To run and hide or stand up and be cancelled? That is the question now that Labour’s witch trials are underway.

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I am not alone. My story is just one among many stories. But what happened to me is typical of what is happening to dozens, if not hundreds, of long-standing Party members up and down the country.  It is a witch hunt. It is targeting good socialists, many of whom have made a huge contribution to the Labour Party and the Socialist movement over many years. It’s aim is to transform the Party from a broad church that welcomes people who hold different views, but who share a desire for a better world, to narrow sect whose main aim is to maintain the top-down organisation that evolved during the Blair years and within which many of them have vested political careers. Those who supported Corbyn’s leadership, including Corbyn himself, were a threat to that status quo. We must be silenced, and if we cannot be silenced then we must be purged.

The purge of Labour members has been called a witch hunt. The Salem witch trials are often quoted as a cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, extremism, false accusations and disregard of due process. An accuser would would enter a complaint of witchcraft with the magistrate.  Spectral evidence – a dream, visitation or mere belief that witchcraft had been practiced – would be presented to the magistrate. The accused – usually a poor misunderstood individual perceived as an outsider in some way – would then be arrested, interrogated and pressed to confess. A guilty plea, expressed with remorse, could save your life. To plead not guilty would be taken as proof positive of guilt and then when you were found guilty you would be certain to be hanged. One of those accused, Giles Corey, an 81 year old farmer from Salem Fields, refused to submit himself to the process.  He declined to enter a plea. In order to persuade him to comply, stones were placed on top of him until he couldn’t breathe. He died without entering a plea. Good for him.

I know from others’ experience, and the Leaked Report has confirmed, that Labour’s complaints systems are not fit for purpose. Like the justice systems in fifteenth century America, they are open to abuse. Individuals are placed ‘under investigation’ and invited to defend themselves against accusations based on the flimsiest of ‘evidence’ before  officials who have already decided our guilt. Investigations that should never have been initiated – most of the ‘evidence’ cited would not stand up in any court of law and you would be treated more fairly in any half decent workplace – are left to hang indefinitely while ordinary decent Party members are left unsupported to deal with the stress. The letter that accompanies the Notice of Investigation acknowledges the stress that will be caused and includes the Samaritans’ phone number. The letter itself is not signed off by an individual officer. There is no named individual who can be contacted about the investigation.

Being under investigation and/or suspended restricts members’ participation in Party activity, including prohibiting them from standing for public office. It is a method increasingly used by a certain section of the Party establishment to ensure that only individuals who meet their approval make it on to a ballot. It is the way they get rid of you when all else fails – it is what happens to councillors and MPs who have a good record and have been, or are likely to be selected by ward or CLP members, but whose face – or politics – doesn’t fit with those who believe that they, and they alone, are born to rule. Those under investigation are prohibited, under threat of suspension and/or expulsion, from talking about it, This not only silences – cancels – the individual concerned, it allows malign gossip and lies to spread unchecked. Thus are the Labour Party’s complaints systems being used to purge and silence people like me.

Like the elderly Salem farmer, I chose not to submit myself to the judgement of a corrupt and broken system. I chose instead to resign.  My resignation, along with that of my son – also a councillor – who has been ‘under investigation’ for over eighteen months, resulted in Labour losing control of a Crawley Borough Council. Two Brighton councillors were placed under investigation shortly after me. They too chose to resign with the result that Labour lost control of that council too. Our resignations have been branded as a ‘betrayal’ of the Party. It is those long-standing members, people who have dedicated many years and sacrificed much for the Labour movement, who have been betrayed. So long as the Labour Party – and by the Labour Party, I mean members, not paid officials – are prepared to stand by in silence while decent people are purged from its ranks, it will not be fit to govern at any level.

It has been suggested that I was wrong to resign, that I should have stayed in the Party to ‘clear my name’. This very suggestion says it all. It is as though I have already been condemned. Like those poor men and women in fifteenth century Salem, it seems the very uttering of a complaint is enough for the Labour Party to hang you. Had due process – even back then – been applied to the Salem witches, they would never have been accused in the first place. Had the Labour Party’s complaints systems been fit for purpose and not open to abuse by those with malign intent, hundreds of members would have been spared an ordeal that is widely understood to have resulted in suicide by at least one.

