Labour’s response to Brexit is cowardly and shameful. That’s why I’m resigning from the party

Robert Williams was a member of the Labour party for over twenty years. He resigned this week over Labour’s response to Brexit. Here’s his letter to his MP, Barry Gardiner

Dear Barry

I write with regret, but much less than I would wish, to tell you that I am resigning from the Labour party with immediate effect.

I joined when I was 17, because I believed in social justice and internationalism. What I have seen over the last two years has been a descent into the most infantile student politics, with an utterly incompetent and inadequate leader standing on a platform of being friends with every terrorist group so long as they are anti-Western, being unable to state how he would defend the country or its people in a crisis, and supported by a pathetically untalented team of and an unpleasant network of people expelled from Labour, supporters of other parties, candidates for other parties and deluded members who no longer care about winning an election.

Corbyn’s utter incompetence and John McDonnell’s unpleasantness, leading to Labour’s total unelectability are not the main reasons for my resignation, however. I would have fought these unrepresentative dinosaurs and Corbyn’s total unfitness to lead from within the party.

It is on Europe, and our impending exit from the European Union that is the final straw for me. A turnout of 72% and a 52%-48% vote is not the overwhelmingly majority of people. The “people” did not vote for a Brexit that means economic catastrophe and political irrelevance. And they did not vote to diminish the opportunities membership of the EU offers all our citizens and to deny the rich cultural and social elements of our membership of a continent wide club.

And then Jeremy Corbyn decided to use his first speech of 2017 to claim that Britain can be better-off outside the EU.

The silence of Labour moderates, with the honourable exceptions of the 23 Labour MPs who voted for sanity on Europe in December, on the most important issue of our times, is deafening. Corbyn and his band of fools have shown no leadership, no principles and no morality. By their cowardice, they have left the way open to mendacious, toxic hard right Brexiteers in government to potentially damage the country beyond repair and that is unforgivable.

I wish for this country to be an active member of the world’s largest and most successful trading bloc. An organisation that has made conflict in Europe almost impossible to imagine, and which enables its members, collectively, to be taken seriously on the world stage. I do not want my citizenship of the EU to be taken away and I do not want opportunities, both personal and professional, for me and my family to be taken away because of a cretinous referendum, and a vote based on lies, untruths, bigotry, racism and xenophobia.

The current “leadership” of the Labour party are fellow travellers with the Brexiteers, and far, far too many of the 80% of MPs who opposed the appalling and terminally damaging leader in July are saying nothing.

There is no such thing as a positive Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is wedded to the idiotic notion of the EU being a “capitalist club” and does not care if we leave the EU. The ideological shrill that is shadow chancellor John McDonnell, is a believer in creative destruction, to bring down capitalism. Both views are moronically dangerous, and will damage and destroy lives and opportunities for British people, and I want no part of this unbelievably irresponsible and unpleasant stupidity.

You called me a “hardcore remainer”, Barry, because I said that there is no sane or rational alternative that is better than our membership of the EU. You campaigned to remain, and now accept the “will of the people”, or rather the 52% of the 72% of the electorate who bothered to vote. That is to your shame.

The majority of Labour MPs, who cannot bring themselves to say to the electorate that they were lied to about Brexit and that our standing and economy will be appallingly, possibly irreparably, damaged if we leave the EU, are fatally wounding any remaining credibility this party once had. I am in despair at the tragic state of the party and what is happening to the UK, and have had enough..

That is why I am resigning from the party with immediate effect, and why I will campaign tirelessly for continuing membership of the EU, but not for a party that has no morality, no credibility, no purpose, no vision and no future.


Rob Williams

Robert Williams works in public affairs and as a journalist

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30 Responses to “Labour’s response to Brexit is cowardly and shameful. That’s why I’m resigning from the party”

  1. John says:

    As my MP John Spellar said to a member who threaten to resign if he (Spellar) voted to bomb Syria “We’ll wave you goodbye as you leave”.

