ILP Statement On The Labour Leadership Election

Sep 7th, 2015 | By admin | Category: Articles, Comment, Frontpage, Lead

The way in which the Labour leadership election has unfolded has surprised everyone. The recruitment of tens of thousands of new members, supporters and affiliates, and the policy issues that have come to the fore, represent a sea change for the Party. These developments have generated an intense discussion about the candidates, their policies and the Party’s political direction.

Lab leader contendersThe debate has posed some fundamental questions about Labour’s future, how it relates to the wider electorate and indeed the purpose of the Party itself. Perhaps not surprisingly, while much of the debate has been enthusiastic and passionate, it has also been heated, particularly on social media.

It is vital that the political divisions laid bare in recent months do not cause irreparable damage to the party’s future. All of us in the Party – candidates, MPs, members and supporters – should commit to some guiding principles based on democracy, respect, pluralism and participation that will allow us to work together whatever the outcome of the election.

Below, we set out four key principles that we believe should guide our future conduct in the Party, and we are asking for you to endorse the statement by leaving comments in the box below, and to share it with your organisations, local Labour Parties, members and supporters.

Acceptance of the result

There have been many flaws in the electoral process of this leadership contest and these will need to be the subject of careful review and, if necessary, reform. Despite this, the campaign has resulted in a massive increase in the electorate as new members, supporters and affiliated members have joined. Moreover, all candidates and MPs who nominated candidates knew and accepted the system when the contest started. The result of the ballot should therefore be accepted as legitimate by all who have the interests of the Party at heart.

Whatever the outcome, there should be no attempt to undermine or destabilise the new leadership. Whoever becomes leader will face great challenges in rebuilding and expanding the Party’s electoral support and facing the inevitable onslaught from the Tories and their supporters in the media.

The new leader must be given time to prove themselves. Not everyone will agree with everything they do or say and in a democratic Party such differences can and should be voiced. But backroom plots, threats to split or plans to depose a newly and democratically-elected leader are not acceptable.

Co-existence within Labour’s broad church

It has become a cliché but is no less true for being repeated: Labour is and always has been a broad church encompassing a range of different political traditions and groups. Indeed the Party was founded by bringing together socialist organisations, such as the ILP and Fabians, with trade unions and union-backed MPs. The Party’s recent past, as much as its history, has featured a range of political traditions.

It is vital that the Labour Party continues to be this broad church embracing a wide range of social democratic and socialist viewpoints. Indeed, it is precisely this that creates its potential to have broad popularity and electoral appeal, and to serve as a vehicle for social justice.

Given this diversity, there can never be total ‘unity’ of views within the Party nor, in the interests of democracy, should there be. Internal debate and discussion is essential to its political vibrancy, and no section of the Party has a monopoly on truth and wisdom. There must be a genuine commitment to co-existence, to allowing our different traditions and groupings to continue to live side by side.

Pluralism, mutual respect and comradeship

A commitment to co-existence and internal Party democracy means that all members and supporters should actively support principles of pluralism, mutual respect and comradeship:

  • pluralism in recognising that all of us have the right to argue our politics within the Party
  • mutual respect in accepting that other people and groups have the right to hold and voice different opinions to your own
  • comradeship in committing to the Party’s common goals despite our differences.

For each of these to mean anything, the conduct of debates becomes very important. Inflammatory language and denouncing opponents as ‘red Tories’ or ‘deluded Trots’ will do nothing to foster a climate in which open, tolerant and democratic debate can flourish.

Democratic participation and openness

The Party faces enormous challenges in the coming years. A rampant and extreme Tory government, a hostile and toxic media that delights in nothing more than Labour defeat and division, and an electorate that is more diverse and volatile than for many decades, all pose fundamental questions about Labour’s future. It’s going to be tough for the Party in these unstable times.

The leadership contest has only just begun the process of finding a way to respond to these challenges. However, it has drawn into the Party people who have never had an association with a political party before, and drawn back to the Party people who had become disillusioned. The huge increase in its network of members and supporters is to be welcomed.

