A different kind of Labour

  
Today I joined the Labour Party in disgust. Here is a copy of a letter I sent upon my membership to the party, to Jeremy Corbyn and to my MP Rachel Reeves. If you agree with my points please feel free to copy and use as a template: 

It was just over ten days ago that Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was shot, stabbed and killed outside her constituency office as she went about her work.

It was a killing widely described as a hate crime. An act of terrorism. A tragic, frightening and horrific killing which struck at the heart of West Yorkshire, the halls of Westminster and the country as a whole. Her death drew calls for unity, cohesion and understanding; all behaviours which Jo Cox regarded as important. And for a short time it seemed the terrible crime might actually prompt these behaviours in parliament.

Then the EU referendum happened. The pound crashed, the PM resigned, the UK teetered on the edge of dissolution and reports of racist incidents rose dramatically. The message that Westminster was dramatically out of touch with the people it was serving had never been felt more keenly. 

Today the pound hit a 31 year low. But we as a nation are far poorer than the losses made in our currency and economy over the past four days. 

So, the response of the Labour Party following a fortnight which can only be described as a cataclysmic disaster? Political infighting, back-stabbing and an appalling lack of awareness being displayed by our elected members.

Jeremy Corbyn won his role in a landslide victory not even 12 months ago. He was voted in by an overwhelming majority by members of the Labour Party. The way elected Labour members have behaved since his leadership began is shameful. His politics might not suit everyone; but he was elected in a fair contest. So why does it feel that the past months have not been spent refocusing the efforts of the party to unify and move into a position where a challenge for power is possible, but instead have been wasted on efforts to undermine Corbyn and his leadership?

The cynical observer might suggest that whatever the result of the referendum, revolting MPs would have used the opportunity to oust Corbyn from his position as party leader.

Even if this is untrue, the manner in which many of the party’s politicians have conducted themselves since Friday is shameful. 

Instead of going about the processes in the correct way – with a vote of no confidence and an election – those MPs involved in the coup against Corbyn seem to be using bullying tactics to push him to resignation. If the Labour Party was any other workplace, many members could find themselves being rightly accused of constructive dismissal.

This poisonous behaviour is bilious. In the wake of such a tragic fortnight – a fortnight which clearly shows fractious divisions in the UK and an abyss between Westminster and the electorate – Labour MPs should be taking care to tread carefully and with consideration. They should be working by the book. Working to unite the party. Working to pick up from the tatters of disaster and look to their voting public to engage the disillusioned and start to rebuild. When this kind of respect and order was urged by Jeremy Corbyn in his speech today, he was jeered and heckled by both Tory and Labour MPs. How absolutely shameful. 

As a voter from the outside I felt ill watching the scenes in parliament today. The smug, jeering faces of politicians from both parties whose disregard for their electorate could not have been clearer than it was in that moment. How can these people, who cat-call and shout, who bully and behave like children in a playground, wonder why the general voting public is so disconnected from them?

No regard, no respect.

With threats like UKIP and Nigel Farage looming large on the horizon; with bigotry and racism becoming more mainstream by the day; Labour MPs must put aside their differences and unite. 

I joined the Labour Party today in the hope of having some say in its future and the future of our country. I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn. If I had been a Labour Party member at the time of the leadership contest I do not know if I would have voted for him. But I do know that if the actions of the elected members of the party continue to be so divisive, there is no chance of seeing Labour come to power in the next general election and there is every chance of the UK becoming more disparate, damaged and discordant. We, as a nation and as Labour voters, deserve more than this.

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2 comments

  1. Hi,

    Was in two minds about whether to post this. With great respect and admiration for the spirit of what you’re saying, I have to disagree with some of the substance.

    I agree that Westminster is dramatically out of touch with the people it is serving, but I would say that this is no more true than in the case of Jeremy Corbyn.

    More than a third of ‘traditional’ Labour voters voted Leave last week. We know that these are people who (statistically) tend to be on lower incomes, less well educated and from deprived backgrounds. Recent polling suggests that these groups are increasingly likely to vote UKIP at the next election. These are exactly the people that the Labour party really needs to win back at the next election (which could be very soon). I fear that Jeremy Corbyn simply has zero traction with most of them.

    Certainly Corbyn failed to win over those voters during the referendum. Whether his office acted to deliberately sabotage the Remain side, I don’t know, but the absence of any conviction or enthusiasm from him was clear as day. Apparently, the number one “play” to reach undecided Labour voters would have been a gesture of cross-party unity and cohesion; with Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron putting aside their political differences and sharing a platform together. Cameron was keen but Corbyn refused, repeatedly.

    The horrific murder of Jo Cox served as a reminder that the vast majority of politicians are not monsters, but normal people trying to do their best to serve. The likes of Hilary Benn, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson are not poisonous backstabbers and schemers; they are decent people who are trying to give this country the best chance of avoiding yet another full term of Conservative government.

    The meeting of the PLP last night was, by many accounts, “heartbreaking”. Angela Eagle was on the brink of tears after she resigned. Andy Slaughter, who resigned this morning, was a natural Corbyn ally. Chris Matheson told Corbyn that he “agreed with him on everything”, but that he had to go. The London Young Labour group has dropped its support. Even Corbyn’s own local Labour council apparently now refuses to back his leadership. These are not the actions of just a few trouble makers.

    I can understand unhappiness with the process, but I’m not sure that Jeremy Corbyn has given his MPs much of a choice. This is clearly not being done lightly. This is desperation. The majority of these MPs have no real wish to resign – they are, after all, losing positions for which they are being paid. Members of the PLP are not acting out of spite; they’re acting out of love for their country and a justified fear that the party faces complete annihilation under Corbyn. It really should not have come to this – he should have stepped down honourably days ago.

    There’s no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn secured a large mandate from Labour party members and registered supporters last year. But that mandate was to be an effective leader and to win votes. Once it became clear that he was failing in that regard, there was nothing undemocratic about his colleagues intervening. MPs are not, after all, delegates of the Labour party; they are elected representatives of all of their constituents, who owe their judgment rather than simply their deference. Their combined mandate is much larger and much broader than the relatively narrow segment of society that voted for Jeremy.

    (Incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North consistency has been one of the safest Labour seats since the 1930s. He may be great at preaching to the converted, but has never needed to reach out beyond party lines.)

    Personally, Jeremy Corbyn’s political philosophy is not far removed from my own, and I would like nothing more than to think that someone like him could win a general election. But I am far from the ‘average voter’ and I’ve learned that if I want my chosen representatives to achieve anything more than high-minded opposition, a degree of compromise is required.

    At this point 5 years ago, Labour enjoyed a healthy 5ish point lead in the polls (it’s been stuck at least 3 points behind under Corbyn). Ed Miliband still went on to lose the general election. He lost because the party was seen as weak on the economy and weak on leadership. These are not issues that Jeremy Corbyn resolves. If anything, he is a much easier target. Winning next time matters desperately, particularly for all those stung by welfare cuts, disability cuts and the bedroom tax. They cannot take any more austerity. Jeremy’s principles are noble and admirable, but meaningless without the political power to put them into effect.

    With Brexit negotiations on the horizon, it is vitally important that the Labour party has a strong leader who can reach out both to the 48% who voted Remain and still want to retain the strongest possible ties to the EU, and to the 52% who clearly have real concerns about immigration and their British identity. It is very unclear that Jeremy Corbyn can meet those demands.

    The Labour party should and will come together. But it needs fresh leadership in the first instance in order to become relevant to the majority of working people again. So, whilst I regret that it has become so messy and unpleasant, I support the actions of the PLP and hope that Jeremy Corbyn will step down.

    Rant over! I hope it’s not taken at all personally. The winder point about needing more kindness, tolerance and respect in politics I agree with and I think it’s very positive that you joined. Next stop, elected office? 🙂

    Rob x

    Like

    • Not taken personally at all, and some good points, well made! What I was trying to say is that all of this drama is unnecessary- the vote of no confidence has done what the resignations were trying to do in terms of sending a clear message to Corbyn. I just think all this jeering and carrying on is disrespectful and taking focus away from what matters most – re-engaging with the disparate electorate. I’m not a Corbynite, although I do like his principals and many (but not all) of his ideals. It’s more the way the party has carried on over the past months and particularly days that has really enraged me. If a general election was called tomorrow I don’t know who I would vote for – they seriously need to get their act together and fast! Thanks for taking the time to read and reply! I’ll not be standing any time soon by the way! X

      Liked by 1 person

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