Springingtiger's Blog

Bitter Cherry (reflections on Labour)

Over the last couple of days I have written a couple of posts about the Labour leadership crisis, about Angela Eagle and Jeremy Corbyn. I would love to make this the last for a while.

I have a tall cherry tree in my garden. It used to be surrounded by a Mayflower and Elders and so the cherries were inaccessible to me. I watched in frustration as the birds enjoyed my fruit. A couple of winters ago the Mayflower having been blown over, finally died. Last summer I cut down the remaining Mayflower and disposed of it as well as the Elders. Today I saw a red ripe cherry within reach, untouched by the birds. I picked it and bit into it and it was bitter. All that work and waiting ending in such bitterness.

Sometimes when we get our rewards instead of being sweet they leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Today the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee met to decide whether they could keep Jeremy Corbyn out of the leadership contest despite the rules suggesting he should be automatically on the ballot paper. For hours people all over Britain waited to see whether Corbyn would be a victim of what the Trades Unions called a ‘sordid fix’. I think the NEC has demonstrated to the members that the Labour Party is democratic and deserving of continued support. I dread to think of how people might have reacted had there been a fix.

Today Jeremy Corbyn has called for calm in the face of death threats and the breaking of a window in Angela Eagle’s constituency office. However it is pointless to tell ordinary people to abide by democratic processes when those with power subvert those processes for their own purposes. When the means to accomplish legitimate ends are taken away from the people by deceit those who have won by cheating always tell the losers to accept the democratic decision. If the process is not democratic then it is the duty of those promoting democracy to defy it. Some may argue that it would be wrong to oppose the subversion of democracy by direct action. However had the Trades Unions not been willing to take illegal direct action, today we would have no Labour Party. Had women not been prepared to protest violently, today they would have no vote, no rights apart from their husbands, and neither Teresa May nor Angela Eagle would be in Parliament. The Labour party grew out of the passionate desire of ordinary people to have a say in the running of their country, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership it continues to represent that desire of ordinary people.

Sadly today’s decision does not represent the end of the matter. Whether the disaffected Blairites mount a legal challenge the fact remains that many of the PLP do not support Corbyn. When the leadership contest is finished that difficulty will remain and must be addressed. It may be that the only solution is to replace those MPs who refuse to represent the wishes of their member. However it must be remembered that some of the rebels represent constituency parties who support their rebellion. I believe that after the General Election, with Corbyn at the helm, particularly if enough rebels are displaced as Labour candidates, there will be a Labour government. Whether it will command a working majority with some rebels remaining is another matter. It would be dishonest for a candidate to stand on a Labour manifesto which they intended to oppose. The honourable thing to do, for those MPs who are unable to support Corbyn, is to resign the Labour whip and set up a separate party. It has been done before and the Liberal Democrats may welcome them. The really honourable thing would be to resign their seats and force by elections do demonstrate their right to continue to represent their constituencies as non Labour MPs, but I doubt they are that honourable.

We often describe victory as sweet. If the two sides of the Party cannot reconcile, I fear that the outcome of all this infighting within the Labour party will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of both sides. I would like to feel today’s vote was a victory, but I am just left feeling sad.


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