Labour MPs cite many arguments for why they want Jeremy Corbyn to be replaced as leader. One is the effort — or lack of effort — they say the Islington North MP put into campaigning for Remain in the run-up to the EU referendum.
When the country voted to stay in the European Economic Community, the EU’s earliest form, in 1975, Corbyn was among a minority who voted out.
In the months leading up to this year’s referendum, Corbyn’s official preference was for Britain to stay in the 28-nation bloc.
However, for many Remainers, Corbyn didn’t speak up for the cause frequently enough or with a loud enough voice. During an appearance on the Channel 4’s Last Leg, he rated his passion for staying in the EU as 7/10 — not exactly convincing.
The then-prime minister David Cameron made just short of 500 media appearances in the eight weeks leading up to the June 23 referendum, according to the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture (CRCC). Corbyn, on the other hand, made just 123.
It is understandable why Corbyn has been lambasted by so many Labour parliamentarians and supporters for his contribution to the Remain cause. But, for some reason, the same criticism hasn’t been levelled at Tory PM Theresa May.
Like Corbyn, May’s official position was Remain. Like Corbyn, she wasn’t particularly vocal in her support for the campaign. Drawing on the CRCC’s research, you could reasonably argue she played even less of a part than the opposition leader.
May made just 29 media appearances between May 6 and June 22. That means Corbyn made over four times as many appearances. The difference isn’t marginal — it’s massive.
A possible counter-argument could be that May was not party leader at the time so wasn’t expected to be as prominent as Corbyn. But that didn’t stop Brexiteer Boris Johnson — he made 379 appearances over the same period of time. Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, and Nigel Farage all made over 120.
Labour MPs were so disappointed in Corbyn that at times it appeared the Labour leader was being blamed for the result. But, if you take a close look at how Labour and Conservative voters voted in the referendum, there’s no real evidence to say it was Labour voters who let the Remain side down.
As polling expert, John Curtice, pointed out in the aftermath of the result, it was largely Conservative voters who abandoned Remain and decided to embrace a Brexit. Four polls published months before the referendum said Tory voters would split approximately 50/50, but just 42% actually ended up backing Remain on June 23.
This isn’t to say that aggrieved Remain supporters should blame Theresa May for the result — or any individual politician for that matter. But it’s worth pointing out that the prime minister’s contribution to the Remain campaign was no better than Corbyn’s. It was virtually non-existent.
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