What can you make of a leading anti-Brexit Labour MP Owen Smith saying he and a “lot of people” are considering leaving the party.
Asked if he intended to quit, Pontypridd MP Smith told the BBC:
“I think that’s a very good question, and I think it’s something that I and a lot of other people are considering”.
He and other Labour politicians have criticised Jeremy Corbyn for setting out terms for supporting a Brexit deal.
Mr Smith made a failed bid to topple Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2016.
Mr Corbyn made him shadow Northern Ireland secretary but sacked him from that role in March last year after Mr Smith called for Labour to back another EU referendum.
Asked by BBC Wales on Thursday if he would consider quitting the Labour party, Mr Smith said it was a question
“I and people who hold my views will have to consider”.
“The truth is that Brexit is not compatible with my values. It is a right-wing ideological project, it is a nativist project, it is fuelled by lies and it was delivered deceitfully in 2016.
“I got elected on a set of values which I think Brexit is incompatible with and I got elected to look after the people I grew up with and represent very proudly in Pontypridd.
“I don’t think Brexit is reconcilable with those values and my desire to look after people in Ponty.”
There a has been a lot of speculation over the formation of a new UK centralist Party after Brexit Indeed a restructuring of unionists with a large number of Tories leaving to join Niglel Farage new party and Labour right wingers resurrecting the SDP SDP 2.0 perhaps.
It seems strange for me to think that a great deal of political activists were not around in the early eighties , when the SDP in their words “threatened to break the mold of British politics”.
Labour had to some shifted dramatically to the left since the election in 1980 of Michael Foot as party leader though in my mind this was exaggerated by the UK Media.
As much distaste as some voters had for Thatcher’s Conservative government, many people were just as opposed to the prospect of Foot as Prime Minister. Many also viewed Tony Benn negatively., but arguably as now the actions of a perceived “militant” threat was seen as an excuse to lump all the left in the labour part together.
The SDP formered an alliance with the then Liberal party who had 11 seats in the UK parliament and with nearly 14% in the 1979 general election were in a better shape than they are currently
With an election not due until May 1984, the Alliance proved to be an instant hit with voters who were disgruntled with the Conservatives and Labour, as many opinion polls in late 1981 and early 1982 showed the Alliance leading opinion polling by a wide margin, peaking with a 50% showing – up to twice the level of support shown for the Conservatives around this time. Steel was so certain that the Liberals would be part of a government for the first time in over half a century that when he addressed the 1981 Liberal Party conference, he famously declared,
“Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for government!”
However, a series of events followed which saw the political tables turn. Argentine forces invaded the British dependent territory of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. A Security Council Resolution 502 was passed the next day demanding an immediate Argentine withdrawal, which was ignored, so Thatcher sent out a task force to recapture the islands—by military means, if necessary. The UK won the conflict on 14 June, and subsequent opinion polls showed the Conservatives firmly in the lead. With a general election due by May 1984, it seemed that the most anticipated outcome would be whether the Alliance or Labour formed the next opposition. A Conservative re-election was looking even more likely as 1982 drew to a close, as the recession came to an end and inflation had been cut to 4% from a massive 27% within four years, although unemployment remained above 3,000,000. She felt confident enough to hold an election in June 1983 – a year earlier than necessary.
the Alliance won 25.4% of the national vote in the 1983 general election, compared to Labour’s 27.6%. However, a mere 23 Alliance Members of Parliament (MPs) were elected, compared to Labour’s 209. The SDP came second in many constituencies, including nearly 70% of the Conservative-won seats, though the bulk of Labour’s defectors to the SDP in 1981 lost their seats. Due to the first past the post electoral system, this success did not translate into parliamentary seats. The SDP’s support was spread out across the country, and was not concentrated in enough areas to win more seats. The split in the centre-left vote enabled the Conservatives to win the election by a landslide.
The Alliance came under heavy criticism from Foot in the aftermath of the 1983 election; he condemned them for “siphoning” support away from the Labour Party and enabling the Conservatives to win more seats and there is clearly the possibility of this happening again. Polling suggests Labour would haemorrhage votes in Wales if it is seen to help Brexit through.
A major survey of 25,537 people by YouGov for the People’s Vote campaign suggests that the party’s support would plummet to just 26% if ‘a Brexit deal passes with the support of most Labour MPs’.
The People’s Vote campaign has extrapolated this swing to Wales and suggests that it would mean 11 Labour MPs losing their seats.
The poll, conducted between December 21 and January 4, suggested that the public mood has turned against Brexit with 48% now saying the UK was wrong to leave compared to 40% saying it was right to leave with the remainder saying they didn’t know.
The poll included 1,300 voters in Wales and suggests that here Labour’s share of the vote would fall from 49% to 27% with the Tories rising to 35% if Brexit goes ahead without Labour opposition.
Plaid Cymru’s share of the vote would rise from 10% to 16% and the Lib Dems from 4.5% to 11% here.
The Liberal Democrat proved in 1997 when they won with 46 seats 16.8% as opposed to the 1983 Alliances 22 with 22.6 of the vote that they could make gains under the First Past the Post System, but breaking the Tory/Labour strongholds under the current system seems impossible.
Except of course in Scotland where Labour were weighing the their votes in some constituencies before the 2015 election and lost all but one.
Perhaps the lesson is if you want to break the mold of British politics. you have to break the union