  2. paul barker says:

    Mr Williams, can I invite you to join The Liberal Democrats ? We are committed to the fight to stop Brexit or reverse it if it happens. Come & join our fight.

  3. Bob says:

    Oh dear I do have to reply.

    ‘I wish for this country to be an active member of the world’s largest and most successful trading bloc.’

    Not in the future it won’t be, the euro is failing, mass immigration has caused a drop in the ability of countries to invest and their populations will not accept taxes rising.

    ‘An organisation that has made conflict in Europe almost impossible to imagine’

    SO your forgetting NATO and the 75% the USA contributes and since the Wall fell we have had the mass murder in the FRY, which Europe did little to solve until NATO with its air and ground forces went in and imposed peace.

    ‘I do not want my citizenship of the EU to be taken away and I do not want opportunities, both personal and professional, for me and my family to be taken away because of a cretinous referendum, and a vote based on lies, untruths, bigotry, racism and xenophobia.’

    You are firstly a citizen of your nation state and as for racism and xenophobia it’s all across Europe even before BREXIT, remember the FRY. What lies untruths and bigotry, I suspect you don’t live in the north and see the effects of uncontrolled very low skilled immigration that Labour allowed and neglected their heartlands.

    ‘The majority of Labour MPs, who cannot bring themselves to say to the electorate that they were lied to about Brexit and that our standing and economy will be appallingly, possibly irreparably, damaged if we leave the EU, are fatally wounding any remaining credibility this party once had. I am in despair at the tragic state of the party and what is happening to the UK’

    BREXIT was painfully and clearly spelt out by both sides through the media and by a government document.

    You state you are a public affairs person so in other words a ‘spin doctor’ and journalist, well with journalism you make your choice and pick your poison. If you are that dissatisfied you do have options either stay and live with the decision of the population or emigrate. The vote turnout was far higher than a general election and if Labour has won in either 2010 and 2015 by such a margin you would have been content.

    And finally, it’s not if but when we leave as voted by any hundreds of thousands Labour votes and you are just denigrating their vote.

  4. Kevin Taylor says:

    Hello, Rob;

    That is a passionate and stirring resignation letter and you are clearly incensed by the tepid leadership qualities of your former political party.

    With absolutely no offence intended, please consider joining the SNP for a genuine voice against all things neoliberal and right-wing, and for a strong voice against the current and frightening uncertainty and insecurity everyone is feeling re Brexit.

    Please also consider moving to Scotland where you will be made most welcome, will be among like-minded members of society, will be in a country where our NHS is valued and where access to the biggest global market is still considered an important part of trade and to where, very possibly, you’ll be in a part of the country that will remain in the EU.

    Best wishes to you and yours.
    Kevin (Paisley)

  5. Malc says:

    Rob is clearly a bitter man. He writes like a sort of Poundland John McTernan. I think Labour are better off without him.

  6. Anon E Mouse says:

    Good riddance.

    The party needs members who care about the electorate and their decisions and not Remoaners that want to fight battles they have already lost.

    Go join the Lib-Dems Rob Williams and become irrelevant politically.

    You sound like the type of bloke that reads the Guardian and would enjoy going to a dinner party with the likes of Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbott and Lady Nugee.

    We need ordinary working class folk in the Labour Party not middle class university educated wonks that have never done a normal job.

    Good riddance.

  7. John P Reid says:

    mr Wilkins first two paragraphs on Mcdonnel and Corbyn I can’t fault, but as a labour leaver, th rest of this is nine sense, it doesn’t matter if it was 50% turnout on 50.0001% voting leave, leave won, and i’d have accepted it,if it was th other way round, that’s why I’m staying in the party,despite agreeing with the first two paragraphs, on Corbyn and McDonnell

  8. david walsh says:

    This post left me with a nasty taste in my mouth. I share the writers frustration as a diehard European. He says he will continue to campaign for a European future, but at the same time with a stroke of a keyboard wipes himself out of helping to clarify and define Labour’s own stance as events unravel, He speaks of “student politics”. But one feature of student politics is the theatrical resignation, the hissy flounce the refusal to be bothered with the heavy lifting. Thankfully there are those of us who are still digging in the for the long haul.

