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Party Unity & the Current Divisions - where does this lead us in these turbulent times?

Divisions in the party - Phil Whitney Vice Chair CLP

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Despite considering myself as being on the left of the party, I remained on the inside continuing to argue my case throughout the drift to the right, and yuppification of the party mechanisms of the Blair/Brown years. I argued for my beliefs within the party but did not make any public attacks on policy except over Iraq, because a divided party, or at least one which the electorate perceives as divided, will never have the support of the electorate.

 

The vast majority of what is now, once again, a mass membership party are united behind a leader who is a man of principle, with whom we share the majority of his beliefs, and who young people find inspirational in the same way as the young have been inspired by Bernie Saunders in America. 

As the majority of our more prominent MPs came to prominence in the Blairite era when, as an understandable reaction to eighteen years of Thatcherism, there was a belief that the most important thing was to be more caring than the Tories and that most people were uninterested in real social justice, they have never accepted the Party’s choice of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.  All our MPs were selected by their constituency parties before the last general election, when there was no prospect of Jeremy Corbyn being leader. 

In many constituencies, particularly ‘winnable’ ones, candidates acceptable to the yuppified central party mechanism were parachuted in at the expense of people more in touch with the local membership. Fortunately, in constituencies such as Derbyshire Dales which was pretty much written off as unwinnable by the central party, we were allowed to make our own decision and select a candidate in tune with the membership.

If or, if the radio this morning is to be believed when, the ‘New Labour’ MPs mount a coup against the democratically elected party leadership, Constituency Labour Parties around the country should take back control of the party, listen carefully to all those who put themselves forward for selection and make their own decision without any interference from the central party mechanism. There is a place for mavericks within the party, in fact it is stronger for them, but there is no place for open disloyalty. 

No-one would dispute that Jeremy Corbyn was a maverick as a back bencher, voting in line with deeply held beliefs and principles but never, as far as I recall, attempting to undermine a democratically elected leadership.  

There will be mavericks after Jeremy Corbyn has been overwhelmingly re-elected by the membership, people who have earned the trust and respect of their constituency parties as well as their constituents, and Labour members across the country will respect them even when we disagree with them.

Although everyone knows that the bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party did not support Jeremy Corbyn, I believe that the vast majority of them would have adapted and fallen in line with the wishes of their Constituency Parties, had it not been for around a dozen MPs who have consistently worked to undermine his leadership and foment division in the party. 

I will resist the temptation to name names even though I am listening to one of them on the radio at the moment – I am sure that a number of names spring to mind immediately.

There are some MPs, however, who do need to seriously consider the public position they take, and these are those who stood for the leadership or deputy leadership last year. Every one of them talked about how they had the future of the party and the country at heart. 

Some of them accepted defeat gracefully and have supported the leadership since then: Tom Watson has been a good deputy leader; Maria Eagle has performed well; Andy Burnham has been outstanding and, in eight or ten years time when Jeremy Corbyn takes a well earned retirement, is a likely future leader; Liz Kendall has impressed me by the way she has refused to make any public criticism of the leadership and by the reasons she gave for asking not to be considered for the initial Shadow Cabinet; others have disappointed by their positions which can best be described as disappointed sulks while Ben Bradshaw who I fleetingly considered voting for, after hearing what he said at the hustings about his willingness to work with and loyally support any of the leadership candidates, has shown over recent days that he didn’t mean what he said and lacks integrity. The CLPs of these MPs must make clear to them that, as senior figures in the Party, it is incumbent on them to support the leadership as the best way of helping the party and the country move forward. 

I would like to see each of these MPs, with the exception of Bradshaw, coming out today, when there are at least two vacant Shadow Cabinet Posts, and expressing their willingness to serve. They will not all be appointed but their public expressions of willingness to serve will send a loud and calming message to their parliamentary colleagues and to the wider party.

The process of completely revising the parties policies is not one which can be done overnight and is a process that we believed we had several years to complete, putting us in a strong position to win a general election in 2020. The actions of the anti-corbynites, particularly those in the Shadow Cabinet, make an early election far more likely, and far more difficult to win. MPs should think very carefully before throwing their lots in with the rebels; not only do many of them risk not being selected to fight as our candidates in an early election but, even if they are, their actions in precipitating an early general election will cost many of them their jobs and lead to an increased, even more right wing Tory majority.

