Splitting the Labour Party

SPLITTERSIt was with wry amusement when I read in yesterday’s Telegraph that “senior figures” in the Labour Party (all anonymous, of course) are working through the possibility of usurping the front bench and laying legal claim to the party’s name and assets should Citizen Smith fail in his leadership bid. The paper says that they plan to set up their own alternative shadow cabinet to challenge the Tories and, via parliamentary chicanery, get the Speaker to designate them the official opposition.

Colour me sceptical. Advocates of this shadow shadow cabinet were all over the media last Autumn and Winter saying they were going to do this, and it didn’t happen. Far from offering a credible opposition to the Tories over and above the ‘official’ shadcab’s efforts, they instead took the easy route and spent most of the last year moaning to the media. An approach unlikely to win them many friends among long-standing members practiced at shutting up in the name of party unity. And if indeed they have been offering proper opposition, from outside the Westminster echo chamber there was no sign whatsoever it cut through.

The second part is, of course, the legal challenge. At least no Labour MP publicly backed Mike Foster’s challenge against Jeremy’s right to be on ballot paper without PLP nominations. But a few would have smarted as an entirely sensible judgement affirming the clear rules about procedures was handed down. By that token, how do they suppose a legal challenge to acquire the party’s property and name would succeed? Saying, for argument’s sake, you have the majority of MPs in your corner and Bercow extends you the title of official opposition. From a legal point of view, which would in all likelihood affirm party rules as they stand because they already have done so, shenanigans in Parliament cannot entitle them to the rest of the party. It doesn’t stand up, and quite rightly so.

The most telling thing about the perennial Jez oppositionists in the PLP is not so much their politics but a lack of sense on how to do politics. This isn’t because they’re especially thick, though you might suggest they lack imagination. They came into politics and acquired their seats during a quiescent period where politics was an elite sport. The masses had to be consulted every so often, and an occasional manifestation of extra parliamentary pressure flattered and/or patronised, but the game as it played out in Labour was marked by an absence of mass involvement.

That has now changed utterly, and many MPs find themselves out of sorts, bewildered, and frightened. This, ultimately, is why the coup failed. Like the plotters who tried to topple Erdogan and the villains from the Hatton Garden heist, all of whom proceeded as if it was the 1980s, when the rebellion was launched it was from entirely within the parliamentary game. They had not used the previous nine months to recruit an army of “moderate” new members that would give them a base in the wider party. And nor did they even try and consult with general secretaries of the affiliated trade unions. Without them, Jeremy would have been toast. With theirs and members’ backing, he was never going to resign.

And so it will prove with this splittist wheeze. It doesn’t matter if they carry 100 MPs out of the party. Without the unions, the money and social ballast that brings, without the members who are no longer satisfied with just being leafleting and door knocking fodder, and most crucially without a social base in wider society, there is nothing at all going for them. The facts are Jeremy won last year, and he will win again this year. The members, rightly, have the final say. The MPs have a duty and are expected by the party to try and make it work. Jeremy might not be competent (of which more another time), but those who machinate against him have hardly convinced as capable sets of hands.

  1. I know 2 people who had Jeremy as his 3rd choice last year,who’s backing him now
    I know 7 people who backed Jeremy last years 3 who’d joined the party in the last 3 years who’ve switched to Owen, who I’d call brownites, 2 blairites! , and 2 to the left of Ed miliband who feel Corbyn doesn’t connect on the door step in London

    I know a couple on the right if the party who feel, Jeremy should be given more time to prove himself, as in a couple of years and a couple more in the right who voted for Jeremy last year who feel he should carry on till the election, if he loses big, they’ll vote for a progress person for leader in 2020
    There’s a couple of councillors on the Thames Esteryeho me lose heir seats to ukip, or the greens in 2018 who voted Jeremywho ,knows he’s not popular on the door step, but feel, it’s better to lose with him, than win with Owen Smith

  2. I don’t for one moment believe that the 172 MP’s who signed the no confidence motion, or all those that resigned from the front bench, are a unified group. But it is the case that far from the issue being that many of these out of touch MP’s – who are unlike the vast majority of Party members on very large salaries (as Richard Burgon was right to point out) – don’t know how to do politics, it is that there is a central core whose politics (Blairite New Labour, pro-US imperialism, pro-nuclear weapons and anti-socialist) do. That nearly all of these people are members of the Henry Jackson Society is no accident, ‘Atlantacist’ groups and group-think is not a side show to the main event but the very foundation of what is currently going on.

    When Blair and Mandelson became the leadership of the ‘Project’ to either stop the Labour Party being a workers party anymore (break the union link, remove socialist ideology and become a version of the ‘liberal’ US Democrats – or if that failed get as near to that goal as possible) they had huge support throughout the British and US establishment. Indeed, the financial support and rewards (from multiple luxury homes to regular meetings on luxury yachts with various neo-cons and billionaire gangsters) became the defining image of this and of New Labour, but the damage to the movement was both deep and far reaching.

