Some people have a choice ahead of them – Labour? Or their careers?

November 19, 2012 2:13 pm

The number of Independents who won in last week’s election was, in many ways, an indictment of British party politics. The PCC elections and Bristol Mayoralty created the perfect storm of political resentment – low turnout, a new and unclear role and an anti-politics message pushed by “Independent” candidates (who are often far less independent than they seem).

Inevitably that means some Labour people will be placed in a difficult and uncomfortable position – being offered positions in an independent administration, perhaps alongside Tories, Lib Dems and others. In a way it’s understandable if some consider taking roles working alongside independents. Four years in opposition is a long time, and the need to help those who only Labour can stand up for is great.

And yet by working for an “Independent” – those Labour people could end up doing a great deal of harm to Labour voters, and the party.

In Bristol this is a particular concern. George Ferguson (the Independent Mayor who was until recently a Lib Dem) stood on an avowedly anti-politics ticket, bashing political parties en masse but surely knowing that the main target of such abuse in Bristol was Labour. A Tory collapse in the city (with many switching to an “Independent” when they knew the Tories had no chance of beating Labour themselves) was largely responsible for helping Ferguson win.

Labour politicians helping a politician push his anti-Labour agenda would leave a bad taste in the mouth for sure, but it would also damage the party in Bristol (a party that had less than 200 members out on election day, which is already considerably damaged). It would be a betrayal of the party that got them elected to advance their careers – that would be unforgivable ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in the City in 2015.

Bristol is the kind of place where Labour needs to maintain and extend its support, and this task will be made harder if local Labour councillors are acting as apologists for a non-Labour Mayor who will (like everyone else in local government) be forced to make unpopular cuts. It also won’t help Labour beat Ferguson next time around if the party is seen as part of his cross-party coalition of lackeys – just ask Nick Clegg how hard such “differentiation” is.

Local party chair Darren Lewis put it best, when he wrote on his blog:

“For my part I think that the mayor elect ran an unashamedly anti-Labour campaign. Many of those who voted heard that message and voted for it. The Tory and Lib Dem vote collapsed to him where as our vote did not. We should respect the mayor’s campaign victory and the will of the voters both Mr Ferguson’s and ours. We should not sit in his cabinet but remain a constructive opposition.

“This is something a democracy needs. Both elements are just as important. We must not unnecessarily oppose for the sake of opposition. If the Mayor elect has a Damascene conversion on living wage, childcare, building affordable homes, we should welcome it and work with him on making it a reality. We must work together on a whole number of issues for the good of Bristol.”

Constructive opposition to the untested and vague promises of George Ferguson is what the people of Bristol will need in the months and years ahead. Those who would consider putting the short term priority of their careers first might want to think on that today.

  • http://www.robbiescott.com/ Robbie Scott

    We did that in Tower Hamlets and it didn’t work too well … I’m surprised to hear that we only had 200 activists though…

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Of course, if he offers someone from Labour a position and they turn him down, he may well offer it to a Tory instead.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Of course, if he offers someone from Labour a position and they turn him down, he may well offer it to a Tory instead.

  • franwhi

    ” We must not unnecessarily oppose for the sake of opposition” – somebody forgot to tell Scottish Labour this. Their hatred for the SNP is visceral and gets in the way of effective govt. in Scotland

  • DE, Bedminster

    Not one mention of what is best for the people of Bristol, just what is best for the party. If my Labour councillor refuses to co-operate with the democratically elected mayor on what is best for Bristol he will lose a lot of votes. The way Darren Lewis, a man involved in a disgusting and vicious campaign against Mr Ferguson, calls for immediate opposition is incredible. Putting party before electorate is what cost you this election, learn from that.

  • markfergusonuk

    If I remember correctly, local councillors have a stronger mandate than Ferguson…

  • workingpainter

    This piece betrays a misunderstanding of how people in Bristol feel (and not just Bristol!). The result was not all about a Tory/Lib dem collapse at all. I and many other former Labour voters have been alienated by the “party above all” approach and the sickening and endless negativity of party politics. Although he was not present (why?) at the hustings event I attended, I was impressed by how Marvin Rees spoke after the result and I do think that he has a lot to offer our city (and Ferguson is aware of this too and has acknowledged as much). That he should not work positively with Ferguson because of the “sour taste” it would leave in party mouths elsewhere and somehow amount to a betrayal of those who “made” his career is to my mind a self-defeating and stupid waste. The vast majority of us here in Bristol want our city to be a better and more equal place, and to move FORWARD out of the boggy morass of negative politics we’ve been drowning in for years.

Latest

  • News Miliband: Labour will close down job agencies that exploit workers

    Miliband: Labour will close down job agencies that exploit workers

    Ed Miliband will pledge to close down job agencies that exploit workers and break the law on the minimum wage. This will include closing the Swedish Derogation – a loophole in EU law that allows employers to pay agency workers less than permanent employees, even if they are doing the same job. Miliband will also reiterate that a next Labour government would stop agencies from recruiting workers only from abroad. As it stands, roughly 350,000 people receive less than the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Unpaid internships aren’t just bad for young people, they hurt us all

    Unpaid internships aren’t just bad for young people, they hurt us all

    It won’t take a trawl of internet job boards to find one of the most frustrating barriers to social mobility at the moment. Lists of unpaid ‘internships’ for as long as six months that give lists of responsibilities, essential skills needed and stipulations on the days and number of hours you will ‘ideally’ be working. If you’re lucky, you’ll get travel expenses within London, and maybe even lunch. Some employers call their roles ‘volunteer’ positions in an attempt to avoid […]

    Read more →
  • Featured The signals and the noise: the next election remains wide open

    The signals and the noise: the next election remains wide open

    David Cameron is arguably in a worse position than Jesus was on the eve of the crucifixion. Christ was denied three times by Peter. But Dave went to Rochester and Strood on five occasions and still he got the thumbs down. And that’s why the only story this weekend was the continued flatlining of the Tory opinion poll rating as the party struggles in vain to… But no. That wasn’t the story, was it? Instead there has been Labour angst, […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour can change the false narrative with a reality check

    Labour can change the false narrative with a reality check

    A false narrative has developed about Labour that must be rejected comprehensively by a party aiming to govern in six months. It claims that Labour has become alienated from virtually the entire electorate. Our response to date has been ineffective. Here are some suggestions for how we may succeed in future. Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. We should take heed and refuse to be cowed by something as illusory as a […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour consider selling off central London buildings to help pay off debts

    Labour consider selling off central London buildings to help pay off debts

    The Labour leadership say they would consider selling off QEII Conference Centre and the Civil Service Club – alongside two other buildings in London – to help pay off the country’s debt. They say they selling off these government-owned buildings could raise up to £100m, and would be part of a “fairer way” of reducing the deficit. Alongside selling off the QEII conference centre and the Civil Service Club, Labour are also thinking about selling Marlborough House, which is near Buckingham […]

    Read more →