  9. Rob says:

    I tried, David Walsh. I would fight the Momentumistas, and Corbyn’s utter incompetence. But on Europe, the fight is beoynd party politics and Labour on its own is now part of the problem.

    John P Reid, if you seriously think a tiny majority of a 72% turnout on a decision that will affect the country for decades is something we should just accept, then I’m afraid I really do not agree.

    Anon E Mous. Using the phrase “remoaner” explains very clearly the sort of views you hold. Don’t bother answering. You really are not worth responding to you again.

    Cheers Malc. Happy to leave a sinking ship with you on board.

    Bob most Labour voters supported remain. Brexit was not spelled out in any way. The leavers and their (foreign owned press) lied, lied again, and continue to lie. Yes, mass immigration is a problem (see other articles I’ve written) but it is not the fault of the EU.

    Paul and Kevin. I’m not quite ready to join another party, but I will happily work with the SNP and LibDems to fight the historic stupidity that is Brexit. Thanks for the invitations, and I see what happens over the next few months. I’ve never been tribal enough to refuse to work with sympathetic parties.

  10. Anon says:

    I would join Paul Barker in the LibDems if I were you Rob.

    Your self-centred sense of political entitlement would seem to be suited to the spivs and chancers of the LDs.

    Once free of the “public affairs and journalist” types, Labour can return to representing the working class people of this country.

    As the saying goes, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”

  11. LordBlagger says:

    rich cultural and social elements of our membership of a continent wide club.


    You still have that.

    You just don’t have to put up with the shit the EU imposes

  12. LordBlagger says:

    On the good riddance replies, that shows why Labour is going to lose.

    Insulting your potential voters means you will lose.

  13. John P Reid says:

    Anon E mouse, I have seen labour friends with views the same as Mr Williams go to the libdems, and been trying to hang on to them we need the likes ofMr Williams and the ex labour who went to Ukip, but that’s easier said than done,

    But yes, you’re right there are the sort of people who would go to the libdems who think labour voters who vote Brexit are the sort, that Emiky Thronberry ,looks down on

  14. Rob P says:

    Sorry Rob, that “campaigning to remain in the EU” boat has sailed. We (remain) lost – the best use of your efforts now is to campaign for fairness in the UK, not in a lost cause of opposing the inevitable Brexit. That’s just pointless squandering of emotion, time, talent and energy for an ultimately hopeless objective; time to get pragmatic and defend Labour values as Brexit plays out.

  15. Chris says:

    So the result wasn’t the desired one. But in spite of being a Corbyn critic myself, I don’t think his response to Brexit has been cowardly or shameful. You point you that the vote was 52% for leave on a 73% turnout, as a reason to ignore it, in which you appear to be challenging the very premise of democracy, if the turnout had been perhaps 45% I might agree with you, but 73% is a large increase on turnout in general elections, and by trying to delegitimise the vote on that basis is totally an anathema to everything I believe, and I would hope everything you believe.

    Leaving the single market might harm our trade with Europe, but I do recognise that there are potential trade opportunities to be exploited elsewhere after leaving the EU, like with the United States, Australia and New Zealand, who all seem eager to mutually remove tariffs. This might damage companies which exclusively trade with Europe, but will allow new opportunities for companies which trade with the US (, etc) and Europe, and we on the left have nothing to fear from the creative destruction of old commercial interests.

    All in all the claim that Brexit would bring economic catastrophe and political irrelevance is hysterical.

