They are brave, yes, but also anti-democratic and dishonest, says the MP for Blackley and Broughton
To leave behind friends and supporters in a political party you have served for many years undoubtedly takes courage. However, the likely outcome, if history is any guide, is political oblivion and social isolation.
The eight Labour MPs and three Conservative MPs who have resigned from their parties in favour of the Independent group in the Commons may be brave, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t vulnerable to the charge of being anti-democratic and dishonest. Within the last two years all eleven of them have been candidates in a general election in which their name on the ballot paper was followed by their political party.
How beautifully symbolic that they put support of the undemocratic EU above our own democracy
In Nottingham East, 28,102 people voted for Chris Leslie the Labour Party candidate, not Chris Leslie the Independent. These electors have been cheated. Prior to 1968, when the political affiliation of candidates was first allowed on ballot papers, it could have been argued that the individual was elected in their own right, but not now.
Chris Leslie should take the only honourable course of action, resign and fight a by-election. When challenged to do this on television he said "I can’t believe that in this moment of crisis you’re asking for a by-election". This is the same Chris Leslie who believes that the electorate should be told to vote again on Brexit, because they were foolish enough not to follow his advice in the 2016 referendum.
The putative leader of the Independent Group, Chuka Umunna, famously said "we have to leave and respect the vote, even if leave wins by one vote". He and the other ten seem to have a curious view of democracy; that it should only be respected when they agree with it.
Umunna, Leslie and the rest disrespect democratic decisions and what should be the basis of any democracy; a belief that promises to the electorate should be kept. What holds this group together is an abiding view that their outdated love affair with the European Union represents moderation and progress, and therefore they’re entitled to ignore the great unwashed who simply don’t have their profound understanding of the issues. How beautifully symbolic that they put support of the undemocratic EU above our own democracy.
Who would have voted for these eight ex-Labour MPs if they had said they would join forces with three ex-Tory MPs who had voted for the huge cuts to our public services and for the bedroom tax. Who would have voted for them if they had been honest about their intention to reverse the referendum decision? How many Conservatives would have voted for Heidi Allen if she had said to her constituents what she recently said to the press, "if we do our jobs right then there won’t be a Tory Party". That may be an objective I share as a Labour MP, but it would surely be fatal for any Conservative candidate.
The ex-Labour MPs have the same objective with respect to the Labour Party, which they want to destroy. I and many Labour voters believe the Labour Party to be the main vehicle for social progress in the UK. It is in this context that the charge that the Labour Party is institutionally racist and anti-Semitic should be seen.
There have undoubtedly been some cases of anti-Semitic abuse, Luciana Berger being the most prominent. There have also been, given the size of the Labour Party, a relatively small number of complaints. The real failure is a sin of omission, not commission. Labour has not dealt with these complaints quickly or effectively. We do not know how many of the complaints against Labour Party members are valid or how many vexatious. There may be some cases where a genuine apology could be given and accepted. The Labour Party needs to process these complaints now. Justice delayed is justice denied, to both parties.
If, as I suspect, some of the delay is down to genuine legal difficulties, then this narrative should be explained by Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the leadership. Our new political enemies must not be allowed the space to make unanswered allegations of anti-Semitism.
It is an extraordinary political moment when the anti-democrats are trying to destroy the political party that has done more to fight discrimination than any other body in our history.
Graham Stringer (pictured) is a regular columnist for Manchester Confidential. He is the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 22,982 after the 2015 election, up from 12,303 in 2010. He was elected to Parliament in 1997. Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996.