Ambassador: British democracy is dysfunctional
By Craig Murray: A significant proportion of Labour MPs are actively seeking to cause their own party to do badly in forthcoming local elections, with the aim of damaging the leader of that party. To that end, they have attacked Jeremy Corbyn relentlessly in a six-week crescendo, in parliament and in the entirely neo-liberal owned corporate media, over the Skripal case, over Syria, and over crazy allegations of anti-semitism, again and again and again.
I recall reporting on an Uzbek Presidential election where the “opposition” candidate advised voters to vote for President Karimov. When you have senior Labour MPs including John Woodcock, Jess Phillips, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth carrying on a barrage of attacks on their own leader during a campaign, and openly supporting Government positions, British democracy has become completely dysfunctional. No amount of posing with leaflets in their constituencies will disguise what they are doing, and every Labour activist and trade unionist knows it.
British democracy cannot become functional again until Labour voters have a chance to vote for candidates of their party who are not supporters of the neo-liberal establishment. This can only happen by the removal as Labour candidates of a very large number of Labour MPs.
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That it is “undemocratic” for party members to select their candidates freely at each election, and it is “democratic” for MP’s to have the guaranteed candidacy for forty years irrespective of their behaviour, is a nonsensical argument, but one to which the neo-liberal media fiercely clings as axiomatic.
Meanwhile, in the SNP, all MPs have to put themselves forward to party members equally with other candidates for selection at every election. This seems perfectly normal. Indeed every serious democratic system elects people for a fixed term. Labour members do not elect their constituency chairman for life, so why should they elect their parliamentary candidate for life? Why do we keep having general elections rather than voters elect the MP for life?
Election of parliamentary candidates for life is, in fact, a perfectly ludicrous proposition, but as it is currently vital to attempts to retain undisputed neo-liberal hegemony, anybody who dissents from the idea that candidacy is for life is reviled in the corporate and state media as anti-democratic, whereas the truth is, of course, the precise opposite.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership was a fundamental change in the UK. Previously the choice offered to electors in England and Wales was between two parties with barely distinguishable neo-liberal domestic policies, and barely distinguishable neo-conservative foreign policies. Jeremy Corbyn then erupted onto centre stage from the deepest backbenches, and suddenly democracy appeared to offer people an actual choice.
Except that at the centre of power Jeremy did not in fact command his own party, as its MPs were largely from the carefully vetted Progress camp and deeply wedded to neo-conservative foreign policy, including a deep-seated devotion to the interests of the state of Israel as defined by the Israeli settlers and nationalist wing, and almost as strongly wedded to the economic shibboleths of neo-liberalism.
These Labour MPs were, in general, prepared grudgingly to go along with a slightly more social democratic economic policy, but drew the line absolutely at abandoning the neo-conservative foreign policy of their hero Tony Blair. So pro-USA policy, support for bombings and missiles as “liberal intervention” in a Middle Eastern policy firmly aligned to the interests of Israel and against the Palestinians, and support for nuclear weapons and the promotion of arms industry interests through a new cold war against Russia, are the grounds on which they stand the most firmly against their own party leadership – and members. Over these issues, these Labour MPs will support, including with voting in parliament, the Tories any day.
I have never voted Labour. I come from a philosophical viewpoint of the liberal individualist rather than of working-class solidarity. Labour support for nuclear weapons and other WMD, in the blinkered interest of the members of the General Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union, is one reason that I could not vote Labour. The other is of course that in many cases, if you vote Labour you are very likely to be sending to parliament an individual who will vote with the Tories to escalate the arms race and conduct dangerous and destructive proxy wars in the Middle East.
There is an excellent article on Another Angry Voice which lists the only 18 MPs who were brave enough to vote against Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, which enshrined dog-whistle racism and the hostile environment policy.
Diane Abbott (Labour)
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)
Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru)
Mark Lazarowicz (Labour)
John Leech (Liberal Democrat)
Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru)
Caroline Lucas (Green)
Angus MacNeil (SNP)
Fiona Mactaggart (Labour)
John McDonnell (Labour)
Angus Robertson (SNP)
Dennis Skinner (Labour)
Sarah Teather (Liberal Democrat)
David Ward (Liberal Democrat)
Mike Weir (SNP)
Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)
Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru)
Pete Wishart (SNP)
5 of the 6 SNP MPs stood against this racism (the sixth was absent) and the current leadership of the Labour Party stood alone against the Blairites and Tories in doing so. The Windrush shame should inspire Labour members to deselect every single one of the Red Tories who failed to vote against that Immigration Act. It is also a measure of the appalling shame of the Liberal Democrats, of whom only three of their sixty odd MPs opposed it, and who consigned themselves to the dustbin of history through Nick Clegg’s gross careerism and right-wing principles.
There is more to say though. This vote is testament to the great deal in common which the SNP have with the current Labour leadership (who also personally consistently opposed Trident), as opposed to with the bulk of Labour MPs. Put another way, Corbyn, Abbot and McDonnell have more in common with the SNP than the Blairites. It is also a roll-call of those MPs who have most consistently stood against the appalling slow genocide of the Palestinians. It is astonishing how often that issue is a reliable touchstone of where people stand in modern British politics.
Corbyn’s supporters have slowly gained control of major institutions within the Labour Party. The essential next move is for compulsory re-selection of parliamentary candidates at every election and an organised purge of the Blairites. If the Labour Party does not take that step, I could not in conscience urge anyone to vote for it, even in England, but rather to look very carefully at the actual individual candidates standing and decide who deserves your support.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.