Where’s the fairy godmother?

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By the time you read this, Labour delegates might have decided what to do.

Or perhaps not.

Their meetings have form. They’ve been discussing how to find a decent compromise on a Brexit vote at conference since 18:30 BST. These are issues that have been running hot for months and months, and I am writing this five hours later.

What are they arguing about?

A significant chunk – polling suggests a hefty majority of members – of the party would like to see another vote on the European Union, with the party’s leanings overwhelmingly towards Remain.

Jeremy Corbyn vowed he would be a different kind of leader and listen to his party’s membership. So what’s the problem? Surely he should just say “sure”, and acquiesce?

Guess what, it’s not nearly so simple. First, repeat again and again, any party’s members are not the same as their voters, and potential voters.

That’s always so. But it is clear as day now. Because while Labour MPs and members are overwhelmingly among those who voted Remain, millions of people who had voted Labour put their cross in the Leave box.

Just a distraction?

To campaign immediately for another EU referendum risks infuriating huge swathes of voters, and opens Labour up to accusations from their opponents that they are insulting voters and ignoring democracy.

The second reason why another referendum is only being reluctantly considered is that it’s not clear how you actually get there.

Referendums need legislation. They then need Parliamentary process to decide questions. If there were to be a vote, should it be on the terms of a deal or no deal, or reopen the whole question of staying or leaving?

Should it be straight away? Is it possible to do in the time given that we are due to be leaving the EU in about six months.

Why does Labour think it would be able to get a better deal than the Tories in any case?

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Those campaigning for the vote of course say they have answers to those questions. But many senior figures aren’t convinced.

One member of the shadow cabinet, frustrated, said it’s not realistic to see how it could happen, and the People’s Vote campaign is just like “praying for a fairy godmother”.

Another told me “it’s just a distraction”, and could even give Theresa May a way out if she ends up completely stuck.

They believe the party has to be “resolute”, and keep pushing, pushing and pushing for a general election instead.

Neither of those are in the party’s gift. But even theoretical choices matter in a time of such political turmoil.

‘Compromise motion’

And it’s an interesting test for a leader who transformed his party based on the promise of giving members more say.

By the early hours, the leadership may have given party members some, but not all of what they want – a compromise motion that will give the party a chance to commit to some kind of vote.

It won’t be as explicit as some want.

But remember last year the debate was not even fully permitted on the conference floor. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters were reluctant to allow any divisions to be displayed.

So, however vague the compromise, however late tonight’s discussions go, those who’ve been pushing the party to commit to another referendum for months are encouraged just to have got this far.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45622159

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