    The ‘Project’ is still very much alive with these people, long after it was driven out of most British trade unions (where it manifested itself in ‘anti-Communist’ or ‘anti-Trotskyist’ groupings and leaders from Frank Chapple in the EEPTU, now part of Unite, to Barry Reamsottom and Kate Losinska in CPSA, now part of PCS), and that is why we need a deeper analysis of what deadly game they are playing and what is at really stake when it comes to the very soul of the Party.

  3. Doubtful that a successful split could occur. Would need the support of one or two large unions and most of the ‘old (Labour First) Right to have any popular standing.

    IF its just the Progress people and those at risk of deselection it goes nowhere.

    But if say, Alan Johnson, Tom Watson, maybe Gordon Brown etc …….. then they are cooking.

    • The PLP has already split. There is no putting the PLP Humpty Dumpty together again after the coup and the constant destructive shenanigans of the PLP majority over the last 10 months. The only issue now is the mechanics of the eventual split, and how many PLP go with the hard Blairite splitters.

      Jeremy will win overwhelmingly against snake oil salesman Smith. The issue is how long Jeremy and the rest of us on the now hugely dominant Labour Left will then tolerate the possible PLP majority tactic of just staying to cause as much chaos as possible , including establishing their own “Parliamentary Leader ” and “alternative Shadow Cabinet”. Key expulsions from the Party of the hard core of PLP rebels (for gross misconduct), and key Party officials, must be carried out quickly after Jeremy’s coming victory , to force the bulk of the PLP to choose their future Party affiliation.

      Unfortunately I suspect that neither the old stagers of the Labour Left so heavily predominant on Left Futures, nor Jeremy and his team, have the ruthless “bottle” for this absolutely essential “housecleaning” , if Labour is ever to restructure itself coherently as a radical Left of Centre anti austerity reforming party based on a coherent radical Left programme.

      • The best model would be where appropriate CLPs took the initiative instead of leaving this with the leadership. This then allies the leadership with the Labour Party membership as to who should be their MP. Where the CLP is not up to, it then I personally would not wish the leadership to act alone, we need to win the local members over by argument.

  4. have a duty and are expected by the party to try and make it work. Jeremy might not be competent
    while the roof falls in corbyns attacking the tories policys while his backbenchers stab him he carries on but the media bbc channels 4 and 5 stick the boot in yet more and more keep joining the party because of him leader hes shown hes has it hes shown the people believe in him yet you competent nay his backstabbers are that

  5. I notice that Ann Black, following her disgraceful support for the suspension of local CLP’s, is now declaring herself a supporter of the shadowy group with unknown financial backers ‘Saving Labour’ – http://www.annblack.com/elect_ann_black.htm (bottom of page). Now either Black has moved to the right at a rate of knots over the past couple of months or she hasn’t, and if she hasn’t then on what possible grounds was she allowed onto the grassroots alliance democracy NEC slate to begin with when she is clearly acting against both the grassroots and democracy? I suspect it is too late for most of us who have already voted, but is there any half-decent genuine independents that others can vote for instead of Black as it appears we are already one down before we even start?

    • Get a grip! Whatever Ann Black’s lapses may be, this isn’t one of them. The post is appealing for support for her in the 2008! NEC elections, when Save the Labour Party was an anti Blairite organisation.

    • Ann Black being on the recommended Momentum/Centre Left voting slate is a scandal, and tells us a lot about the still dominant “smoke-filled backrooms deals” mentality of the old guard Labour Left – including Momentum’s leadership. We must never construct our slates in this undemocratic, useless, way again.

      I understand that often “deals need to be done” with “softer” Left elements in the PLP and beyond – but honestly, Ann Black has proven to be simply a rabid right wing supporting anti Corbyn backstabber – and no advance for the Left at all if she is again on our NEC (as seems likely).

      Even before her disgraceful NEC role recently I had my doubts about her as being “on the Left” – when all the right wingers on my CLP management Committee were suspiciously happy to nominate her, and had done repeatedly in the past !

      • John, I will vote for Corbyn but with a sense of foreboding. I cannot vote for Smith since he would clearly return Labour to its default position of control by apparatchiks and a small group of professional politicians whose politics I strongly reject. But when I read comments like yours on Ann Black –

        Ann Black has proven to be simply a rabid right wing supporting anti Corbyn backstabber

        – and when I reflect that comments like this are regarded as intelligent, acceptable and “normal” on the left, then I know that we are not in a good place.

