Saturday, 25 July 2015

Welfare of the Party

I am becoming concerned about the nature of the debate around the Labour leadership. The Tory press are attacking all the candidates and we have to accept that they will relentlessly attack whoever is selected right up until Thursday 7th May 2020. Naturally, the right wing press have focused their vitriol on the most left wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, it is becoming particularly bad now that Jeremy has closed the gap in the polls and the result looks like it could be close.

I rejoined the Party in 2010 after Iraq and was selected to stand for parliament in 2015, I'm an active trade unionist and would be considered by many to be on the Left of our Party. I will most likely be supporting Andy Burnham in the election, I have met him, most recently at the Miners Gala and he has broad appeal. My second preference will go to either Jeremy or Yvette Cooper. I will continue to work tirelessly for the Party and give my full support to whoever is elected. I have a lot of respect for Liz Kendall but her politics are probably furthest from mine. I agree with what Tony Blair said last week; 'Labour should modernise, look to the future and move on' He should acknowledge that 1997 is also in the past, we have to move on from then too.

Tony also said that when a traditional left wing party contests and election against a traditional right wing party we get a traditional result (Tory win). This may be true but what is also true is that divided parties aren't much good at winning elections either, that '97 win was historic but helped in part by John Major being unable to unite his Party which were split over the EU.

Last week I was disappointed to see the Labour MPs split over their opposition to the welfare bill in which George Osborne had to outline how he will cut £12Bn from an already squeezed social security budget. Our tactic of seeking amendments to curb the worst excesses in the bill was a sound one but the amendments were voted down and what followed was a mess, with some Labour MPs abstaining, as the temporary leadership had suggested, and others voting against the bill. The only people what benefit from division in the Parliamentary Labour Party are those in the Conservative Government.

Corbyn was one of the MPs who rebelled and while I both respect his decision and understand the reasons behind it, his persistent rebellion is about the only reason why I'm undecided about supporting him. To vote against your party once over something like Iraq shows character, to do it twice could be described as carelessness but to rebel on over 500 different occasions shows a disregard for the principle of collective action.

We must not forget what is painted on our Union banners and printed on old posters. 'Unity is Strength'. The opposite is also true, 'division is weakness', a fact not lost on the Tories.

The Tories are the real enemy, they wrote the welfare bill and voted it though. The electorate have given them enough MPs so it would have gone though even if had there been a three line whip to vote against. Maybe Harriet's call to abstain was a misjudgement but Labour MPs didn't draft this bill, they didn't vote for this bill and if the campaigned anything like I did, they would have spent 18 months before the election putting family, work and social life to one side, listened to countless voters on the doorstep and tried to make sure the Tories were out of government and not in a position to inflict such cuts.

The election result was difficult. This selfish, out of touch, ideological Tory government now have a mandate to cut. I hope that at the end of our selection process, everyone who opposes them can unite behind the new leader and join the fight to end 10 years of Tory rule.

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