The news that seven Labour MPs have decided to resign from the party and form a new alliance does not come as a surprise. In many ways it has been a long time coming. Since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader there has been a clear split between those on the right of the party, who find him to be a threat, and those on the left, who are glad to finally have a true socialist onside.
In many ways, the friction was inevitable, but it’s an MP’s job to deal with that. What these MPs have done is essentially split the left-wing vote.
It was hard not to feel sympathy for Luciana Berger when she explained the reasons behind her departure. There is a problem on the left when it comes to antisemitism, and Labour should be doing more to tackle it. She will be a loss to the party and I’m sorry she has left.
Having said that, I am cynical about the motivations of the other MPs within that group. It seems to me that they are putting their own needs above those of their constituents. They claim to be leaving because they believe Labour has “betrayed” them when it comes to Brexit, and has failed to fight racism.
But just today Angela Smith appeared to use the term “funny tinge” to refer to people of colour, which doesn’t track with the idea that this new party has a superior knowledge or wisdom when it comes to fighting discrimination. If these MPs were committed to helping to improve the lives of the millions who live in Britain, handing the Tories a win is a funny way to go about it.
Society is struggling right now. Austerity has destroyed the lives of countless people, and even led to 120,000 deaths, according to the Labour Party’s own broadcast. Britain still has a major problem with institutional racism and inequality. While the Tories remain in power this is not going to change. This government has proven to be heartless and shambolic with its roll-out of universal credit, appalling handling of the Windrush scandal and disaster that is Brexit.
Bearing all that in mind, we should be trying to unify the left rather than tear it apart. We should be trying to find common ground which unites us, and work together to remove the Tories from a position of strength. This split has made that all that much harder. What also doesn’t help is the inevitable mud-slinging that has begun in earnest since the split was announced, and not just on the side of “the hard left”. Chris Leslie, one of the MPs who defected, described Labour as being “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”. Such emotive language is only going to make divisions that much wider.
Unfortunately, this sneering attitude is not uncommon among the centre-left, which likes to imply that anybody who supports Corbyn is either a racist, an idiot or part of a brainwashed cult. Acting in such a patronising and condescending way is going to do little to help win people over. Demonising those who remain members of the Labour Party is not the answer if we want to focus on tackling the real issues in society.
I believe that liberals need to take some time to reflect on their attitudes towards those who do not agree with the entirety of their politics. Lashing out against the “hard left” for supporting Corbyn without taking the time to think about why people might support him is always going to give you a limited view.
This new Independent Group has only succeeded in widening the gaps in the left and does very little to actually help bring an end to the political turmoil of the last few years.
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