Notes from the PV Group Leaders Conference Call – 1stAugust 2019
On the evening of 1st August, People's Vote branch chairs and group leaders participated in a nationwide conference call chaired by Patrick Heneghan, CEO of the European Movement.
Here below are the key points arising, interjected with some observations of my own, with emphasis on relevance to our branch area.
All of our 'stop Brexit' activities in the coming months must differentiate between the two main target groups, MPs in Parliament and the voting public. MPs must unlock a People's Vote even though it is entirely possible that this could be eclipsed by a General Election. In both cases pressure from the electorate is critical.
The team at Millbank Tower have identified 42 MPs who they think might be persuaded to come out in favour of a PV and who are against leaving without a deal. Two of these are in our branch area, Gillian Keegan for Chichester (49.08% remain, 50.92% leave in 2016) and Damian Hinds for East Hampshire (50.52% remain, 49.48% leave in 2016). Our campaign group leaders have been notified of this and we will be in discussion with our Regional Campaign Manager about the steps we will take to lobby these two key parliamentarians. The good news is that the number of Conservative MPs who are against Johnson's no-deal stance appears to be growing.
In his introductory talk, Patrick Heneghan reiterated that all the hard work will be in September and October. He believes that the possibility of a general election is a real threat to our movement and so some kind of alliance of remain parties is vital. But perhaps more important is the position of Labour. Interviewed on Wednesday's Radio 4 PM programme, Patrick stated that he believes Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour into the next GE (against the wishes of many) but that he and his party must come off the fence with a clear and unequivocal Brexit policy. Just now, Labour prevarication is impeding a remain alliance.
In preparation for the possibility of a GE, Millbank has identified 130 or so marginal seats to be targeted. Eight of the nine constituencies covered by our branch have Conservative MPs sitting on large majorities, the smallest being Penny Mordaunt in Portsmouth North at just under 10,000. So none of these can be classed as marginal. But it is important that we keep a focus on the public mood in Portsmouth South where Stephen Morgan, Labour and PV supporter, is sitting on a majority of just 1554.
There was some discussion concerning the balancing of GE campaigning effort between a push for tactical voting versus boosting support for remain candidates in those marginal seats. Opinions differ but will be resolved in time.
The call moved to questions about concentrating on campaigning for a PV versus overtly campaigning to remain. Patrick stated that in the short term winning the right to a PV takes priority. However, work is going on behind the scenes to establish what a remain campaign would look like and in spite of recent publicised differences of opinion at Millbank Tower, the PV campaign and Britain for Europe recognise that they must work together. The end goal for all is to stop Brexit.
Key point: Patrick recognises the demand from the grassroots for two campaigns running in parallel, one for a PV and one for remain, and so accepts that at the local level overt campaigning for remain is fine. But don't let this to be at the expense of the continuing push for a PV.
A question was asked about what might be on the ballot paper in the event of a PV. In the unlikely event of a new deal being agreed, one of the questions would obviously be do you (the voters) want this deal? If no new deal is agreed then the question should be do you want to leave without a deal or do you want to remain in the EU?. The difference between this and 2016 is that a campaign for remain would build on all that we have learnt in the last three years, including the consequences of leaving without a deal, and that nothing will ever be better than the benefits we enjoy today as an EU member state.
Patrick did not think that proroguing of Parliament would happen. But there is a risk of a form of prorogue by the back door. An unfortunately timed vote of no confidence, which if won, could result in a GE being called and an election campaign being in progress on the 31st October. Ergo the UK drifts out of the EU by default because there is no sitting Parliament to stop it. Pundits who believe that Corbyn is at heart a brexiter, believe that such an outcome would suit him. The UK leaves the EU but he cannot be directly blamed. Let us hope that none of this happens.
Our local focus
Summarising what all of the above means for us locally we must recognise that a) we are still campaigning to be granted a PV and b) we are not in the midst of an election campaign. Therefore the best advice is to concentrate our efforts on winning over Gillian Keegan in Chichester and Damian Hinds in East Hampshire while maintaining the pro-EU/pro-PV gains we have made in Portsmouth South with the support of Stephen Morgan. Highlighting the huge risks of leaving without a deal while promoting the benefits of being in the EU are perfectly in order.
Ian Berridge, Chair of EM Hampshire, and I will facilitate communications and assistance between our East Hants group led by Cathy Edgeworth in Petersfield and the North Hampshire branch chaired by Jonathan Buisson. This is to help engage a wider base of members and supporters for lobbying Damian Hinds.
In the event of a PV happening we would plan to be out everywhere campaigning for Revoke/Remain. In the event of a GE all we can do is stand alongside the remain parties, as we did for the Euro elections, in the forlorn hope that we can at least reduce the the pro-Brexit vote. Portsmouth South with a sitting Labour MP, is another matter.
No apologies for the length of this email. The stakes are higher than they have ever been. Everything we have been fighting for, and against, over these last three years could be resolved in the next three months. In the meantime please give your support whenever and wherever you can:
- Write to your MP.
- Write to the local papers.
- Make a donation however small.
- Join the European Movement if you are not already a member ... from as little as three pounds a month.
- Help out at street stalls in whatever manner you are most comfortable with.
- And make sure you have these diary dates .. Brighton Rally on 21st September, London March on 12th October.