How Labour Can Seize The Initiative From The Independent Group

To defeat the new centrist party, as well as the Conservatives, we must be everything that our opponents are not - bold, positive and united.

As of Thursday at 4pm, eleven MPs – eight Labour and three Conservative – had left their respective parties to join ‘The Independent Group’, sparking a political crisis for both main parties. I say sparking, but in reality this is just the latest convulsion in the crisis that began in June 2016. For some, the crisis began earlier, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015.

Whatever your thoughts on the causes and beginnings of the current turmoil, it is clear that Labour needs to take serious action to prevent the party from further splitting and prove to the electorate that it is serious about being a government-in-waiting. Now that the splitters have finally made their move, Labour needs to act swiftly to seize the initiative and prepare for a General Election.

Firstly, it means immediately tackling the antisemitism which sadly led to Luciana Berger’s resignation from the party. Whilst the motives of the MPs who chose to split should rightly be questioned, Labour members need to ask ourselves why a female Jewish MP felt that Labour had become institutionally antisemitic to the point where she could no longer be a member.

Labour’s leadership must take action: resolving all outstanding antisemitism disciplinary cases, ensuring that all Labour MPs - including the shadow cabinet - and CLP executive committees have received antisemitism training from the Jewish Labour Movement, producing educational material on antisemitism along the lines of those recently published by Momentum, and removing the whip from Labour MPs who fail to take antisemitism seriously - starting with Chris Williamson.

Secondly, it means building a broad and inclusive leadership team. Whilst the Shadow Cabinet has many talented members, there are also talented Labour MPs on the backbenches who would make brilliant additions to the frontbench team. MPs like Lisa Nandy, who resigned in 2016, or Ed Miliband, who has not served under Corbyn but indicated he would be willing to. The party should also introduce a second deputy leader, reserved for someone who identifies as a woman, to ensure that women are better represented at the top of the party.

As soon as possible, Labour should start the process of selecting new candidates in the constituencies now represented by The Independent Group. Whilst it is sad to see any Labour MP resign, these selections are an opportunity to select candidates with strong local roots and bold new ideas. The new candidates should represent the best of our movement, with local communities involved in the process as much as possible. The new Labour candidates cannot be male, pale and stale, they should be grassroots activists and organisers drawn from the communities they will represent in parliament.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Labour needs a policy platform which pulls the rug out from under the new party’s feet.

This platform should recognise that many people feel that the political system does not represent them. Labour should back Proportional Representation to elect MPs, so that all votes count equally irrespective of who you vote for or where you live. The Conservatives should not be able to govern with the support of only 41% of voters, as they have since 2017, or 37% as they did from 2015-17. Society should be run in the interests of the country as a whole, not the tiny number of swing voters in marginal constituencies. Labour should also explore ideas such as a constitutional convention, devolution to regions and nations, and participative local democracy as ways to bring decision making closer to voters.

It should also recognise that the new centrist party is inherently negative, defined by its opposition to Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit. Anna Soubry’s recent interview, in which she heaped praise on the coalition led by David Cameron, made it clear that the new party will not offer new solutions, it simply harks back to a time before Corbyn and Brexit.

Labour can capitalise on this by doubling down on its innovative, positive policies from 2017. For example, making education free for all, revamping public transport and building millions of homes. We can also draw from the ideas of our allies around the world, taking inspiration from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal to connect issues of economic justice and climate change in a coherent programme for government.

To defeat the new centrist party, as well as the Conservatives, we must be everything that our opponents are not - bold, positive and united. This means fixing our internal structures as well as building a coherent narrative which embodies innovation and positivity – for the many, not the few.


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