I’ve seen a number of social media postings from journalists, political commentators and politicians in the last couple of days regarding there being no Merseyside MP’s in Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet.
Here’s my take on it. Merseyside Labour Party decided to indulge itself in another round of Militantism, only this time it was called Momentum/Corbynism. And just like the previous time (1980’s) they got slapped down; last time by Kinnock now by Starmer. It really is as simple as that.
Yes of course there will have been MP’s and indeed councillors who pretended to be Corbynistas to either avoid deselection or to garner favour from the former leader’s sect. But whilst that gave them cover during Corbyn’s time as top dog it created the very opposite at the end of his reign. So what do you do as a Social Democrat, centrist or moderate within Labour who decided to take Corbyn’s shilling? A sudden about face (not very credible) or more likely keep your head down for a while whilst slowly emerging with differing beliefs.
But of course that also works in reverse. If you were an ardent Corbynista, where do you go now? Walk away from a party which now seems to be all but embarrassed by by what it believed in until the electorate said not on your Nellie in December 2019. Alternatively, do you change your spots and start to cheer-lead for the new more moderate and very much establishment man at the helm?
So is it really any surprise that Starmer has calmly put Merseyside Labour on notice? No of course not. But will they learn. No of course not!
If I spoke to some of those I know in the Labour Party who follow the Corbyn/Momentum creed I guess they would say that Louise Ellman, Luciana Burger and Jane Kennedy are bloody Tories who they are well rid of, or words to similar effect.
But Liverpool has now had 2 of it’s Labour MP’s resign from the party plus the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and all in the last few months. Are we just seeing the further realignment of Labour into it becoming a pure socialist party and in the process shedding it’s social democrats and other more moderate factions/sects or is there something else going on too? Sadly, there can be little doubt that antisemitism is at play in this heady brew but people holding anti-Semitic views should surely not be a part of any political faction which looks upon itself as being progressive. Yet both the resigning Labour MP’s have clearly pointed to antisemitism as a big reason for their break with Labour.
I’ve spent the last 39 years involved in progressive politics and the trade union movement on Merseyside and in all that time I have never failed to wonder how Labour held itself together with so many widely divergent views within one tent. That it can no longer hold itself together is on one level no surprise yet all the same one of the big underlying issues for this schism are allegations of racism and not just another round of left V right push me – pull you.
Actually, it gives me little pleasure to see Labour struggling with issues which should really be entangling the right of politics not the left, but thereby hangs the dilemma. Very early in my political life I came across a young man, via my trade union, who as a Labour activist openly told me there were more racists in the Labour Party than in the Tory Party. I’ll never forget that view but then over time I slowly began to understand why. Labour has some supporters/voters who are tribal, they are almost literally born into the Party. The Tories are their enemy, as is anyone who is not Labour, yet some of them are far from being progressives and they can hold strikingly right wing views. It led me to coin the phrase – many Labour members/supporters are too right wing for me.
Wherever Labour is going politically they need to see off their racists and those who make excuses for them.
Oh and another thing that stands out; all 3 of the high profile Merseyside resigners are female. That’s also a huge concern, indeed it begs the question about how welcome women feel about being active in a major political party.
All political parties can attract people who are joining them for the wrong reasons; the trick is to remove them when they start to display inappropriate behaviours. Sadly, the problems can often be ignored rather than them being challenged. I fear Labour is now paying the price for ignoring inappropriate behaviour and that has the effect of normalising such behaviour.
It was this recent article in the Liverpool Echo (see link above) that made me think about how many of Merseyside’s Labour MP’s and prominent local authority notables must now be pondering their future because they backed the wrong horse in the 2015 Labour Leadership election. The link below reminds us of those who publicly backed Andy Burnham, a chap many see as being very much on the right wing of the Labour Party.
This link shows just how many of the big beasts in Labour’s Merseyside jungle refused to back Corbyn who, of course, won the election by a landslide. However, some of them were then quick on their feet though as they saw the way the wind was blowing. They got a place in Corbyn’s team even though they had publicly made it very clear they saw Andy Burnham as Labour’s only credible Leader.
Many of my friends in the trade union movement, who have not been Labour Party members for many years are rejoining the Labour now to try to shore up Corbyn who remains under attack from many of his MP’s, despite Labour’s membership being very much behind him.
At face value Labour is returning to what in my mind it should be i.e. a clearly socialist party as opposed to the social democrat and even Christian Democrat one it became under Blair and Brown. Indeed, the ferocity of Labour attacks on those who rely on welfare/benefits to survive before the 2015 General Election made many of us wonder just how far to the right Labour was capable/prepared to travel. Of course those making these appalling attacks were dubbed ‘Red Tories’.
I am sure, like me, you can also sumise that the new socialist members of the Labour Party across Merseyside will have a copy of ‘that letter’. Surely they will be using it as a good starting point to deselect the MP’s and Labour worthies who penned it?
Will those who have been trying to re-position themselves as no longer anti-Corbyn, in the hope they can dodge the culling that surely must be on the cards, save themselves with their fancy footwork? Time will tell.
Why you can almost hear the words of Sir Humphrey saying ‘that was very brave’ to those who signed the letter which some if not all of them may one day very much wish they had not sent.