Why we shouldn’t leave the Labour Party

JVL Introduction

Jeremy Gilbert understands why so many socialists are fed up with the Labour Party and want little if anything more to do with it.

Here, in the latest issue of Momentum’s Educator, he looks closely at the role of the Party and its present leadership.

He argues strongly that, despite everything, to leave would be “a catastrophic mistake”.

“[I]n an electoral system like ours, the Labour Party isn’t the team; it’s the very pitch upon which the game is played. To leave the party is not to make an effective point of principle: it is merely to concede the entire match to the opposition.”

He recommends a strategy of “stay and sulk”!

Just don’t give up your party card which is exactly what they’re trying to get you to do.

This article was originally published by Momentum on Thu 16 Dec 2021. Read the original here.

Why we shouldn't leave the Labour Party

⬤ Don’t Think Like a Liberal

Last month, the current Labour leadership declared that the party is opposed to the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement, which aims to pressure the Israeli government into ending its illegal treatment of Palestinians using tactics comparable to the international boycotts against apartheid in South Africa. This is despite the fact that a vast majority of Labour members, and even a large majority of those who voted for Keir Starmer as party leader, supported BDS, the last time they were polled on the subject in March of this year.

It’s easy to see why this might prompt still more members to leave the party, as hundreds of thousands have done over the past year. It is shocking to hear the leadership declare the party opposed to a political campaign that is not even socialist in inspiration, but simply represents a mainstream liberal commitment to international human rights. It is understandable that many of us might reply: “In that case, I can no longer be a member of the Labour Party.”

It is understandable; but such a reaction would be a catastrophic mistake. It expresses an attitude to politics and political belonging that is certainly widespread in our culture. But this attitude is incompatible with any kind of strategy to advance socialist or progressive projects in the real world.

These comments will shock many readers, but there is no point beating around the bush. If you think that the primary reason for being, or not being a member of the Labour Party is because you either support its current programme, or identify with its current leaders, then you are not thinking like a socialist. Instead, you are thinking like a liberal: working with a conception of politics which is basically the same as that of the elite professionals who staff our more progressive newspapers, the office of the Leader of the Opposition, and the PR departments of some of our more enlightened corporations. At the same time, you are making a fundamental philosophical mistake. You are thinking of the Labour Party like a football team that you support, but might stop supporting. But in an electoral system like ours, the Labour Party isn’t the team; it’s the very pitch upon which the game is played. To leave the party is not to make an effective point of principle: it is merely to concede the entire match to the opposition.

⬤ Don’t Give Your Enemies What They Want

Let me spell this out. Keir Starmer wants you to leave the Labour Party. He wants me to leave the Labour Party. If we leave the Labour Party, then we are giving him what he wants.

Keir Starmer has explicitly and deliberately made himself the political enemy of anyone who is even vaguely on the left of the Labour Party, and it is a pretty basic principle of political strategy that we don’t give our enemies what they want unless we are forced to do so. The fact that so many have been giving it to him so willingly, entirely playing into the hands of the organised Right, is a tragedy for the left, for our movement, and for our country.

When I’ve made this point to various friends and comrades over the past year, many of them simply cannot believe it. They can’t believe that it is really true that the party leadership and bureaucracy actively want members to leave the party. They imagine that by leaving the party, they have somehow inflicted a punishment upon it.

But, in fact, the opposite is true. To anyone who had any direct contact with them, or has read the Labour Leaks reporting, it has been obvious since early in the summer of 2015 that many right-wing Labour members, elected representatives, officers and bureaucrats have always seen the influx of new members from 2015 onwards as a threat, not as an asset. Of course declining membership puts pressure on party finances. But for the organised right within the party (Progress, Labour First, and the various networks of councillors, MPs, and party officials that they connect), the perceived threat to their power (and, in many cases, their jobs) from a left-wing membership has always been a far more important issue than the short-term question of subscription income, which historically they have always sought to supplement with donations from wealthy individuals. Please don’t be in any doubt that left-wing members leaving the party is precisely what they want. That’s why they’ve sought to suspend and exclude so many of us through the extraordinary over-use of groundless charges and investigations.

⬤ Solidarity or Moralism?

