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After its Brexit amendment was defeated in the Commons last night, Labour is now officially committed to backing a second referendum. That does not mean that Jeremy Corbyn has become a passionate enthusiast for the idea, there are still many in the party who suspect that his office will manoeuvre to sabotage any such people’s vote if it becomes a probability (not least because it would be hugely divisive), and there is no evidence that, even with Labour whipping its MPs, there is a majority for referendum legislation in the Commons.

Still, David Cameron (if we believe Donald Tusk) and Nick Clegg (see here) are both available to give Corbyn some advice on what can happen when you back a referendum expecting it to never happen.

And last night John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said there was a chance Labour could win a vote on a second referendum soon. In recent weeks McDonnell has become much more positive about the case for a second referendum than Corbyn and this is what he told ITV’s Peston programme.


When the meaningful vote comes back, and we’re told maybe that might be March 12, that’s the time when we’ll have to put the [second referendum] amendment up. Let me just say, we’re still going to argue we want a general election, we’re still going to argue we think our deal that we put up is the best option, but we realise, we’ve got to break this deadlock. We’ve said we’ll keep all the options on the table because we still want a general election.

Things are shifting. There is a chance we could win it, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because people are worried about their constituencies, they’re worried about jobs, they’re worried about the economy. And I think the more we focus on that, the more there’s a chance that either a deal will go through that will protect jobs and the economy, or to get some deal through it will be conditional on going back to the people.

McDonnell also said that, even though his Hayes and Harlington constituency voted leave, he would vote remain in a second referendum, he would campaign for remain if there were a referendum. He explained:


Yes I would [vote remain] because I did last time. I think it’s the right thing to do. At the same time, I tell you, we’ve got to respect people’s views on this. My constituency voted leave, and I am going back all the time and explaining to the people in my constituency, this is why I’ve come to this conclusion. Almost I’ve been forced to. We’ve gone through every path, there’s been no deal that’s been brought forward that is acceptable to parliament at the moment that would protect their jobs and their livelihoods, so we’ve been forced into this situation where there’s no other route that we can see other than this.

After the vote last night Jeremy Corbyn himself also released a statement saying that the party would now “back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome”. But he included a caveat, adding:


We will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

10am: Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, gives evidence to the Commons public administration committee.

10.40am: Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary, gives a speech on online gambling.

4.30pm: Theresa May speaks at the end of the Jordan: Growth and Opportunity Conference, following talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Downing Street earlier.

As usual, I will also be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web, but I expect to be focusing mostly on Brexit. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another when I finish, at around 5pm.

You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply ATL, although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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John McDonnell on ITV’s Peston last night.

John McDonnell on ITV’s Peston last night. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock





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