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Labour Live: Corbyn fails to address Brexit divisions amid festival protest

9:54 pm, 16th June 2018

The Labour leader’s key address at Labour Live was hijacked by pro-EU campaigners, who unfurled a banner calling on Mr Corbyn to “stop backing Brexit”.

Many attendees at the Labour Live event also sported “B******* to Brexit” stickers, while others looked to put further pressure on the leadership to change their stance on the UK’s departure from the EU.

Mixing politics with music at the White Hart Lane Recreation Ground on Saturday, Labour Live aimed to build on the success of the party’s rallies during last year’s snap general election campaign.

Despite the event being dogged by reports of poor sales, Labour sources said more than 13,000 tickets had been sold before the festival opened, with tickets still available on the day at the 20,000-capacity venue.

Two days before the event, Labour slashed the price of tickets by 70%.

Moments after Mr Corbyn took to the main stage to the familiar chorus of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” – sung to the tune of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army – activists, understood to be from the People’s Vote campaign, made their protest against the Labour leader’s Brexit stance.

The group wants a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Labour Live followed a week in which Mr Corbyn suffered the biggest rebellion of his leadership.

Last Wednesday, 90 Labour MPs ignored Mr Corbyn’s order not to take part in a House of Commons vote on staying in the EU’s single market through membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

One of the party’s prominent MEPs, Seb Dance, also made a plea for Mr Corbyn to consider backing a second referendum on EU membership.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dance revealed he had attended Labour Live to help provide “recommendations on what members of the Labour Party can do to get motions passed, to get discussion on stopping Brexit at a local party level”.

He said: “The majority of Labour voters voted Remain, even in areas that overall voted Leave.

“That’s what we’ve got to remember, so I think the party needs to look again at what its policy is on this and I think we can move into a much better place.

“The best thing Corbyn can say is he’s not ruling out any options, keeping options including supporting the People’s Vote on the table, including single market and customs union membership. Let’s keep those options open.”

Among the musical acts at Labour Live, The Magic Numbers dedicated a song to Mr Corbyn as someone who “believes in things, believes in the NHS”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell later praised the band, telling the crowd: “I’m glad the Magic Numbers were playing here today because when we put the numbers together, it will be magical what we can do with society.”

Mr Corbyn hailed fellow performers Reverend and The Makers as having unwittingly “turned the election campaign in a very interesting way” in 2017, when the Labour leader was invited to join the band on stage at a gig in May last year.

MPs present at Labour Live were those most loyal to Mr Corbyn, including Mr McDonnell, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner, and local Tottenham MP David Lammy.

Appearing on stage earlier in the afternoon, Mr Lammy told the crowd: “There’s only one reason for Labour Live and that’s to get rid of Theresa May.”

Among food stalls, a coconut shy, face-painting and a tent organised by the Corbyn-supporting Momentum group, the Unite union were handing out free ice cream to attendees.

The union’s general secretary Len McCluskey – an ally to Mr Corbyn – used his appearance at the event’s “Solidarity Tent” to continue his attack on Labour MPs who have been critical of the party leader’s leadership.

The Unite boss claimed they had been “slapped in the face” by last year’s election result, as he insisted Mr Corbyn was the only reason there had yet to be another national poll, despite the current hung parliament.

A Labour Party spokesperson hailed the event as “a fantastic day”, adding: “The tents have been packed all day and there has been a great atmosphere.

“This is the first event of its kind organised by a political party and we have demonstrated how politics can be opened up to a wider audience and to people who have been shut out for far too long.”