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Letter to good comrades: please nominate Jeremy and give us the debate we need

ian-lavery-mp-for-wansbeck-in-northumberland-126854350An open letter addressed to Ian Lavery MP (Wansbeck), Dave Anderson MP (Blaydon) and Ian Mearns MP (Gateshead)

Dear Ian, Dave and Ian,

Yesterday, I spent a couple of precious hours writing a politely worded, standard letter requesting that Labour MPs open up the Labour leadership race for the debate we really need by nominating Jeremy Corbyn and allowing him onto the ballot. Waking up this morning, however, and mulling over where we stand, I thought a more personal appeal was in order.

When Ian L was considering standing, I messaged him to say that I would give him my full backing. I believe Jeremy, John McDonnell and the rest of the left of the party would have done the same. Solidarity is something which is alien to those on the right of the party, but it is our lifeblood. Throughout my membership of the party, I, like many of the others in the North East have supported, defended and felt proud of the contribution that you three have made, both inside and outside Parliament. So I’m asking for a small bit of that solidarity now.

I understand that you have all given your backing to Andy Burnham. I don’t want to get into a big debate about Andy’s politics, or his political “journey”. That isn’t really what this is about. As it happens, I quite like Andy – and if Jeremy Corbyn was to get on the ballot, he would probably have my second preference, just like Ed Miliband did in 2010.

However, as has been shown in the ‘debate’ so far, he doesn’t cut a distinctive enough figure politically to move the discussion in our direction. Already, he has tacked rightwards on the Mansion Tax, immigration and the deficit. I can’t see how that drift will be corrected without a left voice in the debate. You all three committed yourself to Andy’s campaign early on, well before the nomination period begins on Tuesday, so I must assume that you are seeing something that I don’t at present – and I accept that in good faith. However, in committing yourself like that, I wonder whether you have fully considered the repercussions for us as a party and a movement. I’m now asking you to reconsider for the sake of us all.

Granted, maybe that conversation where you say, ‘Look, Andy – I wasn’t quite aware of the situation at the time’ might be a little bit awkward, but let’s not kid ourselves or anyone else. This isn’t about ‘principle’ or ‘going back on your word’. Principle is defending your communities, fighting for our collective rights and being true to our history – all things that all three of you do, day in, day out. Nobody in Blaydon, Gateshead or Ashington is going to give a damn whether Dave Anderson, Ian Mearns or Ian Lavery changed their minds about their nomination for the Labour leadership, just as no one will have criticised Grahame Morris in Easington for switching his nomination to Jeremy just two days ago. Those things are understood as part and parcel of politics: people overcoming a bit of pride to do what is in the common interest.

As far as I can fathom, there can only be two reasons for continuing to stick with Andy Burnham in a situation where he has more than enough nominations. The first is political: to strike the first blow against the candidates to Andy’s right. The more nominations, the more credibility, right? There is a superficial logic to that, but I think it betrays a lack of confidence of Andy as a candidate. Allowing some of his supporters to switch in order for the whole party to be represented will not only be appreciated by the left of the party, but will be seen as a sign of strength.

I also think that, probably due to the Westminster bubble, the merits of Liz Kendall, as the Blairite candidate of choice, have been vastly overblown. If the AB camp can’t beat a candidate who advocates more Free Schools and privatisation of the NHS during a four month leadership contest, then we really are in trouble.

The second possible reason must be down to positioning. Presumably, putting your weight behind Andy at that early stage was seen as a way of gaining some influence and cementing a relationship that would benefit the left in the future. Again, I’m not against positioning. I’m not a purist – there are times when it is important to make alliances for the greater good. Now is not one of those times. Why? One reason in particular: because we have just suffered the most catastrophic defeat just over that border there – and if we’re not very careful indeed, we are in for more of the same in places like the North East, North West and Wales – our heartlands.

I know you are all close to things on the ground, so you understand that the sands are shifting. There is a dangerous anti-Labour feeling which has been rumbling away for more than a decade, but has erupted recently in Scotland. At root, it is about how New Labour distanced itself from those heartlands and how removed the party has become from its own constituencies – the working class, the unions and their communities – as a consequence.

We have to get a grip of this, by building once again from the grassroots upwards. I know you all understand this, but here’s the point. I can think of no greater gift to those who say “they’re all the same” than a lengthy and anodyne leadership election which splits hairs about aspiration, immigration, the deficit and welfare, without ever offering a real alternative. Jeremy will do this, purely by his presence. Instead of the vicious cycle of more and more of the political agenda being set by the right-wing press, Jeremy Corbyn’s presence in the leadership race will have the effect of dragging the debate on to our terrain. The importance of this can’t be overestimated. Without that honest and frank debate, it might not matter who wins the leadership election, because of the damage done.