Labour will need to draw on and draw in these and other potential members and supporters if it is to find a way forward, to rebuild, reconnect and again to seize the political agenda. It will need the active participation of its members and supporters to renew the internal life of the Party. It will also need to be more open to people outside it, whether they are disconnected from the political process, or involved in other campaigns and movements.

We believe that these four sets of principles should provide the context within which Labour’s renewal can be built:

  • acceptance of the result
  • co-existence within a broad church
  • pluralism, mutual respect and comradeship
  • democratic participation and openness.

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You can download a pdf version of this statement here.

The ILP will be discussing the future of the Labour Party and the politics of radical hope with Compass in Leeds on 19 September. See here for more details and how to book.

See also: ‘Labour’s Leadership Election: A Problem Foretold’, by Will Brown
‘You Couldn’t Make It Up’, by Hazel Head.



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15 comments
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  1. Well said ILP, couldn’t agree more.

  2. This statement demands to be read, understood, and acted upon by candidates, MPs, members, affiliates, and supporters.

  3. The statement is spot on and I will seek to publicise it via the avenues which are available to me. A tactic which I recommend to others.

  4. Yea coexistence so long as one of the right win it, we are all hearing of ministers and MP’s who are now refusing to work with one winner. people I expect who were are Progress drones like Leslie, Reeves Cooper and Flint and the other one who sold out labour to Blair and his drones.

    Sorry what broad church….

    It seems the left are now basically hard left and Trots while the right are so soft and nice and loveable.

    If Corbyn does not win I will be looking for somewhere else because this broad church is now basically progress.

  5. Very sound principles which I am happy to endorse. Podemos also provides a good example of these principles if it can manage to keep to them!

  6. Excellent statement – wholly agree. But Robert’s comment shows that we will need to do quite a bit uof persuading.
    The history of the Labour Party – and of the ILP – illustrates convincingly the crucial importance of the 4 sets of principles.

  7. Given Jeremy’s overwhelming victory, the ILP’s statement is more important than ever. Ed Miliband’s statement is in line with the ILP’s approach – “I offer Jeremy Corbyn my support in what is a very difficult and demanding job, and I hope that people across the party will do the same. At the same time, I hope and expect that Jeremy will do everything he can to reach out and use the talents of people right across the party in the task of taking on the Tories and facing up to the very big challenges that we face.”

  8. So the day after the leadership ballot the press is full of reports about Labour MPs, in the depths of despair, busy plotting revenge and talk about a coup d’état, and the practicalities of the Frank Field plan whereby 30 anonymous Labour MPs might trigger a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as a means of getting rid of “deadbeat” leader and restoring sanity to a party said to be in death spiral. The idea being for David Miliband to return via a by-election engineered by the retirement of a more elderly MP who, as a reward, would trot-off to the House of Lords.

    So there we have it, some Labour MPs don’t like the outcome of the first truly (one-person-one-vote) democratic leadership election where the press barons and corporate money were effectively side-lined.
    So these most distinguished, influential, perceptive and honest (sic) Westminster MPs must be right, and the Labour Party membership very stupid. Don’t you think?

  9. So Jeremy Corbyn didn’t sing God Save the Queen. Big deal?

    As a former soldier who served in the York and Lancaster Regiment, 1958/9 in Aden, and was never once told why we were there and why we were killing local people, I would never sing that sad anthem.

    After all, was it not the Windsor family that had close Nazi sympathies and a wannabe (traitor) king. Hitler and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, would be proud of the British media and our establishment toadies and bully boys.

    In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn seems to be a good and compassionate citizen and man of principle and courage. Let’s just hope he is able to be himself, stick his guns (no pun intended) and allow the membership to decide party policy, on a one member one vote basis, and without being undermined by the corrosive influence of the Tory press, big money bribes, establishment sycophancy and those Labour malcontents who can’t stomach change and membership democracy.