    You superfluously claim the same thing thrice “bigotry, racism and xenophobia” (one surely would have been enough). As someone who sees himself as a pragmatic eurosceptic (I despise and will be glad to see the back of the unwanted, unaccountable and barely representative bodies of the European Commission and the European Parliament, where the UK turnout to election MEPs was below 36%, I would challenge the right of MEPs to make decisions sooner than I would challenge the Brexit referendum), but I supported membership on the basis of preferring reform to revolution, particularly in spite of the economic risks. I therefore find your dismissal of British euroscepticism as simply down to “lies, untruths, bigotry, racism and xenophobia” as appallingly narrow minded, and I cannot understand why you can write that. The fact that in the year prior to the referendum, UKIP won 13% of the vote in the General election, should set the upper limit in your mind of Racists as a share of the pro-Brexit vote (I personally don’t think voting UKIP makes you racist although many of their voters are), but you none the less completely smear Leave voters.

    As to the untruths, the claim that £350 million pounds a week was obviously dubious, because of the rebate and fails to account for the money the EU spends here, but the Remain campaign made some pretty outrageous claims too, I for one am willing to show some degree of humility for believing that voting to leave the EU would prompt an immediate recession.

    I can understand someone who STILL strongly believes in being a member of the European Union, I cannot understand someone who doesn’t seem to think it’s at all acceptable for the UK to be as a normal country, not a member of the EU.

    I think as to Corbyn’s stance on leaving the EU is probably the right one for now, something you don’t seem to show any kind of recognition of, is as Tristram Hunt pointed out yesterday in his last speech in the Commons Labour is a coalition of the metropolitan middle class, and the post-industrial working class, who are at either end of the spectrum on Brexit, and if we don’t tread the right course, the coalition will break down. “The divergence of priorities between what the Labour voters of Cambridge want and what the Labour voters of Grimsby, Redcar and Stoke-on-Trent want”

  16. Rob says:

    No Rob P. the ship has not sailed, and there is no Brexit alternative that will be as good as our current arrangement. The talent and energy you worry about being squandered will leave the country.

    Chris. Corbyn’s incompetence knows no bounds. The ghastly little goblin trying to impose his authority on anyone is laughable. I know he has experience on voting with the Tories (no one has been more rebellious, except John McDonnell). The coalition that is Labour has broken.

    The £350 million for the NHS claim was not dubious. It was a lie. As was the claim that Turkey would join the EU, as were many other claims. They weren’t dubious. they were great big fat lies.

    We ain’t seen nothing yet, but we are diminished politically, with few friends left apart from Donald Trump. Me thinks he does not have this country’s interests at heart. The pound is almost at Euro parity, which will hurt those white working class Brexit supporters, as will not having an EHIC card, as will petrol prices up 10%. I could go on, and I will in another article, perhaps.

    There is no positive outcome of Brexit. Don’t believe me? Try Ian Dunt’s book “Brexit: What the hell happens now?”

  17. Eddie Clarke says:

    You have a duty to stay and fight your case. I agree with just about everything you say, especially with regard to the current dreadful leadership. However, working people’s organisations are splintering and shattering throughout the world. Their possibilities of resisting globalised pressure on their income, security at work and social services depend on unions and the Labour Party. You need to be here, when the populists move on, to help re-establish the party as a force for ordinary people, not the middle-class political glee-club it has recently become. Stay and fight!

  18. john P Reid says:

    rob, Labour own the 1945 election on a 72% turnout with Labour on 48% of the vote, so the NHS shouldn’t have been implemented on such a low turnout

  19. Tafia says:

    “The £350 million for the NHS claim was not dubious. It was a lie. As was the claim that Turkey would join the EU, as were many other claims. They weren’t dubious. they were great big fat lies.”

    Here we go, the urban myth again. The word used was ‘could’. Not would. The Remain complaint to the Electoral Commission was rejected on that point. FFS get a grip and stop saying things that weren’t actually said.

