By David Hamblin / @UnionisedDavid
At some point the number of articles written about the Copeland & Stoke Central by-elections may actually reach the number of the ballots cast. Both results were a perfect storm to keep the internal Labour Party maelstrom blowing. If Labour had held both seats then Corbyn supporters would have felt vindication in their continuing support of their leader. By contrast if both seats had been lost then a veritable draw-full of knives would have been out for the Member for Islington North.
Instead of which the vigorous elements of both wings are in a state of mutual doublethink emphasising that victory in Stoke was because / in spite of Jeremy’s leadership while the reverse is true of the defeat in Copeland. In many quarters there seems scant acknowledgement of a multitude of other factors or if so they too are viewed through a polarised lens (on which topic: while the received wisdom of some on the Left state that inclement weather conditions cost Copeland for Labour I am personally disinclined to put our woes solely at the foot of Doris ex Machnica.).
There is a pressing need for nuance on all sides on such matters not least of which on nuclear power. Thousands upon thousands of unionised workers depend on nuclear and it will be part of a lower emissions future regardless of concerns with Trident. While some have concerns with both there is also a significant swathe of people who support the use of nuclear power generation and remain opposed to the nuclear power of elimination.
For those who elected Corbyn for the strength of his conviction and bucking the mainstream we should not be surprised in learning that the mainstream is in fact plentiful. By the same token “Labour is bigger than one man” some proclaim in opposition to Corbyn’s leadership – this must prompt the riposte: “Then why do you concentrate your ire on an individual?
Such arguments aside from the information we have this much is true: we have had two by-elections at a time of great internal Party strife to a greater or lesser extent because a brace of Labour MPs decided that fighting for the cause of their constituents was less worth their time (or perhaps less lucrative) than their career outside of politics.
To be elected by a constituency is to form a covenant with the people. There are a multitude of legitimate reasons as to step down from such a position but a job elsewhere is not amongst them. To those that say that a Member of Parliament is a job like any other then I suggest that they are informed of the twin concepts of vocation and duty. This is a time where those in Labour must be use every platform to oppose the destruction being wreaked upon our communities by a government and a consensus that does not have the interest of workers at heart.
For a Party built on common endeavour we seem to seldom speak on that which we agree upon. To do so we must enter in to common dialogue – a genuine engagement with one another. Such a dialogue must not be confined to those at the heads of factions and groupings instead of which it must be found at every level and in particular amongst the grassroots of the movement. Furthermore we cannot conduct ourselves in a succession of soliloquys masquerading as debate – there is a political myopia at play amongst those who declare a wide-ranging outlook in name only.
If nothing else the Labour Party is a common cause of those who seek to fashion a society worthy of the name in which all are afforded the support they need and the opportunity to contribute.
This is the common thread that connects each and every member of the Labour Party from my own Bevan influenced Socialism and robust approach to nationalisation through to those who advocate a more measured approach. This is the position in which Open Labour finds itself – a clarion call for solidarity. This solidarity must be built upon shared values and a democratic mode of debate. The solidarity of which I speak cannot be in opposition not to itself but those which we have common cause against.
Let us sound such a clarion call for a Labour Party with the intellectual rigour and democratic foundations to tear asunder a government and system which is anathema to decency. This has long been the goal of Labour and it shall only be realised when we work in union. Open Labour is at the forefront of nurturing this debate and believe that its founding conference will initiate a wave of forums in which we work together to realise our aims.
I have no desire to be a member of a Party of one. I suspect I am not alone in this regard.