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Left Futures and the Manchester Central by-election: an apology

Earlier today we published an article by Kate Hudson, Respect candidate in the Manchester Central by-election, entitled The unrepresented working class: a space Respect can fill! (now available here). Whilst Left Futures firmly believes that “the Left’s future remains inextricably linked with that of the Labour Party” (as set out in our mission statement), this has given rise to the mistaken impression that Left Futures supports a candidate standing against Labour in a by-election. That is emphatically not the case. In order to clarify the position, I have decided as editor to withdraw the article from publication.  

Those of us on the Labour Left who, whilst committed to Labour’s success, also wish to realign Labour in a more radical direction and to draw into Labour many of those who are currently outside it, must tread a careful path. It is right that Left Futures gives space to others on the Left outside Labour to present their views and contribute to our debate about policy and the future of the Left. But we must be careful to get the balance right and on this occasion we did not but, just as we have carried articles by Kate Hudson and members of other parties before, so we will do so again.

Kate Hudson, as I said in my previous report about the Manchester Central by-election, is a formidable campaigner and a comrade in the campaigns for peace and in solidarity with the people of Greece in their opposition to austerity. Nevertheless, in Manchester Central, we want to see Lucy Powell winning the by-election by running a bold and radical campaign which will bring back Labour’s lost voters rather than see them turning towards Respect.

As it happens, today I was supposed to be on holiday and did not see Kate’s article prior to publication though as Editor it is right that I take full responsibility for everything that is published. When I did see it, I saw no alternative to withdrawing it from publication, and I apologise both to Lucy Powell, Labour’s candidate, for any wrong impression we may have caused and to Kate Hudson who wrote the article for us in good faith.

11 Comments

  1. Siobhan O'Malley says:

    I enjoy reading Left Futures, even though I am not a member of the Labour Party. Like me, there are hundreds of thousands who remain unconvinced about whether taking part in a party which is led by someone who is fully signed up to Tory cuts and condemns strikes. We need to be convinced. You won’t do that by towing dogmatically to the Party line.
    I am not a supporter of Respect, but it is absolutely essential that we listen to people like Kate Hudson, who has a lifetime of experience campaigning for peace and social justice.

    Perhaps if the Labour Party wasn’t so uninspiring and kept on failing to effectively oppose the Tories then she could have been fighting for Labour?

    But then again, and in my own personal opinion, the Labour Party is outmoded, archaic, a rusty old banger that struggles to get from A to B alone. Is it worth pushing it to the other side (to the left), when building a new one seems like such a better prospect?

    At present, Progress seem to dominate and attack anyone who suggests anything even mildly suggests that we should oppose the Tories.

    If Labour is the way forward, it needs to start welcoming ideas and allowing a culture of debate.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Siobhan: I know that you and many others need to be convinced about Labour. Left Futures wants Labour to make a clear break with New Labour, pose a credible alternative to austerity, and convince you and Labour’s 5 million lost voters that is now worth your support. We certainly don’t dogmatically tow the party line but we do believe that winning Labour for Left policies is the Left’s only viable strategy for actually transforming Britain. Neither Respect nor any other group to Labour’s left can do that. They can, sometimes, exploit discontent with Labour as Respect did again in Bradford West, but they have no strategy which can deliver a Left government. Only Labour could do that – Respect does not pretend otherwise. I am in favour of listening to Kate and others who campaign outside Labour for peace and social justice, but those of us who choose to work for social and political change through the Labour Party must accept that we have some obligations to the party, and that there are some constraints on what we can do.

      Terry Fitzpatrick: You are right to point to events which have severely tested our loyalty to the party. When Ken Livingstone first contested the London mayoralty as an independent, I believe he was justified on the grounds that the selection process was deliberately manipulated and manifestly unfair. I suspect most Labour party members in London backed him and it is not surprising that he was so quickly taken back into the party. I think Ken was brave, more recently, to show his solidarity with Lutfur Rahman who was, in my view, the victim of a similar miscarriage of justice as Ken himself. As a member of Tower Hamlets Labour Party, I choose to work for the readmission of Lutfur and his supporters rather than support any candidates standing against Labour. I do understand, however, that some people who I regard as comrades feel they have to make a different choice.

      Robbie Scott: Lucy Powell is a strong candidate and, as Ed Miliband’s campaign manager, she’s in the left half of the party’s membership. I’ve been critical of her before and may well be again but she was selected in a fair (though not ideal) process and deserves our support. As to Caroline Lucas, I think she’s a hard working, effective MP, and an asset to the Left in parliament and I’d be sorry to see her go. However, she beat a good left-wing Labour candidate – Nancy Platt – who deserved support. I’m in favour of working with Greens in lots of circumstances (on the GLA for example), even electoral alliances where they might be mutually beneficial (which Labour currently avoids), but we are in separate parties and that means that, in a direct contest, I’m bound to favour Labour. I do confess, however, that I have cast tactical votes for the Greens in the past.

