Today, seven former Labour MPs have quit the Party in objection to anti-semitism and the Party’s lack of leadership on Brexit. They’re not the only ones feeling politically homeless.
I cancelled my membership to the Labour party earlier this year, because I simply couldn’t believe that the opposition party did not have a strong view on Brexit. And as I lived in Islington North, every time I went to the polls I would be voting directly for that weak leadership. I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.
How could the party of trade unions, of the NHS, of the working class, support a Brexit deal which would leave the most vulnerable in our society worse off? The EU protects workers’ rights and provides about 10% of the NHS’ doctors – and leaving the EU will hit working class men in the North of England worse off than any other section of society. By failing to back a People’s Vote – the only way out of this Brexit impasse in Parliament – Labour are failing these people they claim to protect.
Some of the now Independent MPs also quoted Labour’s anti-semitism for their resignation. Whilst these accusations have been knocking around for decades, it’s become clear that there’s a deeply entrenched problem in the Party which isn’t going away. Labour have become the latest in a string of far-left organisations which have this issue, and it’s not clear why. But it means that people who might describe themselves as far left because they want to tax the rich, ban private schools, champion the rights of minorities, or open up borders to migrants don’t know what to call themselves any more. Who speaks for the people who want left wing social policy but don’t want to be associated with anti-semitism?
Truly, I have a huge amount of respect for those MPs quitting their party on moral grounds. MPs should do more to speak out against racism in their own Party. But, somewhat inevitably, the foundation of the ‘Independent Group’ hasn’t been easy either. Angela Smith MP went on Politics Live to say that BAME people have a “funny tinge”. It’s been discovered that the Group isn’t technically a political party, so doesn’t need to declare who funds them. And Chuka Umunna is facing deselection by his CLP, as they say they campaigned for a Labour MP, not Umunna himself. So much for all those political wanderers hoping the Independent Group might finally be the party they needed.
Our politics is broken, and it seems that no-one is getting it right these days. You’re not just ‘Labour’ or ‘Conservative’, you’re ‘Labour-but-not-that-bit-of-it’ or ‘Conservative-but-not-Brexit’. Clearly, setting up a new party isn’t the answer either. The only way out of this mess is more democracy. People have to have choice, and not the choice between two broken and defeated parties.
And this starts with having a public vote on the Brexit deal. Politicians clearly can’t decide on what to do next – Theresa May’s deal has consistently failed to reach a Parliamentary majority even with the impossible promise of changes to the backstop – and Labour’s proposed ‘Lexit’ has about as much support as Ronald McDonald at a vegan’s birthday party. We’re inching forward towards a No Deal Brexit, just because politicians want to save face and put their failing parties before their country. The only way forward is a People’s Vote.