        Ann has a truly remarkable record of honest and upfront service to the members of the Labour Party. And yet you feel no need to justify your accusations, nor to reflect on her long record of service. It is enough for you that she has voted for a couple of motions on the basis of here judgement of the facts involved and the feedback she has received from members. She may be right and she may be wrong about those decisions (I don’t have the evidence) but the record indicates that she will have made her decisions in an honourable and serious way. It is absurd to describe her in the way that you do. I am sure that a movement that is so narrow in its judgements that such views can pass for serious comment cannot possibly win against the very considerable forces ranged against it. To win against that we would need to react to differences of view on our own side without moving immediately into accusations of being a “rabid right wing back stabber” and the like.

        It is because of attitudes like this that I have been asking if the left is up to the task of running the Labour Party. i don’t think that a clear answer in the affirmative is possible and comments like yours about Ann Black push me towards the opposite conclusion.

        I am really sorry to say this and I don’t want to be rude or offensive but I strongly believe that when insults and strong language are allowed to get in the way of careful measured judgement then we need to think where we are going. Even if Corbyn wins if the quality of the policy development (1) from his team (virtually non-existent) and (2) from the left (virtually non-existent) does not become a substantial offering involving the membership in the process then we will ultimately lose. It will just be a question of time.

        So, please, lay off Ann Black, she is a thoroughly decent comrade. It we reject people like her as a ” rabid right wing supporting anti Corbyn backstabber” then we are definitely stuffed.

        • You are right. Anne’s recent decisions have been disappointing but the level of venom displayed here should be reserved for the real ring leaders like Benn, Kinnock, Eagle, Smith, etc.

          Apart from that Smith is being allowed to put his own meat on the anti-austerity bones, and what rancid old meat it is, because Corbyn has failed so far to do so. We need a common perspective, understanding and programme behind which the labour movement and working class can unite and which can offer the whole of society a way out of the capitalist coffin.

        • Spare me the sanctimonious umbrage , David. Politics isn’t a drawing room game for the genteel middle classes. Your unconditional loyalty to Ann Black is ….. what ? Praiseworthy ? or utterly blinkered ? I think the latter. Read her own self-justifying account of her role at the NEC meeting , at which she swallowed wholesale every part of the coup-justifying narrative of the Labour Right, and voted to suspend all our democratic Party functions, and try to relate that harsh reality to your claim of her “remarkable record”.

          Your “leftism” appears to be very shallowly rooted , David – despite aeons no doubt battling away in the Labour Party for precisely the politics that Jeremy and , much more importantly, hundreds of thousands of existing and new Left oriented members and supporters, espouse. As soon as one of the periodic key confrontation points between Labour Right and Left occurs, as it did in the late 1950’s, and again in the 80’s around “Bennism”, you , and too many embedded old Labour Leftists capitulate to the ruthless blackmail of the Labour Right , and embrace that pernicious old mantra of “Unity above all else”. Your , undoubtedly soundly-based, criticisms of the policy development poverty (so far) of the Corbynite Left, are actually simply a convenient justification for capitulating to the Labour Right.

          Be honest, you really want to vote for that snake oil salesman, Smith , with his transparently bogus promises to pursue “a Corbynite agenda without Corbyn”. If by some total gerrymandered fiddle , Smith won, you surely know vast majority of the Left within Labour would either leave or be purged, and Labour would return fully to its top-down, elitist , cronyist, neoliberal ways, immediately.

          But then you, as part of the Labour Left “old guard” could then return comfortably to your lifelong comfort zone – ineffectual promotion of an abstract “socialist” ideal – with no worries about ever having to fight to implement it.

          • You responded to my criticism with “sanctimonious umbrage”, “Politics isn’t a drawing room game for the genteel middle classes”, “Your unconditional loyalty to Ann Black”, “utterly blinkered”, “Your ‘leftism’ appears to be very shallowly rooted”, “you , and too many embedded old Labour Leftists capitulate to the ruthless blackmail of the Labour Right”, “embrace that pernicious old mantra of ‘Unity above all else'”. Your, criticisms of the policy development poverty … are actually simply a convenient justification for capitulating to the Labour Right”, “Be honest, you really want to vote for that snake oil salesman, Smith”, “then you, as part of the Labour Left “old guard” could then return comfortably to your lifelong comfort zone – ineffectual promotion of an abstract “socialist” ideal – with no worries about ever having to fight to implement it”.

            I know that you are not a fool so I wonder how, on reflection, this diatribe reads to you. You say things about me which you cannot possibly know (and which happen to be incorrect). So, I repeat my original point that a movement in which people respond to criticism in this way is one in which intelligent debate will always be drowned out by this sort of stuff. There can be no future for politics practised in this way.

          • David Pavett’s dignified response to John Penney’s diatribe against him deserves further comment. Apart from offensively accusing David of wanting to vote for Smith John seeks to deride the quest for unity as something that will always lead to capitulation to the right. What he means is that there can be no compromise of any kind with anyone to the right of Corbyn, so purges, deselections and expulsions will deliver a pure left party that will deliver the socialist future. I admit that the precipitate and stupid action of a majority of Labour MPs has significantly reduced the possibility of future unity, but we must still strive for that, or at least those of us who understand that without it there is no way forward. John however remains an unreconstructed ultra leftist whose advocacy is likely to be entirely negative in its consequences..

