News | Published March 28 2019

Wollaston: Corbyn is a "leader in hiding rather than a leader in waiting"

Immediately after the indicative votes that were held last night, we spoke to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP in the Central Lobby about the future direction of Brexit, the campaign for a “People’s Vote” and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Opposition. 

Describing the “phenomenally acrimonious” environment within parliament, Wollaston, a former Tory MP who left to join The Independent Group, labelled Corbyn “a leader in hiding rather than a leader in waiting.”

During the series of eight indicative votes last night, Wollaston voted for two amendments: revoking Article 50 and a second confirmatory referendum on any deal that is passed by parliament. Referring to the inability of any amendment to command a majority, Wollaston argued that “this demonstrates that we still have an impasse in parliament.”

The cause for this, Wollaston argued, was the structure of the initial referendum itself. She argued that the referendum choice tried to “reduce a very complex issue, with very many different versions of Brexit, to a simple binary choice.” Because of this, she added, “it was inevitable, in hindsight, that we were going to end up at this point.”

Describing the atmosphere within the chamber as “phenomenally acrimonious” and likening it to a “zoo”, Wollaston highlighted that the Beckett amendment, calling for a second confirmatory vote, received the highest number of votes.

Wollaston, who voted for this amendment herself, argued that this “is where we genuinely have to go.” Criticising the disconnect between parliament and the electorate, she stated that this result showed that the public did not conclusively back any option, and that all compromises ended up “pleasing nobody.”

Because of this, she stated that “ultimately we do have to crystallise it to a defined choice, not with the unicorns or the have-your-cake and eat it too Brexit, but the actual Brexit offer that we eventually come to. We then have to take that back to the people.”

Highlighting the further rejection of a no-deal scenario, which was defeated by a margin of 240, she argued that the House has now “crystallised” what it doesn’t want, but where the consensus lies is yet to be found.

Alongside the call for a second confirmatory referendum, another amendment that performed well was the call to remain in the Customs Union. There has been speculation that if a commitment to stay in the Customs Union was added to the political declaration, May’s Withdrawal Agreement could be passed by the House.

Responding to this, Wollaston criticised May’s now infamous “red lines” and stated that “she has behaved if she was in a majority government when in fact she is in a hung parliament.”

Wollaston called for May to accept that “her deal is not the majority view” and that it will probably need to have a Customs Union attached. Going further, she restated that in order to “demonstrate it is the will of the people, she must take it back to the people. I don’t think she will be able to blunderbuss through this and take her deal through.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s recent decision to walk out of a cross-party meeting on the future of Brexit, because of the presence of Independent Group MP Chuka Umunna, caused widespread criticism and derision. Wollaston responded to this by questioning, and criticising, Corbyn’s attitude as Opposition leader.

Labelling Corbyn as a “leader in hiding rather than a leader in waiting,” she stressed that “we need to put that behind us if we are genuinely trying to reach a consensus.” This will never be achieved, she argued, if you “have individuals you won’t stay in the room with”, labelling Corbyn’s actions as “pathetic.” 

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
March 28 2019

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