Why I will not give up on the Labour Party
The temptation to leave the Labour Party is sometimes overwhelming. I feel a deep sense of betrayal at Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to make the case for remaining in the EU. Regardless of the political differences I have with the current leadership (for example on unilateral nuclear disarmament and support for NATO) the lack of competence and conviction with which Jeremy and John McDonnell try to persuade the voters we need to attract to win a general election makes politics feel like a hopeless task. The hectoring abuse, intolerance of dissent and general lack of comradely behaviour which has been growing in our Party over the last 12 months means that the Labour Party is no longer a pleasant place to be. And that’s before we even consider the failures to recognise and take appropriate action against an increasingly vocal anti-Semitic fringe; moral failures that betray everything Labour is supposed to stand for.
But if I and people who think like me abandon Labour to the incompetent, morally compromised hard left, what next? Is it realistic to expect a new party to rise from the ashes of Labour’s electoral irrelevance? The experience of the SDP suggests not. If we want a moderate centre left party that aims to balance increasing fairness, practical measures to tackle inequality and poverty and economic efficiency, there is no realistic alternative to the Labour Party. If the Labour Party abandons these values and aims, they will be relegated to the fringes of British politics with small state, nationalistic conservative politics the new reality.
I am also motivated to stay out of personal loyalty to the many good moderate Labour councillors and MPs who will now be under attack from the hard left fringe. I have known Rachel Reeves, Gloria De Piero, Tom Watson, Michael Dugher, Stella Creasy and Jonathan Ashworth for 20 years or more. They are all good people who entered politics for the best of reasons. Hard working and committed to social justice. The very opposite of the ‘red Tories’ the fringe hard left try to paint them as. They deserve our support.
Labour councillors (of whom my wife is one) in town halls all over the country are also facing and incredibly challenging time, forced to deal with cuts imposed on them by Tories in Westminster. If Labour in local government abdicate responsibility by setting the sort of illegal budgets that resulted in the infamy of taxis delivering redundancy notices to council workers in Militant run Liverpool then it is the poor and vulnerable who rely on council services that only Labour councillors are committed to protecting who will suffer.
So what can we do? There is no point in an aggressive battle to try to control branches and CLPs. If CLP and branch elections turn into ‘moderates’ vs ‘Corbynites’ battles, in the current climate the moderates will most often lose. But we must remember that most Labour members, even those who naively support Corbyn and McDonnell are at heart good people who do not want to engage in factional politics (the Momentum slate in recent NEC elections secured the backing of just 100,000 of our 600,000 members). However unpleasant the trolling, abuse and bullying gets it is only a small minority who behave like this. De-selecting MPs and councillors is usually hard because most members recognise their hard work and commitment so are prepared to offer their support even if they disagree politically; but if enough long standing, moderate members leave deselections will become easier and more common and the chances of Labour recovering from its current electoral, moral and political irrelevance will recede even further. Salvation is unlikely to come any time soon, but if we leave now we are increasing the chances that center left politics in this country will never recover. It is the poor and vulnerable who will suffer most if Labour dies. Keep the faith.