Thoughts on the Labour Leadership election
The Labour Party leadership ballot papers dropped on the doorstep this week. Hold the front page, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn! Not that I welcomed this ballot paper. This election is entirely unnecessary - foisted on the party by MPs in the Westminster bubble, who should have been fighting the Tories rather than the leader elected less than a year ago.
On Tuesday, I was speaking at a Scotlandfest event in Edinburgh that discussed what Keir Hardie would have made of the leadership ballot. As those who have read my chapter in the book 'What Would Keir Hardy Say?', will know that I am bit sceptical of those who seek to put modern day words into the mouth of historical figures. So, I wasn't terribly impressed with Owen Smith's piece in the Daily Record, quite apart from the fact that Hardie wouldn't be spinning in his grave for anything - he was cremated!
The discussion did cover an important feature of the leadership ballot. Yes, Hardie did see the importance of the parliamentary road to socialism, but he was also an agitator who understood the importance building a social movement behind the parliamentary action. He would have revelled in the Corbyn rallies and the sheer enthusiasm of the audiences.
In my view it's not an either/or, Labour has to do both. Becoming the largest political party in Europe is a staggering achievement, but I accept that Jeremy has more to do when in comes to converting that into an electoral machine. Owen Smith has tried to learn the lessons of last year's campaign by saying some substantial and radical things. However, he still looks and sounds like a professional politician and has failed to really enthuse even his own supporters.
On Thursday Jeremy was in Scotland, setting out some pretty solid policy ideas. They do need to be developed, but the claim that he is policy light, has little substance. I was speaking at his policy launch, explaining the impact of austerity on Scotland's public services. Jeremy set out how we should tackle austerity in language that public service workers understand. He could not have been clearer when he said:
"We need to challenge not just austerity, but the failed economic model that has undermined our treasured public services and created a more unequal, and more brutal society."
He also gets devolution, and has laid out an ambitious programme for democratic reform across the UK. He understands that real constitutional reform addresses the sources of power in society - not just playing with the institutions.
Then there were substantial economic commitments. Doubling capital investment, democratic control of the energy sector, 60,000 council houses and a real industrial strategy. He gets the concerns of workers over insecure jobs and low pay with a commitment to end 'the cheapskate economy', restoring workers rights.
The leadership ballot has thrown up some silly season stories. Dave Anderson's very tentative musings on relationships with the SNP at Westminster were picked up somewhat hysterically by Kez Dugdale, no doubt influenced by her position on the leadership. She would do well to remember that her comrades in Edinburgh Council are in coalition with the SNP. The simple fact is that when the electorate deal you a hand you have to play with it. Jeremy dealt with the issue very clearly on Thursday, but the criticism of this from Neal Lawson of Compass, simply demonstrates political naivety and the London-centric focus of Compass. Talk of progressive alliances implies pre-election deals and that isn't going to happen.
The real gain for Scotland from a Jeremy Corbyn leadership is a leader who is prepared to campaign for a new economic model that ensures that no-one and nowhere is left behind. If he can achieve that at a UK level, then Scotland can decide its own priorities.
The difference with Jeremy and most other political leaders I have met, is that he really believes in the case he is making. He is not tacking for a particular audience or a short term political strategy. His record speaks for itself. Authenticity may not be everything the Labour Party needs - but it is a start.
From a post on Dave Watson's blog
A number of my local party members have been contacting me about the Labour leadership contest. Below is a copy of the response that I am sending out to clarify my thoughts on the matter.
I hope you are all enjoying a good Bank Holiday weekend.
Since returning from holiday, I have been catching up with many of your messages asking me how I am planning to vote in the current Labour leadership election, and giving me your views.
I thought I should write to the membership of Islington South and Finsbury and explain my thinking.
As many of you know, it is my view that our response to the Brexit vote should not have been to turn in on ourselves. At a time of grave constitutional and economic challenge for our country, it was incumbent on us to rise to this threat and ensure that the Labour party should defend the interests of our communities and not allow the Tories a free hand.
I believed that this was a time for people to unite and think of the country, not to turn inwards and indulge in a coup attempt against a leader elected with an overwhelming mandate less than a year ago.
It will therefore come as no surprise to my local party to learn that, having remained totally loyal to the democratically-elected leader of our party since his election, I will stay loyal to Jeremy during the contest that has arisen from that coup, and he will have my vote in this election.
I have not agreed with everything Jeremy has said and done since becoming the Labour leader last year, but where I have had disagreements with him, I have always found him and his team willing to get around a table, listen, reflect and discuss a way forward. And as long as that is possible, I would never consider walking away from that table.
But for those members who may disagree with that decision, and the way I will be voting in this election, let me explain my more fundamental reasons for doing so.