Members are entitled to know what is going on in their Party. Some may want to know. They can then make up their own minds about it. Below, for anyone interested,  is a link to the Notice of Investigation that I received on 27 June. Also the response I might have offered had I trusted that it would be received in good faith by the Party.

Karen Sudan, August 2020

Notice of Investigation – Cllr KS:

Response to a different Labour Party – allegations contained in NOI Karen Sudan

 

Coronavirus: why illness and death are not ‘above politics’

Michael Gove has been widely criticised for having his daughter tested for Covid-19 when it seemed she did not qualify according to the criteria that are being applied to the rest of us. The anger was understandable: the capacity is not there to carry out nearly enough tests. When there is not enough to go round, there will be haves and have-nots. When it comes to testing, some of us must be prioritised while others – including front-line NHS staff and their families – must go without. Michael Gove is a member of the Government that is widely held to be to blame for the lack of capacity for testing – mostly down to shortage of testing kits. The fact that he managed to fix things so that his own family obtained an advantage over others more deserving certainly leaves a bitter taste – but can we really blame him for doing what we ourselves might have done had we been in the same position. Criticism of those who are able to swing the system in their favour while it goes against others is pointless. It is the system itself that needs questioning – and that is political.

Every day the number of those who have died over the past twenty-four hours is reported. The figures are pored over and endlessly analysed: How accurate are they? Would those who have died, died anyway? Who is most likely to die? Have the numbers peaked and is this the beginning of the end? Comparisons are made with other nations’ responses and there is increasing criticism of our own Government’s response – including the early denial phase that meant that now we do not have the resources – including testing kits – to do what is needed. From the beginning, the debate is peppered with condemnation of those who it is believed are seeking to ‘politicise’ the crisis ‘Political point scoring’ is seen as the height of bad manners – with so many ill and dying or in danger of death, including recently, the Prime Minister himself, surely what we are going through right now is ‘above politics’. It is not.

The death statistics have been broken down. It seems that children are not so likely to die; women are less likely to succumb; young people will probably have milder symptoms while those from ethnic minority communities are disproportionately represented in the death statistics. I could go on … and on, and no doubt the statistics are useful. I am sure they are telling us many things we need to know in order that we can better withstand the storm. However, there is one way in which it seems the figures have not yet been broken down. We do not know how those who are infected fare relative to their socio-economic – class – status.

This is not the first pandemic humanity has faced. The United Kingdom has been ravaged by bubonic plague, cholera and smallpox, as well as influenza. As well as this, before the invention of vaccination millions died ‘before their time’ from complications arising from childhood illnesses like measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever etc, not to mention TB.

The 1918-19 flu epidemic killed millions – 12 million in India and China alone. More soldiers died from the flu than were killed in the war. In Britain the epidemic, known as Spanish flu and nicknamed ‘the Spanish Lady’, claimed around 200,000 lives – that is, 0.5%, or one in two hundred of the pre-war population. The disease killed rich and poor alike. Sir Mark was the 6th Baronet Sykes, a member of the nobility who served as a diplomat during World War One. He contracted the disease in Paris in 1919 and died there aged just 40. His body was brought home to Sledmere, Yorkshire, in a lead-lined coffin and his lavish funeral was widely reported.

My Grandfather’s best pal, Fred Crawford, died of the flu in July 1918. On his death a gratuity of £2 – 13s 6d was paid to his father Alfred, a railway worker. My Grandfather inherited Fred’s cigarette case (together with a half-smoked woodbine). That was it. Fred never made it to France. He died in one of the training camps at Cannock Chase where he fell ill just a week after joining up at Lincoln. He was 18. His mother’s only comfort was that she was able to bury him at home – had he died abroad, that would not have been possible.

So, the epidemic took the lives of a son of a baronet and a son of a railway worker. The virus that caused the Spanish flu did not discriminate between them. Nevertheless, the fact remains, and the statistics bear it out, that the poorer you were, the far more likely you were to succumb. If you were healthy and well-nourished, could afford to rest up in a warm bed for as long as you needed to, and could afford the medicines that were available, then your chances of survival were fairly good. Sir Mark and my Grandfather’s mate Fred were both among the millions who died, but that does not alter the fact that, by virtue of his class, Sir Mark started out with much better odds than Fred.

