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No support among Labour Euro candidates for In/Out EU referendum

By Harry Phibbs
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The polling tells us that most Labour voters would like to see an in/out referendum on the EU (by 52% to 29% in this YouGov poll for example.)

Quite a few Labour MPs back this in public and doubtless many more do in private.

There is plenty of speculation that Labour will shift its position and come round to the idea.

However Unite the Union is against it. So enough said - at least as regards the views of Labour candidates for next year's Euro Elections. The extent to which Unite managed the hijack the selection process has already been detailed by Mark Wallace.

In the past we often saw those on the Labour Left opposed to the EU - figures like Michael Foot and Tony Benn. Increasingly though our membership of the EU - at least on the current terms - is regarded as a means of advancing the socialist agenda. here was a bit of a change in 2000 when the newly elected Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said he would fight for us to join the Euro.

In any event Unite have been sniping at David Cameron's proposal for an in/out referendum both via their website and Len McLuskey's tweets. The union says the problem with a referendum is that it "could end with the UK exiting the EU."

The union's policy is to support our membership of the EU and to campaign to continue with it in any EU referendum. This motion represents their stance:

Conference is deeply concerned at the outcome of the November 2011 EU Council which left the UK totally isolated in the EU, and has reopened the debate about whether the UK should now leave the EU completely. Conference believes the UK Prime Minister’s only concern is pandering to his Party’s xenophobes and protecting the interests of his friends in the City of London...

Conference therefore commits UNITE to: 

  • Oppose any attempts to leave the European Union and to work for a vote for continued EU membership should a referendum be called..

Rather than "reopen" a debate the union would prefer to prohibit one from happening.

There certainly doesn't seem much room for debate among the Labour candidates chosen by Unite. Looking at the top two on each regional list I couldn't find any that support an EU referendum - something overwhelmingly favoured by Labour voters.

East Midlands

Glenis Wilmott says a referendum would put jobs at risk
Rory Palmer says it would be "irresponsible."


Richard Howitt praised Ed Miliband "principled stand" against holding a referendum.

Alex Mayer says Eurosceptic are "barmy"

Claude Moraes says agreeing an in/out referendum would be "a very damaging route."

Mary Honeyball says an in/out referendum would be "misguided"

North East

Judith Kirton-Darling says offering a referendum would "put jobs at risk"

Paul Brannen opposes a referendum as: "I’m worried, that we might lose"
North West

Arlene McCarthy opposes it on the grounds that "the Eurosceptics pushing for this referendum have failed to come up with alternatives to our membership of the EU."

Theresa Griffin does not mention a referendum on her website. Although as she prominently features the Unite logo it would be odd if she deviated from their stance on the issue.

South East

Anneliese Dodds doesn't mention a referendum on her website but says Labour's existing policy is "popular."
John Howarth says that by offering an in/out referendum David Cameron showed a "fundamental failure of leadership."
South West

Claire Moody says: "I firmly believe that now is not the time for a referendum on our
membership of the European Union." It would "put at risk" the "gains."
Glyn Ford is a long standing opponent of any referendums on the EU going back to Maastricht although can't see a comment from on the current proposal.

Yorkshire and the Humber

Linday McEvan has tweeted away attacking in/out referendum.

Richard Corbett says: "Ed Miliband is absolutely right to resist pressures to match the Conservative party's pledge to hold a referendum."

David Martin says "it would be extremely irresponsible for us to hold a referendum at this time." Or at any time: "It is incredibly damaging to the strength of the Union to propose a referendum."
Catherine Stihler says: "Talk of a referendum and putting the UK's membership of the EU in question would be a mistake at this time."


Derek Vaughn says: "Talk of a referendum and putting the UK's membership of the EU in question would be a mistake at this time."

Jayne Bryant does not mention referendum on her website although says EU membership is "vital."

In view of the above it would be hard for Ed Miliband to come out in support of an in/out referendum. If he was going to do so the delay has been a mistake. Not only would he have oppostion from Unite for such a change but virtually all his Euro candidates. The combination is not a mere coincidence.