Over the past few weeks, in the light of the local Labour Party’s refusal to participate in Bristol’s newly-elected mayor’s cabinet, I’ve written to the local Party secretary, my local councillor, Dawn Primarolo MP and Ed Miliband MP. Yesterday, I received a response from “The Frontbench Team”.This is my reply to them:
Thank you for your response to my email dated 26 November (sent for the attention of Ed Miliband) regarding decisions taken by the NEC in connection with the Labour Party in Bristol and the Mayoral Elections.In the recent Mayoral vote, the electorate’s VERY clear response was that it was sick of “party politics” and wanted local politicians to work together for the good of the city and all its citizens. Whatever YOU might think, large numbers of people opted for George Ferguson’s proposals for an all-party cabinet to address the city’s issues.
In my mind, Peter Hammond (Labour Group Leader) and Dean Chapman (Secretary of Bristol Labour Party) were absolutely right in resigning from their posts… and, OF COURSE, the Labour Party has subsequently been “suffering a far from friendly press” - because the electorate had clearly been urging all parties to work TOGETHER.
In your email, you indicated the NEC’s decision was as follows:
‘It is clear that there is neither widespread nor strong support for this proposal; and that there is no clear advantage to Bristol or the people of Bristol which could not be better provided by strong and robust scrutiny from outside the cabinet’.
You also indicated that ‘the press, media and George Ferguson seem to want to paint this as an imposition, or 'central party diktat', however, what the NEC have done is actually endorse the majority views of the wider party membership in Bristol’’.
I’m afraid that “a central party diktat” is exactly how it appears to me – as a life-long Labour supporter.
You say (and I’ve no reason to believe that this wasn’t the case) that party members across Bristol were consulted and that there were a large number of submissions and that “the NEC took these into account when making their decision” (what does that mean?), but the fundamental question for me is “why did the NEC have to get involved in the first place – in what was essentially a ‘local party issue’”?
You say that, by not being included in the Mayor’s Cabinet, “the Labour Party will be able to provide clear, strong and robust opposition to the elected mayor”. You just don’t get it do you? The electorate voted for a Mayor who was completely INDEPENDENT of party politics – who would work with the very best people available (from all parties) to address a whole host of challenging issues over the next four years. The local electorate did NOT want a continuation of “yaboo politics”.
I find the Party’s attitude quite incredible and think it will have HUGE implications in the short- and long-term (in both local AND general elections). As a result, and assuming the Party doesn’t have a “Damascus experience”, I’m afraid I will NOT be voting for the Party in ANY future elections (ie. both local AND general elections) and, having chatted to several Labour-supporting friends, I suspect that there will be thousands taking a similar stance.
This decision will go down as one of the biggest (and embarrassing) “own goals” for many a year and a defining watershed for the Party. As things stand, the Labour Party has become a political laughing stock locally and I am desperately saddened that this should be the case.
cc Ed Miliband MP, Labour Party Leader, by letter
cc Dawn Primarolo MP (South Bristol) by email
cc Bristol Labour Party Secretary, by email
cc Sean Beynon (Labour Councillor, Southville Ward) by email
cc Peter Hammond (Labour Councillor, St George West Ward) by email
PS: So, after the local mayoral election and the General Synod's vote against women bishops, I now find myself party-less AND church-less!