 

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commented 2016-06-30 08:46:02 +0100
Jane I don’t agree about Corbyn’s performance. “Lacklustre” maybe but definitely effective.
Every PMQT he has doggedly asked all the right questions. It doesn’t matter that all he gets back is the braying of tory donkeys – this just makes it obvious to all that they don’t have the answers. He wins every time.
As to being unelectable – this is a mantra repeated by the opposition which is simple not born by the evidence. He was elected to the leadership and has attracted record numbers of new members. These people are voters and represent the tip of an iceberg of potential Corbyn supporters.
He is also making headway in spite of blanket opposition from the media. I think this is likely to change as it becomes apparent that Corbyn and his supporters are not going away in the near future.
If you are worried about the Labour Party ask yourself which Labour MPs voted for the welfare cuts.
commented 2016-06-29 01:22:20 +0100
As a lifelong Labour voter and supporter I have been in utter despair at the failure of Jeremy Corbyn to provide any sort of effective challenge to the current government, and his failure to offer leadership that will take any but his core supporters with him. I despair because it is not enough to claim common cause with the marginalised and dispossessed; you actually have to change things on their behalf and in a parliamentary democracy that means either forming a government or being electable enough to present a credible threat to the government while in opposition.

I finally reached the point where I had had enough on Sunday. I don’t particularly care about Mr Corbyn’s lacklustre performance in the referendum campaign, except that it reinforces the view I’ve held for the past twelve months. But I care deeply and passionately that now more than ever before we need an effective Opposition voice – one that can hold the government to account for its day-to-day running of the country in time of crisis (more austerity cuts on the way now, don’t forget!), one that can stand up to whoever the new Tory leader is with passion and courage, and one that can ensure that in whatever Brexit negotiations take place we protect those most in need.

And I do not believe Jeremy Corbyn can, or even will choose to, do any of those things.

So I’m proud to say that I am now a member of the Labour Party, and I look forward to exercising my right to have a say in who takes up those chsllenges accordingly.
commented 2016-06-28 19:03:45 +0100
As our CLP’s European Officer and Referendum co-ordinator, as well as someone who has been a passionate European for as long as I can remember, I would like to make it clear to all members that I do not attach any blame to Jeremy Corbyn for the way the Referendum went. During the campaign, I personally delivered over 3,500 leaflets in fifteen towns and villages around the constituency. During the endless hours that this took, I probably had around sixty conversations with members of the public – roughly half remainers and half leavers. Despite my decision to have a picture of Jeremy shown prominently on the front of our leaflet, his name only came up three times in all these conversations and each time, the comments made about the principled and realistic position he was taking and his refusal to engage with Project Fear, were positive. Although we did all we could in Derbyshire Dales, and I’m sure that we got our vote out on the day, we must not forget that this is a traditionally Conservative area and, as such, one would have expected the Conservative dominated, well funded, official Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to have been far more in evidence that they were. At the count, LabourIn had five counting ageents and would have had more had it not been for a breakdown in communications with Regional office, while no BSE counting agents bothered to turn up. The Greens and the Liberal Democrats were also conspicuous by their absence during the campaign – and people should not forget that at the 2010 General Electiom, the Liberal Democrats took second place in the constituency.
I repeat, in my opinion, Jeremy Corbyn was an asset during the campaign; if anyone thinks that we ran a lacklustre campaign in Derbyshire Dales, they should be directing their ire at me, rather than being taken in by the right-wing and centre-right media and blaming Jeremy Corbyn. I understand that the latest national opinion poll shows us neck and neck with the Tories for the first time since the election and despite the attempt by all the otehr political parties, and the remaining Blair/Brownites to deflect blame for the defeat onto Jeremy Corbyn.
commented 2016-06-27 20:18:29 +0100
I am dismayed both by the result of the referendum and what is happening in the Labour Party. The party needs a leader who can lead the party to victory at an election. Someone who can unite the PLP and the grassroots membership. I was very disappointed by Jeremy Corbyns lukewarm response to the EU. We did not connect to many traditional voters on the EU. I feel that left wing ideals will not achieve anything for the people who need the Labour Party most if we cannot get into power. In this time of uncertainty it is vital that we have an effective opposition. I feel with Jeremy Corbyn as leader we will never have this. If he stands again for leader it could destroy the party. Surely he should be thinking of what is best for the party and all Labour voters

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