Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Labour Civil War Should Not Take Place.

with 17 comments


Some on both sides seem rearing up for a fight.

Before anybody says anything else…

There are solid grounds to criticise proposals to replace One Member One Vote in Labour leadership elections with a system of plural voting for special people, MPs, and Union leaderships, (few seem to have come up with a system that gives all trade unionists an effective say but then rabbits do jump out of hats).

The weight to be given to MPs does however have an intellectual precedent, pre-dating the 1918 Constitution of the Labour Party. it came from the centre-ground, where we are told elections are won or lost…

John Stuart Mill was an advocate of democratic elections but ” In any future Reform Bill which lowers greatly the pecuniary conditions of the suffrage, it might be a wise provision to allow all graduates of universities, all persons who have passed creditably through the higher schools, all members of the liberal professions, and perhaps some others, to be registered specifically in those characters, and to give their votes as such in any constituency in which they choose to register; retaining, in addition, their votes as simple citizens in the localities in which they reside.”  Considerations on Representative Government, 1861.

Labour MPs residing in the University of Parliament were long accustomed to having the  degree of superior influence due to it, and sufficient as a counterpoise to the numerical weight of the least educated class, the Labour membership. They, supporters of restoring the restricted the suffrage argue, will ensure that the “spirit of the institutions”  are given the strongest stimulus to the growth of intelligence (which) is that of rising into power.

As Labour adopts the goal of a “contribution society” what could be more apt than giving those who contribute the most, the brainiest who got elected to Westminster and their burley trade union arms, the biggest say in the administration of the fruits of their industry?


The very idea of taking votes, or rather, voting power, away from people sticks in the craw. Normally it would be laughed out of court.

The skirmishes over this rumble on…

It is hard to think of a more pointless exercise than this battle, and the leadership score no points for exacerbating it.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2021 at 6:24 pm

17 Responses

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  1. If I found myself as an imaginary party leader proposing a rule change that has united in opposition UNISON, the GMB, UNITE, the CWU, the Scottish Labour leadership of both Anas Sarwar and his deputy, Jackie Baillie, Mark Drakeford from Wales, the Labour Mayors Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan, the majority of polled CLP members (and thus, probably conference delegates), a big chunk of left and centrist members of the PLP and – if the off the record briefings are to be believed – your own Deputy Leader, then it would be high time to grasp the compromise lifebelt being thrown to him of a ‘period of further consultation” put by Christine McAnea of UNISON. Long, long grass has its usefulness.

    David Walsh

    September 24, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    • Andrew Coates

      September 24, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      • Well, my prediction took only two hours to be realised. The attractions of the long grass of ‘further consultation” are calling – especially after the normally compliant USDAW came out aganst the changes. As the old song had it;

        “You promised me, green grass, not to tell what you heard.
        Whispering Grass, say! you can’t keep your word, keep your word.

        It’s no secret any more.
        Why tell them all the old things?
        They’re buried under the snow.
        Whispering Grass, don’t tell the trees
        ‘Cause the trees don’t need to know.

        David Walsh

        September 24, 2021 at 8:06 pm

        • Starmer’s group, Socialist Alternatives, led by Benjamin Schoendorf not him, lost their faction fight, their attempt to impose on the Socialist Society. T

          This was an attempt (lasting many a meeting and not universally appreciated) to turn it into an Alternative left movement. They failed. This is well known to the small number of people who were involved…

          Not much of a precedent for waging a factional war in Labour.

          The model was La Federation de la gauche alternative, FGA, which I was heavily involved with, the French group, : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9d%C3%A9ration_pour_une_gauche_alternative

          Les Alternatifs was the ultimate expression of this current (do not even ask the complexity of the factional history from the 1980s till 2015 when they fused with Ensemble): https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Alternatifs

          Andrew Coates

          September 24, 2021 at 8:45 pm

        • Your evocation of that song inspired me to listen, once again, to the marvellous version by the Ink Spots: mournful and melancholy, in keeping with the present state of the party.

          Jim Denham

          September 25, 2021 at 8:59 am

  2. It all depends (in one respect) upon what criteria the “contribution society” is to be judged, for want of a better word, though the very concept does seem to be entirely judgmental. Who does the judging and upon what criteria? As a very long-term unemployed person myself am I to be judged critically and negatively, or will my diagnosed psychology be taken into account? Will my unpaid voluntary work for charities be taken into account, or is the whole thing to be reduced to monetary earnings generating wealth and income? As a poor person will I be seen to be more deserving than other poor people? What then will become of the undeserving poor, how shall they be punished? Starmer is venturing into Tory dogma that belongs in the Victorian era.


    September 24, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    • It’s a long clumsy word, it’s not fit to deal with the complex realty of how people are, and how we have lived our lives, and you have to ask more simply Trev, who the fuck is he, or anybody else, to *judge* us?

      Andrew Coates

      September 24, 2021 at 7:34 pm

  3. It’s fairly easy to convince a Labour leader who is short of ideas that he needs to look ‘tough’. The question then is: who should he be ‘tough’ on? The people who own the country are far too powerful to take on – and it’s their papers who have been goading Labour leaders (remember Bambi?) about their lack of ‘toughness’. But two obvious targets are always a) the undeserving poor, and b) troublesome elements in the leader’s own party. They can always be bullied with impunity…


    September 24, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    • Having read his Fabian pamphlet, properly though I’d say the 10 points out as a summary and most of us vaguely thought about sum up its message without needing to look further, yes, he has few ideas.

      Anybody who thinks that a 4 syllable word ‘contribution’ added to society is going anywhere is too off beam to take seriously. Bambi’s brief use of the “stake-holding society” at least could refer to Will Hutton. Starmer’s anti-self-management message sounds like, amongst other things, Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

      Andrew Coates

      September 24, 2021 at 8:07 pm

  4. Reblogged this on Tory Britain! .


    September 24, 2021 at 8:08 pm

  5. Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2021 at 7:17 am

  6. Starmer has long decided on the need for a civil war against the left of the party regardless of how acquiencent the Labour left is. It’s been his one thing. The only question for Labour Party members is “which side are you on?”

    If you’re into social democratic parliamentary incrementalism then it’s perfectly possible given the political stumbling and dire polling of SKS to get a soft left leader as a replacement – Rayner is probably the easiest bet. If you’re not willing to even fight for timid social democracy, what on earth are you doing calling yourself a left socialist?


    September 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

  7. Incidentally, a very sad person asks; Does anyone know if the Party Conference is being live streamed anywhere ? Neither BBC2 or BBC Parliament seem to be covering, and I cannot find anything on the Party website with a link. Anyone able to help ?

    David Walsh

    September 25, 2021 at 12:35 pm

  8. The word “should” is moralistic. It confuses the “ought” with the “is”. The real point is whether it will take place not whether it ought. From the perspective of Starmer, and the right-wing of the Labour Party, it most certainly ought, because they see it as vital to destroying the power of the membership in the party, and, thereby of the Left. So, whatever anyone else thinks “ought” to happen, the reality is that Starmer and the Right will, and already are undertaking such a civil war, and Stamer’s incompetence has merely delayed huis ability to pursue this skirmish within it.


    September 25, 2021 at 2:13 pm

  9. Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2021 at 2:26 pm

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