It is perfectly understandable and – on the face of it – laudable, that many of us have felt the need to resign in protest from an organisation whose leadership has carried on in this way, expressing our sense of solidarity with Corbyn himself (from whom the Labour whip remains withdrawn, for the flimsiest of reasons), and with the many ordinary members who have been treated as egregiously as he has. Unfortunately, this is not a political response to the situation. It is a moral, and moralistic response, which will do nothing to remedy the situation that it is protesting, while actually making it more likely that that situation will continue. It is a response that prioritises the moral sentiments of one individual – the member who leaves the party – over their responsibility to a collective movement. As party members, we retain the right to – for example – vote for left-wing members of the National Executive Committee. There can be absolutely no question that if we had done better in the most recent NEC elections, then fewer suspensions would be happening now. There can also be little question that if we had done worse in those elections – in which we topped the poll, but not enough to sweep the board of NEC delegates – then more suspensions would now be taking place. It simply stands to reason that the more of us who leave, the worse we will do in the next set of NEC elections, and the easier it will be for still further suspensions to be carried out.

Leaving the party might make an individual feel better, but it will make both them and the movement collectively weaker. Pursuing an individual sense of self-worth over any meaningful strategy to build collective power is exactly what bourgeois, liberal ideology trains us to do throughout our lives: through competitive schooling, a highly fragmented and competitive labour market, and the perpetually seductive machinery of consumer culture. It’s unsurprising, then, that it comes so naturally to most of us to think about our own sense of individual self-worth more clearly than we think about our place in a collective movement. But this is a mental habit that we simply have to unlearn if we want to be effective contributors to a collective political movement for socialism.

⬤ What Kind of Thing is the Labour Party?

Deciding to leave the Labour Party – or stay in for that matter – based upon whether you agree or disagree with the current leadership is in my opinion not the best way to look at your membership of the Party. In an electoral system like ours, mass parties such as the Labour Party are not, and cannot be, ideologically coherent organisations, whose constituent members and organisations are all committed to a unified set of aims and principles. The only way a party can hope to form a government under our system is by winning a plurality of votes in a majority of constituencies, which inevitably requires such a party to span a wide spectrum of political opinion. Inevitably, this will result in internal conflicts, and a situation in which different political tendencies will have to fight it out for supremacy within parties, as well as political contestation taking place between parties.

The Labour Party is, and always has been, a highly complex federation of local parties, trade unions, affiliated organisations, elected representatives, individual members, which contains within it a number of different – and, at times, incompatible – political traditions. Of course, many people joined the party between 2015 and 2019 hoping that Jeremy Corbyn could transform the party into an ideologically uniform vehicle for socialism. In many cases, people were shocked and disappointed to realise that in fact, the party was a messy, complicated organisation that had been dominated by its right wing since the 1980s, and which often felt and behaved like an organisation that had been dominated by its right wing since the 1980s. One thing for sure is that leaving the party is not going to stop it looking, feeling and behaving like an organisation that has been dominated by its right wing since the 1980s. The only thing that is likely to change that is enough left-wingers remaining inside the Party to do something about it. And five years was never going to be long enough for that.

⬤ Living on the Frontline

A key feature of our political situation today is this. Unlike in many other countries, the key fault line between political progressives and their opponents in Britain cannot be simply mapped onto the difference between different political parties: rather this fault line runs through a number of parties, most importantly Labour. There are members of the Green Party, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and even the Liberal Democrats who share the general aspiration of most Labour members for a society in which the very rich are less powerful than they are now, and the rest of us are collectively that much stronger. There are also members, officials and representatives of all those parties – but especially the Labour Party – who are committed to carrying on capitalist business as usual: perhaps making some reforms to improve the condition of the poor or of various oppressed social groups, but opposed to any change that would really alter the balance of social power. As such, the frontline of the struggle between progressives (including socialists) and their opponents cannot be conveniently found at the boundary separating one party from another: rather, it runs though these parties, and especially through the Labour Party. Those who are not willing to carry on that fight within Labour (or one of the other parties that I’ve mentioned), are simply absenting themselves from the frontline of political struggle altogether.

There was a prevalent view within our movement that simply electing Jeremy as party leader, and then as Prime Minister, would prove to be a simple and straightforward route to radical social change, without having to worry about the messy, dangerous complexity of institutions like the Labour Party – or indeed, the British state. Of course, many of us thought it was never going to be that easy. We knew that we’d have to fight for Jeremy’s programme inside the party, and that even if – by some miracle – he became Prime Minister, than we’d find ourselves in an all-out war with a range of institutions – from the BBC to the Civil Service to the City of London – all of which would have opposed his programme and all of which would have required radical reform and reinvention as part of our agenda. We knew that systemic social change would require more than just changing the face at the top: even if that face was Jeremy’s. Unfortunately, I think a large number of people were always hoping that changing that face might be all we had to do.

