DEPUTY Labour boss Tom Watson launched an extraordinary double challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s authority as relations between the two plunged to an all-time low.
And he then published his own poll showing 84 per cent of Labour members want the party to hold an online ballot to decide the party’s policy on a second Brexit referendum.
But Labour chairman Ian Lavery, a key left-wing ally of Mr Corbyn, shot back by branding those in the party pushing for a second referendum “left wing intellectuals” who are “sneering” at Brexit voters.
In an article for the Guardian he said Labour was “not a party of leave or remain”.
Mr Corbyn attempted to calm his increasingly fractious frontbench by reiterating Labour’s Brexit position, which is to call for a General Election or a second referendum.
The People’s Vote campaign said it “shows he is at last beginning to listen to what our voters and members are saying” but other Remainers said it reflected little movement.
It is very clear that many thousands of Labour Party members voted for other parties last week
Mr Watson intervened after a growing backlash against the expulsion of Alastair Campbell, who was kicked out after he admitted voting for the Lib Dems last week.
The deputy leader, a leading advocate of a second referendum, accused his own party of taking a “spiteful” and “intolerant” response to its members angry at Mr Corbyn’s refusal to fully back a second Brexit referendum.
Mr Watson said: “It is very clear that many thousands of Labour Party members voted for other parties last week.
“They were disappointed with the position on Brexit that a small number of people on the NEC inserted into our manifesto. They were sending the NEC a message that our position lacked clarity, and they were right.
We should be listening to members rather than punishing them
“It is spiteful to resort to expulsions when the NEC should be listening to members.
“The politics of intolerance holds no future for the Labour Party. A broad church party requires pluralism and tolerance to survive.
“There should be an amnesty for members who voted a different way last week.
“We should be listening to members rather than punishing them.”
Mr Campbell’s expulsion sparked scores of voters who have backed Labour for decades to use the #expelmetoo hashtag on Twitter to admit they too backed different parties in protest at the party’s Brexit stance.
Mr Corbyn vowed to consult members over whether to change Labour’s ambigious Brexit policy at its party conference in September – barely a month before Britain is due to leave the EU.
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But yesterday Mr Watson released a poll of nearly 9,000 members asking whether they would prefer a direct consultation about Labour’s Brexit stance – or wait until Labour’s conference.
The results revealed 84 per cent favoured an immediate online vote, 13 per cent backed a special conference while just 3 per cent said they should wait until September’s party conference.
Laying down the gauntlet to Mr Corbyn, Mr Watson tweeted last night: “The results of my Brexit poll are clear. 84% of Labour members and supporters who took the survey want an all-member ballot to decide our party’s Brexit policy. As deputy leader I’ll support them to make this happen.”
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