Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Labour NEC Fallout

It's a new year, so I started thinking "you know what, I'm not going to do internal Labour polemic any more. I'll stick to analysing the Tories, trying to make sense of our strange political conjuncture, and write more theory stuff." And I was determined to stand by this, until the whingeing started afresh about the left's clean sweep of the three new members' seats on the National Executive Committee. And another bout of bellyaching came today with the removal of Ann Black from the chair of the disputes sub-committee and her replacement by Christine Shawcroft.

Taking each in turn, an unnamed centrist MP popped up in The Times threatening the inauguration of an independent bloc of former Labour MPs, if mandatory reselection goes through and they are deselected. After all, this is why they fear Jon Lansman, a long-time proponent of the measure. Quite rightly, this entitled moaning puts a question mark over their loyalty to the Labour Party anyway: if they cannot hold a privileged position awarded by the party then they're not interested. But it's more telling than even that. Already groups of MPs have thrown in the towel. Despite having the respect the office confers (and, yes, there are a disturbing amount of Labour members in awe of Parliamentary office holders) and the resources they bring, they do not have the stomach for a fight. It's almost as if a cohort of MPs who, through chicanery of one sort or another, had their seats virtually gifted to them, have spent undistinguished careers going with the flow of media opinion and haven't had to risk their necks fighting for their politics have discovered that, um, politics is not for them. If they do not have enough confidence in their views to organise for them, they have no business being Labour MPs. It really is as simple as that, especially when the membership have demonstrated time and again they want to see a different kind of politics away from the paternalist managerialism of old. The irony is that most of those who do live in fear of their constituency parties would probably get reselected anyway if they put a bit of effort in, but I'm not about to encourage them.

And the Ann Black story. Yes, how awful it is that a democratic vote sees the removal of a sitting chair and their replacement by another. There is no point beating about the bush, Ann was removed because of her previous record. Readers may recall that despite happily receiving votes on the basis of left wing slates over the years, when it came down to the crunch she went along with the attempts to stitch up the 2016 leadership contest against Jeremy Corbyn. She supported the retrospective imposition of a cut off date for the contest, she voted to whack up supporters' fees and put participation beyond the reach of interested people on low and precarious incomes, and she agreed with limiting registration to an incredibly tight window. With friends like this, who needs enemies? And there is the wider point as well. As chair of the disputes committee she is ultimately responsible for the dragging out of suspensions, and that does nothing for the confidence members are supposed to have in the party's processes and procedures. No, I'm sorry, the left put Ann in position and it is entirely right she was voted out as an obstacle to the remaking of the party. After all, it's what the members voted for.

If you dipped into social media this afternoon, you'll have sampled the faux outrage by now. All this underlines the complete inability, two-and-a-half years after the fact to understand what has happened to the Labour Party. There is no reflection on how the right hollowed out the Labour Party, no reflection on why their politics motivate no one beyond a narrow circle of Westminster watchers, no reflection on why they were easily shoved aside in a democratic contest, and still no reflection why Jeremy Corbyn defied their expectations and did better than their worst nightmares. Until they have come up with answers for these, they cannot make sense of their current predicament. The moaning and the bad faith speak of a lack, of an intellectual collapse that forecloses the possibility of their coming back. So while it is embarrassing and damaging to the party to see them snarking and making fools of themselves, it helps keep them irrelevant - and that is nothing but a good thing.

Correction: Ann Black did not support the retrospective application of a cut off dating back six months, and instead suggested a week - this proposal fell at the fateful NEC meeting in question. She did, however, back the fee hike.

18 comments:

Fred said...

So true. But isn't there a chance that they could split and still be dangerous? Not that I think they'd do well in any election, their poli tics are as unappealing as you suggest. But a few dozen mps with good media contacts, who would probably get the hard-core remainers on side, could do enough damage to keep the Tories in a bit longer no?

Anonymous said...

Black an "obstacle"?
I've only heard good things about Ann from a number of people in the know. She is Labour to her core. Utterly fair, principled and loyal. And very much on the left of the party.
If we are going to regard people like her as an obstacle, or the enemy, or in some way lacking in ideologically purity then the party is moving towards a very bad place indeed.

Steve

Speedy said...

I'm not much interested in the internal politics of Labour and have no real beefs with Corbynism, but there is something to be said for controlling membership, otherwise politics becomes ever more a popularity contest and those with half-formed online opinions set the agenda. The best example of this is Italy's Five Star movement which blows with the (social media) wind and has recently announced it will ban compulsory vaccinations for children because of foolish conspiratorial fancies.

Admittedly 5 star is an ideological vacuum, while Momentum is the opposite, but I think both, by encouraging this kind of "whimsical" participation - in the case of both, really, forming their very foundations - they are further damaging democracy. Do you think Momentum would be encouraging mass participation if polls indicated only committed members would vote for them? They have no interest in democracy or participation but pursuing their own ideologically-blinkered agenda. I mean, Seamus Milne man of the people? To them it is a means to an end. This wouldn't matter if they would do no harm, but rather than revitalising Labour in the post-Brexit (itself a reaction) Britain they could send meaningful opposition down a plughole.

And yes, the polls, the polls, but I'm talking about them getting into government. I appreciate you were always an ideologue Phil, but the Labour movement was always a petit bourgeois enterprise, reflecting the concerns of the great mass of Britons. In a strong sense, I don't see much difference between Momentum and Blairites - both represent bourgeois interests that hijacked a mass movement for their own swivel-eyed agenda, both will come to a sticky end, and the only real victims will be the people the movement was created to represent, who remain largely unrepresented, as they have done since the mid-70s.

Phil said...

It's almost as if you haven't read the post, Steve.

