The MP for Wigan on Labour’s troubling summer and how to move forwardsby Alex Dean / November 7, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Labour Party is a deeply tribal place. Corbynites and Blairites have spent years waging a fierce internal war, and over time the feeling has grown that some MPs have fallen prey to group-think, thinking in factions rather than really weighing the arguments for themselves.
You could not make that criticism of Lisa Nandy, who has earned a reputation as one of Westminster’s hardest-working, most independent-minded politicians. Elected as MP for Wigan in 2010, she is frequently touted as a potential future leader.
Her record is not uncontroversial. Despite being on the party’s left, initially supported by Owen Jones, she resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in 2016 and helped to run a rival leadership campaign.
But that does not mean she is a Blairite; the impression is rather that she makes up her own mind. That sense was confirmed last week when she defied the party whip on tax plans in the budget, to roars of criticism from the Twittersphere.
When I caught Nandy on the phone I hoped for an honest assessment of the challenges facing the Labour Party. She pressed the need for unity several times, and I had to push hard to draw any rebuke of her fellow parliamentarians.
We began with the anti-Semitism which engulfed Labour over summer, and came to be seen as a black mark against Jeremy Corbyn and his allies. The Jewish Labour movement called for the suspension of Chris Williamson, who belittled claims of anti-Semitism and supported Pete Willsman’s successful bid for the national executive committee, despite Willsman’s use of anti-Semitic slurs.
Did Nandy think there was a place for MPs like Williamson in Labour? When they first met he was “a good front bencher.” Still, “we can’t allow the party to descend into that. It’s that kind of personal infighting, you know, condoning or endorsing anti-Semitism and action in the end has to be taken.”
“The last few weeks in particular, some of the things that I’ve seen Chris saying have been really unhelpful.” Plenty of commentators think Williamson should go. Nandy preferred to talk about process: “it isn’t my job to act as judge and jury,” but “we need to work together in a much better collaborative spirit, and if people are unable to do that then the party has a responsibility to take action.”
That will grab attention. But Nandy…