It is understandable that so many people were enthused by their direct identification with Jeremy Corbyn as an individual. He is an incredibly admirable individual, and if all politicians were like him then maybe we wouldn’t need to radically change our systems of government. But, at the end of the day, socialists should not base their politics on identification with individuals: that’s for liberals and followers of demagogues. Socialism is a collective project requiring a degree of collective discipline – including the discipline of enduring defeats without simply giving up the fight.

⬤ The Labour Party Isn’t a Person

One of the remarks that one often hears from those who have left the party, is that they cannot remain a member because of things that Labour is doing – whether that’s treating Jeremy Corbyn badly, or taking reactionary positions on BDS. My reaction to this is pretty simple. It isn’t actually ‘The Labour Party’ doing those things: it is only certain members of the Labour Party who are doing them. It’s David Evans, Keir Starmer, and their lackeys who are doing them. To conflate these people, and the networks of power that they currently control, with the Labour Party as such, is misguided.

The Labour Party isn’t a person who does things and makes statements that we can agree or disagree with. It’s a complex, often contradictory terrain of struggle. To leave the Party on the basis of the actions of the current leadership is, I believe, insulting to Labour members, including our best MPs, who continue to struggle every day to advocate for and support different positions to those advocated by Evans and Starmer. What kind of solidarity are we showing with Zarah Sultana, John Trickett, Nadia Whittome or Clive Lewis if we simply abandon them to their fate? What kind of revenge do we imagine we are actually wreaking on our enemies by simply leaving them stronger than ever, and more able to marginalise those voices?

⬤ Stay and Sulk

Of course, when presented with arguments such as I am making here, many members will understandably express their great frustration at the many hours they have devoted to political activism in and for the party, and the hideous hostility that they have faced from the right-wing, locally and nationally. Here, I think it is necessary to clarify exactly what I’m arguing for.

I don’t by any means regard it as a necessary duty to carry on political work in or for the party, under circumstances where doing so is obviously futile at a given moment. In fact I think that the strategy of direct engagement with local parties that many local Momentum branches has undertaken since 2015 has often been fairly futile, especially in constituencies with a sitting right-wing Labour MP, who is generally able to use the local party machinery to contain and neutralise any kind of democratic insurgency from the Left. In retrospect, in such localities, we probably should have been building autonomous organisations for political education, occasional campaigning and general cadre-building, rather than dragging new members with us to dispiriting and tedious branch and constituency meetings. In other localities, however, the attempt to build power within local party structures has been extremely fruitful, and it is imperative that we try to defend those gains that have been made.

Every member – or, more usefully, every local Momentum group – will have to make their own judgements about what is feasible and useful in their own local situation. But it is a terrible mistake to imagine that the only choice we have is either to ‘stay and fight’ with every sinew for a vigorous Corbynite position within the party, or to resign our membership altogether. Under circumstances where we can’t do useful activism through the party, the intelligent, strategic thing for us to do is to retain our memberships so that we can at least vote in the various internal elections – to the NEC, for local party officers, or whatever – which the right are desperate to deter us from voting in.

Friends and comrades, under such circumstances, allow me to recommend to you the strategy of ‘stay and sulk.’ By all means, withdraw from active party work if it is proving nothing but a source of frustration. But don’t give up your party card: that’s exactly what they’re trying to get you to do.

⬤ Why Be a Labour Member At All?

I understand that many people feel that they have had to leave the party because they have been hurt and abused by the party. But let me reiterate: it isn’t the party that has hurt and abused them, but certain people within it, who always wanted them to leave. If nothing else motivates comrades to stay in the party or to rejoin the party – which we desperately need many of them to do – then it should simply be this. Yes, it is true that the right-wing hate and despise us. So let us hate and despise them back. We should stay, or even rejoin, because that is exactly what they don’t want us to do.

Ultimately, in a political system like ours, there are only two good reasons to be a member of the Labour Party: because you recognise that no other party apart from the Conservatives can form a government, and that a Labour government will always be preferable to a Tory one. As long as those two facts are true, it makes no sense to leave. Being a party member does not preclude any of us from engaging in whatever other forms of activity we consider useful or find inspiring; from union and community organising to direct-action campaigning of various kinds. It need not oblige us to attend meetings dominated by tedious right-wingers. It does not preclude us from taking positions which are different from those of any current leadership, on issues ranging from BDS to the nationalisation of our railways.

Our attitude to the Labour Party should not be one of either love or hate. It shouldn’t be one of close identification or violent revulsion. Its existence is a fact of political life on the British left. Of course we also need organisations to belong to which do match up closely with our personal values and political aims, which we can identify with because we wholeheartedly agree with them. But that’s exactly why Momentum exists and remains important. The Labour Party is a very different kind of thing, and we would all do well to remember that.

