The best take on Berger/Wavertree situation – and behaviour of ‘moderates’ – you’ll find

Image by Irate (John Bradley). – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7428329

Below are a few paragraphs from an eminently readable – and sensible – article by a 2017 Labour parliamentary candidate on the issue of constituency Labour parties, votes of no confidence, the entitled behaviour of MPs and the Luciana Berger/Wavertree CLP situation.

It’s the best and most balanced take you’re likely to find:

Nearly all members hold it as an article of faith that the ultimate goal is to kick out the Tories, and to install a Labour government, and nearly all of us will swallow personal dislikes, policy disagreements and tone-deaf hymn-singing from the other side of the aisle, in order to elect any Labour MP who is working towards that goal. If that means supporting and campaigning for someone as candidate when you really wanted someone else, then so be it. I was aware in 2017 that some people would have much preferred a different candidate, but those same people still put in a shift to support me in that campaign, and some of them have even been won round to my dubious charm. Well, I like to tell myself that. Don’t disillusion me.

Some members will swallow political views they dislike, as long as the result is more likely to be a Labour government – for many on the left, that describes the entire period between 1997 and 2010. There are many current Labour MPs who are not particularly sympathetic to the politics of either the leadership or members, yet few have faced motions of no confidence, because their members will accept their lukewarm enthusiasm for socialist politics as long as they are seen as working hard to bring about a Labour government.

Some members will swallow opposition to the party leadership as long as that opposition comes from a political perspective with which they have sympathy, which explains why Jeremy Corbyn himself survived the Blair years. It’s also why plenty of MPs who have criticised the leadership’s stance on Brexit have gone unchallenged by members, because most members tend to have sympathy with more pro-Remain views.

Where members tend to draw the line, in my experience, is when a representative is seen as both politically unsympathetic and not helping to obtain a Labour government. If an MP ever crosses a line to be seen as actively helping to prevent a Labour government, then members will almost always move against them. If one looks at those Labour MPs who have faced motions of no confidence – and it is a relatively small number – one finds that it is inevitably the case that they not only have serious political differences with the leadership, but they are seen by members as making a Labour government less likely through their public provision of ammunition to the hostile media and the Tories.

If you want to read the rest of this excellent piece by @DisIdealist – and it’s well worth the time – you can do so here.

17 responses to “The best take on Berger/Wavertree situation – and behaviour of ‘moderates’ – you’ll find

  1. Yes a good read,thank you.However it states “if ever an MP crosses a line to be seen as actively helping to prevent a Labour government,then members will almost always move against them.” Not in itself contentious,members must be free to object,but surely the onus is on the party to act against MPs behaving in that way.

    • Usually it will, but it’s worth remembering that it’s (usually) the CLP that picks the candidate, and thus determines who can become a Labour MP.

      Too many still treat it as some kind of god-given right once they’ve got it, and don’t even attend their CLP meetings, completely ignoring the fact that the CLP made them a Labour MP, and can also withdraw that honour.

      I don’t know how it was before Blair, but certainly in the Blair years this treatment of CLP’s as somehow subservient to MP’s got significantly worse; but the job of an MP isn’t to rule, it’s to represent, both their CLP who backed them, and the constituency that voted them in.

      • it will, but it’s worth remembering that it’s (usually) the CLP that picks the candidate, and thus determines who can become a Labour MP.

        Usually…

        I remember it didn’t quite go like that when berger was ‘anointed’ as Wavertree LP candidate.

  2. Please copy to Owen Jones.
    The time to react strongly against MPs openly working against the Party and clearly in co-ordination with other parties is now. There is a very real danger that a snap election would leave a Fifth Column in the PLP even in the event of an election victory. If it were anything like the current PLP there would be a very good chance of the Party being cheated of victory by the secession of dozens,of sworn enemies of socialism, to coalesce with anti socialist parties.
    Indeed the chances of such a secession are much greater than they were in 1931 when it last occurred.

  3. Reads like a good argument for passing motions of no confidence in favour of Luciana Berger, not for gutlessly withdrawing such motions.

    • If those who originally tabled the motions received ‘pressure’ from outside sources to cancel the motions – they must speak up.

  4. This article is spot on and how I think about MPs. Unfortunately members in Wavertree (my CLP) are forced to walk on egg shells otherwise the motion of no confidence would have happened long before now. Luciana has a licence to behave as badly as she wants to and the members have to put up with it as If they dare complain they are smeared as anti-Semites and are accused of bullying “a woman with a young family” and have their reputations ruined. It’s basically blackmail. As a woman with a young child myself, I wouldn’t expect to behave badly in my place of work and get away with it because ” I’m a woman with a young family”, so why should she? As for her supporters claiming she is a “talented MP” – she is average at best and a under completely uninspiring speaker. Although her work on mental health is needed, the work could be carried out by any MP.

  5. That is an interesting take on where the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour lies.

    I wouldn’t want to be a member of a party that is narrowly sectarian and brooks no criticism of top-down policies. And Corbyn wouldn’t be leader – or a member – if Labour had been that. Besides which, in a practical electoral sense, parties are, by definition, coalitions that need breadth in order to win power. Sectarian narrowness is death.

