A local Labour member paints a picture of the real mood on Merseyside in the wake of the Blairite MP’s resignation from the Labour whip.
In stark contrast to the reaction of the Blairites, most local activists on Merseyside have been celebrating the resignation of Frank Field.
Field’s local CLP in Birkenhead had in fact demanded that the Labour whip be withdrawn after the MP helped save the Tories from a potential defeat in the House of Commons earlier this summer in a vote on the Trade Bill.
This was the second time this year that Field’s local party voted against him.
In February, CLP members condemned him for writing for the much hated gutter press, the Sun, on Brexit. Field is a regular contributor to this reactionary rag, despite the fact that seven of his constituents died at Hillsborough.
Such was the widespread revulsion caused by Field that other CLPs on Merseyside backed the motion. This included my own, which passed the motion against the right-wing MP unanimously.
Racism and hypocrisy
Field’s resignation is a result of his unpopularity with Party members, and not any genuine concern over allegations of anti-Semitism.
Field’s hypocrisy on this matter is clearly demonstrated. On the one hand he refers to the condemnation of Corbyn by the UK’s ex-chief rabbi as being the last straw. On the other hand, the former Labour MP is in fact an admirer of Enoch Powell.
More significantly, Field was himself compared to the infamously racist Tory when, in 2008, he called for a drastic cut in the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country. Bishop Peter Selby accused him of “barbarism” and of peddling the same racist message as Powell.
Field’s support for Brexit is motivated by the same xenophobia as former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. He blames immigration for all the problems facing the people of Birkenhead, campaigning alongside his best friend in Parliament – Tory Sir Nicholas Soames – in the group “Balanced Migration”, which also includes Sammy Wilson of the DUP.
No wonder Field has been the favourite Labour MP of the Murdoch press over the years.
Jumping before being pushed
Field’s second reason for resigning (so we are told) is thuggery. In an interview on the BBC regional news, when asked to describe the “bullying” he has faced, Field said that he couldn’t understand how Birkenhead CLP was the only place he was “hated”. Apparently everywhere else people love him! So there we have it: if you oppose the blessed Frank, you are deemed a thug.
After the Liverpool Echo printed a fawning article in favour of the local MP – along with a disgraceful accusation from Field against a party member, without giving them a right to reply – the paper was forced to print seven letters against Field and only two in favour.
Perhaps this gives a clue as to why, after floating the idea of a by-election at the weekend, Field has now gone off the idea. Clearly he knows there is a strong chance of him losing his most prized possession – his seat in Parliament – in such a scenario.
One of the letters published against Field was from a newly elected councillor in a ward that neighbours Birkenhead, Jo Bird. As a Jewish member of the Labour Party, she rejected Field’s accusation that the Labour Party had become anti-Semitic.
Bird pointed out that over 100 members had come to help her campaign. And quite rightly she stated that, “unlike Frank Field, my constituents’ highest priority is ending cruel Conservative government cuts to services we all rely on.”
Field claims to be a campaigner against poverty, but he does this from the point of view of a paternalistic Tory. This is unsurprisingly, given that he started his political life as a Young Tory.
Enemy of the Left
Field has a history of thinking he knows better than the “riff raff on the left”. In 1987 this led him to publicly refuse to support the Labour candidate in Wallasey, the constituency next door, because he was too far left. In the end, the Tory candidate won by just 279 votes.
In 1989, as a result of this and other attacks against the left, Birkenhead Labour Party elected a local full-time union official, Paul Davies, as the candidate. Davies beat Field by 50.6% to 45.6% in the selection. But Field was saved by Neil Kinnock, as he was a useful ally in the witch hunt against the Marxists and the left of the Labour Party.
Field particularly hated the Marxists of the Militant, and did all he could to undermine the struggle of Liverpool City Council in the 1980’s, helping his friend Thatcher; or as he affectionately referred to her: Mrs T.
Kick out the Blairites
So rather than being upset by Field’s resignation, we on Merseyside see this as being a good starting point. Many are hoping that other right-wing Labour MPs like Field will follow.
However, other Blairites will not leave so easily. We will need an organised struggle to deselect those who regard their careers as more important than the interests of the working class they are supposed to represent.