We have all been following the leadership debate and many of us will be concerned at some of the divisive trends visible. My being vocal on one side of the debate has brought this home to me.
This weeks YouGov poll on the membership brings some of this into sharp focus indicating that a possible 45% of Owen supporters would consider joining a breakaway party if Owen loses and an even greater 54% of Jeremy’s supporters would consider a break if he loses. When you look at the numbers who would definitely stay in the party in those circumstances it is an even more alarming only 22% and 13% respectively.
Whatever your views as to the rights and wrongs of either side this is disturbing. I would suggest that in these circumstances pleas for unity by either side are platitudes which do not address the seriously divergent views. The reality that divisions continues after a vote is reflected in the Brexit vote, whilst the government talks of Brexit meaning Brexit to our confusion then it is clear that many supporters of Remain have not gone quietly away but still seek some reversal of that decision. The divisions in the Leave camp are also clearly festering and are quite possibly going to lead to a general election in the next year or so.
I therefore commend the proposal from Clive Betts, an experienced MP, who is a neighbour of ours as a positive suggestion on regaining unity. If we can see unity return in the PLP it will help return that to the wider party where again the poll indicates a split between long standing and newer members over the leadership.
I hope by opening up the debate on this proposal in our blog we can show our recognition that the divide can be mended without leaving one or the other side feeling they have lost. It should particularly appeal to those critical of a centralist top down approach.
“Whatever the result of the leadership election on the 24th September, it is clear that the PLP must take steps to come together. As part of this process, the PLP would like to ask the NEC to bring forward a rule change to this year’s annual conference, re-introducing the system of Shadow Cabinet elections immediately following this current leadership contest.
"This would ensure that the Shadow Cabinet has the support of backbench Labour MPs and that the entire PLP can become an effective opposition and hold the Government to account from a position of unity. If such a rule change is agreed by the NEC and this year's Annual Conference the precise number of members to be elected and the method of electing them should be recommended to the PLP by the Parliamentary Committee, and the PLP’s standing orders be brought into line accordingly."