One of the reasons why politics gets a bad name is that politicians will argue about anything. It’s as though they are looking for reasons not to get on, rather than seeking to do the best for their community or the country.
Put simply this is called looking for the differences and not the similarities.
I suppose this wouldn’t be a big issue if we were just talking about Labour politicians disagreeing with Tories. But it does become a problem when it is people from within the Labour Party attacking each other.
Personalities not principles
Factions can be created from votes for positions within the party. Some people become attached to one candidate against another and make this into a matter of principle. This certainly was the case with Jeremy Corbyn standing for leader of the Labour Party and with the second leadership election. Since he was elected, many members of the Labour Party have fallen out – just over a vote for who is the leader of the party.
But it doesn’t just have to be a leadership election, some people have built up resentments against each other for elections for positions in the Labour Party, for council selection or MP selection.
It’s as though every internal election causes more division and, in doing so, makes unity harder.
Everything goes to a vote
Another reason why there are rifts is that every decision in the Labour Party has to go to a vote. In Labour Party branches and CLPs people will vote on anything from whether the minutes are correct to how much money should be spent on the Christmas Social. This isn’t actually always necessary and can lead to unnecessary divisions.
Consensus decision-making is a method of including the input of all so that decisions may address all potential concerns. This creates a greater cohesion within the group. With this method, because everyone has their voice heard, those who are uncomfortable with a particular decision can be persuaded by the force of the argument of comrades and not by the number of hands in the air (often many are not persuaded that something is right or wrong because they lost a vote).
Divisions built on fear
The consequence of factions being formed on the back of votes – whether for positions of power or for any other issue – is that these factions start to distance themselves from each other. This involves talking negatively about the other faction and finding a solidarity with others solely on the basis of this animosity.
So the rifts start to feel intractable.
This seems to be happening in the Labour Party now with a few groups arguing in public about issues like the composition of the National Executive Committee.
What’s being done to unite the party?
There are a few people saying ‘the party must be united’ if we are to win. But there is nothing being done. And the Labour Party itself isn’t going to admit that there are factions as it is not in its interest to do so.
In fact, many of the factions within the party are actually holding meetings in which they are quite publicly saying they wish to take control of the party or take back control. This is only going to escalate divisions.
Finding common ground
My experience of Stand up for Labour has shown me that social events are a great way to get people together. At Stand up for Labour, people from all sides of the party are united in laughter and we find our common cause within the Labour Party family. We are able to see that we are a broad church and that we all want to work towards Labour coming back to government and winning local elections.
I believe that Labour members actually agree about most things.
We all want a society where there is no need for foodbanks, we all want the NHS to be properly funded so that everyone has access to good healthcare, and we all want our education system to provide an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We believe that jobs should be available that are well-paid and secure and we also believe that we should have decent, genuinely affordable housing for all.
Issues that are disagreed about, such as defence and foreign policy, fiscal policy, PFI schemes and nationalisation should be discussed openly and the weight of arguments should make the difference not tactical manoeuvres at meetings. I’m sure that if all members felt that their opinions were taken into account then there would be no fallout from policy decision making.
A unifying event
On Sunday the 4th of March, I am putting on a curry evening that will involve a discussion on how people see the future of the Labour Party. This discussion will include policy matters as well as party campaigns and organisation. I am writing to all of these groups to invite them:
Blue Labour, Chartist, CLPD, Compass, Co-Operative Party, Fabians, Labour First, Labour Future, LRC, Momentum, Open Labour, Progress, Tribune and all the affilliated trade unions.
The rules of the discussion will be that no one is to speak without using the handheld mic, that no one hogs the mic and that there are no personal attacks or heckling. We can then have a proper discussion and not get indigestion from the curry.
My hope is that some headway may be made towards party unity through the act of being in the same room and breaking naan together.
- Tickets for ‘Breaking Naan’ will be available to all Labour supporters in the next two weeks.