It’s hard but I must forgive Labour members who voted for other parties

Chris Vince

I’m not an established name in the Labour Party like Andrew Adonis, nor am I a sitting MEP like Seb Dance. But when I was selected to be second on Labour’s list for the Eastern region in the European elections, it was an honour to be standing along side such recognisable members of the Labour family. The opportunity to stand for the Labour Party and for the first time with a realistic chance of winning was a dream come true, or so I thought. I was in Liverpool for the NEU conference when I was told and I literally walked out of the conference centre feeling ten feet tall.

Sadly, the result wasn’t what he hoped for. Despite campaigning everyday, not only was I not elected, but our wonderful incumbent Alex Mayer lost her seat. I must pay tribute to Alex as a wonderful representative of our region, caring a great deal about every community in it. I know we haven’t seen the last of her.

During the campaign, I came face-to-face with Labour members who were seriously considering voting for other parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens. They probably did end up voting against Labour. There is, of course, the high profile case of Alastair Campbell who has been expelled from the party for admitting that he voted Lib Dem. But I also know friends and comrades in the Eastern region who did the same, frustrated by what they saw as an unclear message from Labour on Brexit.

It’s hard not to take this personally – even with a list system, when people can say they’re not voting Labour rather than not voting for you. And it’s hard not to be angry with Labour members who directly led to a wonderful MEP like Alex, who has a track record of working for them, losing her seat. It’s hard that people who are pro-European didn’t vote Labour while I personally broke cover and signed the Remain Labour pledge, something that will damage my electability in the area I live, where people predominantly vote to leave. I felt I had to do what I thought was right but apparently this still wasn’t enough for some who wanted to ‘send a message’ to the Labour leadership. The only message I got was that you don’t want Labour MEPs.

However, if this party is to move forward and I am to move forward in it, I must try to forgive those people who didn’t vote Labour and understand their decision. My initial plan to screenshot everyone who admitted not voting Labour and send the evidence to compliance has been scrapped, you’ll be pleased to know. Bitterness and resentment isn’t me, it isn’t healthy and it doesn’t help anyone, not least the Labour Party.

Above all, I believe we need Labour representation at all levels. Now that these European elections are over, we must move forward, together as one, and prepare for a general election. The latest results have hit those who stood and lost hard, but we will need to play an integral part in building a campaign that will put Labour into government – and we’ll need those who didn’t support us in these European elections if we’re going to do that.

The results of the European elections are being used to prove whatever point of view you already have on Brexit. With Remainers claiming it shows Remain won (notice how Labour is considered a Remain party in that analysis) and Leavers claiming it shows Leave won.

All these elections show for certain is that our country is divided. Sadly this divide is going to benefit people like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, but it will be terrible for the most vulnerable in our society, whom the next Labour government will seek to represent.  Although Labour’s message of bringing the country together didn’t work in the European elections, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right one moving forward.

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