The Labour Party is a great party, it has achieved so much and has been the vanguard of democracy both at home and abroad, indeed, while in government, the Labour Party has sent our young people in to military action in defence of democracy. Given this, one would imagine, no! One would expect, the Labour Party to fiercely defend the democratic process internally as strongly as it does externally, after all if it is a principle for which good people have died in order to protect! Unfortunately, however, this is clearly not the case for many of our elected representatives in Parliament.
The current crisis in the Labour Party flies in the face of democracy. Corbyn supporters will argue, with some justification, that he (Jeremy Corbyn) has a true democratic mandate to lead the Party. After all, Corbyn received some 60% of the vote of ordinary members in last year’s leadership election! While Labour Party members rejected the stance of the so called ‘Blairite’ supporters, with the candidate seen as having the closest policies to the Blair government, Leicester West MP Liz Kendal, receiving around 5% of the vote. Yet, in the Parliamentary Labour Party, Corbyn enjoys no such support! Over the past week we have witnessed the resignation of the vast majority of Labour’s front bench and shadow ministerial team in a coup that is not only ripping the Party apart, but, is also frustrating an electorate that desperately need strong political representation more now than it has since the Thatcher years.
The Parliamentary Labour Party acts as an independent section of the Labour Party, above ordinary party members, with an absolute right to decide who their leader should be. Those involved in the coup argue that ‘they’ [Labour MP’s] are answerable, in the first instance, to the electorate, Party 2nd and party membership bringing up the rear. Labour MP’s enjoy a different relationship with the Party membership than do, for example, Labour Councillors who go through a full selection process before each election. MP’s, however, avoid deselection by the membership completely, giving them the prospect of a job for life and a false belief that the membership are not relevant. And here lies a problem! Some Labour MP’s view politics as a career option not the privilege it undoubtedly is. Since the 1990’s it has become much more difficult for someone from the wider community to get on the list of perspective Labour MP’s let alone selected for a ‘safe’ seat. The majority of Labour MP’s come through the educational conveyer belt with a great degree but little in the way of experience of life in today’s cutthroat world of work and worklessness. They ‘choose’ a career in politics rather than feel compelled to ‘act’, compelled to stand-up for their communities, to stand-up for their families and for families like their families, creating a disconnect between our elected representatives in Parliament and the electorate they seek to represent. This disconnect is at the very heart of British politics and the party system today, as was evident in the recent Brexit referendum.
Throughout the Country, since the financial crash, people have been sending a message to the political establishment which, until the results of the Brexit referendum, had largely gone unnoticed. In the week since the referendum, however, that message has been received loud and clear! The ‘Leave’ vote resulted in the resignation of the Prime minister, disarray and bitter division in the Conservative Party and a coup in the Labour Party. The Parliamentary Labour Party has used the ‘Leave’ vote as their excuse to remove Corbyn as Leader, through drip-fed resignations and recriminations ranging from support for racism to the manipulation the Labour Party ‘Remain’ policy to ensure a ‘Leave’ vote. Their tactics involve Piling-up the pressure on Corbyn to force his resignation rather than following the Party’s own democratic process by putting-up a candidate, with 51% support from Labour MP’s, in a new leadership election to stand against Corbyn. It beggars belief that a Political party which so strongly defends democracy would ignore the democratic process when they feel it is a threat to their ‘jobs’! Democracy isn’t something you can use or reject when it suits, it is a fundamental principle that has been hard fought and defended with the blood of heros!
If the Labour Party are to become relevant again then ‘they’ would do better than to manufacture crisis after crisis and brief against each other at the first hint of a journalists pen! They need to understand that their actions are being viewed as a self-indulgence they can ill afford! A couple of questions I was asked on Thursday night is typical of the way in which the Labour Party is seen by the wider public…
“If Labour MP’s don’t want to follow their own rules, how can we trust them to represent us?”
“If they [Labour MP’s] can’t sort themselves out what hope do we have in them sorting out the mess the Country is in now?”
I could offer no answer!