I have received two emails from you recently and I am disappointed by both of them. Please don’t take this too personally because I still hope that I can have faith in you as my MP (Sheffield Heeley), although I am appalled by what is happening more broadly in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
In the first email dated 3rd July 2016 (attached below), about your statement of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as leader, you say:
“we must have a leadership election, under the quickest possible timescale from which everyone must unite and abide by its result.”
We already did that.
Actually, you did but I didn’t. Because, despite being an associate member at the time, I was purged. I joined as a full member after Corbyn was elected leader (without my help), and I genuinely thought that it was the beginning of a return to proper democratic socialism. However, it seems that democracy and socialism are abundant in the membership but in short supply in the PLP.
I understand that there might be a concern that recently-joined members are joining to influence the result but without holding true to the values of the Labour Party. But charging newly-joined members an extra £25 is grotesquely cynical. I wonder how they are going to purge me this time. Maybe when this letter is published online, that will do the trick.
I know that us “Corbynistas” are often painted by the media as personality-cultists, but I had never even heard of Jeremy Corbyn until he was nominated in the leadership election, and the reason I supported him is that I discovered that there are still MPs in the Labour Party that embody the values that I have.
I was present on 31st March 2016 at the evening meeting where you and John Healey MP (Wentworth & Dearne) spoke at the Harland Café in Sheffield and I was appalled by how Healey finished his speech by imploring us “make sure you vote for us in 2020”. I’m afraid 2020 is going to be too late. MPs like him represent the permanent political class that could not care less if they achieve anything or not, whether or not they are being an effective opposition, as long as they keep their jobs. Even if he does not get re-elected, £74,962 per year (plus expenses) for the next four years is not too shabby when some of the people sleeping rough in Sheffield (or Wentworth and the Dearne) will not survive that long.
I have lived most of my life in this area, but have never seen such levels of homelessness and begging. Vulnerable and disenfrachised people need help now, not in 2020 or 2025, or whenever the Labour Party can manage to get elected again. In the meantime, the London-centric political games within the PLP achieve nothing for these people.
The Labour Party, in coalition with other left-leaning parties, should be pushing for a General Election now.
Your second email (attached below) of 14th July 2016 concerned the Chilcot Report.
I am concerned by the use of the phrase “learn lessons”. We heard that phrase used about the un-prosecuted paedophiles protected by Margaret Thatcher and other government ministers and civil servants. We also heard that phrase being used to excuse MPs for their extravagant expenses claims, rather than prosecuting them for fraud.
Sure, we need to learn lessons, but we have already had every opportunity to learn the lesson about getting involved in interventional foreign wars already. It’s almost as if John Pilger had never spoken about it, or Tony Benn, or Robin Cook, or Jeremy Corbyn.
When are these lessons going to be learned?
I hope your use of that phrase is not a veiled reference to you not supporting any motion in Parliament to condemn and possibly prosecute Tony Blair for his complicity with the United States in their pursuit of war for profit in Iraq. MPs and PMs have an exceptional responsibility due to the influence they exert over the citizens of their own country, as well as a million un-named men, women and children in Iraq, or the desperate refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea to escape US & UK-sponsored anarchy and war in Libya and Syria.
I do not advocate punitive measures for the sake of it, but Blair should be prosecuted, both as punishment and deterrent, for his callous disregard of the consequences of his actions, especially in the light of a protest of millions, and ignoring the now-vindicated counsel within his own party.
British politics is a circus of corruption, greed and incompetence, but these days there seems to be no responsibility taken by those who destroy lives and livelihoods.
I was delighted when you were elected MP for Sheffield Heeley, and that you seemed to support Jeremy Corbyn and traditional left-wring values, and hope you will continue to do so.
We face imminent, catastrophic and existential threats; climate change, the destruction of our ecosystem, unregulated property & financial speculation, and the proliferation of war. We currently have a government whose actions are actively contributing to all of them. The only hope we have is a coalition of the Left, but that requires solidarity within parties and unity between the parties, against the Conservatives. Whilst the PLP is squabbling amongst themselves, the Tories are stealing public property, turning our schools into profit centres for corporations and sending our fellow citizens to kill or be killed in foreign lands.
We can’t wait until 2020, we can’t wait another minute.
Sheffield Heeley CLP – Member L1428585
Email from Louise Haigh – firstname.lastname@example.org – 3/7/16
I’m writing obviously in response to the events of the last 10 days. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve received many hundreds of emails about the current issues in the Labour Party on all sides of the debate, all of which i have taken time to consider very carefully. Over the last week I have resisted all media calls to comment on the deepening crisis; I have always refused to provide a running commentary on internal Labour matters as I believe our grievances should be discussed privately. I appreciate, however, that everyone is very anxious about the current state of affairs and keen to know my thoughts so I want to be completely honest with you about where I think we are now.