    The actual resignation letter above reminds me of the Just William stories and the character Violet Elizabeth and her “I.ll thwceam and thwceam until I am thick”

    As fir racism, more than half of the British Asians in the north voted Leave (they are almost exclusively Labour and Lib Dem voters). John McDonnells constituency – one of the most ethnically diverse in the UK, voted Leave as well, Irrespective of how many Lbour voters across the UK voted Remain, the reality is that more than half of Labour
    S MPs represent constituencies that voted Leave – most with a vote tally that exceed the vote that put them into Office. The reality is further that in Wales, the north of England and the English midlands the majority of Labour voters voted Leave and these people wouldn.t think twice about switching to UKIP (who are now ahead of the Lib Dems in the national polls) and are not scared of a tory bogey man.

    Lasbour.s real problem is that it has two distinctly seperate civil wars going on – one between the pro and anti Corbyn camp, and one between the northern and welsh Leavers and the southern and metropolitan Remainer and this is made worse by the fact there is significnt cross-over between the two wars.

  20. Chris says:

    Again, I myself am a Corbyn critic who voted for Burnham, and then for Smith. I’m planning on getting very drunk the day he eventually resigns, you don’t need to tell me he’s bad at his job. That being said I’ll remain a member of the Labour party so long as it is the best possible vehicle for economic democracy in the country.

    Your claim that the Labour’s coalition has broken down is untrue, whilst we are performing poorly in the opinion polls, we hold on to at least 60% of our coalition, which is at ongoing risk so long as Brexit remains top of the political agenda to tear it apart. What Labour needs is not to control Brexit or reverse it, but to mitigate it as a political issue, because if we oppose it, we will only lose voters to UKIP and the Tories and if we support it, we will lose supporters to the Lib Dems.

    You sight several meme-level arguments at me which are highly over-exaggerated which irritates me greatly, because some “still remainers” like yourself seem to take a hysterical anti-factual attitude to argument, which is also the greatest criticism of the leave campaign, without any ironic self-realisation whatsoever. Firstly the Leave campaign promised £100 million a week for the NHS (of the dubious £350 million we would reclaim from the EU). Secondly, the case can be made that Turkey is beginning the process of joining the EU, considering the simple fact that they are receiving billions of pounds (and euros) a year from the EU to prepare them for membership, which would obviously be a waste of money if Turkey weren’t in the process of joining the EU. Thirdly,you claim people would lose their EHIC cards, which is absurd, because it’s a not exclusive to EU countries and we will almost certainly still take part after we leave.

    The claim that we have few friends apart from Donald Trump is also highly eccentric, because we still have good relations with Europe even though we’re leaving the EU, and there’s no logical reason for that to change. Hilary Benn has suggested that the meeting of European foreign ministers be superseded by a common european foreign policy meeting, to ensure that we are not left out in the cold on foreign policy, which I think is a good idea. Not to mention our friendship with non-EU countries hasn’t really been affected by the vote to leave.

    The hysteria continues when you claim there is no positive outcome of Brexit, are you serious? Are you seriously not even slightly positive minded that a greater level of democratic accountability can be reached by having decisions taken by parliament instead of the European Commission or the European Parliament? Furthermore, I don’t really care for Ian Dunt as a journalist, but I do know that he is a long term supporter of Brexit, only supporting the remain vote because he didn’t like the terms of leaving.

  21. brian watters says:

    I wouldnt advise anyone pro EU to join the Libdems Rob , they just sided with the Tories to vote against the Scottish government motion put to Hollyrood that they should continue to fight for Scotland to retain full access to the Single market. The SNP , Greens and the Labour party all voted to support the motion but Willie Rennies Libdems have jumped on the Brexit bandwagon with Ruth Davidson and opposed it. The final nail in their coffin for the Libdems in Scotland, with one vote they ceased to have any political purpose.

  22. SJ says:

    Rob, i can’t disagree with a word. Ive hung on too, despite toxic Labour social media forums. ( see above comments for the sort of examples) despite family and friends resigning, despite listening in the forlorn hope, but usually the despair for our leaders to step up and get a grip. I expect a lot of MPs who are quiet, have quietly given up, waiting for an election’s cleansing.
    Will Labour recover from this and the loss of good people..I hope it will, but really doubt it.
    The only thing that has kept me hanging on has been Kez and Scottish Labour. We could have predicted this. The rise of nationalism in Soctland and the two year run in to the referendum, almost but didnt destroy us. Labour south too with its broad church was always like Labour north going to be between a rock and a hard place, the forces of separatism and nationalism clamouring at the edges. The toxic ineffectual vainglorious leadership hanging on to power in the party, but not prepared to be any kind of an opposition, though may be the final nail in our coffin.