The Spanish flu swept through humanity in two waves and then it went away, never to return. No doubt there will come a time when coronavirus will have done the same. Then we will be able to look at the statistics. I expect that we will find that we still live in a system in which the odds of surviving are much better for some than for others. It may be that women fare better than men – though men die too; that children are not so severely affected as adults – but children do die while old people survive; that those from ethnic minorities fare worse – but not always. We will also find that, man or woman, young or old, native or otherwise, social class still cuts across it all. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to die. That is political and that is why, while perhaps we might refrain from ‘political point scoring’, we should definitely not leave politics out of it.

 

 

 

Coronavirus: why illness and death are not ‘above politics’.

Michael Gove has been widely criticised for having his daughter tested for Covid-19 when it seemed she did not qualify according to the criteria that are being applied to the rest of us. The anger was understandable: the capacity is not there to carry out nearly enough tests. When there is not enough to go round, there will be haves and have-nots. When it comes to testing, some of us must be prioritised while others – including front-line NHS staff and their families – must go without. Michael Gove is a member of the Government that is widely held to be to blame for the lack of capacity for testing – mostly down to shortage of testing kits. The fact that he managed to fix things so that his own family obtained an advantage over others more deserving certainly leaves a bitter taste – but can we really blame him for doing what we ourselves might have done had we been in the same position. Criticism of those who are able to swing the system in their favour while it goes against others is pointless. It is the system itself that needs questioning – and that is political.

Every day the number of those who have died over the past twenty-four hours is reported. The figures are pored over and endlessly analysed: How accurate are they? Would those who have died, died anyway? Who is most likely to die? Have the numbers peaked and is this the beginning of the end? Comparisons are made with other nations’ responses and there is increasing criticism of our own Government’s response – including the early denial phase that meant that now we do not have the resources – including testing kits – to do what is needed. From the beginning, the debate is peppered with condemnation of those who it is believed are seeking to ‘politicise’ the crisis ‘Political point scoring’ is seen as the height of bad manners – with so many ill and dying or in danger of death, including recently, the Prime Minister himself, surely what we are going through right now is ‘above politics’. It is not.

The death statistics have been broken down. It seems that children are not so likely to die; women are less likely to succumb; young people will probably have milder symptoms while those from ethnic minority communities are disproportionately represented in the death statistics. I could go on … and on, and no doubt the statistics are useful. I am sure they are telling us many things we need to know in order that we can better withstand the storm. However, there is one way in which it seems the figures have not yet been broken down. We do not know how those who are infected fare relative to their socio-economic – class – status.

This is not the first pandemic humanity has faced. The United Kingdom has been ravaged by bubonic plague, cholera and smallpox, as well as influenza. As well as this, before the invention of vaccination millions died ‘before their time’ from complications arising from childhood illnesses like measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever etc, not to mention TB.

The 1918-19 flu epidemic killed millions – 12 million in India and China alone. More soldiers died from the flu than were killed in the war. In Britain the epidemic, known as Spanish flu and nicknamed ‘the Spanish Lady’, claimed around 200,000 lives – that is, 0.5%, or one in two hundred of the pre-war population. The disease killed rich and poor alike. Sir Mark was the 6th Baronet Sykes, a member of the nobility who served as a diplomat during World War One. He contracted the disease in Paris in 1919 and died there aged just 40. His body was brought home to Sledmere, Yorkshire, in a lead-lined coffin and his lavish funeral was widely reported.

My Grandfather’s best pal, Fred Crawford, died of the flu in July 1918. On his death a gratuity of £2 – 13s 6d was paid to his father Alfred, a railway worker. My Grandfather inherited Fred’s cigarette case (together with a half-smoked woodbine). That was it. Fred never made it to France. He died in one of the training camps at Cannock Chase where he fell ill just a week after joining up at Lincoln. He was 18. His mother’s only comfort was that she was able to bury him at home – had he died abroad, that would not have been possible.

So, the epidemic took the lives of a son of a baronet and a son of a railway worker. The virus that caused the Spanish flu did not discriminate between them. Nevertheless, the fact remains, and the statistics bear it out, that the poorer you were, the far more likely you were to succumb. If you were healthy and well-nourished, could afford to rest up in a warm bed for as long as you needed to, and could afford the medicines that were available, then your chances of survival were fairly good. Sir Mark and my Grandfather’s mate Fred were both among the millions who died, but that does not alter the fact that, by virtue of his class, Sir Mark started out with much better odds than Fred.

