The Labour 48

So you can defy a party whip and keep your job after all.

This week, the Labour 48 defied a mandate from the interim party leader, Harriet Harman, to support the Tory parties reforms of the social care system and abstain from the vote. George Osborne goaded Labour with calls to ‘listen to the electorate’ and support the government bill. Sorry, George, but more people didn’t vote Conservative than voted for them. By voting ‘no’ those Labour MPs did indeed listen to the electorate and turned their backs on you. Well done.

Rather than be derided as rebels, they should be applauded. Many of the people who elected these Labour MPs into their lives of privilege at Westminster, will be victims of the austerity agenda the party whips tried to endorse by calling for an abstention on the vote to welfare reform. The ‘ideals’ of democracy are that our leaders are led from the bottom up. In true and direct democracy, we would make the decisions that our leaders act upon. So if your MP had the mandate from their constituents to vote against George Osborne’s welfare reform bill, who are the whips to tell them otherwise?

This one-act takes the power of democracy away from us and in effect, they steal our voice.

This is not the first time I have witnessed this whipping system usurping democratic mandates. Just last December I watched hundreds of firefighters lobby MPs personally, as far up as David Cameron himself, calling for MPs to ‘rebel’ against the unjust changes to their pension provisions when the government had the ability to offer a cost neutral improvement that benefitted both firefighters and taxpayers safety. MPs heard the arguments, then refused to act. They defied their constituents pleas and did exactly as their party whips told them to. 70 people debated the firefighter pension regulation changes in December, over 600 votes were cast. That is democracy. 70 people listen to a debate, 600 vote on a decision without even listening to the evidence based arguments.

Now, I don’t know the specifics of this debate on Monday night regarding welfare reform. Every MP may have been present but it would not have mattered because when the whip speaks, all reasoning goes out of the window and into the Westminster  dungeon. But something happened. 48 Labour MPs defied their whips (allegedly punishable by removal from the party pending internal discipline action) and did the right thing. They said no to further austerity, the very least they could do considering they just accepted a 10% pay rise! Now there are accusations, as parliament breaks for summer, that the party is in turmoil and Andy Burnham says the party is in ‘a little bit of a mess’ but I think this couldn’t be further from the truth. A small glimmer of hope exists that Labour might once again become the champions of hope for working people in the UK, rather than the bastard children of the Thatcherite/Blair legacy that hangs like a dark cloud over them. This is epitomised by what seems like an unlikely leadership contest lead by Jeremy Corbyn.

According to polls, Corbyn leads the race for the Labour Party. I just hope these are not the same polls that suggested a hung parliament in May. Jeremy Corbyn offers a chance of real hope and change. A chance for a real alternative to the politics of hate and fear we have endured for 30 years. We can only hope that Jeremy wins the race. It wouldn’t be enough, however, just for Jeremy to become leader and hope it wil be alright on the night when we have this motley bunch of vipers occupying Labour MP seats. It will take a concerted effort from all like-minded humans, with decent souls, to support him on the mission to reclaim Labour as a party that matters. A party that offers a real alternative to the politics of hate.

Tory supporters mock Corbyn as the harbinger of doom for the future of Labour. They have his banner attached to their social media feeds and the Telegraph is urging people to vote Corbyn and end Labour. There is a saying: “first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win.” Jeremy has the first 2 phases down. The question is whether we are up to the task? or are we going to hang him out to dry for 5 years?


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