Pro-EU campaign is plot to "undermine Jeremy Corbyn"
In a testy debate this morning, delegates argued over Labour’s policy on whether to seek a ‘soft Brexit’ inside the EU single market, but there was no vote after Mr Corbyn’s supporters ensured he was spared an embarrassing split.
But divisions over the party’s direction on Brexit was still plan to see, with Labour Leave voters called on fellow party members not to “demonise” them, while others said the party had to move on from the “dead parrot” issue of EU membership.
Pro-EU delegates demanded that “Brexit must be stopped”, while one Labour activist accused his party of “letting the government do what they want” on the UK’s exit from the EU.
In interviews this morning, John McDonnell denied that Labour's leadership was trying to quash debate about Brexit at the party's Brighton conference.
Delegates from local parties and unions chose eight other subjects as priorities for debate, after the Corbyn-backing Momentum movement urged its supporters not to vote for the Brexit motion.
The decision sparked fury from Europhile MPs on Sunday evening.
Mr McDonnell insisted there would be "plenty" of debate on the party's stance on EU withdrawal.
Asked whether the leadership was trying to dodge scrutiny of its position, the shadow chancellor told ITV1's Good Morning Britain: "I wouldn't characterise it that way.
"In our new politics, we are saying conference needs to be controlled by the delegates. They decide what we will debate, not the leadership."
And he added: "This is democracy at work."
Delegates were free to reject the leadership report if they chose, said Mr McDonnell.
But he added that he believed the decision not to prioritise Brexit for debate was motivated by "a feeling that there needs to be a bit more consensus-building, rather than dividing the party at the moment".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was initially blocked from delivering a keynote speech in Brighton before a u-turn by conference organisers, broke with his party by suggesting Brexit might not take place.
Mr Khan told the BBC’s Today programme: "I am quite clear when it comes to us leaving the EU, if we do leave the European Union, there will have to be a new deal with the European Union."
He called for London to be given control of immigration powers as part of a distinct Brexit settlement, saying: “I think London is different to the rest of the country. Why? Because we are the only region to vote to remain in the EU. Why? Because not only do we need immigration, but we want it."