Labour cant escape Brexit, even with radical new reforms

BRIGHTON, England — Even with shiny new domestic reform proposals, divisions over Brexit still stole the show at the start of Labours annual party conference.

Bracing for a potentially imminent snap election, the U.K. opposition party began to unveil new policies on which to campaign as its five-day annual get-together kicked off in Brighton this weekend. The most eye-catching of these proposals — which received overwhelming support from party members Sunday — would effectively ban private schools.

The proposal is just one of several designed to drag British politics away from Brexit and back to a debate about public services and domestic policy.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will continue the rollout of domestic reform pledges Monday by announcing a plan to establish a National Care Service to mirror the U.K.s National Health Service, providing free care to all elderly people who require it at home, at an estimated cost of £6 billion, funded through taxation.

Both policies are likely to galvanize the partys base ahead of the expected election.

But these radical new ideas were not enough to firmly shift debate — as Jeremy Corbyn hoped — and distract from the fact that the Labour leader faces opposition to his Brexit stance from several of his own shadow Cabinet.

The proposal is just one of several designed to drag British politics away from Brexit and back to a debate about public services and domestic policy.

Leading figures including deputy leader Tom Watson — who on Friday survived an internal bid to abolish his position — and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry are both pushing for the party to make clear at the conference that it backs remaining in the EU. Other senior figures including McDonnell and Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer also want the party to commit to backing Remain in any potential second referendum.

Corbyn, having only shifted to supporting a second referendum earlier this year, has not committed to backing Remain should such a vote be held, and wants the party, if it enters government, to first renegotiate a Brexit deal with the EU before calling a second referendum.

Labours governing body, the National Executive Committee, supported this policy on Sunday, but party officials, unions and shadow Cabinet ministers are expected to work late into Sunday night to decide on the exact wording of the Brexit motion that will be put to party members for a vote on Monday.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in Brighton for the Labour Party conference | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Sunday evenings “compositing” meeting will also see a debate on Labours climate change policy, with activists pushing for it to back a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030, while the GMB union, which has many members in the energy and manufacturing sectors, rejects this goal over fears about the impact on jobs.

New policy announcements from the Labour leadership on climate change are expected to follow later this week, following on from Sundays private schools plan and Mondays care reform pledge. Long a live-wire topic in British politics, the private school motion says that these schools “endowments, investments and properties” should be “redistributed democratically and fairly across the countrys educational institutions” and that the government should remove such schools charitable status.

Just 7 percent of children in the U.K. attend fee-paying schools, but hugely disproportionate numbers of the U.K.s economic, cultural and political elite — including two-thirds of Boris Johnsons Cabinet — were educated in the private system.

All eyes on Brexit

Despite the potency of such issues, Brexit still dominated discussion in Brighton.

Polls suggest Labour is losing support from its pro-Remain voters — roughly two-thirds of its backers in the last election in 2017 — to the unequivocally pro-Remain Liberal Democrat party, which now says it would revoke Article 50, the mechanism that formally began the process of withdrawal from the bloc, without a referendum if it won an election. But on the other flank, Labour is losing the support of some its pro-Brexit voters to the Conservatives under Prime Minister Johnson, who has pledged to leave theRead More – Source

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