The following is a letter sent to members of Plymouth Moor View Labour Party by their former MP.
PLYMOUTH MOOR VIEW LABOUR PARTY
From Alison Raynsford (previously Seabeck), St Budeaux ward
Dear Chair of the CLP, Friends and Fellow Labour Party Members, I am writing because, although no longer your MP, I am being asked by many party members, residents in the Plymouth Moor View constituency, across social media and by TV and newspapers to express a view on what is happening within the Labour Party. I did not want to go public until I had let the Constituency Labour Party understand my position.
There are a great many new, and young, members of our local party and you need to be aware, if you are not, that this is a scenario I have witnessed before. The outcome was a split Labour Party pursuing policies which did not have the support of the vast majority of the electorate, 18 years of Tory rule and all of the excesses of Margaret Thatcher. The line which the Party I supported, and tried to change from the inside, took then was selfish. We put ideology above the welfare of those who most needed a Labour Government. We made ourselves unelectable. I am watching history repeating itself and it can be avoided.
The Party needs new leadership and I intend to explain why I believe this and how I reached this difficult conclusion. However, before I do so we need to understand the complex and dangerous times in which we live, which make it essential for the country to have strong leadership and an Opposition Party firing on all cylinders. Following the divisive BREXIT vote, a vote which was based as we now know on a series of lies about the financial position, how much money we could expect back and, on immigration, the claim that free movement could be stopped without us leaving the Single Market, we are seeing a society at war with itself. Neighbours abusing neighbours, young people feeling particularly angry that their future opportunities are disappearing and the very existence of the whole UK being under threat. This is exactly the time when a strong and united Opposition is needed. It is hardly surprising that the Tories are saying that electorally it is in their interests for the status quo to continue. Sadly we are not a united opposition, and whilst Jeremy remains leader we will remain ineffective. Sixty shadow front bench posts are still vacant and he cannot find enough people to do that and so provide an effective opposition. This must not continue. I can understand why many who voted for Jeremy feel aggrieved, but having personally given him the opportunity to show true leadership and remained uncritical, I can no longer stay silent when it is so clear that he is failing.
* The argument being put forward is that Jeremy has a large mandate. Yes, he does, but the MPs who were elected before Jeremy became Leader have much larger mandates and from a much wider cross section of society. They were elected on a manifesto too and have a duty to their constituents.
* Another allegation is that Jeremy is being bullied - not true simply because no one is allowed to meet him. In any case a Leader of the U.K. has to be able to withstand pressure. Vladimir Putin and others do not pull their punches. Churchill was leading his Party and the country at the same age as Jeremy and no one would say he needed protection from people with differing views.
* The MPs and Shadow Spokespeople who have resigned had in most cases spent years developing expertise in the areas they covered. This has all been lost and most of the new MPs who have been desperately brought in to fill gaps are out of their depth, albeit they will be doing their best. Jeremy cannot fill ail the vacancies and even if he wins a new election he will still be 'leading' the same PLP and he will still be a total lame duck without enough people to act as shadow ministers. The Party will be ineffective in Parliament and in the wider country. These are MPs from every wing of the Party.
* When Ernest Bevin and other Trades Union leaders called a halt to the ineffectual but decent George Lansbury's leadership Clement Attlee was elected! He was not widely known or charismatic and not from a Trade Union background but he went on to become one of the most successful and radical leaders of the Labour Party. He was able to maintain the support and respect of a Party filled with talented, strong minded individuals from left to right and drive forward a ground breaking programme which appealed to the voting public. That is what we need now.
* Jeremy and his team failed to make a sincere case for the UK to stay within the EU and evidence from Alan Johnson MP, shows that they actively worked to undermine the 'Remain' campaign. These are the same people preventing Jeremy from talking alone to colleagues like Tom Watson MP, who incidentally also has a large Party mandate. Jeremy's team include individuals with no history in the Labour Party, I've been a member for over 40 years through thick and thin; good and bad times and fear that they could preside over the breakup of the Party. It is incredibly selfish to play such games when the people of Plymouth and across Britain need Labour in government not a protest group. Our international allies in Europe and beyond need a Labour government. We need a Labour government led by someone with vision and the ability to unite and strengthen to deliver the outcomes which will lead to an end to the unremitting austerity people have been facing. We need a leader who will be able to communicate to people across the country.
* There are allegations of disloyalty to the Leader. Jeremy campaigned against, and opposed Labour policies, under 3 party leaders of which Tony Blair was only one. This is nothing new and nothing which should surprise Jeremy.
I am writing in good faith and have drawn on my long experience both inside and outside politics; both in and away from Westminster. People talk about the Westminster bubble and the importance of MPs understanding their communities. Operating effectively inside Westminster is a complex and difficult job, so the views of MPs should not be summarily dismissed.
To ignore the fact that 172 of the team have no faith in the Leader is like putting your head in the sand. I will therefore argue strongly for change and for a challenge.
Alison Seabeck, St Budeaux ward.
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