When those who dare to speak out about the need for Labour to change leadership are castigated as ‘Red Tories’ or ‘filthy liberals’, as JK Rowling found this week, it’s probably worth setting out why many long-standing members and the majority of Labour MPs feel it’s time Jeremy Corbyn should go.
It’s not some ‘neo-liberal’ conspiracy or careerist move. And it’s not ‘the establishment’ thinking Corbyn can win, as Ken Livingstone argues absurdly on this website. The truth is there are real Labour values at stake here.
Principles like social and economic responsibility, being straight with the public and making honest promises that can be kept and afforded, not stringing people along pretending there’s a magical £500 billion money tree allowing every spending desire to be fulfilled with no difficult decisions ever needed.
Like standing up for national security, rejecting dangerous one-sided disarmament and being prepared to defend the population against terrorist threats. Labour must believe in confronting anti-semitism firmly and shouldn’t find itself calling Hamas and Hezbollah our ‘friends’.
When Labour MPs see a Party Leader take money from a pro-totalitarian Iranian TV station, venerate Venezuela as an example of best practice and refuse to defend the right of Falkland Islanders to self-determination, should we just shut up and toe the line? I think not. The same right to take an independent view that was afforded to Jeremy Corbyn by numerous Party Leaders must surely be provided now by the current leadership.
Above all, though, our core principle – as set out in the first clause of Labour’s constitution – is to maintain in Parliament the election of Labour representatives through the democratic process. We are not professional protestors or a placard factory. Our task is to persuade the broader public, beyond our core, to trust us enough to put in office and form a viable government with a programme for a fairer in society. Without winning more seats we fail in our task. It shouldn’t need saying. But it does need saying when the likes of John McDonnell believe “you can’t change the world through the parliamentary system” and the current leadership think that direct action, occupy movements and rallies are the better way forward.
There is a big and principled disagreement here. Denigrating representative democracy and playing the populist game is a dangerous path away from pluralism and towards intolerance and centralism – which is of course why the Trotskyists and communist-supporting Morning Star are so eager to encourage it.
So while there are clearly day-to-day competence issues, a chaotic office and a refusal to work as a team - as so many colleagues have testified – the crisis in our Party isn’t just a series of personality clashes or quarrels over tactics. Jeremy Corbyn is turning his back on some core Labour principles that matter to us and matter to the wider electorate too. That’s the reason so many Labour MPs are exasperated. The abuse meted out to anyone who dares to question the leadership is phenomenal. But what those who wish to intimidate will discover, we have something worth fighting for and no amount of threats of hostility or deselection will shake that belief in our core principles.
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