The Spanish flu swept through humanity in two waves and then it went away, never to return. No doubt there will come a time when coronavirus will have done the same. Then we will be able to look at the statistics. I expect that we will find that we still live in a system in which the odds of surviving are much better for some than for others. It may be that women fare better than men – though men die too; that children are not so severely affected as adults – but children do die while old people survive; that those from ethnic minorities fare worse – but not always. We will also find that, man or woman, young or old, native or otherwise, social class still cuts across it all. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to die. That is political and that is why, while perhaps we might refrain from ‘political point scoring’, we should definitely not leave politics out of it.

 

 

 

How disregard and abuse of process has allowed factionalism to flourish and caused Labour to fracture. Can restoring Party democracy help Labour heal?

Dad mining 5The Labour Party is at a crossroads. We have just lost an important election. It has been said by some that our Party’s purpose is to win elections. So it is. But our true mission goes beyond that and is much bigger than the loss of an election, however important. If we are to find a way forward, we must go back to basics. We must reestablish who we are, what exactly are our principles and what precisely we stand for. Somehow we must ensure that we have a brave debate and  not a bloody battle – and we must hope against hope that it is not too late.

Perhaps we should start in a place where we all agree. The Labour Party was born out of a centuries-old movement for justice for the ordinary people who are the backbone of our world-wide society; those who, for far too long, have been deprived of the fruits of their labour and often have not even had bread on the table.

Herein is the fundamental difference between us and the Tories. It is true that there are some Tories who could be said to be kind decent people. I have known many who have charitable attitudes towards those ‘less fortunate’ and who are as vehement in their opposition to all forms of discrimination as we like to think we are. The difference between us and them is that we believe in justice- not charity – for the ‘less fortunate’. While we oppose all forms of discrimination, our struggle for equality goes beyond this. Our movement embraces all those other struggles for equality as we seek to strike at the heart of a system that allows some to enjoy unimaginable wealth while many of those that create that very wealth are condemned to lives of poverty.

Labour’s historic 1918 conference committed the Party to securing for the workers ‘the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible … (my italics). Even Tony Blair’s watered down version commits us to bringing about a shift in the balance of ‘power, wealth and opportunity in favour of the many not the few’ (again my italics).

So, how near to succeeding in our mission are we? There is a profusion of statistics out there that, while they may tell us slightly different things in different ways, do not paint a very positive picture when we consider how the rich and poor have fared in relation to one another – which is what we should surely be concerned with if we want to bring about the ‘shift’ that we commit to when we sign up to the Labour Party.

Statistics that relate to income tell us that the average income of the top fifth is twelve times that of the bottom fifth. However, since 1980 the income of those at the very top has increased disproportionately even for them. Between 1979 and 1987, the proportion of our population defined as ‘poor’ (however it is defined) doubled from 10% to 20% of the total population. This proportion fell slightly in the early 1990s and, again very slightly, in 2004/05. It rose again, reaching a new peak in 2009/2010 and has remained the same since. Whatever it was that brought about these changes, those at the top have done better and better – even from a pretty high starting point – and, even in 21st century Britain – the poor are still with us.

Statistics that relate to wealth are even bleaker. Between 1939 and 1979 wealth owned by the top 10% fell from 34.6% of the total ‘cake’ to 21%. At the same time, the wealth owned by those at the bottom increased slightly. This trend that favoured the poorest (if only a little bit), reversed in 1979 and peaked in favour of the rich in 1990. Having recovered their previous advantage, the rich have been free to enjoy their wealth ever since, while more and more people struggle simply to make ends meet.

The struggle for social justice – for ordinary people to enjoy their fair share of the wealth created by them – has been going on since well before the birth of our Party at the beginning of the 20th century. Many battles have been fought in the struggle for justice – from Tolpuddle and Peterloo to the ‘Headscarf Heroes’ of Hull, the women of Grunwick and of course the miners in the 1980s. All of the battles for social justice have been fought alongside battles for democracy. For without a fairer say, which is what democracy is all about, how can we bring about a fairer distribution of, not just the necessities of life, but the things – the wealth – that make life better than just about bearable – the fruits of our labour.

