The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 12 August 2016

End Of The Line

This is the speech I gave to the Winchester CLP yesterday, on the 11th of August. Well, an extended version, I only had three minutes so had to cut a bit of it. This is the director's cut. Of course, with these meetings everyone has already decided how they are going to vote before they turn up, but that's not the point. The point is just to provide people with information, and maybe sow some seeds of doubt that will bear fruit further down the line; so that if Labour does split, or loses in the next general election, people will go 'Hang on, that guy said this would happen, oh god maybe he was right'.

I’m going to be as brief as possible, just by sticking to two points.

I’m not going to detail about policy differences between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn because there aren’t really that many policy differences.

In fact, whenever either of them announces a new policy, five minutes later the other one says “Hey, not fair, that was my idea first!”

But there is one big difference between them.

Owen Smith has said that if he is leader, then, under Labour, the UK will not leave the EU without the public agreeing to the new deal in a referendum.

Which is kind of a good policy whatever you believe.

If you think we’ll get a better deal, then why not put it to the public, and if you think we won’t get a better deal, then this is a good way of stopping it.

On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn has said that if he is leader, he will not oppose the UK leaving the EU.

Whatever deal the Conservatives come up with, he will not oppose it.

No matter how bad it is for British workers, no matter how bad it is for British businesses, for our science, our culture, our economy, no matter how bad it is for the NHS, he will not oppose it.

He is happy to accept the result of a referendum that was based on blatant Conservative lies and UKIP racism. 

With Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Labour’s policy is simply to leave the EU as soon as possible.

Never mind that two thirds of Labour voters voted for us to remain; we are not interested in them.

Never mind that thousands of Labour members campaigned for remain. We are not interested in them.

No. Whatever dodgy deal Theresa May cooks up with Boris and Liam Fox, Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not oppose it.

Now, you might say, but Jeremy is right. We lost the referendum, we should accept the result.

And that is an entirely reasonable view to take. It’s cool. But the point is this.

This was a major change in policy on the biggest issue facing our country. 

So who did Jeremy consult before making this decision?

Did he consult the shadow cabinet? No.

Did he consult the National Policy Forum? No.

Did he consult the parliamentary party? No.

Did he get a vote passed at conference? No.

Did he consult any of you here in this room at all, in any way? No.

And that’s not democracy. That’s not respecting democracy.

You might agree with him, you might disagree, but in the end your opinion doesn’t matter either way, because you were never even asked.

My second point is what this vote will mean for the future of the Labour Party.

There are two options.

Option one. A vote for Jeremy is a vote for the party to continue as it is now. Without enough MPs to provide a functioning opposition.

Because I know one thing. All those MPs who voted that they have no confidence in Jeremy as leader are not going to suddenly gain confidence in him if he wins.  A few of them might decide to return to the shadow cabinet, yes one or two, but not many.

No, no matter how many people vote for Jeremy, the vast majority of Labour MPs will still not have confidence in him because he has made no effort to regain their confidence, he doesn’t seem interested in doing so.

And the threat of deselection or any other form of intimidation isn’t going to change their minds. 

The idea that they will all fall into line behind Jeremy is pure fantasy.

So we will just continue as we are now, with a party that is divided. A party at war with itself. 

I don’t know if the party will split but I do know it will not be united. 

It will not be a functioning opposition.

And we will go into the next election, and we will lose, and we will lose badly, and we will let down every single person who needs a Labour government.

And every single member who voted for Jeremy as leader will bear the responsibility.

In order to illustrate the point, I’ve provided a couple of visual aids. Just to focus minds on the sort of public humiliation we will face.

Or, there is the alternative. Option two.

A vote for Owen Smith will mean, at the very, very least, that we will have a leader that has enough support amongst his MPs to form a shadow cabinet. To provide an effective opposition and to hold the government to account.

And it will be an opposition which is united, which is effective, where every MP from every side of the party is fighting on the same side. Where every member of the party is part of the same team.

That is a Labour party to be proud of.

That is a Labour party that people will vote for.

That is a Labour party that can win seats at the next election and wipe out the Conservatives' wafer-thin majority.

It’s not impossible. We can do it.

But we can only do it with Owen Smith as our leader.

Thank you for listening.

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