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Joan Ryan MP: Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Joan Ryan MP: Photo: Wikimedia Commons

We shouldn't be intimidated by the splitters, we need to work to make Labour decisively turn its back on its failed Blairite past, argues David Swanson

The split from Labour represents a recognition of failure by a number of MPs who have long been committed to hijacking the party and sabotaging the Corbyn leadership. Joined by fellow outcasts on the periphery of the Conservative Party, it highlights a betrayal of working-class interests and a continuation of the slow coup against Corbyn by other means. 

The so-called ‘Independent Group,’ featuring some of the most prominent critics of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, claim to be frustrated with the current condition of British politics in general. In reality however, their resignation speeches betray the agenda that these gangs of rogues are determined to force upon wider society. The reasons for resignations were varied, from concerns over Brexit strategy to a supportive stance towards US intervention in Venezuela, but these imposters have been forced to face reality. The politics of careerist ambition and endless support for big business are now no longer relevant in a party genuinely moving to the left.

Members of this new-breakaway group expressed a desire for a ‘more sensible brand of politics,’ but a cursory glance at voting records during their time as MP’s highlights support for anti-working class policies. The defectors – Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker and Joan Ryan – each have a record of support for British imperialism, voting with the Tories to implement austerity, attacking the influence of trade unions and privatising every aspect of society. There is nothing independent about them, they are pro-market and pro-establishment. 

We should celebrate their departure, but we have to do more. Many  Blairites and centrists remain in the party and the thinking is no doubt that a strategy of within and without can be used to intensify attacks on the leadership, with the full complicity of the media. The main danger is that this effort will pressure the leadership to tack right. John McDonnell’s public support for Tom Watson’s threatening calls for ‘more listening’ is a worrying sign. Corbyn’s success has been precisely because of his radicalism and his ability to appeal to people who are fed up with politics as usual. Further compromise on key policies would be disastrous. 

We should take up Corbyn’s calls for by-elections in all the defectors’ constituencies. Activists shouldn’t be intimidated about criticising and if necessary deselecting MPs who express support for the splitters. The massive left-wing membership base should be a source of strength and confidence for us. Rather than being intimidated by a handful of defectors, we need to work to create a party that decisively turns its back on a failed Blairite past.

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