    “Some members will swallow political views they dislike, as long as the result is more likely to be a Labour government – for many on the left, that describes the entire period between 1997 and 2010.”

    Exactly. I canvassed and worked for a new prospective candidate that I disagreed with on many issues. And, indeed, many of us kept our disagreements internal during that long period of drought in fear of worse.

    And that is precisely why I despise those members of the PLP who actively and publicly undermine the Party. At least the Tory defectors to UKIP had the grace to resign and put their money where their mouth was.

    I can live with MPs who don’t align with my views – up to a point. But I can’t countenance those who feed the propaganda press with distortions and lies and who put allegiance to a disgraceful apartheid regime ahead of basic Labour principles of anti-racism.

    Even beyond that, I can’t forgive the use of the horrors of the Third Reich being used as an emotional trope for narrow political ends. It is an insult to the memory of those who were actual victims.

  6. Thanks for the retweet and the kind words. Certainly the reaction on Twitter appears to suggest it struck a chord, although with the usual proviso that Twitter isn’t the real world.

    I do feel angered by the labelling of any and all opposition in CLPs towards sitting MPs as deriving from malign intent. Even if it were true, any vote would require the assent of the majority of members before being passed.

    I assume that most of us here have been involved in Labour politics, and have attended CLP meetings and rubbed along with fellow activists and members. The whole range of humanity is of course represented – or at least that element of it which is driven to join a political party through conviction and engagement. There may well be cranks, and there are certainly ideologues. But unless my CLP is bizarrely different from others, the vast majority of members are just normal people who want to change the world for the better and believe the Labour Party is the way to do that.

    When Tom Watson demands an entire CLP should be suspended on the grounds that a handful of them put forward a motion he didn’t like, that’s just unacceptable. It’s an attack on the integrity, intelligence and membership rights of more than a thousand people.

    The Labour Party is surely about protecting and furthering ordinary people’s right to challenge power. What essentially happened yesterday was a lot of powerful Labour MPs attacked ordinary members’ right to challenge them.

    It was wrong.

    • “When Tom Watson demands an entire CLP should be suspended on the grounds that a handful of them put forward a motion he didn’t like, that’s just unacceptable.”

      In the end, perhaps Watson has done himself more damage within the Party. His demand was so incredibly stupid, it hardly boosted his reputation or credibility.

      What beats me is that someone who did carry on a praiseworthy campaign against Murdoch has sunk so low as to crawl to the woest instincts of the propaganda press.

  7. If this person has crossed the line, then she should be deselected. If a snap election is imminent, the party needs candidates that are both loyal and actively supportive of the leadership.

    The right wing press is already throwing everything it has at JC and Labour. The last thing we need is a third column within, sabotaging our electoral chances.

  8. I joined the Labour Party in 1974 because I realised that everything I knew Labour stood for was under threat. That of course was when Milton Friedman was given weekly television space to propound his absurd Neo-Liberal vision. The testament of time has proven how misguided politicians were to follow his doctrine.

    I have seen good candidates come and go over the years, I have also seen how Blairite MPs ignored the clear need of their community, when I asked our local MP whom I helped get elected, why he would not support our campaign against a development that created a flooding problem, where I wrote a centre page article about in the local paper – I asked him at least to give us verbal support, his reply was, If I do that the Tory opposition will only shout me down. He also told me previously that his job was as a facilitator between the Tory run council our campaign.

    He of course eventually lost his seat and the current Tory has been there for over two elections now. That is the price we pay for ineffectual MPs that are more concerned about towing the Neo-Liberal line and cosying up to big business interests. He also told me how well he was getting on with the Chairman of BT at that time and that development land owned by them would be properly developed, as it was an eyesore. That never happened, but I’m sure they are both still good friends.

    What we are faced with in the Party are MPs who see a future outside politics in the private sector, a bit like working for a pension, where they migrate from parliament on to boards of various companies. Hence all through the seventy’s and eighties we heard Tories justifying jobs in the private sector as being beneficial to industry and parliament from their experience gained, which we all know meant financial reward for services rendered.

    What these MPs represent is nothing less than the gravy train.

    • ” MPs who see a future outside politics in the private sector”

      You’re not wrong – but I reckon an equally, or more, important dynamic is the rise of the ‘professional’ MP who hasn’t any experience of worth before politics, usually progressing through ‘think’ (!) tank or PR and advisory posts to that of ‘researcher’ for an actual MP to eventual selection.

      I often think of Walter Harrison, the Deputy Chief Whip in the 1970s – an old friend of a previous generation, and his back-story, in comparison with the slender, slender experience of many recently elected MPs.

      There really is no comparison.

      Walter had in his hall a photograph of himself and Michael Foot sitting in an empty commons chamber. Foot had broken his leg and, I think, Walter was sitting with him during a division.

      Now Michael Foot and Walter Harrison were very different in their views – but the photograph seemed to capture the essential common interest with in the Party.

      How different are the antics of the current right of recent vintage.

  9. ‘SUPPORT ME
    I am on the picket line.
    The first to fight for the poor.
    Vote I not to bomb internationally black and brown sisters.
    And Neo-Liberalism I abhor.
    What is my name?
    Socialism.’

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