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It’s time for Labour to pull together

workers unitedThe outcome of the local elections last month saw Labour’s tally fall just 18 short of the number of seats won in 2012. That was a remarkable achievement given the run-up to the elections could hardly have been any worse.

Labour’s internal arguments inevitably dominated the headlines as prominent malcontents seemed determined to systematically sabotage the party’s election campaign. The worst, but by no means the only, offender was John Mann, whose stage-managed outburst against Ken Livingstone gave the hostile newspapers the perfect excuse to focus on Labour’s travails. These Labour renegades are small in number, but big in terms of their connections in the media.

The Westminster hacks have been lapping up the on- and off-the-record briefings from people who can’t seem to accept the democratic decision of Labour Party members to elect Corbyn as leader. Some Labour MPs were so convinced that the outcome of the elections was going to be disastrous for the party that they couldn’t wait to give TV and newspaper interviews.

But they were left with egg on their faces after saying the results were terrible when the reality was somewhat different. Labour secured virtually the same number of council seats as Ed Miliband’s high water mark in 2012, had the second best ever result in Wales and won the London and Bristol mayoral contests. Labour also did well in the police and crime commissioner elections too, gaining Cheshire, Leicestershire and Humberside.

Regrettably the meltdown in Scotland was as bad, if not worse than expected, but the seeds for Labour’s Scottish demise were sown years ago, long before Corbyn was elected leader.

Of course Labour’s poor showing in Scotland depressed its overall vote share, but we still finished ahead of the Tories in the popular vote; and won more council seats than the Tories, Lib Dems, Ukip and Green Party put together.

In my own city of Derby, we did lose some ground to Ukip and the Tories, but still retained control of the council. We lost two seats by very narrow margins, but these could have been won, were it not for the shenanigans of certain senior members of the party. John Prescott has aptly described these characters as “Bitterites.”

Labour does need to do better, but the efforts of activists all over the country ensured that we triumphed over adversity. It demonstrated the importance of having motivated members on the ground to take Labour’s message of hope to the voters.

Talk of a coup against Jeremy has now subsided, but that isn’t sufficient. Every member, particularly MPs, has a duty to speak up for the party and stop undermining our electoral prospects by incessantly criticising our leader.

The Conservative Party is in turmoil over Europe and 18 Tory MPs are under investigation for electoral fraud.

The Electoral Commission took action in the High Court to force the Tories to reveal documents detailing the spending on battle buses ahead of the 2015 general election.

For good measure the newly elected Tory police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall is implicated too.

These “Bitterites” should be turning their fire on the Tory Party, not on their own side. When Labour is united we are a formidable electoral force. Just imagine how much better we could have done in these local elections if the tiny minority of well-placed malcontents had held their tongue, or better still actually promoted the party?

Jeremy has pledged “ambitious and bold” policies to beat the Tories in 2020. He has said he will make “big promises” on issues including jobs, housing and the environment. These and other issues that secured Jeremy’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership contest last year are the selfsame issues that the British public are crying out for.

Jeremy set the scene for the sort of opposition Labour needs to become when he systematically demolished the Conservative Party’s programme, and its record in government, when he responded to the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons. The prize of a progressive Labour government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, is there for the taking. It’s time for everyone in the party to pull together to fulfil Labour’s historic mission to tackle inequality and build a fairer society.

This article first appeared at the Morning Star

Chris Williamson, former MP for Derby North, is standing for election to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee

8 Comments

  1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

    The Neo-Liberal wing of the party are not Labour, that is the first thing to take on board.

    There must be a time where we act against unrepresentative MPs like John Mann, the obvious way he looking back at the cameras to check whether they were following made it look an obvious put up job.

    These people are not going to subside and fall in line, they will use every opportunity to bring Labour down, they are corporatists and work for the corporate sector, not the Labour Party and we need to understand that.

    On numerous occasions whilst campaigning to save the NHS I and colleagues have met resistance from the pro private sector in the party. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that Britain is sinking deeper into the mire and the private sector are clearly not cutting the mustard.

    The evidence of failure is all around them, and they themselves have failed in the last two elections, the idea they love us to believe of course was that Ed Miliband was too left wing, forgetting the Tories only won on 24% of the eligible vote.

    My personal view before the last election was that the unions should have formed a reformed Labour Party, with the rump of the left leaning MPs, and split from the Neo-Liberals as they are and were too deeply entrenched- which will now take us much longer to restore back to it’s origins.

    This is not the first time Labour has had to confront unrepresentative MPs in it’s ranks, but sooner rather than later we will need to deal with them.

  2. Bazza says:

    Yes and hopefully Conference will pull the party together with agreed progresive policies and hopefully the impact of JC will be reflected this year with more left wing democratic socialist delegates.
    But next year the NPF should have discussion policy documents ready by Feb sent to CLPs etc in March and all CLPs encouraged to consult widely in April. The more outgoing ones may open up meetings on topics such as housing and education to Labour voters and interested citizens and get suggestions and amendments by June for Conference.
    Oh and the left needs to change to get away from the old ways of thinking which can be a bit top down and for example have a more consultative and democratic ways of choosing a left wing NEC slate.
    And next Parliamentary Selections choose left wing democratic socialist candidates.
    We need to step up the bottom up, grassroots, participatory, left wing democratic socialist change in Labour with the working class/working people/ the poor and not for.
    Hope Conference goes well.

  3. David Boothroyd says:

    I wonder why saying “we need a united party; why are we not getting supported by the group that I insult and denigrate?” is ineffective.

    If you Corbyn supporters want unity, try listening to the criticisms. Eg when Jonathan Freedland writes a thoughtful article, try understanding it rather than dismissing it as subliminal nastiness by someone with an agenda.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I am all for listening to criticisms of Corbyn and the left in general (I have plenty of my own) but I find Jonathan Freedland’s criticisms both tendentious and ill-informed. Is that allowed or does it prove thst I have a closed mind?

    2. Nestor says:

      It’s hard not to see Freedland as having an agenda when you consider that in 2012 he wrote an article praising Labour’s performance in the local elections, whereas in 2016, after broadly similar (and arguably better) results he wrote an article claiming that they were a disaster.

  4. David Pavett says:

    Labour’s so-called “broad church” is a party divided over fundamentals. Acting in unity has to have basis in aims and beliefs. There is a large middle ground to which the competing left and right groups must appeal and convince. That is how the arguments will be resolved -if they are to be resolved.

    Generalised calls for everyone to pull together despite their fundamental differences are not generally likely to have a deep effect. The task of the left is to convince those in the middle ground that it has the policies needed and has powerful arguments to justify those policies. So far we are a long way from that. If that does not change we will lose the battle. How hard is that to understand?

    1. C MacMackin says:

      This is absolutely right. We have to realise that, if the Left is successful in developing and gaining support among the membership for a radical program (a big if), then the right will not accept it. Sooner or later, they will split under those conditions. We must be aware of this and be willing to accept it.

  5. John P Reid says:

    We had a United party in 1983′ the right of the party were prepared to have all of Tony Benns ideas in that manifesto

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