      Mick Hall: I’ve made a case for working with people on the Left who are not in the Labour Party and may be in other parties. It’s up to them whether they choose to fight elections. They may see benefits from that course. Sometimes, it is a viable strategy – for the Left in Plaid Cymru, for example, who were in the governing coalition in the last Welsh Assembly. Even where the benefits are more limited, they may think them worth having. I hope that Labour will learn important lessons from losing Bradford West even though I am sorry that Labour failed to win the trust of its voters. I therefore refute the suggestion that my position implies that others “need to leave it to the labour left on the big parliamentary issues”. However, I would dearly like to persuade more people both to help win back Labour and to help Labour win!

  2. Alex Braithwaite (@labour52rose) says:

    Have to say that I was a tad confused about the article but glad to know that you are still committed to the Labour party.

  3. terry Fitzpatrick says:

    Still confused. You supported, and as far as I know still support, Livingstones’s stand against the official Labour candidate in Tower Hamlets at the last mayoral election. Explanations please.

  4. Jennifer Hynes says:

    A shame, but entirely understandable and reasonable, in a party sort of way.

  5. Robbie Scott says:

    Why can’t you be critical of a candidate? Ed Balls in 2010 told people to vote tactfully to keep the Tories out… To what extent do you think Lucy is going to advance the ‘Left’ and if you don’t think she is what’s wrong with saying that? Brighton pavilion 2015 do you think the left is best served by seeing the back of Caroline Lucas ?

  6. Mick Hall says:

    Jon

    I can understand where your coming from on this but not sure you can justify the header Left futures, for if the left is to have a viable future it must participate in elections. what you seem to be saying with this is any leftists who are not members of the LP, have no future electorally.

    Fine they can do the heavy lifting in agitprop and solidarity organisations but they need to leave it to the labour left on the big parliamentary issues.

    LF is either a broad based web site which encompasses the opinions of all those on the left, come rain or shine, or you are nothing more than a narrow, mildly sectarian pro Labour outfit.

    In truth this has the whiff of someone waving a big stick.

  7. Gary Elsby says:

    Don’t be too confused Terry, of what some people call ‘principles’ and others call blind loyalty.

    We all love the Labour Party, especially here in Stoke-on-Trent, but you may, or may not know, of deliberate rigging of elections, discarding of winning votes and postal votes which deny winning (and wanted) candidates from standing.
    I won’t bore you with parachute MPs via the House of Lords.

    It’s called corruprion that would make the 9 o’Colock news if it was Putin, Saddam, Assad or Gaddafi.

    It’s none of those, it’s just Labour.
    Not any old Labour, but this Labour Party and certainly not to be mistaken with any former Labour under another Leader.

    Take a look to see how many good honest Labour loving Party members have now walked out under the Leadership of our new parachute MP.

    My personal advice for those that look down their noses at good honest former Labour members now voting the other way, is have no fear of us losing any sleep at all.

    You do what you think is right to promote an honest Labour Party, and we’ll do what we think is right to promote the one in Stoke-on-Trent and how it obtained power.

  8. Gary Elsby says:

    Oh, and by the way, just in case you think Labour is the best by far in any contest, google:
    Labour elected Mayor/Mo Chaudry(a businessman interested in swimming pools) and £100,000.
    Follow the freedom of information request which is allowed by law to be suppressed from the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

    Only with the help of Tories did it happen.

    Our conscience is very clear.

  9. Ryszard Konietzka says:

    I *am* a member of the Labour Party. I was a backer of Ken standing against the party (as indeed were over 80% of the London Labour Party, apart from a few diehard Blairites and careerists), and would do so again in the same gerrymandering circumstances. I *do* think we should engage with those outside the Labour Party left, although uncritically publishing what was effective Kate Hudson’s manifesto without much of a commentary or critique probably was a mistake.

    @Siobahn O Malley “You won’t do that by towing dogmatically to the Party line” – the sweet irony of this – most of the organised non-Labour left are umbilically connected to ‘a party line’ and those who aren’t tend to find themselves out in the cold, pretty sharpish. I agree with your analysis of Progress – but it’s something that the party needs to tackle. The minute there is a credible leftwing alternative to Labour, not dominated by petty factions determined to push their narrow outdated line, I’ll join.

  10. Consilio et Labore. The motto of the City of Manchester does not quite mean “Respect and Labour”. But it comes fairly close.

    There was no mere closeness, however, about Left Futures and Kate Hudson, long of the CPB but now the Respect candidate at the forthcoming Manchester Central by-election. Cue much back-peddling and grovelling by Jon Lansman. But expect more of this. I hope that the Labour candidate wins, since she is on Ed Miliband’s staff.

    However, a good showing for Hudson would give the lie to the claim, either that Respect was purely an extension of the personality of George Galloway, or that it was purely an instrument of Pakistani or Bengali communal politics, the exact opposite of the situation at Bradford West, where it was Labour that was that instrument, with Respect as the reaction against it. A good showing at Manchester Central would make the point in such terms that even the BBC could neither misrepresent it nor ignore it. Centred on a pro-life Catholic of impeccable Euroscepticism and, at least on this side of the Irish Sea, impeccable Unionism, a man with no history even in the Tribune Group never mind in the Campaign Group, Respect is a staging post on the road to the reconstitution of our federated, pluriform Movement.

