Following the departure of the “Gang of Eight” right-wingers, the mood inside the Labour Party is not one of despair, but one of anger and militancy – as shown by this collection of letters from local Labour members.
Recent weeks have seen the Labour Party shaken from top-to-bottom by events. A faction of eight Blairites have split away to form the ‘Independent Group’. This has prompted the Labour leadership to concede to the right-wing Remainers’ demand for a second referendum, in an attempt to prevent further resignations.
We publish here a series of letters from grassroots members inside the Labour Party, which provide an indication of the real mood on the ground: one of anger against the Blairites, but also of determination to complete the transformation of the party and fight for a socialist Labour government.
- Positive mood in Merseyside – a report from Liverpool Wavertree CLP, by Mike Hogan.
- Appeal to the streets! – a letter to John McDonnell, by Sam Lewis of Lewisham and Deptford CLP.
- Blairite split: terrible news – a letter from a Unison activist, addressed to recent comments by the union’s general secretary Dave Prentis.
- Enfield North demands a by-election – a statement from Enfield North CLP Executive Committee
Positive mood in Merseyside
What a couple of weeks we have had in Wavertree CLP! At the end of it, I have to say that our feelings are ones of anger mixed with optimism.
Anger, yes, at a local MP who was elected on a Labour ticket with 34,717 votes – over 6,000 more than 2015 – under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, but who will not now commit to a by-election.
But anger mostly towards Tom Watson. He has judged us as “hateful bullies” for even contemplating holding our former Labour MP to account. As one member said: “I would like to have a word with Tom Watson and him to talk to us before he condemns us in the media.”
Judging by our experience, Watson’s proposed new group of MPs will just be there to protect their privileged position against the democracy of the party.
However, in the last two weeks we have also seen more members wanting to get involved in the activity of the party. Over the weekend, members were out canvassing for local candidates; attending and speaking at Labour Women’s Conference; supporting the National Windrush Day of Action; the Labour4Clause4 roadshow; and the Hands off Venezuela demonstration.
Why are more members wanting to get involved? Well, firstly, because under Corbyn our CLP membership has grown from 250 to over 1700.
The second reason was illustrated by one member who said to me last September: “ I don’t want to come to meetings because you are always having a go at Jeremy.” She associated the MPs views with the party, even though we had become increasingly critical of Berger.
Well now it is clear where we stand: full square in favour of a Corbyn-led socialist Labour government.
Liverpool Wavertree CLP (personal capacity)
Appeal to the streets!
The following open letter was sent to shadow chancellor John McDonnell from a rank-and-file Labour activist, expressing what many in the party are thinking in response to Labour’s announcement earlier this week that the party will support a second referendum. As such we are republishing it here.
I joined the Labour Party during Jeremy’s first leadership campaign. It was the first time in my life I had joined and campaigned for a political party. For the first time, I saw a political leader who stood for the values of working people and migrants.
However, I have been utterly dismayed by recent developments. To see you and Jeremy cave repeatedly to the Blairites holding the party hostage is very disheartening. How can you claim to stand up for working people, when you can’t even stand up to Tom Watson and Keir Starmer?
Supporting a second referendum is a disastrous policy that will only cost Labour millions of votes, along with its credibility among the working class.
If your goal is to hold the PLP together, it will only backfire when Watson or Cooper launch their next inevitable coup, and all of your attempts at dialogue and compromise with backstabbers will have been for nothing.
Instead of placating these bourgeois traitors, you should instead spend time appealing to your base of support. My family fled Pinochet’s Chile and saw first-hand the danger of leftist leaders attempting compromise and ‘dialogue’ with rightists who’ll sabotage any attempt at democratic ownership of production at the first opportunity.
Turn to your grassroots, shore up your support, increase the scope of your radical ambition, rather than attempting well-meaning parliamentary pacts with traitors and suits who will only betray the movement anyway once they have their next chance.
I would love to see you and Jeremy appealing for mass rallies and strikes to bring down this hated government, introducing more radical policies such as the nationalisation of the banking system – something which is necessary to prevent a flight of capital if you are elected to government.
A general strike could end this government in a matter of days and would increase the level of political consciousness of the working class immeasurably.
Turn away from these Westminster games and appeal to the streets. The new mass membership of Labour is ready and waiting for you – use us! We are young, energetic, radical and ready to fight!
Yours in hope,
Lewisham and Deptford CLP (personal capacity)
Blairite split: terrible news?
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis’ recent tweet that “#LabourSplit is terrible news for the Labour Party” has understandably sparked a reaction from members of the public sector union and from the wider labour movement.
Unison members overwhelmingly supported Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 and 2016 Labour leadership elections and hundreds of thousands supported Labour in the 2017 election. Why? For the very straightforward reason that Labour’s manifesto offered an alternative to years of cuts, privatisations and misery in the NHS and local government.
So, is the departure of this bunch of carpetbagging careerists such terrible news?
The #LabourSplit is terrible news. Labour’s overriding concern must be to look long and hard at the reasons why the MPs feel they are no longer able to stay in the party. And it must get its act together over Brexit and ensure the country is spared the calamity of a no deal.
— Dave Prentis (@DavePrentis) February 18, 2019
Dave Prentis might be better served in looking “long and hard at the reasons” why four of the eight splitters had lost votes of no confidence in their constituencies; why Luciana Berger would have faced a vote in Wavertree had it not been pulled; and why Chuka was potentially facing deselection also. The truth is that members in their constituencies were fed up with their hysterical denunciations of Corbyn and attempts to undermine the party.
These are the same Blairites who have consistently supported Tory warmongering and austerity, both of which are of course opposed by Unison. They are a well organised pro-capitalist tendency which takes its lead from the City of London.
Angela Smith, for example, has expressed her support for fracking and opposes water re-nationalisation. Of course Unison opposes fracking and supports water re-nationalisation.
Mike Gapes has led the charge to support the coup in Venezuela. Unison “believes that Venezuelans need to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and democratic processes, without resorting to violence”.
Unison members have been on the receiving end of privatisation, PFI, cuts and wage freezes for many years.
So surely Prentis should be defending Labour’s anti-austerity programme, rather than supporting a hysterical bunch of splitters, who are trying to undermine both the party and Unison’s members.
Stand up for your members, Dave!
A Unison activist
Enfield North demands a by-election
Joan Ryan resigned from the Labour Party on Tuesday 19th February. She has joined the Independent Group, now made up of ex-Tories – Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen – and ex-Labour MPs: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey (in no particular order).
On 8th June 8th, Joan Ryan won this seat on a Labour ticket with an increased majority of over 10,000 votes.
This victory mainly came about through the hard work of members and supporters giving up time to door knock and deliver leaflets, taking Labour’s positive message and brilliant manifesto out to the voters.
Joan’s resignation from our Labour Party has not only let down the members and supporters who worked hard alongside her, but also the 28,177 people of Enfield North who voted for a Labour candidate.
Enfield North CLP Executive add our voices to that of our local Chair and Secretary to call on Joan Ryan to step down and allow the people of Enfield North to participate in a by-election to allow them to chose the candidate they want to be represented by.
Enfield North CLP will soon commence the process of choosing our next candidate, who will represent us at the next general election.
Statement by Enfield North CLP Executive Committee