Neil Coyle MP: Williamson's Democracy Sideshow will only help the Tories
Our Party has lost 16,000 members in the first quarter of 2018 alone. Clearly Chris Williamson doesn't care about what this means for ending this Tory Government which should be our sole focus after eight years of damage to the fabric of our society, says Neil Coyle MP.
Chris Williamson says Labour MPs should not fear deselection. I do not. I won my open selection in 2013 and my local party has remained strongly united since winning back Bermondsey and Old Southwark in May 2015 after 32 years of the seat being held by a Lib Dem.
Perhaps winning the seat after three decades of losses has kept my local party united. Perhaps having to fight day in, day out, across the whole party in 2015 helped forge the unity that has abounded since. Perhaps the 1,000 volunteers in 2015 (many of who returned in 2017) know the effort it took and remain proud of our collective achievement.
Perhaps my members just care more about the issues affecting local people: housing, policing, reducing poverty. Or perhaps the prospect of losing this and other seats is why most members are disinterested in Williamson's 'democracy sideshow'. Southwark borough has around 5,000 Labour members but Williamson's event got about 1% of that to turn up - and some who did are banned from the party.
In other seats, especially the marginal, perhaps what is 'dangerous' as Williamson himself termed it, is toying with losing personal votes won through casework and support to individual voters that psephologists say do count for something. But people are sick of experts, right?! Williamson seems to think people would rather see Labour fighting itself than for the issues affecting their daily lives.
Arrogance is a term thrown at Blair's Labour but it is the foremost trait amongst those who also so blithely and dismissively assume everyone will keep backing Labour no matter who the candidate. It is contemptuous of the electorate and risks keeping the Tories in power. I spend my time in Parliament working on tackling the damage this Government is doing: on foodbank growth, poverty, the inherent problems of Universal Credit, highlighting rising crime and falling prosecutions as well as seeking solutions to the housing crisis. Williamson's policy contribution to date seems to have been 'women only train carriages'.
Only supremely arrogant MPs ignore their own patch. Williamson chose to spend the summer recess touring the country. He lost the Derby seat in 2015 but seems determined to spend all his time elsewhere seemingly in the vain hope that the people he cheerleads who have been thrown out of the party for abuse and antisemitism will support him for leader when the time comes, even celebrating meeting a woman who suggested my much missed colleague Jo Cox backed Al Qaeda. A bizarre strategy and a vile approach which has led to multiple complaints already.
Many in Labour are nervous of a new party forming. Williamson and those screaming for deselections, and who've been telling moderates to f off since 2015 are endangering Labour's chances of being in Government by putting off candidates and members. Our Party has lost 16,000 members in the first quarter of 2018 alone. Clearly Williamson doesn't care about what this means for ending this Tory Government which should be our sole focus after eight years of damage to the fabric of our society. I find it disheartening that, after eight long years of rising homelessness and rocketing foodbank use, falling police numbers, and the hostile environment Home Office policies, some colleagues spend more time on issues irrelevant to the people worst affected and most in need of a Labour alternative.
But then, let's look at form. For some of us, it isn't a career, it is about values. Some of us don't change our beliefs to suit current party leaders or perceived changes in membership. I used to run a charity helping half a million disabled people and carers a year opposing the then Labour Government's social care and social security policies. At the same time Williamson was in partnership with the Tories to run Derby City Council, outsourcing services to the private sector and cheerleading PFI. Maybe Williamson is more comfortable with the Tories in power than me.
Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark