesterday. Taking aim at tax breaks and offshore havens, he told the Momentum-backed event, that is running alongside the party’s conference, the ‘poorest and most vulnerable’ had been forced to pay the price for the 2008 financial crash.