Richard Burgon’s campaign for the deputy Labour leader position has gained the backing of rank-and-file activists, thanks to the MP’s bold demands for open selection and a new socialist Clause IV. Support Burgon for deputy!
The hall of Wealdstone Methodist Church was packed with Labour Party members on Tuesday 2 March. Activists from both the local Harrow CLP and neighbouring constituencies all gathered to hear Richard Burgon speak on his deputy leadership campaign and his vision for the Labour Party’s future.
Chaired by Pamela Fitzpatrick (Labour PPC for Harrow East in the 2019 election) and supported by Emma Dent Coad (the previous Labour MP for Kensington), Richard gave an inspiring and detailed speech regarding his campaign and its goals. These drew great enthusiasm and support from the attendees.
In his speech, Richard outlined a number of significant and important issues that his campaign seeks to tackle. His ‘three pledges’ present a platform for a Labour Party dedicated to socialism and internal democracy, firmly committing the party to continue along the radical path begun under Corbyn’s leadership.
The first pledge is for open selection regarding parliamentary candidates. This has become a high-profile issue in both the leadership and deputy leadership elections. It is an essential step in giving the membership control of the party and its representatives.
Richard’s second pledge is for the introduction of a new Clause IV into the party’s constitution. This marks him out as the only serious socialist choice for deputy leader. Regardless of the policy positions of the other candidates, none of them – except for Richard – have committed to enshrining nationalisation and public ownership “into the DNA of our party”.
The Leeds East MP remarked that the free-market capitalism lauded by New Labour has not only failed to provide for people’s needs, but has failed to prevent the climate catastrophe we are witnessing across the world.
This is why, Burgon stressed, we need Labour to pursue a fundamental restructuring of the economy under a new, updated Clause IV. He stated that this new Clause IV must be designed to tackle modern issues such as climate change, while retaining the sentiments of both the original socialist clause penned in 1918, and the proposed revision based on the words of Tony Benn.
Richard’s third pledge has also drawn the ire of the right-wing press. The establishment media have sought to misrepresent and demonise his position at every turn. In short, it proposes that military action should only be supported by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) with the approval of the party’s membership, with exceptions in matters of national emergency.
At this weekend's hustings, I said I'm standing to give more power to Labour members and to defend our socialist policies.
That's why I've made 3 key pledges:
? Open Selections
? New Clause IV
☮ Labour Party Peace Pledge
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) March 1, 2020
Aside from his three main pledges, Richard also commented on a range of his other positions – from admitting Labour’s flawed position on Brexit, to his commitment to tackling anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Regarding this question of anti-Semitism, Burgon expressed concern over the outsourcing of internal party investigations, as proposed by the Board of Deputies and LGBT+ Labour.
The shadow justice secretary also made clear his position on the House of Lords, calling himself a republican and advocating the abolition of the House of Lords, to be replaced by an upper house of elected representatives.
Following his speech, Richard took a number of questions and comments on his pledges and policies. Without exception, these were met with strong and concise responses from Richard, Pamela, and Emma.
One contribution from the audience commended Richard on his criticism of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s role in Labour’s defeats in 2017 and 2019, and his principled left-wing resistance in the face of right-wing reprimanding and Blairite backstabbing. This was met with rapturous applause.
This sentiment was supported by other party members. It is a clear reason for Richard’s popularity – he isn’t afraid to call out sabotage by the party’s right wing. He recounted examples of this sabotage in a detailed account of the aftermath of the 2016 leadership election, and the attempted ousting of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.
Fight for socialism!
Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign for leadership of the party, for all her strengths, has suffered as a result of a lax attitude towards the Blairites and saboteurs in the PLP, as did Corbyn’s leadership.
Long-Bailey’s campaign and leadership would benefit from a bolder offense against the Labour right wing, and stronger position on the need for open selection. This kind of fighting rhetoric – not appeasement and timidity – is what is needed to combat the hollow calls for ‘unity’ by Keir Starmer.
One thing is clear: the Labour Party membership is tired of mild-mannered centrism. There is no appetite for Blairism.
What is needed is a strong, principled, socialist leadership – one that is willing to fight the Tories and the bosses, and that will not capitulate to the establishment. That leadership is within our reach. But we need to mobilise and fight for it.
Support Burgon and Long-Bailey! Fight for a socialist Labour Party!