The result of June’s EU referendum sent shockwaves throughout UK politics.
For the Labour Party, it triggered a parliamentary effort to oust Jeremy Corbyn which resulted in a divisive and bruising leadership contest which comes to an end this weekend.
But Brexit did not just result in creating mayhem at the top of the opposition party. The result, according to politics professor Matthew Goodwin, was a symptom of a much bigger and deeper problem for the party.
Goodwin told Business Insider that Labour has totally lost touch with its traditional vote. The Brexit vote was a clear sign of the “disconnect” between the party and the people whose votes needs if it is going to return to government.
“There is a very clear and significant disconnect between the official position of the Labour Parliamentary Party and Labour voters,” the Kent University academic told us at an event in central London on Wednesday morning.
“You need to consider that 70% of Labour constituencies voted for Brexit, whereas Labour, apparently, was officially campaigning for Remain. You can see, therefore, how in post-referendum Britain, it is going to be incredibly difficult for the Labour Party to do anything other than accept the result of the referendum.”
You can see, therefore, how in post-referendum Britain, it is going to be incredibly difficult for the Labour Party to do anything other than accept the result of the referendum and operate within that terrain.”
One of the many problems facing Labour is that it is totally confused over what its policy should be in regards to Brexit.
Corbyn, to the anger of the party’s more pro-EU members, has called for Article 50 to be triggered as soon as possible without parliamentary approval. His challenger, Owen Smith, has called for a second referendum.
Goodwin, who specialises in UK politics, was highly critical of Smith’s policy, as it appeals to a small minority of the voting population. This is ironic given the main argument put forward by Smith’s campaign is he would be a “credible” opposition leader and viable prime minister in waiting.
“The Owen Smith idea of calling a second referendum and going back to square one is not only going to inflame opposition among Labour MP eurosceptics, but also antagonise the 70% of Labour constituencies who just turned out to leave the European Union,” Goodwin said.
“We are at a moment where the Labour Party is under pressure from Scotland, led by one of the most unpopular leaders in postwar political history, and is rapidly losing its traditional blue collar base. That is why the Smith approach is completely wrong for the party.”
Plus, as pointed out by polling expert John Curtice who also appeared at the event, there is no public appetite for a second referendum whatsoever. He cited research conducted by YouGov, ComRes, and BMG after the result of the referendum which shows just a third of Brits want a second referendum to take place.
The result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced at the party’s conference in Liverpool on Saturday. Business Insider will be reporting live from the conference.