The Left Needs to Accept Brexit

lexit
Lexit – Campaign for a left-wing exit from the EU!

Following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (often dubbed ‘Brexit’ – short for British Exit) on 23rd June 2016, 172 Labour MPs voted no confidence in party leader Jeremy Corbyn, triggering the second leadership contest in a twelve month period. The candidate challenging Corbyn is Owen Smith – MP for Pontypridd and former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Despite the democratic decision the electorate made to leave the EU, Smith has suggested including a pledge to remain in Labour’s next general election manifesto and holding a second referendum on the matter.

Owen Smith isn’t the only left-wing politician desperate to ignore the referendum, either. The Liberal Democrats have promised to fight the next election on a pro-EU slate and the Green Party’s lone MP Caroline Lucas has called for a second referendum on our membership of the 28-member bloc.

These pledges cause me a great deal of concern as the local authorities with the highest support for leaving the EU include countless Labour heartlands including Ed Miliband’s Doncaster, Dennis Skinner’s Bolsover, and ironically, Owen Smith’s Rhondda Cynon Taf. Most people in these areas still still support the Labour Party, but I fear our popularity would wither if we promised to block Brexit. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) already poses a considerable threat, placing second behind Labour in many constituencies at the 2015 general election, including my home of Doncaster North. Owen Smith is on record as saying his pro-EU fight is worth losing votes to UKIP, but I strongly disagree. In order to survive, we need to put maximum effort into keeping traditional Labour supporters away from the right-wing.

I can sympathise with those who feel Brexit is a mistake, but the public voted for it, and we need to respect their wishes. Remain supporters need to stop being so gloomy, accept the result and demand a say in negotiations in order to achieve a positive future for British workers outside of the European Union!

A common complaint is that the most prominent Vote Leave campaigners were right-wingers such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, stirring up an anti-immigration sentiment. In reality, there was plenty of support for a leave vote on the left, and immigration was discussed very little by those in the Labour Leave and Trade Unionists Against EU campaigns. Three trade unions backed Leave – ASLEF, BFAWU and RMT. Two of the most prominent Brexit campaigners were Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart. Dennis Skinner provided the Morning Star with a detailed explanation of why he regards the EU as a force for bad. George Galloway made multiple speeches for the Grassroots Out campaign and featured alongside other trade unionists and socialists in Lexit: The Movie. There was definitely a strong, passionate, socialist case for leaving. It’s simply not in the interest of the press to give the left a voice.

It is a shame the government chose Vote Leave as the official Brexit campaign as it consisted mostly of Tories and UKIP members, but they most certainly don’t speak for all Leave voters.

Feel free to question whether leaving the EU is the right decision, but making a second referendum party policy would undoubtedly be disastrous unless more than half of the public appeared to support it, and current polling suggests there is minimal appetite for ignoring the result.

Purges, Party Democracy and Hypocrisy

wearelabour
Whether you back Corbyn or Smith, we’re all Labour.

In the past week, thousands of Labour Party members and registered supporters have been suspended or expelled from the party, often for unconvincing or unclear reasons, in what has been dubbed as a purge. Those who have faced suspension include figures as prominent as Ronnie Draper of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union and John Dunn of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Victims of the purge will be barred from casting a vote in the ongoing leadership election where current Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn is going head-to-head with Owen Smith in a battle for leadership of the party, and it is widely suspected that the vast majority of suspended members support Corbyn. I know of many abusive Smith supporters on social media, including a councillor, but none have been suspended to my knowledge.

ronnie
Ronnie Draper attended the launch of Labour’s Workplace 2020 campaign.

Following the suspension of Ronnie Draper, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a statement via Twitter suggesting a rigged purge of Corbyn’s supporters was under way:

“The decision by Labour Party officials to suspend the Bakers’ Union leader Ronnie Draper from the party and deny him a vote in Labour’s leadership election over unidentified media posts is shocking, and appears to be part of a clear pattern of double standards.

“While Ronnie, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been denied his say in Labour’s election no action is being taken over the Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2m to support the Liberal Democrats.

