Jeremy Corbyn declined to appear with David Cameron and Tim Farron at a planned eve-of-referendum rally that the Remain campaign hoped would be a display of cross-party unity in support of the EU.
The Labour leader’s team had discussed his joining other pro-EU party leaders at the event in Birmingham on Wednesday, timed to provide the evening news bulletins with images of cross-party political unity as Britain prepares to vote on Thursday.
But Remain campaign sources told BuzzFeed News the plans were cancelled at the last minute on Tuesday, shortly before the event was to be announced, when Corbyn’s team confirmed the Labour leader would not take part.
Instead the rally will go ahead in Birmingham with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.
Corbyn’s team insist they were merely being consistent in sticking to their publicly stated policy of not having the party leader appear on the same platform as prominent Tories during the EU referendum.
But other Stronger In campaigners insist they were on the cusp of announcing the event following days of discussions.
According to one Remain source, the plan was for leading politicians from the Conservatives, Labour, and Lib Dems to arrive on their respective party’s campaign battle buses, before joining together in front of the Stronger In battle bus for the rally.
A separate Remain campaign source suggested Labour had always been “a bit flaky” about the idea.
Labour is holding its own pro-EU rally in London, featuring Corbyn alongside mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale, and Welsh leader Carwyn Jones.
A source on Corbyn's team insisted they were not going to break with the policy of not appearing alongside prominent Tories, despite the polls being close: “[We] have been consistent from the beginning on not sharing a platform with the Tories as we’re making different arguments – ours being ‘remain and reform’."
Labour has been desperate to avoid repeating the perceived mistakes it made during the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, when its politicians regularly appeared on the same platforms as the Conservatives only to be tarred as sell-outs and “red Tories” once the result was in.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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