Dear Angela Eagle MP:
I write to you as a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party. I have not always voted Labour, but this has largely been irrelevant: under the FPTP system, my votes have been meaningless since the constituencies where I’ve lived have been 50%+ Conservative. But in April 2015 I joined the Party, convinced by Ed Miliband that it was again a party that genuinely stood for something worth standing for – and in Jeremy Corbyn, I saw someone who would fulfil that project to the best and fullest extent. I also write to you as someone who backed your bid for the Deputy Leadership in the 2015 leadership elections: again, that was not to be, but still, I gave you my 1st preference vote.
You have announced that you will make a challenge for Leader of the Labour Party on Monday. You have promised (or threatened; it’s not clear which) to do so several times, but always dependent upon whether Jeremy Corbyn would resign: if he didn’t, then you would challenge him. Frankly, it has started to grow wearisome and even laughable. Mr Corbyn has made his position clear: he was elected with a clear democratic mandate to lead, and that he will not betray the trust of the members who voted for him by resigning. Had you the leadership you claim he lacks, you would have accepted that the first time he said it and not dragged out this farce any longer than necessary. You would not have repeated yourself but carried through on your actions.
Instead, you have timidly failed to act decisively but seemed to beg and plead with him to spare you the decision. I find it hard to take you seriously now that you are no longer making your threat conditional, since you have not said “I have made a leadership challenge”, but still, “I am going to…” Perhaps you will back down at the last minute and decline to challenge, as we have seen others do in our rival party the Conservatives in recent weeks?
As I said in my opening, I backed you for the Deputy Leadership, and placed your name as my first preference. Tom Watson, the eventual winner, was the name touted by my fellow leftwing members but I thought I saw something in you, in your voting record in Parliament, and in your words in Hansard and in your election literature, that would make a good deputy to Mr Corbyn and a principled, honest worker for the party. In five or ten years time, I even envisaged voting for you as leader, perhaps.
None of that will happen now.
I want you to understand how deeply betrayed and disappointed I feel by your conduct in the past two weeks. I want you to understand, I thought you were one of the good guys, the people who believed in the Labour Party and its membership, the people who stood for decency and honesty.
You have proved me wrong on all these counts. You have joined in – maybe even played a leading role in, an unconscionable and despicable display of viciousness, cruelty and calumny aimed at painting a man of towering decency, honesty and principle as being the exact opposite of those things. You have listened to the poisonous lies of men and women who have sought to undermine and destroy him from before he was elected, who promised us that this challenge to his leadership was coming if we, the membership, the sovereign body of the Labour Party, dared ignore the powers that be and choose a leader who represents us. You have now put yourself up as their challenger. (Perhaps just a stalking horse? Have you considered that they may just be using you, and will show you no more kindness than they have your target?)
I was born less than a year before Margaret Thatcher took power in this country. I grew up in a labour-supporting household, my parents took me on CND marches, and on motorcades supporting the local Labour candidates. I grew up expecting to vote labour all my life. The first ever election I could vote in was 1997: a great day in the Labour Party’s history. I voted Labour. Of course I did. In my youth, I confess I would go to SWSS meetings a university, even sometimes campaigning with them.
I had never expected that my first protest march as an adult would be against the Labour Party, but it was: I marched against tuition fees introduced by Tony Blair’s government. That year, and for years afterwards, I would hear people saying, “This isn’t what I voted for when I voted Labour”. And it wasn’t what I’d voted for either. The Labour Party I believed in, that I grew up supporting, had ceased to exist. The Labour Party had turned its back on me, and on its core support.
That is why I was so excited when, last year, I found myself believing in a Labour leader again (Mr Miliband). It’s why I was excited to find that there was a leftwing candidate in the leadership election after Mr Miliband resigned. It’s why I was proud to vote for Mr Corbyn.
Unlike many of my leftwing fellow travellers, I do not believe now is the right time to scrap our nuclear deterrent. I disagree with Mr Corbyn on other points too. But he is the leader I want, and he is the leader that stands for the culture in the Labour Party that I want. He is the leader who sets the social and economic priorities that I want to see. He is the leader who makes me feel like the Labour Party stands for me.
Let me remind you of the text that appears on every Labour Party member’s card.
The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
Granted, as an old leftie, I prefer the original version, but this is our statement of goals and aims, and what the Labour Party should be about.
The attempts in the past two weeks to remove Mr Corbyn from the leadership betray every aspect of this statement. You, by saying you will stand against him, are setting yourself against not just the Labour Party membership, but against its principles and its history, too.
The PLP are without doubt “the few” and are now actively engaged in trying to wrest power from the hands of the many (the Labour Party membership) by means of an anti-democratic coup that sought to force Mr Corbyn to reject his democratic mandate and resign without a fight, ignoring the wishes of the Party. You, as part of this movement in the PLP, have sought to keep the power and opportunity for yourself and deny it to the many. If you win, the Labour Party can claim to be democratic only in the sense that the German Democratic Republic did. If you win, the Labour Party can no longer claim to stand for a society in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.
Furthermore, the rights you and your colleagues enjoy in the PLP reflect the duties you owe not just to the party’s membership, but to the entire country as members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, duties that by launching this coup against Mr Corbyn’s leadership, you have abjectly failed in. At a time when the government has been in crisis due to the Rt Hon David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum, you should have been entirely focussed on tearing apart their lies and their betrayal of the country, not hatching your own plots.
You have betrayed everything. Mr Corbyn has done nothing to damage the Labour Party. Your fellow coup plotters have done all of this by yourselves. Once, I might have supported you as a future leader but the past two weeks have shown me what sort of person you are, and you are not someone I could ever wish to lead my party or my country. I wrote that with Ed Miliband I felt like I had my party back again after nearly 20 years of feeling that it had turned its back on me. I do not want to lose it again so soon, but if you should win, then that is precisely what will have happened.
You, and not Mr Corbyn, are destroying the party I always loved, even when it didn’t love me.