The pain of being expelled from my party

Share
Related Topics

On Monday I was formally expelled from the Labour Party. Of course, I recognised this would be an inevitable consequence of my decision to run as an independent candidate for London mayor. But I do not think that anyone who has not spent more than 30 years of their life at every level of that party can imagine the painful wrench that was involved.

The expulsion announcement was expected, but not pleasant. I joined the Labour Party in the Sixties, when many left-wingers were leaving, because I have never seen politics as being about abstract principles or protests, but about having the practical power to change society for the better.

To be capable of winning and wielding power, Labour, like any great party, has to represent a broad coalition of interests and views. The Labour Party I joined was always that kind of very broad church. It was usually led by people on its right flank, but the left and centre also had a recognised place within the movement - including the opportunity to put their views and candidates to the test of a democratic vote.

The left didn't often hold the leadership, but it set the agenda in the party in a way that was denounced as outrageous leftism at the time, but became mainstream - and Government policy - a decade later. The GLC was just one example of that pattern.

It was on this basis that the party won its landslide electoral victories in 1945 and 1966, when our share of the vote was far higher than in 1997, when it was the collapse of the Tories that gave us such a large majority of seats.

A leader such as John Smith, for example, came from the right, had firm principles and was open and tolerant. When he disagreed with the left he did so openly and not via off-the-record briefings. I cannot remember one campaign of personal denigration he ever engaged in. One thing I will miss tremendously for as long as I am outside the party is the serious cut and thrust of debate with honest right-wingers with whom I differed on policy but united around the practical goal of winning and wielding political power.

What I will not miss is the tight-knit group of spin doctors and lobbyists who now occupy such influential positions and are trying to turn the Labour Party into some kind of narrow group in which all serious dissent is outlawed. These people have done enormous damage to the party.

They delight in treating the tens of thousands of loyal party workers, and the voters whose views they reflect, with open contempt. But as has been seen in Wales, Scotland and London, ordinary electors increasingly understand these people, who have no concept of loyalty. Their treatment of someone like Mo Mowlam is typical. Mo's only crime was to be the Government's most popular minister, exemplified when the very mention of her name by Tony Blair produced an ovation at the 1997 conference. From then on, Mo's card was marked and the hatchet men set to work with anonymous briefings, vile slanders about her health and every dirty trick in the book.

One of the least endearing characteristics of these petty bureaucrats is that whatever disasters their antics produce, somebody else is always to blame. Take the fiasco they have produced in London. No sooner had the first opinion poll appeared the day after the selection, than anonymous sources were briefing that Frank Dobson might be replaced at the last moment. Well, if Frank loses badly, I have little doubt that the people who are really responsible for this mess, the ones who decided to rig a ballot blatantly, will be busy telling journalists that the real problem was the candidate!

I am quite confident that sooner or later all of this is going to provoke a tremendous backlash both from the electorate and from Labour's hundreds of thousands of decent party members. Whether or not they agreed with my decision to stand as an independent, they will have understood why I felt compelled to make it. They, like most Londoners, will have no desire to prolong this conflict once the voters have delivered their verdict on 4 May, and they will understand that it was a narrow, intolerant group that produced an unnecessary and damaging result.

They certainly won't understand the logic of those who briefed the press yesterday that there could be no question of my being readmitted to the Labour Party for a minimum of five years. Nor will it be lost on them that those responsible for those briefings are the very people who have welcomed former leaders of the SDP back with open arms.

My "crime" was to refuse to accept a ballot which was blatantly rigged. I had no desire to damage the Labour Party as such - quite the reverse. The SDP, on the other hand, was a determined attempt to destroy the Labour Party, which in 1983 helped produce one of the party's worst-ever general election results.

Following the mayoral election, if elected, my intention will be build a good working relationship with Tony Blair. I will work for the best possible deal for London, and I'm sure, with a general election on the horizon, Labour will take the views of 5 million voters in London extremely seriously.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?