The rich will do all they can to hold on to their wealth. History has taught us that much at least. The more charitable among them may throw out a few crumbs now and again, but they will do all they can to maintain power over their wealth. That is why the rich have resisted democracy at the same time as they have resisted working class demands for a greater share of the wealth-cake. The Tolpuddle Martyrs wanted to build resistance to a reduction in wages. The employers fought back by attacking their right to meet to discuss that resistance. In 1819, it was hunger that fueled the 60,000+ who gathered in St Peter’s Square, Manchester to demand universal suffrage. They knew that, to make things better, they had to have the power to elect people who truly would represent their interests. The rich and powerful knew it too. That was why they sent in the cavalry to break up the demonstration – the event that we remember as the Peterloo Massacre.

The demands of the chartists in the nineteenth century were fiercely resisted because those in power knew that, once ordinary women and men had the vote, they would have the power to alter the balance of wealth in their favour. It is not by chance that our movement’s, and our Party’s, struggles for a greater and fairer slice of the cake have been inextricably linked to the struggle for greater democracy. It has always been so, and it is right and proper that it should continue to be that way.

So, we are a democratic socialist party. We exist to preserve and extend democracy within our society and in so doing we aim to empower ordinary people to take control of their lives and bring about a shift in the balance of wealth in their favour.  We do not want to be dependent on charity. We want – and through democracy, we will demand – the justice to which we are entitled, and which is long overdue.

The nearer we came to us all having the vote, the more obvious it became that we could not rely on Tory or Liberal politicians to further the interests of ordinary people in Parliament or in local councils. The Labour Party was formed so that we could put up candidates of our own and from 1918 onwards when the Party became a membership organisation, it went from strength to strength. Finally, in 1945 we achieved the majority Labour government whose achievements make us so proud. It is no coincidence that the Government that achieved so much for ordinary people consisted of ordinary people themselves – one third of Labour MPs back then were manual workers – forty were ex-miners – very few were graduates and we had no ‘career politicians’ in our Party back then!

It must be acknowledged that, although the majority of those who represent us in Parliament are not working class in the way they once were, Parliament is now far more diverse in terms of age, gender and ethnic background (local government is a different matter). This has to be a good thing,  but while we celebrate it and work for greater improvement, we should not allow the ‘equality mantle’ to shield us from the reality that those who represent us cannot solely be representative by virtue of characteristics such as gender or ethnic background. We will need to find a way to discuss matters such as these if we are not to lose sight of our aim to achieve a shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of ordinary people.

As Labour Party socialists we must question why the balance of wealth and power has hardly shifted for over forty years – indeed things have gone into reverse so that the system favours the rich as much as it ever did – in spite of the existence of a Labour Party that has been in power for a substantial proportion of that time. Given the link between democracy and socialism, perhaps we should think about what has been going on in our democratic socialist Party during the period. We need to think hard about these things because, given that our whole reason for being is to bring about a shift in the balance of wealth and power, if we are not managing that then we might as well all pack up and go home.

Politics has been viewed as a career path since long before the birth of the Labour Party. For a long while our Party was not seen as a serious option for those who wanted a political career. Sadly, as our Party came to be recognised more and more as a natural Party of Government, it has, at the same time, been increasingly viewed as an option for those who seek a career in politics. There is nothing wrong with someone who supports the aims and values of our Party pursuing a career in politics. But we should understand how this phenomena affects the way we work and what we achieve. And we should be always on our guard against those who are prepared to bend their principles according to which way the wind blows.

We work to earn a living and we are entitled to manage our working lives – call it a ‘career’ if you wish – to the best advantage for ourselves and our families. We will all ‘fight’ to keep our jobs, to better ourselves, to further our careers and to achieve success in what we do. That is human nature. The problem is that it is almost inevitable that it makes all politicians (including Labour ones) more inclined to the status quo. After all, if you have mapped out a  career path for yourself based on certain assumptions, you are not going to welcome big changes in the way things are done. If you have got where you are, and plan to go further, based on the system as it is, then any change will represent a huge conflict of interest for you.

