POLITICS: Party must reform

Jean McLaughlin's letter '˜A platform for debate' (News Guardian, September 8) was eloquent testimony to the low level at which political debate is currently conducted.

Sunday, 18th September 2016, 6:17 am

Her first four paragraphs consisted of unpleasant personal sneers at Jeremy Corbyn’s expense, and the last six were a laboured attempt at humour.

This was a pity, as some points she made in the middle of the letter were not without merit.

My respected old acquaintance and former teaching colleague Alan Campbell has thrown his weight behind the leadership candidacy of Owen Smith, has been typically honest and up front about this, and has, in doing so, probably ensured that his political career will mark time until he retires.

I have never met Mary Glindon and so can offer no comment on her presumed support for Mr Corbyn.

In confining her observations to this scoffing, Jean McLaughlin misses two important points.

One is that Mr Corbyn was elected in 2015 by the Labour Party membership (and will be again), and was and is therefore entitled to the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which he has conspicuously failed to enjoy.

He has been ‘bullied’ by the right wing press; this was to be expected. His betrayal in the Commons and elsewhere by his Parliamentary colleagues is a bigger disgrace.

When, as seems probable, his leadership is confirmed again, he should challenge the entire membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party either to work with him towards the 2020 election or resign the Labour Whip.

Winston Churchill, when speaking from the front benches of the Commons, noted that whilst the Opposition is in front of you, your real enemies are behind you.

Should the Labour Party under Mr Corbyn’s renewed leadership go on demonstrating the truth of these words, then it will collapse. Worse, it will have deserved to.

Secondly, Jean McLaughlin’s letter, in using such adjectives as “mediocre”, “unhinged”, “crude”, “inept” and “lunatic”, can be seen as seeking to portray Mr Corbyn as an extremist.

An independent survey of key policies conducted after his first election a year ago showed that a majority of voters, including many Conservatives, supported the re-nationalisation of the railways, that 75 per cent were in favour of a 50 per cent tax rate, 64 per cent would not renew Trident, 59 per cent were in favour of controlled private rents, 60 per cent would welcome the introduction of a mandatory living wage, and 50 per cent would vote for the abolition of university tuition fees.

If Mr Corbyn is an extremist, then his extremism is of a kind which seems to attract substantial public support.

It is 50 years since I first voted Labour, and I have voted Labour at the 12 subsequent elections, albeit at least once, in 2005, with gritted teeth.

But if, in the next parliamentary session, our Parliamentary Labour Party does not sink its differences, unite behind a leader who has been twice confirmed in the post, and get on with reforming itself into a credible government-in-waiting, then Mr Campbell can whistle for my vote in 2020, should I live that long.

John Pearce

Labour Party member