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23 September, 2019 03:56:42 AM

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Split by Brexit, Labour kicks off conference showdown

AFP, Brighton
Split by Brexit, Labour kicks off conference showdown
Main opposition Labour party deputy leader Tom Watson (C) gestures as he walks during the Labour party conference in Brighton, on the south coast of England yesterday. AFP photo

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party was scheduled to begin the daunting task of forming a coherent Brexit plan at its annual conference yesterday, with polls suggesting it could face an election drubbing.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s moment of truth comes with the crisis-torn country hurtling toward an October 31 exit from the European Union without a plan for future trade.

Yet the same divisions over Europe that saw Boris Johnson’s right-wing Conservatives lose their working majority—and make a general election appear inevitable—are also tearing apart Labour on the left.

The 119-year-old party’s support base consists of cosmopolitan city-dwelling europhiles and traditional working-class communities that rejected Brussels in the 2016 referendum. Polls show these views have become even more entrenched today—a polarisation that further complicates Corbyn’s bid to find a unifying stance.

The strongly anti-European Brexit Party and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats are eroding Labour’s support on both flanks, and it now sits 15 percent behind the Conservatives, according to a poll published late Saturday.

Labour officials will hunker down in a swanky hotel on England’s south coast Sunday night to whittle down their Brexit options to a single position that will be either rejected or approved Monday.

Corbyn has given every indication that he wants Labour to stay neutral on the defining issue of UK politics.

“No, I am not sitting on the fence,” he insisted in a testy ITV interview Friday. He has promised to negotiate a new divorce deal that maintains closer EU relations and then hold another referendum in which remaining in the bloc is the other option.

But he would not say which of the two he would campaign for—or whether he actually wants to stay or go.

“The British people will make that final decision,” Corbyn told ITV. Efforts to keep the peace by appeasing both wings of his party are not sitting well with voters ahead of an early election that most expect to happen within months.

A September YouGov survey showed that just half of self-identifying Labour supporters trust Corbyn’s ability to “make the right decisions on Brexit”.

And an Ipsos MORI analysis found Corbyn’s net satisfaction rating at -60. No opposition leader has fared worse in more than 40 years.

“This strategy of being all things to all people on Brexit—it paid off partly in 2017 (elections), but it’s not clear that it’s going to pay off again,” said London School of Economics analyst Sara Hobolt.

EA

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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