When I first started campaigning to become your MP in 2004, we were suffering as a party because our hierarchy and leadership were totally detached from the party’s membership. This not only meant that members across the country felt alienated, demoralised and ignored, but more importantly their collective understanding of what people’s fears and aspirations were, learnt from listening to the public and knocking on doors, was being deliberately overlooked.
What had begun as the necessary modernisation of the Labour party in 1994, showing how a belief in a dynamic market economy could be combined with the drive for social justice and the transformation of public services, had become distorted into an agenda where the test of every new policy from the leadership was how much it would antagonise the Labour party’s core membership.
Tuition fees, the attempt to marketise the NHS, the careless disregard of long cherished civil liberties and the drive to war in Iraq were being imposed by a leadership who convinced themselves that, if the members hated it, they were doing something right.
When I walked through the voting lobbies against the attempt to impose 90 days’ detention without charge in 2005, Tom Watson –then one of Tony Blair’s whips – growled at me that I was a ‘traitor’. But a traitor to who?
Not to the country, when this was a draconian measure designed to look tough on terrorism, but one that would undermine the cohesion of communities like ours, alienate people and actually undermine our security. My members knew this and I remember when Compass polled party members – at my instigation – it was clear this was the national view as well.
So who exactly was I betraying? Just a party hierarchy and a party leadership who were trying to shore up their relationship with the right-wing press by ‘taking on’ their members, and trying to out-flank the Tories on security.
When Jeremy stood for the leadership after the disaster of the 2015 election, the difference was palpable. Here finally was a candidate interested in listening to the party’s members, reflecting their views, and promising to represent them. As a result, hundreds of thousands more joined, including huge numbers who had left because of Iraq, tuition fees, and other issues.
Here we are now, less than a year after Jeremy’s overwhelming victory, and the party hierarchy – through decisions of the National Executive Committee - is attempting to overturn that result, quash Jeremy’s mandate, and put the party’s members back in their box. And they are doing so in the most naked way.
I was disgusted to see the attempts to try to stop Jeremy from getting on the ballot. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, hundreds of thousands of fully paid-up Labour party members were excluded from taking part in the election, having been told the opposite when they joined. Third, your membership fees were spent on securing that decision through the courts. And then lastly, registered supporters, who had been told they could be involved in the Leadership election, were then told that they must increase their donation to £25 within two days to remain eligible for a vote.
Indeed, you should probably know that even to put on the social events we have held for local members in the last two months – occasions that have been really important to welcome in our new members – we have been forced to seek permission for each event from the party hierarchy.
In short, some people have done their level best to deny the party’s full membership a fair and equal vote in this contest, or even the chance to make their voices heard. Instead of welcoming the enthusiasm of our new members, instead of celebrating the strength of our mass membership, they have been behaving as if it is something to be afraid of.
As someone who spent nearly 30 years as a grass roots activist before becoming your MP, I cannot accept this.
But even more important, as someone who believes our party and our country are best served when our elected representatives and the party membership work together, I fundamentally disagree with this attempt to take us back to the years when our members were deliberately antagonised, alienated and ignored by the people who they helped to put in power.
Islington South and Finsbury Labour Party has a proud reputation for being one of the great campaigning local parties and our election results in the past 11 years have shown what can be done when the membership and its elected representatives work together with respect.
We now have the potential to replicate this success across the country, creating a national activist base that could be unlike anything else in modern British politics, taking our message into the street and onto the doorstep, and turning the activism of thousands into the support of millions.
I do not understand why anyone in the Labour party would want to turn their back on that membership, in the way that the party hierarchy have tried to do this summer.
Instead, it is time to unite as a party – the membership and the elected representatives alike – and together take our fight into the only contest that matters: getting this dreadful Tory government out of office, and punishing them for the mess into which they have plunged our country.
That is what we should have spent our summer doing – uniting, facing outwards, taking on the Tories, and energising the public to our cause – and that is again why I regret so much the chaos and distraction that this attempted coup against Jeremy has caused.
So my plea to all members, and one I will make to my fellow MPs, is this: whatever the outcome of this leadership election, we should stop the internal division, unite as a party, and take the fight to the Tories together.
And I would like my local party to know that I will remain totally loyal to the leader of our party, whoever he shall be.
In the meantime, you all know that I have a very full in-tray with constituency business, and with representing the party on Brexit, foreign affairs, and – together with Clive Lewis – our future defence policies.
I will be concentrating on this vital work in the run up to 24 September, rather than this unnecessary and divisive leadership contest. And when that is over, I hope we can all start focusing on those bigger issues on which Britain needs an effective, united opposition.
