The prospect of a new party has appeared on the horizon, and I feel a glimmer of hope about politics for the first time in a long time. This new party seems to have gone public earlier than the founders had hoped, but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you can try so hard to find the perfect moment, the perfect level of preparedness, that you never just bite the bullet and go for it. A new party is needed – urgently. This week, Assad used chemical weapons in Syria, again. The images are barbaric, and monstrous, and they should shame and chill the world. At this moment it is Israel, and only Israel, which has hit back militarily against Assad following his deliberate gassing of children. We should all have been making the case, for years, to support and create an international military effort to remove him from power. Instead we have a Conservative government which seems unwilling to lead, a Labour leader who condemns as warmongers anyone who dares suggest we send military help, and a Labour Party which holds Israel up, high above all others, as the great evil in the world. It’s a mess.
Last week, a Labour MP was forced to ‘explain herself’ to her CLP for attending a protest against anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. A disgusting motion against her was tabled, and accepted, and at no point ruled out of order, by the CLP, the EC, the Region, the NEC, the Leadership, no-one. It should have been throw in the bin and the proposers should have been shown the exit from the Labour Party. Hours of work, sweat and tears of good Labour people no doubt went into organising to win the vote against this censuring motion, and what a terrible drain on their time and emotional energy it was. It is one of a million examples of how good Labour people and good Labour MPs are being drawn into internal fights with the pernicious hard left who now dominate Labour. Yes, the vote was won, but at what cost? Imagine if we didn’t have to endlessly fight our own side, in our own meetings, in defence of our own people and our own politics. Imagine if we could pour our energies into fighting for decent centre Left politics, without having to constantly go into battle with ‘our own side’. Imagine.
There is an important and powerful centre-Left policy platform to advocate for and stand on. On education, housing, regeneration, health, tackling homelessness, tackling extremism, standing up for liberal, democratic and secular values, the restoration of the social and civil infrastructure, and liberal interventionism to name but a few. But the debates about what to do in every one of these areas are now highly polarised within the Labour Party. When a Labour council leader developed a regeneration programme for one of the poorest parts of her borough, she was labelled a ‘social cleanser’ and ‘ethnic cleanser’ by Labour activists and councillors who supported her were targeted by a vicious deselection campaign by Momentum. Corbynistas have celebrated the fact that the anti-Semitism within the Labour Party is not impacting upon Labour in the polls. We should be leading a period of national soul searching about why the prejudice that led to the most terrible period of inhumanity and mass murder, doesn’t move, or worry, more people, more deeply, not rejoicing at its lack of resonance. Two of the most senior Labour activists in Britain, one of whom is the Vice Chair of Momentum, have said just last week that the mere suggestion that Islamism is linked to Islam is “racist”, “disgusting”, and “Islamophobic”. This is ludicrous, and dangerous, yet this is the political terrain within Labour now. The speed with which Corbyn’s Praetorian guard set about parroting Putin’s lines against our own government, the security services and the FCO, was staggering. And now, Syria. Equivocation, and more self-righteous abandonment of the Syrian people. Imagine being in a political party where we could focus our energies on righting the wrongs in the world, and where the gassing of children did not trigger a political dilemma, but a call to arms to make it stop. We cannot make this case as Labour, because we don’t get past arguing with the Stop the War coalition activists who now run our foreign policy. Enough is, surely, enough.
If all a new party does is stop these people from reaching number 10 and forces Labour to change radically or face perpetuity in the wilderness, it will have succeeded in saving both the country and the Labour Party from the destructive politics of the hard left. If it also enables the moral arguments of the centre-Left to be made and heard, unfiltered, uncaveated, undiluted, and developed without constant fear of chastisement from ‘our own side’ that’s a bonus. One thing the hard Left have, ironically, been right about all these years is that, win or lose, making the case for your ideas is a powerful and necessary good in and of itself. If it achieves electoral success, well, that would be great too.
The new party is urgently needed, and it’s time.