The Labour Party started life as a ‘grassroots-up’ Party. Our rules and processes worked to ensure that it stayed that way. Under New Labour, all that changed. With the exception of the (probably unintended) changes that extended the franchise for electing the Party’s leader, decision-making has become less democratic. What happened nationally was mirrored locally. Councils were compelled to operate a cabinet system in which it was possible for a single individual (the leader) to make important decisions with little or no consultation. This way of doing things has inherent weaknesses – there is virtually no built-in protection against patronage and preferment and the kind of abuse of power that we are quick to condemn when it occurs outside our own organisation.

As the Party went bottom-up, membership fell. People simply weren’t interested in foot-soldiering for (or financing) a Party whose leaders believed that they knew best and sought no input from them. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Party leader told us many things. It told us that members expected more of a say. We have had enough of ‘I know best’ and expect to play an active part in shaping policy and have a say in the direction of travel of our Party. Corbyn’s election told us that the Party establishment was out of touch with members and had hugely misjudged us. His election did not come about because of the huge influx of new members and registered supporters – they were the result of Corbyn’s rise, not the cause of it. Many of us had continued our membership through the Blair years in spite of what was happening to our Party, not because of it. By 1997, after 18 years of brutal Tory Government, our country needed Labour so badly that we had to hope that New Labour would be up to the challenge. As it turned out, many of us were massively disappointed. And surely nobody can be proud of the fact that, in thirteen years of Labour Government, the gap between rich and poor was at least as great as it had been to begin with.

When Corbyn was elected leader, the Party received a welcome boost of positive energy. Unfortunately, due to the decline in Party democracy and increasing disregard for what was left of it, much of that energy went into replacing one set of people who thought they knew best (the so-called Right) with another (those who self-identified as ‘Left’). Our Party’s rules and processes were cast aside in the scrap for positions of power and influence and the Party fractured into cliques and factions vying to ‘take out’ individuals perceived as the enemy of the other in order to replace them with their own. Even our Party’s disciplinary processes have been used as weapons in this battle. There is no longer any natural justice there, for these are now damaged to a degree that we would find unacceptable in a workplace and are no longer fit for purpose.

We have lost an election that, for all our sakes, we needed to win even more badly than we needed to win in 1997 – that is, if we still mean it when we commit ourselves to bringing about a shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people. Once again, we find ourselves faced with age-old choices, debating the same questions that we have debated so often in the past. Do we face electoral oblivion unless we sacrifice all our socialist principles to such a degree that the forces that work against us no longer see us as an establishment threat? How far do we water down our socialism in order to get elected? The answers to these and many other questions will concern us all. But if we are serious about our reason for being, then we need to begin by setting our own house in order. The way we operate needs to be brought into alignment with our socialist principles once again. If properly applied, our rules and processes have the potential to allow for the healthy battle for ideas that needs to take place. They can lift us above the ‘personal’ and take us to a place where we are once again able – through the force of our arguments – to win the hearts and minds of our fellow women and men as well as win elections. This way we can move on from the crossroads we are at and continue the march along the road to justice for the many that our fore-mothers and fore-fathers set out on all those many years ago.

 

 

The End of the Road or a New Direction?

My Dad died this year. He left me an unwritten legacy of ‘political wisdom’ most of which is as relevant now as it always has been: always vote but never for a candidate that isn’t Labour; not all Labour candidates are socialists, but any Labour candidate, however rubbish, is better than any Tory. I have always voted and fortunately always lived in places where voting Labour is the best tactic. I am lucky too in that most of the Labour candidates I have voted for have been at least a little bit better than rubbish.

Another of my father’s wisdoms, one that has come to mind recently, was that it is never good practice to share a campaigning platform with the enemy. Engage in debate of course, but no matter how much you might seem to agree on a particular issue, don’t campaign with them. If only we had applied that wisdom when it came to Brexit. For socialist reasons, I voted Remain; I understand that there were socialist reasons for wanting to leave. The Tories who shared those positions did so for very different reasons.

For a long time now, there has been a belief among the electorate that politicians were ‘all the same’. Under Corbyn’s leadership. that damaging narrative – that we are all the same and up to no good – had begun to fall apart. Then we had the referendum. By joining hands with the Tories – whether campaigning for Remain or Leave – we reignited people’s suspicion that really, underneath everything, we politicians really are all the same self-serving rogues after all. The more that idea takes root, the worse it is for Labour. That is because, since our Party’s earliest days, people have looked to us to offer something different. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that Blair’s 1997 landslide was due to voters’ embrace of New Labour and the centre ground. The subsequent loss of popularity (and votes) throughout the Blair years and the 2017 groundswell of support for Labour’s radical socialist manifesto suggests otherwise.

