The UK desperately needs a new and better Opposition
BY SUSAN HALL
Dear Labour Party
As you’re in the midst of a leadership contest I thought it was the perfect time to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) to offer some advice on the steps you should be taking to transform your Party into a decent and viable Opposition. It may be that you won’t take the advice of the Leader of the GLA Conservatives – in fact it seems almost inevitable – but I hope you will take it in the spirit intended. It’s true I’m a committed Conservative, but I’m also a democrat and a strong believer in the merits of competition. The new Conservative Government would benefit from scrutiny from a worthwhile Opposition.
The Labour Party has a great history, but it has been rotten for the last four and a half years. Whoever becomes Leader should apologise for that. They should apologise on behalf of the Labour Party for allowing Jeremy Corbyn to become Labour’s leader and then for tolerating the unforgivable situation in which he led your party into two General Elections. He and his acolytes did not and do not belong in a mainstream political party. Only two British political parties have ever been investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the British National Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. That is not a club that a decent Opposition would ever have joined. Whoever becomes Labour Leader should apologise on behalf of your whole party both for allowing that to happen and for having the temerity to ask the public to vote Labour under those circumstances.
All five Leadership candidates should be clear that they would kick the Far Left out of the Labour Party and that there would be absolutely zero tolerance of antisemitism under their leadership. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has published ‘Ten Pledges to End the Antisemitism Crisis’ in the Labour Party. It is to their credit that all five remaining candidates have signed up and adopted those ten pledges. However Clive Lewis – who dropped out of the leadership contest after failing to attract sufficient support – and Deputy Leadership candidates Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler have all failed to sign. Every candidate for Labour Leader should be clear that their conduct is unacceptable and that those MPs have no place in the Labour Party going forward. Only by decisive action can Labour start to cleanse itself of the stain of antisemitism.
So those five candidates – Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry – have at least one action to their credit, but unfortunately they all start with an awful lot in the debit column. The very fact that they are all MPs shows that they were willing to stand for the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. They were willing to tell their constituents that Jeremy Corbyn should be their next Prime Minister. In case you’ve forgotten, Jeremy Corbyn is the man who called terrorists his friends, who reassured the artist behind an antisemitic mural that he was “in good company” in having his mural removed, who accepted money from Iran’s Press TV to present some programmes for them and who invited two IRA members to tea in the House of Commons just weeks after the Brighton Bombing. And that’s not even mentioning his ‘Bankrupt the Country now, apologise for doing so never’ economic policy.
Keir Starmer is trying to position himself as a Socialist without Corbyn’s baggage. Unfortunately for him and for Labour he has plenty of baggage of his own. Rebecca Long-Bailey is a continuity Corbynite, happy to wait for the electorate to realise it made a terrible mistake. When Emily Thornberry was asked the direction she wanted to take the Labour Party she responded “I will lead our Party forward.” Try not to laugh. Meanwhile Lisa Nandy’s pitch is that she’s a Northern MP who kept her distance from Corbyn. To the extent that that’s true, it may be enough to make her the best of a bad bunch. Finally Jess Phillips, who remains most famous for telling Diane Abbot to “F*ck off”, has argued that “it would look bad, to be honest” if Keir Starmer – the only male candidate – were to become Leader. She simply needs to inspire the electorate to love Jess Phillips half as much as Jess Phillips does to deliver a landslide.
With unfortunate irony, the Labour Party’s biggest problem is that it has to choose a leader from Labour MPs. Whether they served in his Shadow Cabinet like Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry or stayed on the backbenches like Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips, the very fact that they stood under the Labour Party’s banner in December and urged people to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister shows all five to be unfit for office.
It may be that you don’t find this advice all that useful. If so then I can only apologise. Nevertheless, whoever Labour chooses will be unable to escape the dark shadow of Corbynism. The UK desperately needs a decent and viable Opposition. We’ll need to wait for a new Party to find one, because the Labour Party is irredeemably rotten.
Susan Hall AM
Susan Hall is a London Assembly Member and Leader of the Conservative Group. Follow her on twitter: @Councillorsuzie