Labour frontbencher defends resignation but dodges big Brexit question

Written by David Singleton on 14 June 2018 in Diary

Laura Smith said she was opposed to 'giving people a choice and then telling them they’re wrong'.

In 2016, Laura Smith was a teacher who backed remain in the EU referendum. She went on to win leave-voting Crewe and Nantwich by a majority of just 48 in last year’s general election.

Until Wednesday evening, Smith was also shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, but she quit her frontbench job so that she could vote against remaining in the European Economic Area. Another five MPs – Ged Killen, Ellie Reeves, Tonia Antoniazzi, Anna McMorrin, and Rosie Duffield – quit as parliamentary private secretaries so they could also vote for staying in the EEA, defying Labour orders to abstain.

On the Today programme, the Crewe MP explained her decision, saying: “A member of parliament’s first duty is to their constituents. I represent a constituency that strongly voted to leave the EU and I believe that remaining in the EEA does not serve the best for our economic interests.”

But did she think that Brexit was in her constituents’ best interests? Intriguingly, when that question was asked by Nick Robinson the Labour MP dodged it and instead told him:

“We have to move forward with this argument. People in my constituency voted to leave. There are reasons, legitimate reasons, why they voted to leave. And I think we need to start having a really grown-up conversation about this, and start moving forward.”

At least she was consistent. Sticking to her guns, Smith then refused to accept that if she thought Brexit was a mistake then perhaps she should say so.

“I think a bad idea is giving people a choice and then telling them they’re wrong. I think that is against democracy ... and we need to understand the reasons why people voted in the way that they do. And, no, I’m not then telling people that voted to leave that they’re wrong. It’s my job to understand why they voted to leave and fight to make their lives better.”


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