For a kinder politics

Three claims in particular distress me about the claims being made by MPs leaving the Labour Party to create an Independent Group.
1. that Labour are putting their policy views ahead of the needs of the country;  
2. that politics is broken;  
3. that politics needs to address the needs of our times, (of the 21st Century), and it doesn’t.
–  
To which –
1. that Labour are putting their policy views ahead of the needs of the country;  dressing up differences in vision for the country as betrayal is often cited but is anti-political;  and charges like this were made against New Labour when we were in power too; 
2. that politics is broken; party politics deciding affairs is the fundamental test by which you assess whether we have a free society;  party political allegiances are under strain at the moment, but that’s cos the referendum took away simple party loyalties away from MPs and cos the decision to Leave was ambiguous about how to leave; 
3. that politics needs to address the needs of our times, (of the 21st Century), and it doesn’t;  except this is another anti-politics charge that has been made for decades, indeed probably from the time of Cock Robin.  And my main response to them is that Labour’s policy responses are much stronger responses to the challenges of today.

Polls are reporting lower scores for the Conservatives and for Labour with 10 points or so for the Independent group, to which I’m either surprised  or underwhelmed and I’m not sure which.  Cos on the one hand, 10 points is a lot and on the other, the SDP had much higher scores when its was launched in 1981.  
It is perhaps inevitable that social media responses – where people can make statements without being held to account – might be more trill than is warranted, but the trillness Is not not good for us in the Labour Party, as has been shown by –
– the Parliamentary Labour Party giving those leaving a round of applause, clearly believing they have been treated badly and that many of them are receiving poor treatment too; 
Tom Watson’s statement, with a particular emphasis on Luciana Berger being a victim;
– most tellingly, John MacDonnell dropping plan A (Monday – they all need to resign as MPs and stand for fresh elections) and adopting Plan B (Tuesday – the national party needs to listen to the concerns raised)
– Barry Gardiner expressing regret at the treatment of Luciana Berger MP by anti-Semites from the front bench.

Because there has been conduct in the party and from outside the party against MPs that has been too brutal.  Some of it has been anti-Semitic.  A lot of it has been macho.  Some of it – e.g. votes of no confidence in their MP by branches using emergency motions and thus not informing all branch members – has been wrong in principle and according to the rules of the Labour Party.  
So we should acknowledge that we can improve.

If we’d adopted a listening approach – 
– we could have refrained from saying MPs who have changed parties should resign their seats – 1) only 4 out of the most recent 64 have; 2) we need people in Parliament to be voting on Brexit; 3) people get elected as individuals; and everyone who stands know that they stand on that basis; elected representatives are just that and are not delegates to be withdrawn;  and there are no mechanisms yet designed that can make a delegate approach work; 
– we could have refrained from saying people have made decisions to leave lightly – cos people who have been elected have invested significantly in the Labour Party and for years, and cos they have deep convictions too;  indeed the testimonies of roots and life stories was the strongest part of the launch on Monday;
– we could have refrained from suggest they are careerist – especially when I think they’ve done something that will end their careers as MPs at the next election; and because people say this of all representatives;  it’s actually a dig at the way a free society decides who decides and a way of stopping people think about the issues;
– we could have refrained from saying MPs are mandated by the party national manifesto, cos before the Summer of 2015, loads of MPs were congratulated by not standing by the manifestos of Blair and Brown;
– we could have refrained from saying a vote for a Labour candidate was a vote for the Labour manifesto; cos whilst a win gives the party the opportunity to implement the manifesto, we certainly don’t say vote for the manifesto or don’t vote for us at all; and in 2017, we actually said, don’t vote for Theresa May, she’s not a good PM, has had a terrible campaign and she des not offer string and stable government.  
And we could do without those rolling out defences of those who have been anti-Semitic (e.g people haven’t been, or the favourite – “I’ll say what I want when being critical of Israel and no code is going to stop me”); cos the Labour Party has a problem (and it’s annoying cos we are supposed to be the best at being anti-racist).

These analyses look cruel, shrill, out of touch and condoning of very poor bullying and racist behaviour. Having a tin ear rather than listening.

Smarter to celebrate the ambition we have – including re-implementing levies on banks that have cost public services £5,000 million and created the space to campaign against further proposals to cut Corporation tax by 2% at a cost public services £8,000 million.

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