4th February 2016
Power to the Moderates
Milne, Fletcher, Lansman, Abbott, Trickett, Burgon; all names to make you shudder.
It really does feel as if the Labour party is being run by the left, for the left, and will likely only ever benefit the left. There is little there for anyone else.
However, even though my baby niece could be doing her GCSEs before there is another Labour government we should not totally despair. Our fellow moderates do still hold a useful amount of power and influence and strive to serve the people of this country who need Labour to be charge.
For instance, a number of senior MPs refused to serve in Corbyn’s front bench team. But they were not content to languish on the back benches. As soon as they could they stood to chair the party’s departmental committees. And the list of committees was matched with a list of moderates who would make any sensible leader proud to have in their shadow cabinet.
In the final days of the leadership campaign, Yvette Cooper ensured that the issue of refugees dying on their way to safety in the west topped the agenda. She agreed to serve as Labour’s envoy on the refugee crisis. We also have another moderate leadership candidate who continues to do us proud. Liz Kendall was elected unopposed to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.
Some of the moderate MPs have stepped in to provide the proper leadership that the party currently lacks. Jeremy Corbyn was recently perceived to have failed to properly question David Cameron on the subject of Google and tax at PMQs. Caroline Flint has always been one of my favourite MPs, and she was the one who actually managed to get the point across that day.
Much has been made of the “successes” of Corbyn’s leadership over tax credits, police cuts and the Saudi prisons contract.
What I saw come to pass was that the tax credits row blew up and Corbyn failed to sing the National Anthem. Hence, the headlines went with the National Anthem story, thus burying tax credits from public view, and we were left to rely on the House of Lords to provide a lifeline to families facing poverty. Baroness Smith of Basildon, who had a good moderate record during her time as an MP, led the way as the shadow leader of the House of Lords.
The one leadership candidate who did remain in the shadow cabinet was Andy Burnham. He who praised Tony Blair to the rafters at a Progress rally in September. When the Tory u-turn on police cuts was announced during the spending review, John McDonnell responded by saying the reversal had been forced by a campaign by Andy Burnham.
As for the Saudi prisons contract, Corbyn may have been credited with raising the issue during his conference speech but Michael Gove did the real work and argued the case against his colleagues.
Gove is often seen as a centrist politician, who is admired by some moderates on the Labour side, and he demonstrated just why this is the case by putting human rights first.
People will have their own views over the European Union and whether we should leave or remain. Nevertheless, our members of the European parliament are involved in creating the legislation that will affect all our lives, and they do represent us. Even better than that, perhaps we should rejoice that they are not accountable to Jeremy Corbyn in the same way our MPs are!
Seb Dance was elected to the European parliament in 2014 in London, and since then has worked to promote many causes that surely any Labour member would support including cleaner air, ending LGBTI persecution in developing countries and dealing with the conflict minerals trade which results in slavery and child abuse. His candidacy was supported by Tessa Jowell and the Kinnocks, and he is a prime example of a moderate in the Labour party who can speak for us, just as those moderate MPs do, if we are one of the millions fortunate to live in their constituencies.
The NEC is Labour’s governing body, and it has a great many members who are moderate and centrist and who can still make decisions on behalf of the party. Tom Watson and Angela Eagle have their places on the NEC and provide some balance against Ken Livingstone. Johanna Baxter is a fine example of a candidate from the moderate slate who gets in with a high number of votes, no doubt partly due to her commitment to visiting CLPs across the country and meeting many members. Candidates from the moderate slate can be popular across the board, and others could join Johanna despite a recent attempt at a petition to prevent Luke Akehurst from joining the NEC by proponents of the “kinder politics”. At least one Corbynista has endorsed Parmjit Dhanda via twitter, and Parmjit will publicly acknowledge just how important New Labour was to winning elections, as well as the fact that our party must be properly equipped to win elections now. And then there is the added bonus of Shabana Mahmood now representing the PLP on the NEC instead of one of Corbyn’s preferences.
Bassam Mahfouz is a councillor in the Borough of Ealing in West London, and he is the cabinet member for environment and transport. He supported Liz Kendall for the leadership, and is an excellent example of one of our many moderate councillors who are truly making a difference and bringing credit to the moderate cause through his achievements. Politicians for decades had wanted to install a lift at Greenford underground station, but Bassam made it happen. He has also taken the lead to bring the borough’s recycling rates up to 44 per cent in August 2014, winning praise even from Sir Eric Pickles when he was secretary of state for communities and local government.
Why this is interesting to me is that we hear so much about Brighton and Hove and the Green party MP Caroline Lucas and the Green council there. The council could only boast having among the worst recycling rates in the country at just 26 per cent in November 2014.
Ealing council has endured cuts from central funding and has been forced to cut back on services to even vulnerable people. It is a plague on councils across the country, but what was the response in Brighton and Hove? Ignore the budget and leave themselves open to being taken over by central government!
I always thought the one redeeming feature of the far left was care for the environment, but it seems you are better off with moderate Labour in that respect, and Labour have the competency to run a council that is fit for purpose, especially when the moderates are in charge.
Then there is the mayoral election in London. Sadiq Khan may have nominated Jeremy Corbyn, but he did not vote for him. Sadiq recently reminded us at a conference that we will be voting for him and not Corbyn – and then this week that he will not be dictated to.
I would argue that Sadiq has been demonstrating his moderate colours well, as he will be willing to back a Tel Aviv festival in London. That will be fun to wind up Corbyn!
This also starts to explain why the Jewish Chronicle believes Sadiq may be a better choice for even the Jewish community than Zac Goldsmith.
I campaigned last weekend for Sadiq, and a councillor pointed out that we had a lot of information about how householders voted in 1997, but little for subsequent general election years. Another councillor said we had more members back then. She meant that we had more members to call on voters and collect the information in the first place. But we do have almost as many members now, whilst CLPs across the country struggle to get the new members out on the doors.
My view is that we had tens of thousands of moderate members in 1997 who wanted to win, and that is the difference. So whatever is going on at the top of the party, if you want a job done well, ask a moderate.
By Paddington Baby