“And no action has been taken against Michael Foster, the Labour Party member who abused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and staff as Nazi stormtroopers in the Daily Mail.

“Both will, as things stand, be able to vote in this election. Meanwhile thousands of other members and registered supporters are reported to have been denied a vote without being given an explanation or opportunity to challenge the decision or process.

“Labour Party members will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The conduct of this election must be fair and even-handed.

“I am writing to Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to demand that members and supporters who are suspended or lose their voting rights are given clear information about why action has been taken and a timely opportunity to challenge the decision.

“In particular the specification of particular terms of abuse to exclude Labour Party members from voting should not be applied retrospectively.”

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn spoke to Sky News and claimed to be very concerned that some people have been removed from the ability to vote in this election. I understand Corbyn has been in contact with the Labour Party’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to have this issue resolved.

I shared my thoughts on the situation this morning via Twitter:

The compliance unit is appointed by Iain McNicol – a man Labour Party members didn’t vote for. Anyone else want general secretary elections?

The tweet reached the democratic socialist community quickly and had received 58 retweets by lunch time. At about 4:30PM, secretary of Labour First and failed National Executive Committee candidate Luke Akehurst responded with this:

Anyone want to explain to this guy that the General Secretary is elected – by the elected members of the NEC?

The compliance unit staff aren’t taking decisions on who can vote – determined by a panel of elected NEC members.

Within minutes, my Twitter notifications were bombarded by Owen Smith supporters mocking me, therefore I locked my Twitter account for a while, preventing those who don’t follow me from seeing my tweets.

Luke Akehurst totally missed my point. I know the General Secretary is elected by the NEC, but it is an incredibly important position and there are only thirty-three NEC members. There are more than 500,000 Labour Party members and many are unhappy with the NEC’s bureaucracy.

Most trade union general secretaries are elected by their members despite having their own executive committees, and in my eyes, there is nothing stopping the Labour Party from adopting this kind of system.

For example, Len McCluskey was elected as General Secretary of Unite the Union in 2013 with 144,570 votes – a majority of 64,751 and a total vote share of 64.2%. Despite this, many of Owen Smith’s key backers have complained about a low turnout of 15.2%. Admittedly, the total turnout was low, but it doesn’t delegitimize McCluskey’s position. There are plenty of Labour councillors who have been elected on similar turnouts in by-elections, but that doesn’t change the fact those who turned up to the polls voted for them.

Frankly, I find it amusing when the right wing of the Labour Party criticises Len McCluskey for being elected with 140,000+ votes on a low total turnout while accepting and defending Iain McNicol – a General Secretary elected on less than forty votes. Stinks of hypocrisy.

Thanks for reading, and solidarity to my suspended comrades. I hope those of you who are innocent of any wrongdoing are reinstated as soon as possible.

Why Labour Should Stand Candidates in Northern Ireland

Labour_Party_(UK)_in_NI_logo
Labour’s NI branch is currently not allowed to stand candidatess in elections.

If I lived in Northern Ireland, I wouldn’t know who to vote for. I don’t have a real opinion on whether the six counties should be part of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland, and I’m a left-wing socialist, so many of the main Northern Irish parties are out of the question for me. The history of Sinn Féin puts many of my Labour NI comrades off voting for them. The SDLP, despite claiming to be left-wing social democrats, are quite conservative with many of their representatives opposing equal marriage and abortion. The Alliance Party is the sister party of the Liberal Democrats and is far more socially liberal than the DUP or SDLP, supports equal marriage, opposes sectarianism and takes a neutral stance on the union, however they are still too right-wing for many voters. The Green Party of Northern Ireland is a good bet for socialists, but they are still small and usually don’t stand candidates in all constituencies at Westminster or Stormont.

