I’ve decided. I’m leaving New Labour. No longer will I have to worry about the paid officers who now dominate the party, paid they think to keep the lowly members in order. I’ve been a member of a vibrant branch of good comrades with progressive views. Ward boundary changes put paid to all that and I still believe that it was politically motivated. There can be no other explanation for the boundary being driven right through the heart of the ward, Rookery Road. Rick Hatcher was a member who left some time ago now. Rick is well respected for his writings on education with trenchant criticism of New Labour and elitist academies arguing that all schools should be good.. Simon Warren is another well know name who has gone. He research and co-authored a well-respected report on black children’s education. Then there was Raghib Ahsan who fought a heroic battle against racism in the Labour Party. This has still to run its course since Raghib came out on top, but it is being challenged and with end up in the House of Lords. Raghib is a candidate in the local election standing for Respect which now has two councillors in Birmingham. I wish him well. There were many other notable people, some who had been members for half a century. They left without comment. Not a care in the world. New Labour you can’t touch it, yet again and again there are disastrous consequences for the arrogance of those holding power in its name.
I’m not advocating a return to the past, but I first became involved in Labour Party politics in the 1960’s and worked in Cheltenham. In one area I knocked on the door answered by a lady who left the politics to her husband. “I don’t believe in those suffragettes” she says. That was 1964. I went to a meeting in Bristol where Harold Wilson was speaking. None of the stage managed presentations there. Wilson was heckled and expected to be. Walter Wolfgang wouldn’t have had any trouble here. Anyway I’ve left – and I feel an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders.
Here’s my letter of resignation:
West Midlands Regional Organiser
The Labour Party
West Midlands Region
Dear Mr Reilly,
Resignation from the Labour Party M/ship A074957
I am resigning from the Labour Party and enclose my party card. I am just one of a number of long-standing members who have left over the last few years after putting up with contemptuous treatment from paid officials. Many members of Handsworth Wood Ward are angry after being invited to say if they wanted a selection for the Labour Candidate for Handsworth Wood Ward. Your ruling stated that if 20% wanted it, then it would happen.
It is extraordinary that it was thought necessary to ask for a selection process in the first place, since it is to be expected that in a normal functioning democracy it would happen as a matter of course. Only exceptional circumstances would call for an imposition. Unfortunately it appears that paid officers take decision more and more frequently: decisions that should properly be taken by members of the party. As I am on record as saying many decisions taken by paid officers have turned into disaster. In Birmingham you have presided over postal vote fraud. One of Handsworth Wood’s new Labour Councillors crossed the floor to the Tories within 2 years of being elected! This was after you had been warned of his dubious activities. No one has taken responsibility.
However there are other matters in the national arena such as David Blunkett. It is reported that he is now on the payroll of a company bidding for a contract on ID cards, for which he had responsibility at the Home Office. Other senior figures are involved with Tesco’s land grab, and so on.
The privatisation of public services is continually being shown to be returning more to investors than users. Even prisons, overcrowded and full of those who have health needs requiring urgent treatment, are not exempt. That was beyond Thatcher’s wildest dream. It’s certainly beyond mine.
A copy of a petition (incomplete) to the National Executive of the Labour Party was also enclosed. It reads:
Petition to the La West Midlands and National Executive Labour Party.
We, the undersigned, are members of the Handsworth Wood Ward who were invited to say if we wanted a selection for the candidate for the local council elections in Birmingham in May. We understand around 80 people replied out of 130 eligible to vote. Now we are told that a candidate has been imposed. It was the Regional Office that made the 20% ruling which we understood to apply to members eligible to vote. To say that all members should be counted, including those who couldn’t vote is sheer nonsense. We also understand that about half the requests for a selection were discounted. The criteria for this is not known.
We demand our rights within the Labour Party, which we joined as a democratic party, to be able to choose the best candidate. We have absolutely no objection to the favoured candidate standing for selection, rather we are seeking a return to democratic practices and procedures which are fundamental to the Labour Party.