Friday, 30 September 2016

Changing the way we do politics has to come

'A lot of the (Momentum) audience had a rather different take. Some said their affinity with Labour was complemented by occasions when they had voted for other parties. They liked Caroline Lucas, a lot. They also liked the idea of, as one speaker put it, “negotiating the future” via a revolutionised voting system, rather than imposing it with the support of a small minority of the electorate.
These were not the hardliners and ideological desperadoes that some people might imagine: their politics felt open, self-critical and realistic about the huge tasks it faces. They may not yet have a clear idea of how a new left politics might decisively cohere – but no one (not even gobby newspaper columnists) does, as yet. The point is to at least begin with a sense of how it might start to mesh, and the breadth of people who will have to be involved.'
John Harris, The Guardian, 29 Sepember 2016, 'A Labour Party of the future is begining to emerge'. An account of a day spent attending the Momentum event which ran alongside the Party's annual conference.
This is the political 'me' he is writing about, with which I have identified for many years. I can trace my willingness to work with others across political parties and within the wider community back to my days as a Birmingham city councillor, and I have the evidence. Becoming a Labour councillor aged 25 was a shock to the system insomuch as I sat on my first council committees and in the council chamber finding myself agreeing with individual Tory and Liberal councillors, whilst disagreeing with Labour councillors.

I broke the Labour Group whip quite soon after my election in 1971, when the Labour controlled Birmingham City Council decided to allow the city's chief librarian to go to South Africa for six months. Back then it took nine councillors to call a special meeting of the city council to oppose the decision, and a small group of Liberal and Labour councillors, led by a left-wing Liberal councilor, Graham Gopsill, got the required signatures, of which a I was one, together with Theresa Stewart (who represented the same ward as me and later became Leader of Birmingham City Council). We lost the vote, but no action was taken against us because we had the backing of what was then the City Labour Party. 

Over the years, other disagreements followed. The truth then, as now, is that the Party is capable of being extremely conservative in its attitudes and cannot see that working with other politicians from other political parties is seen by many voters as a good thing.

Take Theresa May and her plan to create grammar schools. Labour needs to remember that members, activists, councillors and MPs in the Conservative, Liberal and Green parties are also opposed to their re-introduction and Labour should work with them to defeat Theresa May on this issue - which means the Labour Party has to avoid turning this into a campaign which the Party tries to claim as its own.

Labour in Broxtowe should be asking Anna Soubry how it can best support her opposition to grammar schools in Parliament, as she has already spoken publicly against the proposal. Tomorrow morning I will be going to Beeston town square to support the Labour Party on this issue, but I will tell any one I speak to that this is a cross-party issue and I have already told Anna Soubry in an email that I support her opposition to grammar schools - as I support her when it comes to the tram and the cross-party 'Open Britain' campaign.

The way we do politics is changing and Labour has to be part of that change or be left behind. John Harris's article in The Guardian yesterday is a great piece of writing which deserves to be read widely. If you have not read it, then please follow this link.

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