          • Your problem, John, is that you have far to high a regard for your own opinions (and I say this as someone who, more often than not, agrees with you). Anyone who disagrees is either a right-wing impostor or a fool who has strayed from the true path of Real Socialism and must be brow-beaten into returning. Believe it or not, you will not convince many people with such an approach.

            This is uncharacteristically rude of me, but nowhere near as rude as you were to David Pavett. I know nothing about Ann Black other than that I’ve been unimpressed by her voting record in recent weeks, but David’s post deserved a serious response. Instead you just decided to further prove his point. For all your insinuation that David wants to return to his comfort zone of “ineffectual promotion of an abstract ‘socialist’ ideal”, you seem remarkably unwilling to leave your comfort zone and engage with those that disagree with you or ask difficult questions. The sad thing is that, as much as your response might be a stereotype of a leftist taken from the minds of Telegraph readers, you aren’t even the worst example of this behaviour out there.

            I don’t know why I bothered writing this. I salute David Pavett for believing you might acknowledge the foolishness of your response, as it indicates much greater faith in humanity and you than I have. History shows that none of it will get through to you. No doubt my “sanctimonious umbrage” has further convinced you that I need to “grow a backbone” or even earned me the title of fake-socialist.

          • Unfortunately the is actually no substantive content in your post upon which I can comment, C. MacMackin. Simply expressing upset that other posters are criticising other posters with whom you agree is not a meaningful contribution.

            I repeat my observation that David Pavett has for months been deliberately attacking the Corbyn leadership from a set of positions that simply feed off and reinforce the carefully constructed narrative of the Labour Right and their press allies, whilst claiming still to be a ” reluctant Corbyn supporter”.This is a very convenient posture from which to attack Corbyn, and bolster the Smith narrative and candidacy.

            Try answering that quite clearly explained charge, rather than simply matching David’s sanctimonious umbrage.

            By the way, I thought you had decided to “bow out of the debate” because “it was all too stressful for a Canadian” ?

          • JohnP [in an earlier version this comment was addressed to Karl Stewart by mistake], you say

            I repeat my observation that David Pavett has for months been deliberately attacking the Corbyn leadership from a set of positions that simply feed off and reinforce the carefully constructed narrative of the Labour Right and their press allies … This is a very convenient posture from which to attack Corbyn, and bolster the Smith narrative and candidacy.

            And you refer to your “quite clearly explained charge”.

            1. There has been no clearly explained charge, just accusations.

            2. You have nowhere told us about the “set of position” from which you claim I am “deliberately” attacking Corbyn. I think such an accusation needs to be substantiated.

            3. When is a criticism an “attack”? I do indeed have criticsms of Corbyn’s leadership, particularly concerning the failure to develop policies around which the membership could unite. Does that make me anti-Corbyn and pro-Smith? Do you think people on the Corbyn side who think that there are significant problems with the leadership should keep that to themselves?

            4. Please tell us where I have said anything to “bolster the Smith narrative and candidacy”.

            It is easy for me to reject your charges because I know where I stand. I think the election of Corbyn was an expression of hope that Labour could break with the stultifying dogma and control freakery of the Blair/Brown/Miliband years and involve the membership in informed debate about policy options. The almost complete failure to develop policy and to involve the many who would have been willing to help has put Corbyn in a weaker position than he would otherwise be in. I have repeatedly made simple suggestions as to how this could be corrected. It hasn’t been corrected and now we have the embarrassing situation in which it can look to many as if Smith is coming to the table with a bundle of policies while Corbyn tries to keep up. This could so easily have been avoided.

            I am sure that Smith is not what he presents himself as and there is good evidence on this. I fear that if he is elected it will be a return to normal for the LP machine which has become so adept at manipulating members while appearing to give them a say. The Corbyn team need to tell us what they would hope to achieve in a second year which they were unable to do in the first year. They also need to offer an approach to the PLP that would draw in the majority if Labour MPs. I want Corbyn to be re-elected but I also want things to be done rather differently after that. I am afraid that if there is not an honest and open appraisal of the mistakes and weaknesses of the first year of left leadership then they will be repeated and it will all ultimately end in tears.

            When people who support a cause and have worked for it are turned on as being in league with the enemy because they think that the battle could be better fought and say so, this is a very unhealthy development. We cannot expect to be taken seriously by the wider public if we call for democracy and open debate but cannot practice it among ourselves without turning in each other.

          • I feel I should offer an apology for the tone of my post. I doubt you will care, John Penny, but I feel I should say, for the record, that it was wrong and intemperate of me to respond in that personal and aggressive a way. I will emphasize, though, that this does not mean I agree with or support your approach to discussions on this platform.

