Labour Leadership and me

For the last month I have felt completely hemmed in and silenced on my blog. I have wanted to write about Brexit and the impact that this decision will have on our country. I wrote a blog about the new cabinet and our new PM but didn’t publish it as I felt that this has -unbelievably- become secondary to the concerns of the Labour Party I love and serve. I am furious that we as a Party have fallen into infighting and have been happy to continue down this route for well over a month now, while the Tories set the media and political agenda post referendum.

So here I go, I will address the ultimate political elephant in the room and share my own views about the Labour leadership. It has been difficult for me to publically acknowledge that my views on Jeremy’s leadership have shifted over the last year.  I also accept that there will be some within our movement who will disagree with me. I cannot support Jeremy in the leadership election, as I cannot support a leader who is unable to lead the movement I support to victory.

This has been a difficult decision for me, not least because I have got to know Jeremy personally. I have met Jeremy a number of times and admire and respect him.  Last summer In his characteristically gregarious way he invited me to join him and some friends for dinner. Up that point I had been wavering in my decision over who to support. That evening we discussed the fact that at that time (early June) he stood very little chance of getting his name in the leadership ballot. I have always been impressed with Jeremy’s passion and vision. I believed that he could shape the nature of the debate and that he could inspire the young generation to engage in politics. I hoped he could win an election and become our Socialist Prime Minister but more importantly I wanted him to ‘change the weather’ to challenge the Thatcherite ideology and so start a process of renewal for a more balanced and fair society.

I campaigned for him locally, I helped at his public meeting in Norwich and helped organise his public event in Cambridge, even at Jeremy’s request introducing him to the crowds outside the venue . Last summer was one of optimism and change. I felt that we, the people, would have a say in the future of our country.

This summer is a world away from then. Labour has suffered from a weak media relationship. We cannot continue as a party to attribute this entirely to rightwing media proprietors, as it does not tell the entire story. Since Jeremy became leader we have been consistently unable to set the agenda with the media nor deflect the negativity that has been levelled at us. This is no longer an inconvenience but the harbinger of electoral disaster.

Jeremy has been unable to command his PLP. I was against the air strikes against Syria and even though Jeremy was too, he clearly had no power to make the PLP follow him. That free vote and more recent vote on Trident renewal prove how infective his leadership has become.

As I Tweeted last summer – “Genuinely confused over the leadership. Heart with Corbyn but we must win for the good of the country. Labour isn’t a pressure group or a church.

We are fast becoming a pressure group. However it is worse, we are being ignored and laughed at while the Tories do as they please. However as if that’s not bad enough, the Tory leader Theresa May, the MP who has been central in a Tory led austerity government for six years is more popular than our leader. Just pause and think about that. If we held an election today then it looks likely that the Tories would win and we would be looking at another five years of Tory cuts and an attack on the most vulnerable in society.

This was highlighted recently when I spoke to a friend who is a member of Momentum. He said that they didn’t care for winning the next general election and that he was more concerned about the future of the left movement. I can’t share this view. Labour is a political party and winning elections is the purpose of any serious political party. Our ancestors didn’t win the vote in the late 19th and early 20th century just to be a social club shouting on the sidelines. Labour was founded to bring the concerns of the working people to the Commons and to make new laws that made life tolerable and fair for all. Under Jeremy I don’t see how a Labour government can be returned to power. We are broken and fractured. Our PLP will not work with him (I hold the MPs responsible for the despicable coup to account also, for their role), our membership is divided and the electorate of this country do not see us as a credible party of governance. We need change and for this reason we need Owen Smith to heal the divide and help us once again stand united so that we can actually deliver the change that our country desperately needs.