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Mon, 20 May 2024

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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Identifying Labour's problems is as easy as ABC

3 min read

Nine years of Cameron, Clegg and May have sown deep damage to public services and across society. That Labour isn't now romping home in elections is deeply worrying, says Labour MP Neil Coyle.


To say that Labour should be faring better is simply to want Labour to win, as most members and supporters do.

A Labour Government is desperately needed by the people I see in surgeries every week: homeless; needing my emergency foodbank; suffering the hostile environment; and living in neighbourhoods worst affected by the Government's slash and burn attitude to policing. But there appears to be an ABC of Party problems preventing Labour doing better: Anti-semitism, Brexit and Corbyn. 

Those still dismissing the need to tackle anti-semitism in Labour are a fundamental part of the problem. Labour has been unable over three years to shake out the racists or shake off the perception that the leadership do not care about the matter enough to resolve it. Add in wider misogyny and bullying and the perception that discrimination is tacitly tolerated has solidified.

People want to vote positively for our party and cannot when they see former members, ex-councillors and even parliamentarians highlighting persistent anti-semitism and bullying. Voters also know these issues were not endemic under Ed Miliband.  

Labour's "constructive ambiguity" fudge on Brexit has failed. Local election results showed gains for parties seen as more pro-Remain and Labour lost seats after nine years' opposition. The European election results are even worse. In showing voters two faces, we have been slapped in both.

The damage was avoidable; clarity has been sought by colleagues across the party, including those who think a soft Brexit is possible. To abandon our ideals has cost members however, including some of the leader's former supporters who have been some of the earliest casualties in this ultimate test of principle. 

Jeremy Corbyn straddles the whole party's problems. Being present but not involved in tackling anti-semitism and bullying is not good enough as leader, especially not in Labour or for anyone purporting to prioritise human rights and anti-racism. Allegations of over-involvement also abound regarding interference in some cases, with the perception of putting factionalism before the need to uphold Labour values. 

Fighting Brexit could have been a huge strength for Corbyn but the fudge has angered his more idealistic supporters and especially younger members. The man who promised greater membership control of policy in Labour but shut people out on this crucial issue has been judged badly by the thousands of members who have quit, but more importantly, by voters.

The people who suffer most after nine years of Tory/Lib Dem austerity need Labour to address our own problems and win elections. Labour is best when we have an ambitious, bold agenda addressing the immediate problems facing people as well as projecting a positive vision for the future, under a leadership able to attract and retain voters.

Sadly, the local and European elections have shown that the ABC of Labour's problems have contributed to a CBA attitude towards us for too many people in polling stations across the country. 

Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark
 

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