            PS: I believe I had indicated in a follow-up post that I might re-enter the debate once I’d had a bit of a chance to step back and let my head clear, although perhaps I did not say that explicitly. And, to clarify, I was not saying that “it was all too stressful for a Canadian”; I was saying it was “it was all too stressful for this Canadian” or, rather, this particular individual. Particularly when things going on in his personal life happened to be stressful enough at that point in time anyway.

      • For the record,the vote that really mattered at the NEC was whether or not JC was on the ballot paper.In that key vote Ann was one of the 18 in the majority.

        • It could be argued of course that whilst this decision was an important one. One way or another it was so much likely to have happened by one form or another. It is difficult to conceive of a situation, that with unambiguous wording, it would ever be acceptable to hundreds of thousands of expectants that he could have legitimately be excluded. So many people opposed to Corbyn would have accepted that he needs to be on the ballot. So in that sense it was not by itself a brave Left position to support his inclusion but a reconciliation to what must be.

          To have voted for Corbyn’s inclusion and then to vote to constrain the voting support amongst Supporters (by the size of the tax) and then to go along with the constraint on the numbers of those recent members voting and then to go along with the, ‘we can’t allow members to get upset by bad meetings’ is perfectly consistent with what a sophisticated Right wing position could adopt. Although I do agree with point that this on its own does not make Ann Black tend to a Right wing position but it does make me alert.

          • As well it might, Verity. Have another read of her own online account of her actions and motivations, and note how completely she supports and repeats every aspect of the Labour Right’s narrative – particularly the nonsense about “intimidation” as an excuse to shut down all Party democracy.

            It’s a pretty damned shoddy performance for someone supported by Momentum for the NEC !

        • Reply to DavidP at 9am.

          With respect David, I think that particular quote is from JohnP.

          • You are quite right. Many apologies for my mistake. I will ask the editor to make a correction to remove the confusion.

  6. That the PLP will set up a new Shadow Cabinet and gain official status as the `opposition’ is now a certainty if the NEC’s gerrymandering hasn’t been sufficient to give Smith the win. Who will be their leader across the dispatch box at PMQ facing up to May? Benn I would imagine as a temporary measure giving way to Stephen Kinnock when the 172 coup plotters have held an election. They will gamble that the unions over time will have no option but to recognise them as the Labour Party and Corbyn and Co as a rump. We cannot allow that. It’s time to be serious in a way that Corbyn and Momentum do not seem to be about defeating this right wing. A new kind of politics cannot become a euphemism for letting these plotters walk all over us.

    • I have no doubt that when it is convenient for them the irreconcilables will attempt to form a parliamentary ‘opposition’. However I think it is far from clear that they will be the ‘official’ opposition. The Speaker of the House of Commons may well be called upon at some point to recognise a (potentially large) disaffected group. What he will look for in making that decision is a coherent and stable force. I believe he will be looking for something that look as though it is going to be consistently, stable and cohere and have a consistent programme as would a registered Party. The disaffected group is more likely to have a variable membership without a stable means for recognition, i.e. it does not have a tested and tried name with distinctive programme and may have fluctuating participation. I believe the Speaker will expect them to demonstrate they are Registered Party (with all that that entails) before he will be prepared to recognise them as the ‘official’ opposition. I also suspect that that will be expected even if they became well over a 120 strong (which may be questionable).

      I struggle to see the advantage to the Labour ‘opposition’ group in attempting this breakaway at this time. They truly believe that Corbyn will fail, so why not stay semi-detached and then at each and every opportunity seek to undermine, until a major Corbyn error occurs, by which they make another challenge. Each time this iteration occurs they can hope to gain more and more members in and out of parliament until they are ready for the break much strengthened. each time that stay and win minor battles they will win over more people. The onus is upon the Left to demonstrate that it can cohere around a winnable and understood strategy. Wow, What a challenge that will be!

      • Very interesting comment. Will be fascinating to see how The Speaker plays it.

        The problem for the rebels is that they cannot hang about. They know that come the gen election nobody is going to vote for the coup plotters even if Corbyn is the leader because they know that there are no circumstances under which they would form a Corbyn government and are more likely to join with Tories and Lib Dems to form a government of national unity against working people. They will all loose their seats if they don’t get rid of Corbyn. This is also why when Corbyn wins if that possibility hasn’t already been excluded by the gerrymandering of the NEC he absolutely positively must get these people de-selected because there will never be a Corbyn government if he does not.

