8 Days Remaining

Wednesday 28th
posted by Morning Star in Features

Labour must unite for the sake of our party, our members and the communities hit hardest by the Tories, writes IAN MEARNS

POLITICS is predictably unpredictable, and at the moment that is truer than it has ever been in my lifetime.

There is one thing for certain: the hard-working people, the vulnerable and the disabled people of this country need a united Labour Party more than ever.
While the Tory government and Tory Party seemed set on tearing themselves apart during the Brexit campaign, elements within the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) took it upon themselves to set about doing the same.

When we should have been at our strongest and most united, during post-referendum uncertainty with a new Tory Prime Minister continuing where Cameron left off, some sections of the PLP were far more interested in briefing against their own leader, rather than taking on the Tories — a self-serving notion that I found frankly quite ludicrous.

But here we are, with Jeremy Corbyn re-elected, and we could be looking at a major case of deja vu.

Let us not forget, under Corbyn we’ve had a number of major successes during his first 12 months: working tax credits reversal, concessions of the Trade Union Bill, the partial dilution of the full academisation programme to name but a few.

Much of this was achieved without the full support of the whole of the parliamentary party.

I have seen first-hand the tireless work colleagues have committed to in a skeleton crew front bench, holding the government to account trying to protect the communities which we serve.

We can win — a Corbyn-led Labour Party continues to defy Murdoch’s hold over the media — and even gain seats up and down the country, increase majorities, take control of councils from parties across the political spectrum.

This is, pardon the pun, progress. This is the kind of power and influence that comes with a party membership of over 500,000.

Some parts of the party like to point to particular opinions that suggest that we are unelectable with Corbyn at the helm, while deliberately avoiding the obvious.

Of course, a party with over half of its own MPs standing against the leadership and the majority of their own membership is not seen as competent enough to tackle the key decisions that any government must make.

We all need to shoulder the responsibility to bring the party back together from the bottom to the top, from the grassroots members to the leader.

This is something which must be done together and must be done quickly, for the sake of communities like mine in Gateshead and across the country.

As Members of Parliament, we serve our communities but also the membership who select us in the first place, something which is all too quickly forgotten. I don’t think spreading the wealth of the 1 per cent more evenly across the rest of the population is particularly hard left, or Trotsky-like, as in the view of some independent commentators.

It is currently mainstream social democratic thinking or, in other words, just common sense.

Jeremy Corbyn is favourite to be the next Prime Minister with a number of bookmakers, that in the background of the second leadership election in 12 months.

We need to unite, come together and protect those who are shouldering the burden of ideological austerity from this draconian Tory government.

So on the back of Saturday’s resounding victory, we find ourselves wondering what happens next for the second time in just 12 months. But if recent history shows us anything, irrespective of who is leader of our great party, or who forms the NEC, who serves in the shadow cabinet or who takes a seat on the green back benches of the commons, democracy must win. Hypocrisy has no place in our future.

We cannot look the electorate in the face and express the importance of electoral registration, and participation at all levels, while some parts of our own party continue to disregard the biggest political membership mandate in Europe.

I’m very encouraged to hear some of my colleagues talk about the need to unite behind the leader, and observe the will of the membership, but it is clear that the lack of this willingness over the last 12 months has led to the situation that we find ourselves in today. Nonetheless, the message is encouraging even if not coming from all quarters.

It has become apparent that for too long the strategy for electoral success is to amend or disregard principles in pursuit of the “middle ground” vote.

This has been tried and tested, and has failed.

Jeremy Corbyn represents hope, he represents an ability to connect with people who have previously been ignored.

His principles, and our principles, have to remain resolute. We need to win the trust of the electorate say many commentators, and to that I say: what better way of gaining trust is believing in the same things, fighting the same fight, having the same argument for 30 years? This is what Jeremy’s leadership represents.

Jeremy has a much more difficult job than he did 12 months ago.

Since then we have seen increased poverty, a growing housing crisis, and the result of the Brexit vote.

This Tory government has no clue what comes next.

The main architects of the Brexit “success” have all jumped ship and the new Prime Minister seems not yet to have made her mind up as to whether she is in or out, despite the vote having taken place over three months ago.

This country needs an alternative and the Labour Party needs to be that alternative.

We need to do it together, to take the fight to the Tories not just in Westminster, but on the doorsteps and streets across the country.

The reality is — especially in areas like mine in Gateshead — a united Labour Party is the only hope; the only route to a decent standard of living and the way out of poverty, debt, ill health, unemployment, underemployment and low wages.

To combat all of that we must unite.

Let us get back together, unite behind Jeremy and give the other 99 per cent the representation they need and deserve.

Ian Mearns is Labour MP for Gateshead.