Reuniting the Labour movement: It isn’t too late

4 Jul 2016




Last week I wrote an emotional blog on the Labour Party coup. I felt betrayed, angry and generally in despair about parliamentary politics. After a week of resignations, abuse and general bile from all sides of the Labour spectrum, I feel more at peace with what has happened. It is difficult to be optimistic about the future of Labour and left-wing politics in general, however. Too many activists feel betrayed by people they exhausted themselves campaigning for. Parliamentarians feel threatened by their own supporters. In this piece I have tried to set out how we can move forward. I hope we will.



Both sides need to stop demonising their opponents


It is very tempting, and I have been guilty of this, to dismiss critics of Corbyn as Blairites. The left needs to come to terms with the fact that Corbyn’s opponents in the Parliamentary Party come from the Blairite right and what has been coined the ‘soft left’ (i.e. those who broadly subscribe to ideas similar to Ed Miliband). The vast majority of the Parliamentary Party doesn’t believe that Corbyn can win a general election. Ultimately, we can’t have a conversation about the future of the Labour Party on basis that Corbyn’s critics are fundamentally evil. Many committed Labour members, advocates of social justice and tireless workers for their local community, are opposed to Corbyn’s leadership. It is simply wrong that they are being threatened and abused by online trolls.


Critics of Corbyn nonetheless need to stop dismissing and dehumanising his supporters. There has been a tendency to paint Corbyn supporters as either aggressive thugs or naïve middle-class hippies. I have been accused of indulging in fantasy politics. That is no way to conduct a constructive political debate. Some members of the Corbyn camp are belligerent trolls, but the vast majority of his supporters simply want a Labour Party that engages with its members, speaks up for grassroots movements fighting for social justice (including trade unions) and offers a clear break from the top-down, trickle-down policies that have dominated modern Britain.


Unless both sides of the party are prepared to view each other as human, a rupture is inevitable.


 Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna. Both have called for Corbyn to resign.



The Parliamentary Labour Party has acted unconstitutionally


From publicly criticising the Labour Party leadership, to leaking documents, the Parliamentary Labour Party appears determined to sabotage the wider Labour movement in order to achieve its ideological goals. Many on the right have bitten their tongue and tried to make Labour under Corbyn work. But it is difficult to see this when MPs are immobilising Her Majesty’s Opposition in order to derail Jeremy Corbyn. MPs could have launched a leadership challenge against Corbyn without going Kamikaze on the shadow cabinet and plunging the Labour Party into chaos. For this reason, people like me who campaigned for Labour and voted for Corbyn feel betrayed.


Labour MPs need to acknowledge the legitimate anger and hurt they have caused if we are to work together again as a Labour movement.



Critics of Corbyn must present a positive vision for Britain


I know what Corbyn stands for and I agree with pushing for co-operative ownership, grassroots democracy and a more balanced economy. I don’t know what Corbyn's opponents stand for, besides kicking out the elected leader of the Labour Party. Whatever concerns Labour MPs share about Corbyn’s leadership, it isn’t enough to stand on the side and criticise without pitching a solution of your own.


Right now I am more open to a new leader of Labour than ever before. I am angry with people who have threatened Corbyn’s opponents. I accept that you can’t have a Labour leader who’s lost the backing of his MPs. I believe it would be incredibly authoritarian to attempt replace the entire Labour Party bureaucracy with Corbyn loyalists.


But this crisis nonetheless is one of the Parliamentary Party’s own making. We can’t expect the left, the party or the wider electorate to get behind such a divisive agenda. Labour parliamentarians with leadership pretensions, and their allies, need to present a way forward for our party; one that will unite members, MPs, and voters. Otherwise, their divisive posturing will serve no purpose.


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