So here’s the score. It’s quite simply in your hands to give the party membership what the discussion they want, but even more importantly, to safeguard the party against further damage amongst our traditional support, many of whom have deserted the party since 1997. We didn’t ask for this electoral system, which gives so much power to MPs to decide on behalf of the party who are the ‘acceptable’ leadership candidates. It’s not right, it’s not democratic and it’s not fair to the thousands of activists who keep this party going. The Parliamentary Labour Party has been cultivated by Blairite pressure groups such as Progress for two decades. No wonder the vast majority don’t want a real debate. What we expect from “our side” is simply to be represented – and to have some of our solidarity reciprocated.

Please help give us the debate we need by nominating Jeremy Corbyn.

Yours,

Ben Sellers
Red Labour and Durham City CLP

10 Comments

  1. Mukkinese says:

    While I would be surprised if Corbyn won the leadership election it seems a must that he actually gets to run for the post.

    If he does not get enough support that will merely confirm in people’s minds the utter lack of conviction and courage left in the party.

    To date all the wannabe’s for leadership are singing slight variations of the same old tired song ;” Let’s pretend to be Tories, but with friendlier faces”.

    Corbyn might not have all the answers, or indeed any, but at least he is bringing up subjects that the others just want to avoid and pretend do not matter…

  2. chris gibson says:

    Jeremy has the requisite mental toughness and the political principles the Party needs now in its hour of crisis. He will make a great Prime Minister.

  3. Dave Lawson says:

    I agree entirely,If Jeremy became leader I would rejoin the Labour Party.

  4. Chris Brody says:

    Like many, I left the Labour Party for the Greens in order to push for progressive change. Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate brave enough to speak the truth about many subjects, and he deserves a platform within the leadership contest.

  5. Matty says:

    Very good letter, hope it gets the response it deserves.

  6. Ellen Townend says:

    Couldn’t agree more with everything Ben says. Living in Scotland I could have assumed the right to ask my excellent and left of centre MP to nominate Jeremy Corbyn. Now I have lost that right to Nationalism: one that has been moved to the left in a very short space of time and now delights in smearing our party as right wing. I fear that if Labour does not get back to its core values and mission throughout the UK that Nationalists parties elsewhere will do the same.

  7. David Pavett says:

    It is an indication of the poverty of political thought in the Labour Party that so many cannot distinguish between a nomination process for selection the best Labour candidate and the election in which that candidate would stand. The duty of democrats in the nomination process is to ensure that all candidates who can make a distinctive and serious contribution should be nominated irrespective of the final voting decisions of the nominators.

    As a significant voice of the Labour left it would be a disgrace if there are not enough MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn. His nomination would give voice to a significant stream of thought within Labour. If there were any desire to have an adult debate it would provide the mainstream/right candidates with an opportunity to tell the rest of us why they disagree with policies advocated by the left.

    I hope that Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, will show that he is up to the task by making it clear that the answer to right-wing oolicies in issues like immigration is not to have no policy at all.

  8. Excellent! I’m here in Wales and believe you are spot on with everything that you have said.

  9. Kushal Dev says:

    Well, it seems Corbyn is old school, idealist, and when he says there is something seriously wrong with a country which seems oblivious that in next 7 to 8 years there will be more poverty, homelessness etc.

    Big reason for those who see UK not as a state but a realm of parliamentary Dictatorship to attempt to block him. I hope it won’t be you because people are sick of looking at the way civil liberties and rights are being sold out to private firms , banks and price fixers in a pseudo monopolistic nexus of market fixers and futures market, and of course lobbyists warming the back pockets of sitting MPs , especially the gabby ones ! Now people tolerate , British are tolerant , but it will be wrong to poke the lion from its corner ! For if this inequality and division continues , well even God won’t save those architects of the misery, hunter be ware not to become hunted in the arrogance of being Gods ! Gods need humans to reserve their position not the other way around ! The human cost of such inequity will be heavy, and no Enoch Powell was not quite right , Rivers of blood will flow all around the world ! I hope you see it and know it for it is only round the corner unless you wake up to this stark realization ! The British State has lost its sovereignty to the Banks and monopolistic mafia before it has lost an inch of strand to the ECHR ! Beware of what you wish for ! Russian, French , German, Chinese, Belgians as well as the Americans know and acknowledge it , for the moment British nation looks like an elected parliamentary dictatorship and trust me most are proving it by default by their acrimonious exhumation of dysentery psychosis on the media ! Frankly we look like fools and prove it by default ! Now left needs to be left ! There is no middle ! You want to prove it otherwise ! Be my guest ……when though the beast will devour think what I wrote to you ! I cannot do your duty for you, job ….even a donkey serves it purpose even if it sits in the Parliament, does not change the factor abstract though ! Think about it !

  10. Keith Davies says:

    What a good letter, I hope that our Labour MPs are listening.

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