  23. Rob says:

    Chris, we are losing support to the LIbDems by the bucket load. Tafia was right to say there are two civil wars going on.

    It really is not hysteria to point out the bleeding obvious. There is not a single deal that we could get post Brexit that will be as good as what we currently have. That is full access to the Single Market, a continent wide negotiating position vis a vis the rest of the world and a seat at the table that gives us political clout. We are losing all of this for a fantasy pipedream.

    No, I am absolutely not “even slightly positive minded” about a decision to piss off our neighbours, leave a trading bloc of 500 million people, become politically isolated and insular. This is not bloody democratic accountability. It is prostituting ourselves to the lowest bidder and decisions taken by parliament won’t mean a damn thing.

    Even Simon Jenkins gets it. Brexit is a bloody disaster, and Labour people who think otherwise are in for a horrible, horrible shock

  24. Peter Carabine says:

    Robert you have my sincere sympathies I left Labour in disgust when Corbyn was re-elected in September. It’s not easy being in no man’s land between a Hard Left Corbynite party and an improving more appealing Lib Dem but small party. Moderates say stay but for what …collusion with Corbyn’s voter meltdown and a grossly ineffective opposition to the growing powerful Tory Right and a shocking Hard Brexit which will longer term impoverish many of our voters.

    When Corbynites ignore his UK voter figure at only 14% prefernce figure for PM you know it’s all over. Moderates have let us down and inviting Corbyn to Progress conference last year epitomised that fact; an acceptance that somehow it was all going to be fine. It’s not and it’s worse.

    The greatest tradegy of modern British politics is that moderate Labour, Lib Dems , and Remainers (half the population) could not have created a centre left party funded by members and supporters. No one had the guts to do it. Aron Banks did so for UKIP and they created Brexit and the billionaire will shake up the next election as he promised. We are moving Right now and there is no centre left, socially progressive, proEuropean party able to appeal to voters accross the spectrum. We are witnessing a society in deep you know what where the hate Mail, Sun, Express Hard Right agenda is creating an ugly looking divided future.

  25. How strange that a long term member can resign over a policy or lack of it on EU membership. No mention of social democracy or democratic socialism, let alone the fight against inequality. Maybe, even in spite of your twenty year membership Robert, Labour wasn’t the right party for you. Join the Liberals and then you won’t have to worry about those non-EU subjects because they never were and never will be social democrats and they don’t even pretend to be socialists.

  26. Nick says:

    Labour is in total turmoil over Brexit. It simply has nothing to say on one of the most important issues affecting the UK at the moment, and something that dominates the news agenda. Unless Labour comes up with a clear, coherent line and fast (rather than this mush it currently has), it seriously risks disappearing into obscurity. The Liberal Democrats are currently the only English party clearly on the side of Remain voters

  27. john S says:

    Labour have tried to stop hemorrhaging votes to UKIP in the north, it will not work, no agreed position means they will lose votes, the Libdems will mop up die hard remain votes.

  28. John p Reid says:

    Kate Blair,maybe the guardian were right about Corbyn and the whip now

    Danny Speight, agreed, for once!

  29. Pauline says:

    Best definition I’ve seen of the current state of the Brexit negotiations is as follows:

    The undefined being negotiated by the unprepared in order to get the unspecified for the uninformed.

    The wheels are going to fall off the whole process (hopefully)- ‘the people’ have been sold a pup.

    And the only reason that a lot of Asians in the North of England and other ethnic minorities voted leave was because they feel they have more right to UK citizenship than EU citizens

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