  7. Wonder if hopefully when JC is re-elected Momentum etc. can facilate regional policy conferences all around the country to harness all the enthusiasm and talent emerging on the left out there.
    In Saturday events (where people can also contribute ideas online) we could all in the morning sign up for one of say seven smaller groups by topic: housing, economy, defence & international, education, transport, civil liberties etc.
    I will offer housing as an example and these should be brief documents (with about 8-10 brief bulllet points written in clear and straight forward language) to discuss, to agree with, amend or add to.
    In the afternoon we then all come back together for a plenary session where each possibly amended document is taken one by one and further amendments can be taken from the floor and then the final documents are sent upwards!
    Momentum could consider policy groups and if not I will bloody write them myself!
    . Build 100,000 social homes a year plus more affordable homes to buy a year.
    . In consultation residents refurbish & radically redesign run down social housing estates to also green them up with park areas plus community amenities.
    . Have rent controls in the public and private rented sector and use the billions saved from the housing benefit bill to buy and refurbish empty homes to rent or buy from LAs.
    These homes are already on site so saves new build and saves environmental space.
    . Bring back taxes on private landlords with multiple properties.
    . Increased security of tenure for private renting tenants, social housing tenants, and leaseholders plus statutory right to consultation for all housing tenures.
    . Consider Right to Buy private rented sector.
    . End Right to Buy social housing and the bedroom tax.
    . Allow young people 16-21 to get housing benefit again for social housing & private renting.
    . Fund local authorities to buid anew and give planning powers back to LAs instead of having developers charters.
    . Public ownership of land and/or a land tax.
    . Owner-occupation – consider some buiding societies in public ownership or set up a new regional public ones for below actions.
    . Consider more flexible ownership schemes where you buy 50% and rent 50% and can revert to renting if hit hard times.
    . Consider flexible mortgages where you buy 50% and get the rest on a 120 year lease (like in some conservation areas). Discuss.

  8. I am repeating my post from the previous article here as it seems a more appropriate forum, and because I would like to hear some more views as to why most (all?) folk here think a split would be such a catastrophe. A split means that both groups will get their party back. Both will know that the only way back to power will be through proportional representation and so must join a progressive alliance to get this through. After that, everyone can vote for exactly who they want, and a coalition of the left could keep the Tories out of power for ever. Result – happiness. No?

    • With PR with a preference vote there are little costs to this. But you do have to already be in power to get PR. The last attempt at a preference and priority system (AV referendum) failed to secure Labour support and any public enthusiasm.

      In any typical election you might have a Tory, Liberal, UKIP candidates along with 2 ‘Labour’ candidates – The Labour Party and ‘Continuity Labour’. The actual Labour Party might not win many seats. We get what we want but the cost could be enormous. However given the current state of ‘Labour’ we could get more than the current 40, with the prospects are offering something we hope could potentially enthuse the electorate in the longer term.

      • Regardless of splits, proportional representation would be an absolute catastrophe for the Labour Left. It would mean no more majority Labour governments and would therefore end any hope of achieving the policy-making sovereignty of Conference.

        Of course it would mean an endless succession of coalition governments, but it’s wishful thinking to suppose these coalitions would somehow be to our liking and would somehow enthuse the electorate. We have just had a coalition government after all and it was grim. Thankfully, under First Past the Post, coalitions are few and far between.

        Under PR, socialist measures kick-starting the public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange would be routinely vetoed by coalition partners, including the vaunted “progressive” ones.

        Nor would PR improve British democracy overall, since manifestos would be rewritten behind closed doors after every election, as was the case with the Tories and the Lib Dems.

        PR and EU membership are really two sides of the same coin – constitutional means of placing capitalism on a firmer footing and ruling out democratic socialism.

        • Regardless of splits, proportional representation would be an absolute catastrophe for the Labour Left.

          The subtext of anti-PR statements like this is that the majority of the electorate can never be won for left policies.

          On this view we can only have a left government by using a voting system that gives parliamentary majorities to electoral minorities. I think it is appropriate to ask anyone with this view just what part democracy plays in their view of political advance

          • DP,we are in a totally undemocratic system,where the working class are exploited and kept under the heel.Their only hope is a majority Labour Gov’t ie the party they set up to defend them against the ravages of the system designed to keep them down.All you do,in your ivory tower, is abstract a notion of pure democracy and say the working class must suffer so you can worship this abstract concept.Concepts have to be analysed in their concrete reality not in the abstract.You seem to have read Marx but you haven’t seemed to grasp Old Moor’s basic points.At the moment we have one UKIP MP.You are gagging for a system that could give us 150 or more.How daft is that.The CBI supports PR.The capitalists have a better grasp of reality than someone who spent most of their political life in an irrelevent party that folded as soon as the Moscow Gold stopped coming.

          • Peter, your reply, despite all your usual insults and bluster, means nothing other than that you do not believe that a majority can be won for socialism. Interesting that you think that the idea of winning such a majority is a hopelessly “abstract” notion of “pure democracy”. Go tell that to the masses.

            As this and most of your other responses to me show, you find it difficult to see the differences between arguing against someone’s views and arguing against the person. If you could grasp that point you would be in a position to radically improve your contributions.

