This week people from across the world – human rights campaigners, young people, indigenous activists, environmentalists and politicians – have come together as part of a global push for immediate and concrete action on climate change. Ambitious agreement in Paris couldn't be more necessary. People’s lives and livelihoods are already being destroyed as a result of climate change – from flooding in Cumbria to violent storms in the Philippines. Never has a strong deal been so urgently and universally required.
In this context, a manufactured media storm, which has been orchestrated to attack one of my fellow progressive politicians, is disappointing and a damaging distraction from the real news. Political journalists do a vital job holding politicians to account. But the column inches dedicated to my stepping down as a patron of Stop the War have been completely disproportionate: I haven't had so many calls from journalists on any other issue, including the decision to drop bombs on Syria and my campaign to save the NHS, since I was re-elected. Whilst I don't want to add to those column inches, I do think it's time for some facts and some perspective.
Firstly, I stepped down as a patron of Stop the War almost a month ago and of my own volition – not this week as some have reported, nor under any duress. And I did so without any fanfare because I did not want to cause damage to an organisation with whom I have worked productively for over a decade, and which has played a vital role in the peace movement. My party practises active democracy, so when faced with some Stop the War positions with which I didn't agree, coupled with a lack of capacity to fully engage in their decision-making processes, standing down was the responsible thing to do.
When, unbeknownst to me, the press were a alerted to it this week, I was asked to confirm and did so. The phone hasn't stopped ringing since and all because some want to use the story to attack the left and, in particular, Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy and I have worked together for years and will continue to do so. I have huge respect for him and we share a commitment to waging peace. In an era of a resurgent right it is crucial that progressives work together. Politics is too important, and life is too short, for those of us on the left to spend our time fighting one another. Falling into that trap simply lets the Government off the hook and does a massive disservice to those affected by poverty, conflict and climate change – those with whom we should be uniting to build a new kind of future.
The streets of Paris are being peacefully reclaimed this weekend in the name of a future and to honour our place in it. Now that is surely an unfolding story worthy of newspaper headlines.
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