The Labour Party does have a branch in Northern Ireland but it isn’t currently allowed to put candidates up for election. The branch backed Andy Burnham in the 2015 leadership election partly because he was committed to an immediate review of the ban on official Labour candidates standing in Northern Ireland. In the 2016 leadership election, thirty-three Northern Ireland CLP members abstained from nominating a candidate, with some saying they made their decision because neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Owen Smith supports the party’s right to stand in Northern Irish elections.

burnham
2015 Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham wanted an immediate review of the party’s NI election ban.

In the 2016 Stormont elections, some Northern Ireland CLP members stood under the tag of ‘NI Labour Representation Committee’ and received a total of 1,577 votes, about half the vote share of the NI Conservatives, and the anti-capitalist People Before Profit Alliance received 13,761 votes and won two seats. This suggests there is an appetite for a real Labour movement in Northern Ireland.

I feel a left-wing democratic socialist party with a neutral stance on the union would be hugely beneficial for politics in Northern Ireland as it could trigger a political interest for some non-voters, increase engagement between party members, attract the diminishing SDLP vote and even has the potential to win over some reluctant DUP/UUP voters who would rather not support such regressive parties but often vote based on a nationalist-unionist scale rather than left-right.

To sum it all up: there are many disillusioned voters in Northern Ireland who feel alienated by the politics of the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Sinn Féin, and would like a new political movement with a message of hope. Labour has what it takes to provide the working class people of Northern Ireland with a better future.

Congratulations to Successful Labour NEC Candidates!

clga
The Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance was backed by Momentum and the LRC.

The results of the Labour Party’s 2016 National Executive Committee elections have been announced and the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance – a slate consisting of Jeremy Corbyn supporters Rhea Wolfson, Peter Willsman, Claudia Webbe, Christine Shawcroft, Ann Black and Darren Williams – won all six Constituency Labour Party seats in a huge boost for the incumbent leader.

I voted for all of these candidates and am thrilled they have been elected to the NEC. I’m 100% sure they will make fantastic representatives and would like to wish them a heartfelt congratulations!

Alice Perry and Nick Forbes were also elected to represent local councillors on the NEC. I am not currently in any form of local government so could not vote for these candidates, but I am incredibly happy for them nonetheless.

NEC Results:

National Executive Committee – Division III (Constituency Labour Parties) result (6 to elect)

BLACK, Ann – 100,999 votes – Elected
SHAWCROFT, Christine- 97,510 votes – Elected
WEBBE, Claudia 92,377 votes – Elected
WILLIAMS, Darren 87,003 votes – Elected
WOLFSON, Rhea 85,687 votes – Elected
WILLSMAN, Peter 81,863 votes – Elected
REEVES, Ellie 72,514 votes
IZZARD, Eddie 70,993 votes
BAILEY, Bex 67,205 votes
BAXTER, Johanna 60,367 votes
DHANDA, Parmjit 53,838 votes
AKEHURST, Luke 48,632 votes
WHEELER, Peter 44,062 votes
GALLAGHER, John 22,678 votes
GUL, Amanat 14,693 votes

National Executive Committee – Division IV (Local Government) result (2 to elect)

PERRY, Alice 2,991 votes – Elected
FORBES, Nick 2,510 votes – Elected
BOTHAM, Andy 480 votes
BROWN, Matthew 377 votes
BOLTON, David 332 votes
DAVIES, Warren 261 votes

 

Owen Smith will Alienate Millions of Traditional Labour Voters

jcos
Jeremy Corbyn faces a leadership challenge from fellow MP Owen Smith

I live in the constituency of Doncaster North so Ed Miliband is my local MP and most voters round here consider him a nice man and good politician, myself included. Last year, I was fully expecting Miliband’s Labour Party to win the general election and begin improving living standards for the poor and vulnerable after five years of an abysmal Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, but unfortunately, I was wrong, and so were the countless opinion polls that had suggested David Cameron would be defeated. In the end, Labour lost twenty-six seats across Britain as the party collapsed in Scotland and made very few gains in England and Wales. The Conservative Party ended up winning a majority of parliamentary seats and continued causing distress for the working class.