When the party was at real risk of undergoing a split, Ann Black sided with the right against the left. It's not about purity or what have you, it's about not supporting someone who, when it came down to it, tried to hand the party back to the cliques and the bureaucrats. That is why the left withdrew their support for her.

Daniel said...

As someone who joined the party shorlty after the 2017 GE in order to be able to vote in these kind of interneal party elections and make sure the party gets democratised, these blog posts about the internal party fighting are quite useful in working out what is going on.

The last couple of years have been a crash course in Labour factionalism and when someone like Ann Black gets replaced I haven't the foggiest clue what it means, other than as a left slate voter I'm apparently repsonsible for anti-semitic Stalinism according to most of the "discourse". There was nothing Stalin liked more than democratioc accountability aparently -__-

By the sounds of it its probably a good thing she has been replaced.

At the start of the Corbyn project I was all for working together but after the last couple of years and the way sections of the PLP are still behaving I'm more and more in favor of deselections to be honest. If Labour do get in government it looks like the PLP will be a major force of friction to doing anything socialist, especially if labour have a small majority.

Mark Livingston said...

Comical. Labour's right-wing MPs understand nothing other than how to troll their own party membership.

Anonymous said...

Ann Black said the stupidiest replies to my policy submission re state pension policies, which the right wing have still ignored and managed to keep out of Labour's Manifesto any state pension policies at all. Blair and Brown betrayed the working class pensioner all through their term in office 1997 -2010 (and still do from their 2007 pension act). My petition has not gained support when shared with CLP executives, dip sampled throughout England and Wales. Yet my petition is the state pension policies that Jeremy Corbyn supported throughout his political career and from the 1983 Labour Manifesto upon which Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as MP. Facebook now is blocking / calling spam pension campaigns from any of us, and blocking pension campaign pages altogether of the 1950s ladies thieved our state pension from 60 to 66 by Tory / Lib Dems / New Labour alike. With Jeremy Corbyn's state pension policies in 2018 Labour Manifesto, then the 55 to 66 age range at least would increase in vote share for the hoped for 2018 general election. PETITION - https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/pension60now

Heather yeoman said...

is it possiable that the remanants of blairs psedo labour in reality conservative are in there final death throws

Chris Hall said...

Er...hard core remainers happen to be the majority of the party and its supporters.

Andrew Coates said...

I agree, having met her more than once, as have many many of those who are active on the left, with those making supportive comments about Ann Black.

I would be interested to hear Phil's views on her replacement, Christine Shawcroft, perhaps beginning with the split between her 'original' Labour Briefing and the 'LRC' Labour Briefing.

Anonymous said...

Chris Hall:

Most LP members and even most Labour voters want the EU referendum result reversed? Erm, I don't actually think so.

What most actually favour is the softest possible Brexit.

Nigel Blanchard said...

Not being familiar with some of the names mentioned in this article I would however add support for Daniel and Anonymous’ comments above. I don’t agree with the adverse comments about Momentum. I do believe it is far more important to get the Tories out as this Government is doing untold harm. As for the rest inc. Labour and the rest of the MPs of all persuasions do need to accept democractic reform and Parliament also needs reform. The entire country is divided and many of the young no longer have respect for a system that runs on privilege. That is the Parliament privilege that allows MPs to lie in Parliament and now more often than not lie outside of Parliament. What surprises those on the outside is that MPs are given/ gifted safe seats and 2011 the country vote against PR. You could say we get what we vote for. The bottom line is many of us feel disenfranchised and BREXIT was the result but look where it is taking us. Some few selfish MPs are now making career out of abusing the trust of remainers to start all over again trying to oust Corbyn. One thing is apparent is that you don’t get Tories airing their dirty washing quite so much in public albeit in private they rely on rumours to upset their loyalty to their leader but hold it together. What we don’t want is 12 months of this crap that enables the MSM to convince the fickle public that Labour is full of extremists. The Manifesto is only slightly left of centre when compared with Nordic countries. Also our senior shadow members including Corbyn MUST be better briefed on their respective resposibilities. E.G Abbot and I have a lot of respect for her should never have ballsed up her facts on public services during election that did a lot of damage. It is not difficult for them to have SUCCINCT briefings and notes and turn up fully prepared. Yes we know that Tories did same but with the bias in MSM we have to be better. This is a golden opportunity to get a decent social Democratic Party into power and some are just playing party politics so I hope that they either put up and support Labour and Leadership or risk getting deselected. I am 67 nearly and joined Momentum to give them a little something and support that I as a pensioner can afford.

notrednaj said...

There's an important nuance which is that there is a better alternative. What information do you have that the committee deposed Black because she lacked ideological purity? In democracy where you find improvements you take them. No offence to Black but she has served her time and Labour are moving on.

notrednaj said...

You don't need to hate Ann Black to approve of a potential improvement. And you have no idea of the motivations of the committee when they did it other tjan apparently petty grievances, which is ironic given that's what you are projecting on others.

Anonymous said...

no Chris, hard core remainers do not form the majority of their supporters,only the membership. Most supporters of labour actually voted to leave in the referendum,and a poll showed that they had a bigger % in all Labour constituencies

Anonymous said...

No, Anonymous. 65% of Labour supporters voted remain. Labour's dilemma is that most labour *constituencies* voted leave.

Anonymous said...

Phil I think your internal Labour Party blogs are excellent. There’s nothing else really like it on the internet - minus skawkbox and other unreliable click bait sites. You’re the only one who has a look with proper analysis, and it’s honestly been the only way I’ve been able to keep up over the years.

If you wouldn’t mind, I think it would be great to know what the different Left groups are. Momentum, LRC, Labour Briefing, Red Labour etc. I don’t really understand why there are so many Left groups or how they relate to each other so an explainer would be excellent.

Lidl_Janus said...

"why there are so many Left groups"

The easy short answer to this: 'twas ever thus.