Political Discussion on 15 September

At the branch Meeting on 15 September the political discussion centred on the leadership contest in the Labour Party.

It was agreed that, although Communist Party members were simply observers in the struggle going on inside the Labour Party, and we had no interest in entryism, we were well placed to speak out on what was going on. While the reports to the meeting were essentially second-hand, they drew on excellent contacts across the labour movement and, in many cases, the experience of family and friends who were Labour Party members and members of Momentum.

It was reported that Momentum were advising its members to keep a low profile in the internet and not to refer in public or on the internet to ‘plotters’, ‘coups’, ‘traitors’ or ‘Blairites’ when discussing the election. Fear of being expelled, or at the very least being disenfranchised in the current election, appeared to be widespread amongst Labour Party members. Fortunately, the CP, at this meeting and in the pages of the Morning Star, was not susceptible to such intimidation..

It was reliably reported that Labour Party members were still receiving telephone calls asking whether they had voted yet and, if so, which way. When challenged about the purpose and legitimacy of enquiring about votes already cast in a secret ballot, the callers had, it was reported, hurriedly rung off. The evidence points to these calls coming from the Smith campaign, but how they got hold of names and telephone numbers of Labour Party members was unclear. Breaches of the Data Protection Act could not be discounted.

The attention of the meeting was drawn to the extensive anecdotal reports that Corbyn supporters were being expelled for trivial reasons and to the exclusion of some 130,000 new members because they had joined in the last six months. Doubts were expressed over whether the elements in the Labour Party opposing Corbyn would succeed in expelling enough members to swing the election in favour of Owen Smith. Whether this was so won’t be clear until the Labour Party Leadership Conference on 24 September.

It was noted that, in seeking comments on political developments, the BBC had reverted to those who had participated in the staged and phased mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. The self-imposed silence from Hilary Benn and his fellow conspirators had ended. Little surprise was expressed over this development, but it was pointed out that, when the BBC draft Royal Charter was enacted, the likelihood of the BBC  reporting  without bias on political developments would be further reduced.

The most disturbing aspect of the Labour leadership election for many at the meeting was the failure of the challenger, Owen Smith, to confirm that he would respect the result of the election. He had previously stated his refusal to serve in a future shadow cabinet under Corbyn and, in the televised debate with his ‘unelectable’ opponent, he had left the stage after being thoroughly trounced, mumbling about offering Corbyn the non-existent role of ‘president’ of the party. As the Co-op Party had refused to go along with the plotters’ proposal to use it as a vehicle to legitimise a Parliamentary Labour Party in revolt against its elected leader, the meeting was concerned that the Blairite wing of the Labour Party would simply trigger successive leadership elections until they finally win one.

Concluding the meeting, it was proposed that, in response to ideas discussed at the Party Cadre School on 10 September, the Croydon Branch should in future hold public meetings to debate and discuss political developments and analyse them in the light of Marxist theory. It was suggested that this might be done by re-activating and re-branding the classes previously held by the Communist University in South London, but possibly introduced this time by named speakers. This proposal will be investigated by the Branch Committee. Views of members were invited.

 

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Dooming the Labour Party Forever?

Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate in the Labour Leadership election, received a respectable 41 nominations from her fellow MPs, including one from our very own Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North. Their hopes of a payback for this support must be fast diminishing.

Liz Kendall’s bid to become Labour Leader didn’t come out of the blue. Before the general election the Independent on Sunday said she had “emerged” as the favourite among Blairites who were impressed by her TV performances. What a mistake that turned out to be! She fell flat on her face in the first televised hustings, finding herself unable to establish any rapport with an audience of potential Labour voters.

She was also tipped by the odious Daily Mail in January as a potential future Labour Leader. Their source was not disclosed, but the Mail would probably not have gone ahead with such a puff without sounding out Miss Kendall first. They made much of her membership of a mysterious ‘breakfast club’ of right wing Labour frontbenchers, including Chuka Umunna and the dire Tristam Hunt, who reportedly met regularly prior to the full shadow cabinet to discuss such matters as who should succeed Ed Miliband. With the election still some months away, one has to sympathise with the hapless Ed. Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?

Despite preparing the way so assiduously, things have not gone well for Liz. Ladbrokes are now offering 10:1 on her winning this four horse race. Jeremy Corbyn’s odds, on the other hand, are shortening by the day. It seems to have come as a shock to our so-called ‘opinion formers’ that there are so many of us who are demanding radical reform and more. Not everyone has, however, woken up to this yet. The slumbering Daily Telegraph has called on its readers to register as Labour supporters and vote for Corbyn in order to “doom the party forever”. Calling on them to vote for Liz Kendall would have been a far more effective way of achieving this.

The only good news for Liz in the last few weeks has been a paltry third endorsement by a Constituency Labour Party. Regrettably for those of us who take pride in Croydon, it was from Croydon South CLP.

Jeremy Corbyn, if elected Labour Leader, would face huge difficulties with the Parliamentary Labour Party. No doubt he would seek to build bridges with the many pragmatic (if not to say self-serving) Labour MPs, but the hostility of much of the party and especially the Blairite rump – a group so disengaged from reality that they thought Liz Kendall was the solution to the problem – will mean a very real risk of another SDP-style break away if Jeremy is elected. That’s no reason, however, not to register, if you can, as a Labour supporter and vote for Jeremy. If you have any doubts about the quality and integrity of the man, would like to know more about what he stands for or if you would simply like to express your support for him, come along and hear him speak at 7.00 pm on Tuesday, 4 August at Croydon TUC, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD.