On Monday 30 July, 130 people gathered in Nottingham to hear left wing anti-Brexit speakers make the case for Labour to oppose Brexit.
Speakers included Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA rail union as well as local migrant workers and anti-racist campaigners.
The organisers had held stalls in the town, advertised at the local Pride and other festivals and covered social media. The meeting surprised even them. It was five times larger than a similar event that was had held only three months earlier.
This shows that there has a been significant increase in anti-Brexit feeling amongst Labour members and supporters. This in constituencies that had large Leave majorities in the referendum and up to now have been defeatist and demoralised about the prospects of opposing Brexit.
Progress had held a public anti-Brexit meeting only a few days before with Liz Kendall speaking. They had less than twenty in attendance. A comparison of the sizes of the meetings is proof that only a campaign from the left can win the Party to harden its stance against Brexit — so poisoned is Progress’s intervention in the Party now seen to be.
There were inevitable attempts from the floor by right wing Labour activists to personalise and factionally exploit the issue against Corbyn. But they were met with silence whilst the left wing speakers received loud applause.
A campaign has been set up in the locality and we know we have a lot to do. Some local CLPs with undoubtedly large anti-Brexit majorities amongst their membership have so far refused to support a final referendum on the deal with the option to remain in the EU. Some have gone so far as to try and stop any further debate before conference. A Huffington Post article quotes a “senior Momentum source” as saying there is “absolutely no way”that the organisation can ignore calls for a members’ vote on its position before Labour conference.
At this stage we do not know whether we will get a debate on Brexit at Labour conference.
We must find ways of asserting Labour members’ views, through meetings open to the wider memberships in constituencies.. We also need to demonstrate that the Party is increasingly out-of-step with Labour voters and that there is no logic in conceding to nationalist ideas and demoralisation where they exist in working-class areas. Labour must have sufficiently radical policies to overcome those.
On the Saturday following the meeting, Left Against Brexit supporters in Derbyshire Dales constituency who had come to the meeting held a successful stall at an agricultural market.
The response will no doubt encourage us to do similar stalls in various locations throughout Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Taking the fight to Corbyn's backyard
Around 100 people attended the North London Left Against Brexit meeting to discuss and plan anti-Brexit activity in the run up to Labour Party conference and beyond.
The meeting involved lively discussion and Manuel Cortes, Catherine West MP, Joseph Healy and Anna Oppenheim all laid out different perspectives on a left-wing strategy to stop Brexit. Cortes and Oppenheim in particular made the case for strong unions and a combative labour movement that unites workers across borders and seeks to level up wages and terms and conditions. The meeting broke up into groups to discuss local activity, including passing contemporary motions, preparing arguments for winning over more sceptical Corbyn supporters as well as planning street stalls and other public-facing activity.
Several people expressed their concerns that there is an almost bunker-like mentality around some parts of the Labour left, that any criticism or even discussion on Corbyn’s policy is part of an attack.
The LAB is important because it will help to open up the space for necessary discussion and debate not just on Brexit but how the grassroots of the Labour Party relate to the current leadership.