In spite of the huge Tory majority, I still believe that people wanted the ‘something different’ that Labour represented under Corbyn. In 2017 we achieved 40% of the vote – even with a divided Party and a ‘marmite’ leader. We put a radical manifesto before the electorate and, most importantly, we said that we would honour the result of the referendum. Little more than two years later, the only thing that was different was that we had been bullied by the remain-obsessed into reneging on our promise on the referendum. In capitulating on this, not only did we remind voters that we had campaigned alongside Tory politicians in the referendum but we reignited the suspicion that we are not all that different from the others – including the LibDems – and that we don’t really care about ordinary people’s lives any more than they do.

Johnson has already backtracked on the Tories’ campaign promises. We knew he would, and I believe the wider electorate knew it too. They knew it, but it didn’t matter. The only promise that had come to matter was the commitment to act on the outcome of the referendum. In the end, it was a test of our commitment to the people – and we flunked it. Politicians had put a question to the people; the terms of the referendum – the rules of the game – had been agreed by all. The people had made their choice and expected their politicians – especially Labour politicians – to do as had been promised – on this above all else.

I know people in the so-called left-behind communities. By the way, plenty of those I represent here in Crawley in the ‘affluent’ South East, have been just as forgotten by politicians as those left behind in the towns that were once our heartlands. I have spoken with ordinary people, lifelong Labour supporters who have stuck with us through thick and thin. They never trusted the Tories, but they did trust us – even if it was only just a little bit. What we offered in 2017 was what was expected of Labour – under Corbyn, the Labour Party was back. At last the people had their Party back. They had their Party back and they came back to their Party.

Then the remain-obsessed began their war of attrition. I admit I was gutted by the referendum result.  As a matter of fact, I don’t agree with referendums; we live in a representative democracy and we elect politicians to make judgements on our behalf. It is our job as politicians to pay attention, to research and consider all aspects of an issue, to explore all the angles, to debate, challenge and disagree, to make decisions and form judgements.  But, at the end of the day we did have a referendum and the result was disappointing. My own disappointment was as great as anyone’s – so much so that the next day I even signed a petition to get the result overturned. But within a week reality hit and I knew that – however bad it might turn out to be – we had to find a way to honour the result. If we didn’t, we would lose the confidence of a whole generation of voters. That is what has happened. This should have been our moment, and – through our short-sighted cow-towing to FBPE and the remain-obsessed – we failed to step up and we threw it away.

Those Remainers in our Party who were arrogant enough to believe that they could go on flaunting their disregard for the referendum result and that people would still vote for them, have given us the worst of all worlds – a Tory no-deal Brexit and a Tory Government that believes it has the mandate (and it has the majority if not the mandate) to destroy all that is left of what my father’s generation fought for. We know that there were some among us who would have regarded loss of the 2017 election as a price worth paying to be rid of Corbyn. That loss was not catastrophic enough but now that they have wanted they wanted, there will be those of us who wonder whether that was the plan all along and even whether their unrelenting pressure to get the leadership to cave in over a second referendum was part of the plan.

The shouts of those who campaigned for a so-called people’s vote have been the loudest among those baying for Corbyn’s blood and this should tell us something. The remain-obsessed will continue to deny any responsibility for our defeat while demanding that the Left need to accept that Labour will never win from the left. On Corbyn’s election, my Dad commented that we will never be allowed to have a socialist leading the Labour Party and I begin to think that was another thing he was right about. We do need to get to grips with the reasons for our defeat and I hope we will. But our Party is not very good at that. We are more comfortable patting one another on the back and issuing votes of thanks for all the hard work put in than asking questions of ourselves about our strategy. I hope we will not listen to those who try to stifle discussion and prevent a proper review of our 2019 electoral defeat – both locally and nationally. We cannot – we must not – move on until we have properly reflected. It might hurt; it might be difficult. Nothing worthwhile is easy, my Dad would say. It will take courage, but it is necessary and I know my Dad would have agreed with that.