By David Flack.
Back in the 1960’s I was electrified by the words of Harold Wilson and joined the Labour Party.
Among his many utterances, one quote stands out for me above all others “Labour is a moral crusade, or it is nothing.” These words are very relevant to the current situation the party finds itself in. I can only describe the present chaotic state of the party from my own perspective, others may differ.
I joined the Labour Party because I saw it as a democratic socialist party with strong principles of social justice and equality that was changing society for the better. I was able to be part of debate and have some affect on policy making, which gave me ‘ownership’ through democratic engagement.
I rose to represent my party in community and serve it as a councillor, group leader, county councillor and parliamentary candidate. Much more importantly I had the privilege to lead as chairman the successful SOS campaign to save our cancer unit and to stand with the council tenants of Rochford District against the disposal of their homes.
However, during the period before and after the election of Tony Blair the party became much more elitist in its structure and its internal democracy was weakened effectively disenfranchising the membership from any effective input.
For me personally the adoption of the Thatcherite disposal of council housing and the failure to build more was a betrayal of trust and the Iraq war led me to refuse to stand for elected office again as there were too many issues I could not support. That is not to say that there were not positive things done by the Blair government, but for me the positives did not outweigh the negatives.
Unlike many others, I could not bring myself to leave the party, but hoped for a chance to win the party back for the membership and its traditional supporters.
The landslide election of Jeremy Corbyn nine months ago lifted a heavy weight from my shoulders, with a resurgent democracy the expectation that this would lead to real internal debate and policy making I felt able to reengage and represent the Party once again.
Unfortunately, after years of top down manipulation and sponsorship by the Blairite leadership, a large number of elitist ‘Labour’ MP’s decided from day one to organise, with the help of PR companies and a compliant media, to misrepresent and destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. In Their arrogance, they are once again attempting to marginalise the party membership.
Under the weight of insults, lies and misrepresentation a lesser man would have crumbled, but Corbyn has stood firm in support of his democratic mandate to lead the party which now has a membership of 600,000.
We now face a leadership challenge and on one side there are 172 dissident MP’s and a minority of members and on the other side the majority of members and some 40 MPs who remain loyal to the leader as do the trades unions.
This is clearly a difficult time whilst I hope that there may be a resolution it may be that the party will need to go through a period of reconstruction in order to effectively get on with the job of representing all the working people of this country again.
At a time when the Conservative party is split and when the country is headed towards further recession, lower incomes and imposed austerity Labour MP’s should be an effective opposition supporting an anti–austerity economy; a council house building program that would provide homes for young families and support for the weak manufacturing sector of the economy; opposing the fragmentation of the Health and Education Services.
My view is clear, there can be no compromise on democracy and the party should be representing its core principles, projecting meaningful and relevant policies to gain the support of all sections of the working population. Paraphrasing Harold Wilson we need to turn away from the ‘nothingness’ of spin and internal strife to make the Labour Party an effective moral crusade once again.
I have to stress that this is a personal view and that the Rayleigh and Wickford Labour party will be considering its own response to the crisis.
David Flack is Chair of the Rayleigh and Wickford CLP – contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org