Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead, has resigned from the Labour front bench over Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to impose a three-line whip on the Article 50 vote. Siddiq’s argument is that she doesn’t back triggering Article 50 and nor does her constituency, which voted heavily to Remain in the EU, and so she can’t support Labour’s official position on this issue.
Siddiq’s resignation, the first Brexit front bench resignation, is a reminder that—as I say in my column this week — the Article 50 vote will be more politically difficult for Labour than the Conservatives. Labour MPs for Leave-voting constituencies don’t want it to look like they or their party are trying to obstruct the referendum result so, generally, favour voting for Article 50. While Labour MPs in heavily Remain seats are reluctant to back something neither they nor their constituents support. They also don’t want to let the Lib Dem claim a monopoly on opposition to Brexit which could make them a threat to Labour in cosmopolitan seats such as Hampstead in the medium term.
Labour is in no man’s land on Brexit. It is neither for it nor against it. It is fast becoming an irrelevance on the biggest political issue of the day. For Labour, there are worrying parallels with how it has become peripheral to politics in Scotland now that constitutional questions dominate there. If Labour can’t sort this out, then the next election might be much worse than a simple defeat for them.