I do not want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister.
There are lots of ways of saying that and then dodging whether I’d vote Labour if he was our candidate for Prime Minister. I have a good local MP and I live in a safe seat, so really my individual vote is irrelevant. I could hide in such ambiguity. I don’t want to.
In principle, I won’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. If there was a chance my vote could make that happen, I would vote for another party1.
Why say this openly? After all, loyalty to the cause is one way people in a minority within Labour prove they’re ‘real Labour’. On top of that, I grew up with the memory of the SDP split. That lent a certain resonance to the ‘Cowards flinch and Traitors sneer’ line in the Red Flag.
One reason is I’m sick of being expedient. When I ask people about what’s wrong with my brand of Labour, a lot of what I hear is disgust with how ‘people like you’ treat politics. People tell me my type want to manage the country, rather than lead it. That we don’t answer straight questions. That we spin. That we evade. That we are unprincipled. Cynical. Careerist. Only out for our own self-interest. That we don’t have core values, just electoral interests.
Arguing Jeremy Corbyn is a bad leader merely because he’ll lose only strengthens those suspicions.
That’s just politics. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get beaten really badly. My politics is not just about winning, or smart tactics. It’s about my beliefs.
Another reason, ironically, is that I learned a big lesson from the Corbyn campaign. I saw how enthusiasm for his directness overwhelmed every ‘moderate’ candidate. Sometimes dissenting principle is more admirable than loyal ambiguity.
My dissenting principles mean I can’t support Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister.
I believe Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is a repudiation of the best of my party, not an echo of it.
No Labour purpose is served by exchanging the social reformism of Griffiths, Morrison, Addison and Harman for the arid slogans of John McDonnell.
No Labour principle is improved by abandoning the popular radicalism of Young, Castle, Crosland and Blair for the impossibilist conservatism of Jeremy Corbyn.
No Labour value is honoured by exchanging the democratic internationalism of Attlee, Bevan and Cook for the pseudo-Marxist grotesque of Andrew Murray or Seumas Milne.
How can I say I believe Jeremy Corbyn would shatter the limited protections our alliances give those threatened by dictators, demagogues and religious extremists, then say I think he’d be an acceptable Prime Minister?
I’m a Labour party member because I believe the principles of the Labour party are my principles.
I can’t vote for Corbyn because of the agenda he wishes to pursue.
I can’t be ambiguous about the gulf I see between the two.
My final reason is that a lot of people who feel the way I do are leaving the party. I want to show that you don’t have to leave Labour if you can’t support Corbyn.
How can I justify remaining a member of the Labour party while opposing the leader becoming Prime Minister?
The values argument is that the Labour party is more than Corbyn. More than his mandate, even. As I said above, I believe in Labour’s values and programme. Staying in the party will help stop them being abandoned.
The political argument is simple. I want to stay Labour because I believe in the party.
The constitutional argument is that there’s nothing in the rules to say I can’t be honest about my views and be a Labour member.
The Labour party rule book says that to “be and remain eligible” a member of the Labour party you must:
“Accept and conform to the constitution, programme, principles and policy of the Party“.
The principles are defined in Chapter 1, Clause IV, which sets out our ‘Aims and Values’. These haven’t changed since new Clause IV was introduced under Tony Blair. No problem there, then.
The programme is defined in Chapter 1, Clause V, which sets out how we decide our manifesto. Our Policy is defined as proposals agreed by Party Conference.
Amusingly, while I am in full agreement with the current Ch 1, Cl V, the Leader of the Labour party is not.2.
So there’s no ideological or policy issue for me.
What about the political aims of the party? Surely if I oppose Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, I breach the object of the party to ‘promote the election of Labour representatives at all levels of the democratic process‘?
No. I believe Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership retards the election of Labour representatives, and that getting rid of him would promote their election at all levels.
But if I say so loudly, surely I’m hurting the party? Is that acceptable?
Yes, it is. Chapter 2, Clause 1 Para 8 says:
“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party.”
The paragraph concludes, however:
“The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions.”
So I can, and will, say I will not support Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister.
There is, however, a limit to this freedom. Chapter 2, Clause 1, Para 4 says:
“A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate… …shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member.”
I have no desire to support another party. As long as there is a chance Labour does not propose Jeremy Corbyn as the next Prime Minister, I will not support any other political organisation or candidate.
If the Labour party does eventually put Jeremy Corbyn forward as Prime Minister at the next election, I will have to inform the party that I am ineligible to be a member the moment polls open. When polls close, I will rejoin.
I might not be a Labour party member for one day.
Until then, I can do my best to make sure that day doesn’t arrive.------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- This doesn’t mean I will definitely not vote Labour. There are circumstances I would vote Labour locally. It’s just I don’t want to use them as an excuse [↩]
- His office have briefed that he wishes to replace the NPF, and there are several policies agreed by Party Conference, including Trident and Tuition Fees which he publicly opposes [↩]