The furore about MPs
claiming outrageous expenses and resorting to outright fiddling gets
worse by the day. Labour, as the Party in
power for the past twelve years presiding over this scandal, is
facing electoral meltdown. Naturally the Labour ranks are panicking.
Labour appears doomed at the local and European elections on June
and in the general election over the next year. The situation could
still be turned around but the unions and rank and file will have
to take decisive action and take the Parliamentary Labour Party by
the scruff of the neck.
We believe it is
wrong for an MP to think they have a job for life, accountable to
no-one, and that is the root of the problem. MPs are
elected as representatives of the Labour Party. They should be
accountable to the Party. It is true the local Parties have emptied
out on account of the disappointments and failure of the past few
years. The levers are still in the hands of the trade unions to
reclaim the Labour Party Their programme
reselection of MPs as of right
democratic selection procedures in all constituencies now♦
auditing of Labour MPs’ expenses
Workers’ MPs on
Clear out the
careerists – socialist policies for
Parliament is enemy
territory for working class MPs. Speaker Martin came from a poor
Glasgow home with only an outside toilet. In his time he became a
defender of the expenses fiddles system. His wife spent thousands of
pounds of our money swanning around in taxis like a duchess.
Trotsky said bourgeois
democracy is a system where everyone can say what they like as long
as big business takes all the important decisions. What happens when
workers’ representatives speak out against the interests of big
business, as they should and must? Corruption is one way that big
business gets what it wants in a parliamentary system of government.
We support a
crackdown on MPs’ scams – of course we do. And
some of the more egregious offenders may lie low for a while now till
the storm passes. But corruption is an essential oil of bourgeois
democracy. And buying off would-be champions of the workers is a
thing the ruling class are good at. The gradualist saying "I
intend to emancipate the working class one at a time, starting with
myself" must be a hundred years old now.
How can workers’
representatives resist such pressures? They have to have solid local
support. And that includes scrutiny. Workers’ MPs must be subject
to a workers’ audit of their expenses. They must be accountable
politically and financially.
can Labour face the electorate in a general election within a year
with a bunch of disgraced, discredited candidates and the
whole Party with its reputation under a cloud? The unions in
particular are up in arms. We need to start with a clean slate. All
constituency parties and affiliated unions should demand of the
National Executive Committee that all candidates are submitted to a
reselection now. The NEC should use its power to call an emergency
Labour Party Conference to set the terms of the reselection process
and the campaign to be waged by a cleansed, revitalised Party. This
is our last chance.
We have to sweep out
the careerists: those who are in the movement for what they can
get out of it. MPs must be subject to recall through a democratic
reselection policy that the local Party can take up as of right
at any time. Big strides were made towards a democratic Labour Party
in the past. But the right wing has taken back those gains over the
past twenty years in order to bolster their Parliamentary positions.
We see now where that has got us.
Workers’ MPs on
workers’ wages would have the same interests as their constituents.
They would not aspire to rise above them, at their expense. We
believe there are plenty of people who would want nothing more than
to do their best to serve their class. Ann Black, representing Party
ranks on the NEC, registered the rank and file’s shock at all the
MPs on the take while adding "I recognise and appreciate the
hundreds of hours of unpaid time put in by volunteers on the ground,
most of whom do not even claim expenses for travel, postage and
to Parliament would gladly do the job on a
workers wage – providing they have a vision of a better system
they are fighting for. The vast majority of the present PLP seem to
think capitalism is the only system on offer, so they might as well
milk it. Quite often they began with good intentions, but were ground
down by the routine and isolation of Parliament. They lacked the
backing of an enthusiastic rank and file fired with a determination
to change society and a clear socialist perspective. With that we
will reclaim the Labour Party for the working class.