  10. The BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston is reporting that a number of Blairite MPs are seriously contemplating jumping ship and joining the Tories. They have told Preston that they feel closer to George Osborne both politically and socially than they do to the new Labour leader.

    So if Jeremy Corbyn is able to take the party membership with him and to also win over a sizeable number of Labour MPs on a programme of cancelling Trident, building more social housing and capping exorbitant rents, renationalising rail and utilities, building a more balanced, fair and inclusive economy where all workers get a living wage, great, I say. And if at the same time he can get support for a promise to regulate the financial sector and put a stop the unbelievable greed and illegality of the super-rich and powerful corporations, who make their money off the backs of the British people, and ensure they pay tax and play by the same rules as ordinary people, that would be more than brilliant.

    Bit of a big ask, but if the party of Labour cannot or will not turn its back on neo-liberal economics and embrace an anti-austerity programme, does it really matter if it has a future as an alternative government in waiting?

    And although it is important for the Labour Party to remain a broad church where differences can be debated fraternally and decided on democratically (without the toxic influence of big money and the political machine), surely it’s time to say to these Blairite malcontents, ‘If you really are politically closer to George Osborne than you are to Jeremy Corbyn, you’re in the wrong party and should resign and cross the floor and join the nasty party and do so with our blessing.’

  11. Hi Ernie,

    I rather preferred your first comment on this thread. Your latest comment rather misses the point of the ILP Statement by a country mile.

    Will

  12. Bit puzzled by William’s comment insofar as I’m unsure which of the ILP’s 4 principles I might have abrogated. At a guess it is either the broad church concept or my use of language, or both.

    But referring to some Labour MPs as malcontents is surely a statement of fact and should not be deemed disrespectful and a breach of the ILP principles. In similar vein, reference to George Osborne and the nasty party cannot be thought contentious – well, not in my book. After all this is a politician and party responsible for trashing our welfare state and community services, for privatising the NHS, for bad-mouthing the unemployed (those he labels skivers) and for really crude and wicked attacks on the living standards of poor people and our most vulnerable citizens.

    So if the big-tent Labour Party (which I fully support) is defined so widely as to include Labour MPs with views sympathetic to George Osborne, then Will and I have very different ideas about what constitutes the boundaries of a broad church and must agree to disagree.

  13. I think it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with the statement and its four principles and still claim to be a democrat. If it really is true that some Labour MPs are thinking of joining the Tories because of the election result, the Labour party would be better off without them. However, in the interests of unity, the Left should not seek to reselect MPs whose opinions they do not like. If unity is damaged, let it be the right that carries the blame.

    Unlike Ernest Jacques I did not find this election presented an obvious choice. Corbyn certainly offered (and offers) the prospect of a much needed renewal of the Labour Party, a long held objective of the ILP. On the other hand, his election is a huge risk . He has no experience of serving in government, much less of leading a party, and was not the choice of most MPs. His first week in the role has already shown what a difficult task he faces. Like many others, I am also uncomfortable with some of the foreign policy positions he has held in the past. However, I am 100% behind him now that he has been elected, especially with such a thumping mandate. All party members, whether they voted for him or not, should back him, and the ILP statement perfectly elaborates that view.

  14. [...] Questions and discussions arising from small breakout groups ranged over a wide canvas. Key issues were raised about how the Labour Party could and should respond to the influx of new members in what might be a narrow window of opportunity for growth and renewal – something the ILP has already addressed in its statement on the Labour leadership. [...]

  15. The ILP Leadership statement is a beacon of common sense and should be circulated to every Labour Party branch and every affiliated organisation. The problems facing society are far too serious for individuals to indulge in grand standing in order to make cheap political points. United around our values and guided by the kind of common sense which helped form the Labour Party, we stand as the only viable alternative to neoliberalism.

    The threat of corporate capitalism is real, it never sleeps and subtly undermines our freedoms. Without a united Labour Party and trade union movement, the people stand as individuals without defence against a voracious monster.

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