By Jean Lane, Penistone and Stocksbridge
What does the resignation of the nine Labour MPs (and three Tories) from the party mean politically for the working class? A cabal of centrist, bourgeois politicians split from their parties. This does not change the political landscape for workers suffering at the hands of a vicious Tory government hell bent on completing their task of undoing the welfare state and making workers pay for their crisis through austerity measures.
Each of the MPs have cited their own reasons for bailing out. My MP Angela Smith for example talks of the ‘left intellectuals’ who have taken control of the LP and who patronise the working class as if poverty is a ‘state of grace’. For her, Blairite/Thatcherite policies, deal making with private profiteers to pay for advancement (or not) of ordinary people is a sensible way to run society. PFI is good; building Academies and hospital trusts with private money rather than by taxing the rich makes sense. Capitalism makes sense. Devoid of the imagination to envisage a more egalitarian way to run society, her only solution is to beg for the crumbs from the tables of the rich. Despite Labour’s policy against fracking, for instance, Smith works cap in hand with the bosses of the water and energy companies.
Smith is no loss to the Labour Party. She is not a socialist, obviously; not even a payer of lip service to it. She is in effect an outspoken Tory and has now joined with her natural political allies. Does this change the political landscape for the steel workers and public sector workers so badly patronised by left intellectuals in her constituency? Not one jot. Except perhaps to clear the way for a socialist Labour voice to be heard in the next election.
Smith’s bailing out saved the local party the bother of ousting her. Penistone and Stocksbridge successfully moved a vote of no confidence in Smith last November. Some of her right-wing supporters resigned their posts as a result, clearing the way for the left to take control of the CLP.
Smith et al are for remaining in Europe. They criticise Corbyn’s leadership over the Brexit debacle. And cite this as a reason for stepping off into the political void. Soubry, Wollaston and Allen, the Tory MPs who have joined them, want to remain in Europe and to restore ‘decent’, ‘moderate’ capitalism. That is, the kind of capitalism that deports migrants, privatises public services and cuts benefits. This is who Smith, the defender of the working class, Umunna and the other ‘Labour Independents’ have joined forces with.
We must fight to remain in Europe and to defend freedom of movement across national borders, not to make capital safe for the bosses but to further the interests of the working class and to build workers’ unity and solidarity across Europe. That political fight has to happen inside the Labour Party. Smith and her centrist mates have removed themselves from it and made themselves a political irrelevance.
The fact that they believe that they have the right to continue as MPs in their constituencies, gives the lie to any arguments they might make about democracy in the party.
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The following resolution was passed at Penistone and Stocksbridge CLP last week. The CLP is also collecting signatures in the constituency to demand a by election.
This CLP notes:
• The resignation from the Labour Party of Angela Smith.
• The record and statements of the MPs, and the fact they were quickly joined by three Conservative MPs.
• Angela Smith cited concerns over the way that the party has handled Brexit, and in the way that antisemitism has been dealt with, as the reasons for her decision.
This CLP believes:
• The Labour Party leadership is on record as saying repeatedly that there is no place for any anti-semitism in our Party, and it needs to be immediately challenged. We agree 100%, commit ourselves to do the same.
• The action of the MP’s demonstrates clearly that they are advocates for the rich and powerful, deeply hostile to a Labour government, as well as the socialist ideas and strong working class representation we need.
• We are socialist internationalists, concerned with the effect of Brexit on all fellow workers. We support the position outlined in the motion agreed at Labour conference in 2018, opposing a Tory Brexit: “If we cannot get a general election Labour must
support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public
• Only Labour has the ideas and authority to lead and win such a campaign, by linking the case against a Tory Brexit to a campaign to win an election based on Labour’s values and the fight against austerity.
This CLP demands:
• Angela Smith and the other MPs who have quit the party to resign their seats immediately so that their constituents can elect the Labour representatives they want and deserve.
• We step up our fight against austerity and to replace the Tories with (in the words of Labour conference 2018) “a radical government: taxing the rich to fund public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing the anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment”.