I know that not everyone will agree with the conclusions I have reached, but I am completely confident that in Islington South and Finsbury, we will continue to debate this and other issues in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
Best wishes, and please as ever, let me know your views. Looking forward to seeing you on a doorstep with me soon!
[Emily Thornberry is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury since the 2005 general election]
Letter in the Guardian:
As general secretaries of unions that have nominated Jeremy Corbyn to remain as leader of the Labour party, we are writing to explain why the millions of members in our unions and the millions of workers beyond should vote for Jeremy.
We have all known him for many years. He has supported us, stood on our picket lines, celebrated our successes, and campaigned alongside us for trade union rights.
Jeremy’s pledge is to rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and no community is left behind. His commitment to introducing sectoral collective bargaining, and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with more than 250 employees would transform and rebalance industrial relations to make them fit for the 21st century.
For more than three decades Jeremy’s track record and socialist credentials make him the choice for leader of the Labour party. We need a Labour government committed to workers’ rights, social justice, government investment in our manufacturing sector and public sector and good quality jobs. Jeremy campaigns for all of these and is the person to lead the Labour party into government to make them a reality. He is the only choice to get the job done.
Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
Ronnie Draper General secretary, BFAWU
Dave Ward General secretary, CWU
Matt Wrack General secretary, FBU
Manuel Cortes General secretary, TSSA
Brian Rye Acting general secretary, Ucatt
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Solidarity with all trade unionists and Corbyn
The Co-operative Party has issued the following statement in response to recent media speculation surrounding its relationship with the Labour Party.
Responding to recent media speculation surrounding the Co-operative Party’s relationship with the Labour Party, a spokesperson for the Co-operative Party said:
The Co-operative Party was created 99 years ago to champion the co-operative movement and that remains our mission today.
We are not a vehicle to be used by one political faction or another to advance their own agenda.
The Co-operative Party has worked with Labour under each of its leaders since 1927 and remains neutral on the current leadership contest within the Labour Party.
The Co-operative Party NEC has had no discussions about changing the way the Party operates based on the outcome of the Labour Leadership contest.”
From the Labour Party website:
Choose Labour’s next Prime Minister
Over the coming weeks and months Labour members and supporters will choose our candidate for next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
During the leadership election the two candidates will take part in a series of live debates organised by the Labour Party and media organisations. You will be able to watch the Labour Party debates live on this page — on your computer, smart phone, tablet and TV.
Unlike previous contests, these events will be available for everyone to watch. No matter where you are in the country you’ll be able to hear what the candidates have to say as the debates happen.
There will be nine official debates as part of the Leadership timetable.
Below are the current debates agreed by the NEC Procedures Committee.
Cardiff: 7pm to 8.30pm Thursday 4 August
Gateshead: 7pm to 8.30pm Thursday 11 August
Nottinghamshire: Wednesday 17 August – BBC Victoria Derbyshire
Birmingham: 7pm to 8.30pm Thursday 18 August
London: Monday 22 August - Channel 4
Glasgow: 7pm to 8.30pm Thursday 25 August
Venue TBC: Thursday 1 September - media organisation TBC
Venue TBC: Thursday 8 September- BBC Question Time
London: Wednesday 14 September- Sky News
Check this page for the latest information on further Leadership debates.
August 11, 2016: Jeremy Corbyn nominated by UNISON Labour Link committee
Nomination for Labour leader takes into account consultative ballot of members in the Affiliated Political Fund.
UNISON’s Labour Link national committee has agreed to nominate Jeremy Corbyn in the current Labour Party leadership contest.
The committee decision follows discussions at regional and national level, and a consultation of UNISON members who are affiliated to the Labour party. The consultation was carried out online.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:
“Jeremy Corbyn retains the backing of a majority of UNISON’s Labour supporting members. That’s why the committee supported his nomination again.
“However, a significant minority backed Owen Smith. Their views will always be respected in our union – that’s our proud tradition.
“It’s healthy for people to hold alternative views on the future direction of the party. What’s toxic though is for abuse, threats and aggressive language to be considered acceptable, or the norm.
“Labour is in danger of becoming the new ‘nasty party’ if this behaviour continues unchecked. There’s no place in the party for witch hunts against MPs, councillors and party staff.
“The decent hard-working people we represent don’t want a party riven by infighting. They want a united opposition that stands up for public services which are facing intolerable pressures.”
Around 30,000 UNISON members are registered as Affiliated Supporters of the Labour Party and eligible to vote based on their personal choices in the election.
View the full results
[Labour leadership elections 2016
The Labour Party is holding an election for the leadership of the party.
Our political funds
To take part in political activity unions have to maintain a political fund – and in UNISON you can choose whether to pay a proportion of your subs into the affiliated political fund (Labour Link), the general political fund (GPF), both, or neither.]
Jennie Formby: Labour's new general secretary