    A Movement including those to his, my and probably your Left who may remain attached to the name and to some of the symbolism of the Communist Party, but who share our total rejection of Maoism and Trotskyism, and who share our approach to the former Soviet Union and allied states which balances a recognition of economic development, of full employment, of universally free education and healthcare, of affordable housing for all, of cheap and extensive public transport, of scientific progress (although see http://davidaslindsay.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/soviet-science.html), of cultural facilities, and of the rights of women and national minorities, with the most profound regret at the entrenchment of the bureaucratic-command system, at the integration of the Communist Party and the trade unions into the apparatus of the State so that they were rendered incapable of critiquing it, and at the fact that large numbers of innocent people to be persecuted, imprisoned and executed.

    Since as long ago as 1951, those comrades have rejected violent revolution in Britain, in favour of the parliamentary, municipal, industrial and wider communitarian processes. With them, we share the strongest possible identification with those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day, instead obtaining, and continuing to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on. Those who have opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be reinstated. Those who continue to fight for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs. Those who insist that government requires the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas, so that any electoral reform must to be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation, as must any new or reformed second chamber.

    The rural heritage is vitally important, as is its insistent definition in terms stretching all the way back through the Levellers and the Peasants’ Revolt to the Anglo-Saxon period in this country, and all the way back to the Old Testament prophets more broadly. No Marxist historiography there. It is no wonder that this land of miners, farm labourers and railwaymen was pre-eminent in maintaining ties to the exiles, internal and external, who kept up the anti-Stalinist and anti-Trotskyist struggles of the SRs, the Mensheviks and the “Old Bolshevik” “Right Opposition”. All three were blamed on “peasant influences”. You better believe it. And it has not gone away. It must never go away.

    We must seek co-operation with those comrades, in order to secure an economy including a very substantial role both for workers’ co-operatives and for publicly owned enterprises run on behalf of the people, with the public ownership of key industries in order to boost the economy and raise the general standard of living, with massive investment by the State in key areas of the economy, and with a planned economy designed to increase the standard of living for working people, including the utilisation of this country’s vast reserves of coal. Co-operation in order to secure a substantial increase in public spending on education, healthcare, transport, housing, and recreational facilities, with the tax burden shifted onto the rich and onto large corporations, and with the reduction of direct taxes on working people’s incomes.

    With them, we emphasise the importance of democracy and freedom in everyday life, with a particular emphasis on the freedom of the press and on freedom of speech, with full engagement in the battle of ideas at every level of cultural life and of the education system, with the refusal to consign or confine demotic culture to “the enormous condescension of posterity”, and with full participation in broad-based and inclusive campaigns for human rights and civil liberties, for peace (including nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological disarmament, and including against the arms trade), for environmental responsibility, and for the defence and extension of jobs, services and amenities. We are therefore most concerned to secure the continued publication of the Morning Star and of Tribune, to end the wider media’s discrimination against them, and to ensure our long and fruitful partnership with Independent Labour Publications.

    No less important are those to our Right who share our total identification with the trade union, co-operative, Radical Liberal, Tory populist, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and other non-Marxist roots of the Labour Movement, including their florescence as that Movement’s full inclusion of all social classes at all levels and in all aspects of its activity. The circumstances of the last 35 years have attached some of those comrades to the Liberal Democrats or to the Conservative Party, while others serve as Crossbench Peers or as Independent Councillors. Academia, the media and the voluntary sector are among the means whereby others again make their contributions. Such comrades have always been numerous, if generally disorganised, within the electorates of the Unionist and Alliance parties in Northern Ireland. A small group continues to maintain the Social Democratic Party.

    Again we must seek co-operation with all who share our identification with that heritage, and who are therefore committed to open government with a fully representative system of elections, including the greatest practical degree of decentralisation of decision-making in all spheres of our national life, including the return of sovereign power from the European Union to the British Parliament so that our country can be governed in accordance with Social Democratic principles and policies, and including a specifically English parliamentary institution while making Social Democracy once again a force for the continued existence of the United Kingdom.

    The objectives of that co-operation are the elimination of poverty and the promotion of greater equality through a social market economy to ensure a fair distribution of rewards and to meet social needs by means of public investment, improved public and community services, greater responsiveness to people’s needs, the full accountability of service providers, and the strengthening of Britain’s economy through the encouragement of all forms of legitimate enterprise in the co-operative, mutual, private and public sectors, reclaiming with pride the word “Socialism”.

    Integral to all of this are the defence of human rights at home and abroad, a coherent and integrated approach to environmental protection, a responsible collective approach to global problems, and the Socialist expression of our restored sovereignty by the removal of VAT from fuel and power, by the prohibition of the export for slaughter of live animals to conditions that would be illegal in the United Kingdom, and by the extensive government protection of British business and of British jobs, including the reassertion of the United Kingdom’s historic fishing rights in accordance with international law (200 miles, or to the median line), including the enormous development of civil nuclear power, and including the strict limitation and the strict control of immigration, making possible the large-scale resumption of the building of affordable local authority homes for let: Social Democracy, Social and Democratic.

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