The election results made it clear Labour had lost touch with much of its core vote since 1997. The party’s vote share got lower and lower throughout the Blair/Brown years, to the point where we received a measly 8,606,517 votes in 2010. Miliband brought almost 1 million voters back and deserves credit for that, but sadly it did not result in parliamentary seat gains. The 2015 election results also showed that UKIP was making advances in traditional Labour areas such as Doncaster, Workington and even Merthyr Tydfil, which used to be Keir Hardie’s seat.

After Miliband resigned, a veteran backbencher named Jeremy Corbyn stood for leadership of the party against fellow MPs Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, all of whom had frontbench experience. I was not a member of the party at this time, but I supported Burnham from the shadows, although I could see the appeal of both Corbyn and Cooper. In the end, Corbyn managed to win the leadership election against all odds with an enormous vote share of 59.5% compared to Burnham’s 19%, Cooper’s 17% and Kendall’s tiny 4.5%.

After Corbyn was elected leader, the right-wing media predictably started an almost libellous campaign against him – taking comments he’d made years ago out of context, accusing him of having no morals and even making up nonsense about various members of the shadow cabinet. I wasn’t sure about him at first, but am very sceptical of the media so started talking to ordinary voters in my community and asking for their opinions on the newly elected Leader of the Opposition. Thankfully, most seemed to harbour very positive views. One man excitedly told me “he’s taking the party of working people back to it’s roots” and mentioned his dislike of former Prime Minister Tony Blair – a man Owen Smith once looked up to with great admiration.

brexit
Britain voted to leave the EU on 23rd June by 52% to 48%.

Fast-forward to February 2016. David Cameron finally confirms the date of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Nearly everybody I know continues to support Labour and Corbyn, but most have been lifelong eurosceptics who had planned to vote leave ever since the government first promised a referendum in 2010, and Doncaster ended up voting Leave by 69% to 31% for Remain. I had predicted a similar result for months prior to the referendum, but Stronger In campaigners on social media often refused to believe me. There were many reasons for the huge Brexit support – not many people here think Westminster cares for our community and simply wanted to stick two fingers up at the establishment, some had legitimate concerns about the austerity imposed on other EU nations, others were unhappy with certain EU legislation, and while it pains me to say it, a small number of people voted leave simply because of immigration.

I honestly don’t know anyone who cast their vote in the EU referendum based on advice from their favoured politcal party, and even if they did, I don’t believe for one second that Tony Blair or Gordon Brown could have put across a more convincing pro-EU message than Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell.

Some Labour voters did not realise the party backed Remain, but I certainly wouldn’t blame that on the leadership. The Labour In For Britain campaign never once knocked at my door or delivered any leaflets on my street, but the official Vote Leave campaign sent me lots of campaign material quoting Brexit-backing Labour MPs including Gisela Stuart and Frank Field.

Now, Owen Smith stood on shaky ground when he admitted it would be “tempting” to block Brexit, potentially alienating millions of voters in traditional Labour areas, particularly in North East England, Yorkshire and South Wales. I initially thought Smith would be quick to change his views on the matter considering his council area of Rhondda Cynon Taf voted leave, but in the first live leadership hustings of 2016, he claimed our party should continue the fight to Remain – effectively ignoring a democratic decision favoured by a whopping 17,410,742 voters.

Polls show there is little appetite for a second referendum, and I cannot see it being a popular policy outside of 60%+ Remain cities such as London, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.

The Liberal Democrats have already taken the “ignore democracy” approach, and if Labour adopted the same stance, a huge number of left-leaning, Brexit-supporting, working class voters would end up with nowhere to turn to. In fact, UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe noted Smith’s comments on Twitter and claimed UKIP needs to “ruthlessly target Labour seats” as a result. This may sound like a petty complaint, but its one of the main reasons we need Corbyn to emerge unscathed from this contest – we must prevent UKIP gains at all costs.

Jeremy Corbyn is certainly not a perfect leader, but at least he is a principled man with popular socialist policies who respects the electorate and has ruled out overturning the Brexit vote.

Thanks for reading!