Will The Last Labour MP Out Turn Off The Lights?

Labstain

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
– Desmond Tutu, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes

This is who New Labour are now.

Their history of abstention is long and shameful, but let’s look at this parliamentary term. Thus far, New Labour have abstained on the following:

(By the way, those last three were also the last three votes in Westminster before recess. They had three final chances to vote on something, anything – and they abstained.)

New Labour constantly talked about delivering Home Rule, Near-Federalism, and Devo-Max to the people of Scotland, and had the opportunity to vote for a bill that proposed it in all but name – yet they abstained. The Climate Change Levy is an attack on renewable energy sources which already have much opposition from Conservatives with vested interest in fossil fuels, making New Labour their natural opposition – yet they abstained. The Welfare Bill is nothing short of devastating to tens of thousands of families, and New Labour proclaim themselves the party of the common people – yet they abstained.

But remember: New Labour are not traitors. Historically speaking, treason was more specific than “to act against one’s own sovereign or nation”: it was an attack against your social superiors. This could mean a wife against her husband, a servant against their lord, or a subject against their king. The only way New Labour could be traitors to the common people is if they still represented them. It’s pretty clear from their abstentions and decisions that they have long preferred the company of the rich and powerful.

There are exceptions, most notably the “rebellion” in the Welfare Bill.

Diane Abbott. Debbie Abrahams. David Anderson. Richard Burgon. Dawn Butler. Ann Clwyd. Jeremy Corbyn. Geraint Davies. Peter Dowd. Paul Flynn. Mary Glindon. Roger Godsiff. Helen Goodman. Margaret Greenwood. Louise Haigh. Carolyn Harris. Sue Hayman. Kelvin Hopkins. Imran Hussain. Gerald Jones. Helen Jones. Sir Gerald Kaufman. Sadiq Khan. David Lammy. Ian Lavery. Clive Lewis. Rebecca Long Bailey. Andy McDonald. John McDonnell. Liz McInnes. Rob Marris. Rachael Maskell. Michael Meacher. Ian Mearns. Madeleine Moon. Grahame Morris. Kate Osamor. Teresa Pearce. Marie Rimmer. Paula Sherriff. Tulip Siddiq. Dennis Skinner. Cat Smith. Jo Stevens. Graham Stringer. David Winnick. Iain Wright. Daniel Zeichner.

If this party was truly as it says it was, a party offering succour an representation to the multitudes and the disadvantaged, these 48 New Labour MPs would not be “rebelling” at all, but loyal to their cause. As it stands, the New Labour party considers you rebels. In acting for the poor, the disabled, the many, you are defying your party’s leaders. In their eyes, you are disloyal. You are rebels. You are, in a word, traitors.

The Reverend suggested that the left and right wings of New Labour need to split as a matter of self-preservation. I certainly fail to see how electing another Blairite and shifting further to the right could possibly improve their chances. For my part, I would suggest that those 48 MPs just get out while they still can. Join the Greens, go independent, form a new party, anything. Being a bit more left-wing than the rest of the party didn’t save Anne Begg, Michael Connarty, Mark Lazarowicz, Fiona O’Donnell, Sandra Osborne, Katy Clarke, or Ian Davidson in Scotland: sooner or later, it will become a choice between your left-wing credentials, and your membership of a party which has capitulated everything to the neoliberal consensus.

Unless something truly monumental changes, the UK’s getting another Tory government in five year’s time. New Labour can either waste their time repeating the mistakes of the past, or they can take the Long Walk into the Cursed Earth, and rediscover who they are.

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