Why are you leaving is no longer the question. It’s why are you staying?by John McTernan / February 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
“Should I stay or should I go?” The challenge of the Clash’s great song rings out across the decades because it crystallises a thought so many people have had in so many differing contexts. Today it is the question that Labour moderates are asking each other after the launch of the new Independent Group of MPs.
Today’s press conference led off with statements by Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie. Heart-stoppingly, Luciana introduced herself as “Labour…” and had to correct herself to saying she was the “MP for Wavertree.”
That habit of speech stood for a lifetime of loyalty and a lingering sense of belonging. And it made Ms Berger’s modern day ‘J’Accuse’ all the more powerful when she said: “I cannot remain in a party that I have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-semitic.”
You could feel the weight of the journey that took her to the conclusion.
All the resignation statements made by this very disparate group—united more by their desperation at the direction of the Labour party than by any shared ideology—were as personal as they were passionate. Above all, they were pained.
This why the angry reactions of Corbynites on social media were misjudged: these MPs are not cowards. Indeed, they may have just made the bravest and most defining act of their political careers. Sorrow rather than anger would have been more becoming of the leadership.
Where does the Labour party go from here? The first thing to note is that this is not a new question: it has been in the mind of all Labour moderates since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader of the party. A leader from the very fringes of the labour movement, one whose politics are alien to post-war tradition of the Labour party, Mr Corbyn’s sweeping an absolute victory was a fundamental break in Labour history—and everything that has happened since then has driven home the point.
Every time he has had a choice, Labour’s leader has confirmed that his ideological roots are who he is. The politics and the project are what they were from the very beginning, and there have been many potential flashpoints and they have not led to any truly serious split within Labour.
Partly, this is…