Comments (44)

  • Marc says:

    All very well but what can you do if you are expelled? I suppose the answer is to delete your social media accounts and stop making any left-wing comments on anything and just sit it out like many of did in the Blair years but at least we could still be fairly active then and I’m not sure that will work now. It may be best to leave now to keep one’s integrity, sanity and standing and rejoin when the coast is clear.

  • Steve Mckenzie says:

    Put you Labour party card in your back pocket and concentrate on the union work, someone once told me.
    Best advice I’ve had
    Its really not rocket science

  • Joseph Hannigan says:

    Or start a new Party…again. Oh dear, that one may have a Right wing too. Well, we can start another Party…. As Keynes said “In the long run we are all dead!”

  • JackT says:

    I completely agree with Jeremy Gilbert. I am an expelled member from Starmer’s Party who would not have left voluntarily. I would have preferred to have stayed in the Party in solidarity with my Socialist comrades. However, Starmer’s Party is NOT the Labour Party. Starmer is a squatter, an imposter who has taken over our house using lies and subterfuge. He has inserted his racist, right wing views, on behalf of apartheid, racist Israel, into the front room of our house. He does not agree nor comply with the basis of Socialism and will very soon strike the definition ‘Democratic Socialist Party’ from the membership card. Those in the Party who support Starmer are either in league with him or are so weak that they are merely padding to be sat on. I wonder how many of those who have left in understandable disgust, instead of staying in and doing whatever they can to get the truth out about Starmer, regret it? One thing is certain, if Labour under Starmer manages get into power, his government, just like Blair’s, will not be a government of which any Socialist can be proud.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    Why can wenot send stammer and co autoexclusion letters, and whilst we are at it to all the pink tories within the party.
    People seem to always go on about the broad church, but for me it does not exist. How can you call a party socialist if you have totally opposed rightwing groups in it?

  • Dr Agnes Kory says:

    Whether one leaves or continues to fight from within depends partly on location.
    In my CLP all arguments are shut down (literally, you get muted on Zoom), motions are disallowed, and so on. Our best comrades have been expelled and suspended, voting on any issue brings the inevitable right-wing result.
    I tried my all within but by now I am only a facilitator/enabler (of what we stand against) by virtue of paying my membership fee while fully silenced.

  • Dave Postles says:

    Too late. I left when all four leadership candidates accepted all the BoD’s demands, including ignoring ‘fringe’ Jews like JVL. My decision has only been confirmed in my mind by subsequent activities. You cannot be an active Socialist in the Labour Party. I’ve canvassed my union (Unite) to reduce funding. That’s how hurt some of us feel about the great betrayal. I cannot forgive, for example, the expulsion of Ian Hodson.

  • Strong arguments and, as someone who joined and left with Corbyn’s leadership, almost convincing. One of the two arguments for being a Labour member, the article states, is the belief that ‘a Labour government will always be preferable to a Tory one.’ Perhaps I am prejudiced by my antipathy for Starmer, but I don’t feel able to vote for Labour while he is in charge (as I couldn’t while Blair was leader). It seems like a contradiction to be a member of a party you won’t vote for . . .

  • Philip Ward says:

    The long and the short of it is this: Corbyn was the first and the last time an anti-imperialist would be elected leader of the Labour Party. Having allowed it to happen once, the forces of the establishment inside and outside the LP – along with the “security” services are not going to make the same mistake again.

    The experience of Europe and Latin America in the last 20 years shows that it is possible to build mass parties to the left of the centre-social democratic ones, usually when an established but respected well-known politician breaks from these parties. Yes, the electoral system makes it more difficult in England, but it is not impossible and this difficulty should be a spur to grass roots organising and building in communities.

  • Martin Davidson says:

    A comment from a friend, who used to be an LP member but decided it was not fit for purpose some decades ago:
    Reads like a middle-aged cancer patient with T-4 levels and multiple metastasis saying “going to keep living until I get my telegram because otherwise the cancer will win”.

  • Microbe says:

    Pardon? What on earth has one just read…? Momentum touted for Keir Starmer as the new Labour leader. How out of touch can you be when the nation voted to leave the EU and then Momentum and the PLP popped the former pro-EU opposition Brexit Secretary Starmer into the Labour leadership? ‘Out Of Touch’ across the board ~ aye?

  • bob cannell says:

    ‘Stay and sulk’ that’s what I’m doing. Looking forward to the day I can vote against Starmer and his cronies. Even Kinnock was better than this! I’ll support local candidates with a social conscience and avoid those who are merely ambitious but no more than that.
    And get on with direct action campaigning. It’s more fun than LP meetings anyway.