            If I want lessons in the analysis of concepts or in the ideas of Karl Marx I can think of no reason why you would be anywhere near the top of my list.

          • DP,the fact you spent many years in an irrelevent party that folded when Moscow stopped the handouts, says a lot about your political judgement and is a valid point.Your political judgement is clearly not up to much and my argument is that this fundamental weakness carries over to your fixation with PR.It also means you dismiss,as not even worth discussing, the fact that PR would deny the working class their only weapon(a majority Lab.Govt)and would land us with well over 100 UKIP MPs.This to you is of little consequence.Whether or not the majority would vote for socialism in the dim and distant future is something for you to worry about in your ivory tower.It is not something for the class struggle in the here and now.

          • Peter, your taunts about “Moscow gold” are amusing examples of pointless political rhetoric, but no more than that. You feel the need to take up space saying that my judgement poor rather than letting own analysis speak for itself. Everyone can judge that approach for themselves.

            The key difference between us is that you don’t believe a majority can be won for a radical left government and put your hope in an election system that can give parliamentary majorities with electoral minorities. I don’t believe that a radical left government which starts with only minority support could ever succeed. The forces that would be ranged against it are too great for success to be possible without the support of the greater part of the population. So I think your idea is a fantasy. Class struggle is a much harder affair than you appear to imagine.

          • DP,what people do is related to the views they hold.For example,if you joined the Moonies or Jehovahs Witnesses this would not be independent of your world view.Thus, it is perfectly valid to argue that spending many years in an irrelevant party that gave up when the Russian money ran out, says a lot about your political judgement.But I fully understand why you resist facing this obvious truth.Is it also the case that in that irrelevant party,members believed they could read the minds of others?You keep saying I don’t think a majority could be won for socialism.In fact the opposite is the case.But,no doubt with your background,you believe that handing out papers and giving the working class a series of Pavett lectures will do the trick.I believe you have to prove the effectiveness in practice of our arguments.In other words,we need several 1945-type majority Lab.Govts carrying out pro working class policies.But PR would rule this out,as Prof.Danny N points out.

          • Peter, you seem determined to prove that my arguments cannot be valued because I was many years ago a member of the Communist Party. I don’t think that I have to explain to anyone reading this the puerile nature of this view, so I won’t. It is interesting that this latter day red-baiting approach to political debate should come from someone standing as a left wing candidate for Labour’s NEC.

      • DP,it is a question of political judgement not red baiting.Anyway many of the CP became Blairites and SDP and worse.

        • You believe that refutation of anything I say based on the fact that 30 years ago a members of the CP is not red-baiting. There is nothing more to be said

          • DP,my point is that you make these magisterial pronouncements in a rather arrogant way and that more humility is required, given that you have shown that your political judgement is flawed, given all the years you saw an irrelevant party as the way forward for the working class.To call this red-baiting is nonsense and shows how defensive you are.The CP,of course,were gung ho for PR,I assume they saw it as a way of undermining our Party.For once the CP were spot on.

          • DP,to me, to want a system that would rule out majority Lab.Govts,that would provoke the splitting of our Party into several ineffective fragments and creating perhaps a 100 or so UKIP MPs,is evidence enough of flawed judgement.I could find plenty more evidence,but that’s enough for now.

          • I should have added that DP’s political judgement inspired him to back T Watson for Dep.Leader-someone who has always been linked to Frank Chapple’s very hard right and neo Stalinist,Labour First(led by Frank’s bag carrier,J Spellar).DP also mistakenly judges that there is little wrong with the Trigger Ballot system.Dave Osland is writing a pamphlet that will set out the TB’s fundamental flaws and give advice re the full reselection process.Dave’s pamphlet will be posted on CLPD’s Home Page and reviewed in CLPD’s next Newsletter- No.80.

  9. PeteW is wrong to dismiss the Communist Party in the way he does, but he is right on PR.

    PR is indeed an irrelevance. And given that we said no to it in the 2011 referendum, discussion of it is a pointless and futile diversion.

    • Of course we must have PR, without which it is unlikely that we will be able to move far in a socialist direction.Under FPTP Labour cannot be a socialist party, as it would not command sufficient votes in the centre. It can never be more than a social democratic party, which it is under Jeremy, and can win on that basis. Support for FPTP fails to understand this elementary point. We need a socialist party. That is only possible under PR, as is the case in Germany, where Die Linke has about 80 MPs.
      But the argument for FPTP is unduly pessimistic.It assumes that it is not possible to win more than 50% of the vote.If we claim to represent the interests of the great majority should this not be feasible?
      The argument against PR is that it means compromise through coalition, but what is not understood is that this happens under FPTP in the way in which Labour has to position itself if it is to win.
      Yes, UKIP does not have the 80 ( not 150) MPs it would have under PR, but neither is it possible to have a socialist party that might have an equivalent number.
      FPTP is also ludicrously unfair. In 1983 the Alliance( Lib and SDP) got 26% of the vote but 3% of the seats. It also means that elections are determined in only about 100 seats.The Tories are very good at this.
      The problem is that there isn’t a majority in favour of PR in the LP, let alone the country as a whole. That has to change before PR can become a serious option.

