In April 2019 we, as Labour-voting Remainers, set up an online Brexitometer asking our Labour MP Laura Smith to move to Remain, or unambiguously back a Second Referendum. It stated:
We are Crewe & Nantwich constituents who want to back Laura Smith MP at any future election, based on her commitment to a fairer society, and her knowledge of and tireless efforts for our local community, but we pledge to withhold our vote unless she changes her position on the overriding issue of Brexit.
243 people signed this pledge, more than five times Laura’s 2017 General Election majority of just 48 votes. Thank you to each and every one of you!
We contacted Laura formally three times, but after more than 160 days since our first email to her, we received no response, nor even an acknowledgement of our existence. During this time, when we held numerous street stalls in Crewe and Nantwich, and joined other pro-EU campaigners around the country, Laura’s pro-Leave stance (and that of the local Labour party) has, sadly, only hardened.
Given this and the disappointing events at Labour’s 2019 Conference where Labour failed to take decisive action, we closed the Brexitometer on 24 September ahead of making the following announcement…
We began CAN Remain earlier this year in the hope of persuading our MP Laura Smith that whatever the arithmetic from the 2016 referendum result, she nevertheless had constituents who passionately believed that Brexit was the wrong thing to do – for our country and our constituency.
We began it because we wanted to show her that among those who voted her, narrowly, into Parliament were a significant number who would not do so again if their reasonable – and reasonably expressed – fears were not at least listened to.
We began it because we thought she was, in spirit, an ally who was nevertheless too in thrall to the need to keep Leavers on side.
We are ending it – for now – for two reasons.
First, sooner rather than later, there is going to be a general election, and so our window for influencing Laura is closing.
Second, it has been apparent – for a while, if we’re honest – that our attempts to make her hear us are futile. Laura is not listening. She is not interested.
On those terms, our campaign has been a failure. We have contacted Laura respectfully, coherently (we hope!), and in a spirit of compromise: move a little our way, and let us continue to support you.
We have had no reply.
Laura has never acknowledged us; she does not even pay lip service to those who fear Brexit will spell disaster. And it is in that sense, we would argue, that the greater failure is Laura’s.
To be so cavalier about the votes of natural allies when your seat is historically a marginal and your own majority is just 48 strikes us as short-sighted in the extreme.
Even as her party’s leadership has inched, reluctantly perhaps and with contradictory messages at times, towards a settled commitment to a second referendum on any deal, with Remain as an option, Laura has chosen this as the sole issue on which to go rogue. Even now, she cannot simply state that she will support her party’s position.
From her actions and her attitudes, it can sometimes be hard to credit she ever supported Remain to begin with.
A general election is coming. The small group of us who set up CAN Remain do not speak for the 243 people who signed our pledge – still less for the many more sympathisers we met at street stalls or the 7,040 people in Crewe & Nantwich who signed the petition to revoke Article 50.
We cannot say what they will do; we do not presume to say what they should do.
But our own minds are made up. We cannot vote for Laura. We cannot vote for Leave.