The Labour party is abuzz with talk that the party could back a second referendum before a general election. It's not that Jeremy Corbyn has suggested such a move is on the cards – in fact, this week he's been saying the exact opposite while setting out his stall for a general election. However, John McDonnell has used an interview with Alastair Campbell for GQ to open the door to the possibility of holding a second referendum first. Asked which ought to come first, McDonnell says while his preference remains a general election 'let's see what actually parliament will wear in the end':
“AC: Do you agree with me that there shouldn't be an election?
JM: I'm more of the view that we've said up until now that we want a general election. That, of course, is what our objective is, but let’s see what actually parliament will wear in the end. Within parliament itself there is a large number of people who are saying we'd rather have a referendum attached to any deal.
McDonnell has gone further than Corbyn on the issue – with the Labour leader this week pouring cold water on the idea. It's not the only unhelpful comment he made in the interview – the shadow chancellor also suggested that Corbyn would stand down if Labour lost the election.
McDonnell's comments come as a cross-party group of MPs plot to try and force a second referendum in the coming weeks. There's talk of using the session of parliament planned for next Saturday to bring about a vote on support for a second referendum. This is a prospect that has been voted on many times before – and to little avail.
However, as I reported earlier this week there are concerns on the Tory benches that this could be changing with more MPs now coming around to the idea. Given that the Conservatives are ahead in the polls, there are a growing number of Labour MPs (and new independents) who would rather put off an election in which they could lose their seat. There may not yet be the numbers for a second referendum but if it's put to a vote expect the numbers to be closer than before.