      • It’s a pointless discussion, because we’ve already had a referendum on the issue and we voted no.

        But, if discuss it we must, my personal view is that FPTP is way more democratic than PR.

        Under FPTP, everyone gets one vote, everyone gets to choose who to vote for, and everyone gets a Member of Parliament to represent their town/community.

        It’s not one election, but 650 separate elections and FPTP provides a clear and immediate result in every constituency, and whichever party wins a majority of constituencies the government.

        You make the example of the LibDems (SDP/Alliance) and others make the example of UKIP and claim that its unfair that these parties didn’t win many seats.

        But the reason they didn’t win many seats was because they didn’t win many of these separate 650 elections.

        To make an analogy, if a football team didn’t win many matches they wouldn’t win the championship. It makes no difference how many goals they score in the matches they lose – they still lost those games.

        And it makes no difference how many votes the LibDems or UKIP (or Labour or the Tories) win in seats they lose – if they lose, they lose.

        PR rewards losers for losing. We need to win by winning.

  10. PR is about the political splitting of the working class. The left can gain control of the Labour Party and win elections. Why the hell would it give away its power to Blairites, Lib Dems and Tories? The task is to win the working class behind a common perspective and programme so that it can take power. PR is strictly for the Lib Dems and their divide and rule politics and for assorted other opportunists and sects.

    • Yes Robert,over the years the ruling class often introduced PR as a means to divide and rule.Our focus should always be the class struggle in the here and now-as it always was for Old Moor.To obsess with abstract concepts apart from the working class struggle is to ape Liberals or,to quote Lenin,to be the ruling class’s ‘useful idiots’.

      • The class struggle of the here and now will carry on whatever electoral system we have. What will change is the immediate dynamic form that it takes. If the Labour Party does start to field two distinct candidates then there will at least be some test of the support that a socialist programme could and must muster. Obscuring what Labour could stand for behind a ‘Citizen Smith’ type programme as we would have Labour’s FPTP does not forward that class struggle much either.

        • Verity,of course the class struggle will always go on .History is the history of class struggle.But we take the side of the oppressed classes.In what way does it help the working class to have an electoral system( favoured by the capitalists)which will deny our class their only weapon(a majority Lab.Govt)and produce at least 100 UKIP MPs?

          • This isn’t true. Mrs. Thatcher once said that PR would mean the end of the Tory party. She was right.

          • Peter,I’m a bit surprised you believe MT is an authority on anything.As I understand it,the CBI has Confce policy in favour of PR.Give my regards to Stevie S-have a chat to Stevie about PR,he has a good grasp of what is the way forward for our class.

          • I do not agree that Labour has always and obviously taken the side of the ‘oppressed classes’ it has been very adaptive and selective, sometimes with more misses than hits and in my view often confuses its voters about whose interests it serves. Compromises are made before programmes are subject to public debate and scrutiny. In such circumstances I favour the clarity of programmes and the democratic engagement of more people, especially where socialists are able to distinguish themselves from liberal – social democrats and challenge for support amongst the electorate.

            I do not make my judgements about what system would best serve my interests by opposing what (some) of my opponents think is in their interests.

            It is the second and third preference notion that I consider most important rather than the proportionality component. No political force can easily commands a majority for positive reasons but working class representatives can, in my opinion, gain considerably more by having less negatives against them than any other political force. In such circumstances I believe the Left would be able to command a dominant political position against all-comers.

            Given the proportionally component, of course there may be short term gains for Liberals, Greens and UKippers. I do shy away from the political challenges of the realities we face by hiding from the fact that electorate at this stage take the views that they do. I welcome the political campaigns and struggles rather than pretending I can side-step it.

          • No, Peter, before she went off the rails and was removed Mrs. T had quite an astute undersstanding of this and other matters. FPTP has largely benefited the ruling classes, but it is spurious nonsense, as you must be aware, to oppose a course of action because your opponents favour it.
            I have set out the main arguments for PR above, and I am pleased that they are attracting growing support on the left, notably from John McDonnell and from your fellow NEC candidate from here in Wales, Darren Williams. Good luck to you both anyway, and I shall talk to Stevie about the issue.

          • Peter,I don’t oppose PR because the capitalists support it,I oppose PR because it would do great harm to the working class in its’ struggle with the capitalists.You have a chat to Stevie and I will have a serious talk to our Darren-he shares the same view as Ann B re PR.

  11. if there’s a split and it costs us million of votes we could say what Tony Benn said trying to get back ex labour voters who went to the SDP in

    come back to labour we’ll listen to what you have to say, then use the union block vote, to vote against it