Labour Defections Are Letting The Tories Off The Hook

While the battle for the soul of Labour rages on, The Independent Group are dragging attention away from something we all agree on – preventing a catastrophic no-deal Brexit
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During the European Union referendum campaign in 2016, the argument put forward by those who campaigned for remain was that the best way to reform a union is to remain inside it. No union is ever perfect, as one would never claim to be as that would undermine its whole premise.

Indeed, this continues to be true for the Labour Party - which has existed as a union of social democratic ideas for centuries, on the basis of shared values and loyalty to the socialist cause. Therefore, the Labour MPs that have decided to defect and join The Independent Group (TIG) in recent days have also given up on these social democratic ideas and how to achieve them in government.

In abandoning Labour, they are abandoning the manifesto they stood on in the 2017 General Election. Therefore, we should now expect them to call their respective by-elections. Should they lose, given the nature of those who have defected, it won’t be long until they’re calling for another election, or a ‘People’s By-Election’, anyway.

But from the outset, the reasoning behind Luciana Berger’s defection should be taken completely separately from the other Labour MPs that have resigned from the party. Make no mistake, the abuse that drove Luciana out was disgusting, anti-Semitic and sexist.

This is all too familiar at the moment. Labour MP Jess Phillips also tweeted to say she had trended twice this week just because of the abuse she has received on social media. This is outright sexism – and anybody that tries to call it anything other than this is an apologist. It’s simply abhorrent to see anybody treated in this way. Those who remain in our party and take part in this abuse should be investigated and expelled – immediately and permanently.

The key to expelling these members is in improving the speed in which complaints are dealt with at the highest level, thus avoiding the backlog we currently have. If this means making urgent and radical reform to party structures, then so be it.

We must take on those who choose to leave our party by debating them politically, or our arguments will rightly carry no weight and risk further, and absolutely understandable, defections. This comes down to the fact that those who truly uphold Labour values would never contemplate abusing those who have chosen to leave. Rather, they would take on the The Independent Group’s apparent favouring of austerity, their defence of decisions taken by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, and their preference for the privatisation of national assets.

That being said, to sit down in parliament with the same Tories who made the most vulnerable in this country worse off is unforgivable. Since 2010, those who have defected to TIG from the Conservative Party consistently voted for cuts to welfare, further privatisation of our public services, and infamously destructive policies such as the bedroom tax. These policies have made working class people’s lives a misery and it is a disgrace that MPs that once called themselves Labour would cosy up to these people in a political pact.

The Independent Group have also made clear that they would look to back May’s deal in return for second referendum on that deal. The fact that former Labour MPs would prop up a Tory government serves as a timely reminder that these are the same Labour MPs who wanted to abstain on the welfare bill, which is arguably the decision that sparked Labour’s lurch to the Left in the first place. No matter what the outcome – pandering to the right will only entrench divisions further, and simply taking Theresa May’s word for it, in regard to a second referendum, is a huge mistake in itself.

Since the defections began, we have seen poll after poll showing the apparent appeal of The Independent Group - with the group consistently polling above 10%. However, it must be understood that this isn’t even a political party yet, nor does it have any actual agreed policy positions. In fact, the only policies this group does have currently exist in each of its member’s minds and have a good chance of contradicting one another. It’s easy to say you’ll vote for a party when there are no policies to oppose.

However, newly independent MP Chris Leslie has already begun to make his opinion clear without a proper policy platform. So far he has made comments opposing the renationalisation of private utilities, the abolition of tuition fees, and reinstating the 50p top rate of tax. Clearly, Mr Leslie is looking to assert himself as the economic spokesperson for the group. But, doing this in such a way that you announce supposed policy before even having the authority to do so, shows the naivety these MPs head into this new political venture with.

So at a time of national chaos, with the most significant political crisis since the Second World War, a small number of MPs have decided to form this new group and disrupt things further. If nothing else, in practical terms, this also turns the parliamentary arithmetic on its head as The Independent Group look to prevent Brexit at seemingly any cost – even if that means cosying up to the same Tories who have inflicted untold levels of socio-economic damage on this country.

Furthermore, it would be irresponsible to compare these defections to the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. Brexit adds a completely unique complexity to this, and it would be incredibly short-sighted to think that these divisions on the left will end after Jeremy Corbyn leaves his post as leader of the Labour Party.

While the battle for the soul of the Labour Party rages on, The Independent Group have managed to drag attention away from something we all agree on – preventing a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. But if The Independent Group do make a deal with Theresa May, they put this country’s economic future on whether the Prime Minister keeps her word of delivering a second referendum.

But if this all ends in tears, and as the dust settles on Brexit, don’t blame me - I voted for chaos with Ed Miliband.


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