Last Friday at our monthly CLP we had a discussion around the EU referendum campaign and the impending motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. Here, in our bit of Sheffield, local members ran a fantastic campaign on Europe but sadly the result was very disappointing. Nationally, I do not believe that Jeremy and his team were particularly committed to the campaign and on some occasions they actively obstructed it but I do not believe we can lay the blame for the vote with Jeremy. My experience in that campaign was of many people in areas such as Arbourthorne, Gleadless Valley and Jordanthorpe who felt alienated and disenfranchised from the political establishment and who voted to Leave. No one person could have turned the tide on that wave of resentment that has been growing in these communities, like so many similar communities around the country, over the last 15-plus years. However, I did make clear at that meeting that I had concerns around the competency of the current leadership and Jeremy’s wider team.
I strongly believe that the motion of no confidence was brought forward at the wrong time – when the country had just taken a huge and potentially catastrophic decision, when the Tories were in meltdown and when we had a very serious job to do as an opposition. However, over the weekend and on Monday the sacking and resignations of so many of the frontbench team left the situation untenable. Consequently, on Tuesday when I was asked ‘do you have confidence in the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn?’ I couldn’t honestly say that I did, as I could not see any way that this situation could continue.
This was an incredibly difficult decision as I have been totally supportive of Jeremy since his election, I voted with him against the Welfare Bill, I oppose the renewal of Trident and I know we need an end to austerity. I have served, and continue to serve, on his front bench and I have only ever been positive in the media and in public about him. Any concerns I’ve had have always been raised privately. Yet now I really believe that we cannot continue as we are. We are currently not able to fulfil the very basic, day-to-day operation as the Official Opposition in Parliament, which now more than ever is vital as we enter Brexit negotiations.
This has been an incredibly hard two weeks. I am so sorry that it has come to this. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the country faces its biggest challenge since World War Two. It is now our duty, first and foremost, to hold the Leave campaign to account and to offer a new radicalism to the British people. And I do not think we are currently capable of that. I completely respect the mandate Jeremy has from the membership, but in order to lead Labour in Westminster he has to have a parliamentary mandate too.
I think it’s right that colleagues currently in the Shadow Cabinet have called for a period of calm so that everyone can take a breath and look at where we are. If there is any way to find a solution, to bring unity and to get on with opposing the government, I will support that. If that doesn’t happen, then we must have a leadership election, under the quickest possible timescale from which everyone must unite and abide by its result.
I just want to reiterate how difficult and unpleasant this has all been. I take absolutely no joy in any of it; I feel desperately sorry that we have all let down those who supported Jeremy, but I am afraid we are now at an impasse and, with a General Election potentially looming, I believe we cannot continue as we currently are.
As ever, please do email or call if you want to raise any further thoughts or suggestions with me.
All the best,
Email from Louise Haigh – email@example.com – 14/7/16
Dear Richard —
Last week the Chilcot Report revealed the scale of the catastrophic mistake which was the Iraq War. For the families of service personnel killed and those injured and for millions of Iraqis the consequences of that war are something they will live with for the rest of their lives.
As a member of our local Party I wanted to write to you following the debate on the report which has just taken place in the House of Commons. For many of us the Iraq War was a bitter moment, one that defined our politics and one that needed answers. Today, in the House of Commons, was a moment for truth.
I was fifteen when we shamefully went to war in Iraq but I remember very clearly the powerlessness I and millions felt as the Prime Minister chose war in the teeth of fierce domestic and international opposition. Some thirteen years later, Chilcot has been very clear that the US were desperate to force regime change and that the UK Government promised in a private memo to follow them “whatever”.
The failure to properly challenge intelligence which was described as “flawed”, the failure to adequately scruitinise the case for war, the failure of the top intelligence committee to even entertain the idea Iraq didn’t have WMD, the failiure to exhaust all diplomatic avenues and the failiure in post-war planning stemmed from that determination to go to war.
Millions who marched in the build-up to war, and our very own Robin Cook who made an historic speech, saw then what we know now. A passage from the speech given by Robin Cook on the 18th March 2003 was telling: “What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.”
What is vital now though is that we learn lessons that are still relevant from this conflict.
That military timetables should not consume the diplomatic avenue, the Cabinet should be properly consulted and the way in which facts and knowledge on the one hand and opinion, judgement and belief on the other are presented should never be allowed to become blurred as the case for war is made.
Above all else what this Inquiry has confirmed is that those voices not backed by the powerful or vested interests have once again been vindicated. While government was taking us to war on “flawed intelligence and assessment” which was not properly challenged, while the media were not adequately scrutinising the case and indeed demonised those who argued against war, millions of people were saying that this was wrong. History has proven that they were right. That is the vital lesson of Chilcot and let’s never forget it.