  • Jo Bird says:

    When rules are retrospective and players foul without penalty, many fans leave in disgust and support local teams playing on other pitches.

    Because integrity is important too, for individuals, our movement and voters. That’s partly why political parties discipline their elected representatives to actively vote for unjust policies that worsen privatisation, poverty, inequality and violent aggression against people and planet.

    There are competing political and election strategies on offer:
    1. Seek Paid Positions of Power and vote with the establishment
    2. Keep Your Head Down and do as you’re told
    3. Stay and Sulk to vote in Labour s/elections
    4. Watch and Wait, for affiliated trade unions to change Labour’s direction
    5. Speak and tweet for left-wing policies, show solidarity with socialists, make them discipline you
    6. Stand for Election, win hearts minds and votes of the public

  • Stephen Flaherty says:

    To me, the key point in Mr Gilbert’s article is the following:

    “…But in an electoral system like ours, the Labour Party isn’t the team; it’s the very pitch upon which the game is played. To leave the party is not to make an effective point of principle: it is merely to concede the entire match to the opposition….”

    And the key part of that is “in an Electoral System like ours”, i.e. FPTP. This isn’t to say that everything would be wonderful under PR – far from it, I’m sure people could find a European country that has problems (not Belarus, though – our sister country, the only other one in Europe that uses FPTP to “elect” its government – but there are others). But the specific problems identified by Mr Gilbert in the quote above and the article in general would either not apply or be greatly alleviated under PR. Just ask the Spaniards who formed and voted for Podemos, now a member of Spain’s governing coalition, alongside the Partido Socialiste that they split from. (We should perhaps also note that the Partido Socialiste has become a little more left wing as a reaction to Podemos’ success).

    Phillip Ward seems to agree as he says “Yes, the electoral system makes it more difficult in England, but it is not impossible” (in reference to founding a new left wing party). On that we’re in agreement, but I imagine we differ about the scale of the difficulty. Essentially, I consider that it would be much easier to change the electoral system first then build this party afterwards. And, in saying that, I’m under no illusion about how hard it will be to change the electoral system. Or that this requires staying a member of the Labour party, at least till then (sometimes I think it’s the only reason I’m still there, especially as events like the BDS declaration seem to come along every week now.)

    But that’s just me beating the same drum I always beat. PR Now!

  • Rory O'Kelly says:

    The crucial point is that Starmer and his allies actively want members who do not agree with him to leave the Labour Party. This illustrates the difference between a political party and a sect. A genuine party will contain people with a range of different opinions whereas in a sect agreement with the leader is a condition of membership. Historically there have been many examples of sects trying to turn into parties, usually unsuccessfully. Starmer’s vision for Labour would be a perhaps unique example of a party trying to turn itself into a sect.

  • Tim Barlow says:

    I’m staying and sulking, but if Jeremy Corbyn ever heads up a breakaway party, you won’t see me for dust!

  • Connie Jensen says:

    I have hung on and hung on, struggling with some nasty local right wing Councillors as well as Starmer’s Storm Troopers, but the final straw for me was the appalling treatment of Jo Bird by people who should have been her Comrades at the recorded council meeting where they refused to allow her to continue on a local committee – I think it was Housing? My form of sulking was not to formally resign, but to stop my direct debit. They will have to contact me, but even that is a futile gesture I guess. I am in despair!

  • Les Hartop says:

    Jeremy Gilbert’s reasoning rests heavily on the idea that the Labour Party is democratisable.

    I can exist in a party that I disagree with, but not if it’s not possible to change it.

    IF it’s not possible to change it then we have an obligation to undermine it, starve it of oxygen and replace it.

    Yes, the electoral system will make it difficult, to build an alternative.

    But what also makes it doubly hard is the law of physics that seems to exist, which impells the forces that get expelled or repelled from this monolith into a cloud of tiny particles, from which a number of clusters form around a few famous individuals, too many of whom seem to be more attached to their status and control of small organisations than they are attracted to building a single democratic organisation.

    Star personalities may draw people together at first, but without strong democratic processes they are also the seeds of an organisation’s stagnation and disintegration.

  • Alexander Gavin says:

    The two reasons given to be a member of the Labour Party are not real. The first one says that only Labour and Tory’s can form a government, I don’t believe labour will ever be able to form a government as it will never win an election, or has lost nearly all Its Scottish seats and much of its northern England seats. As to the second reason, that a Labour government is preferable to a Tory one. If by some miracle this Labour Party came to power nothing would change for the people as this party has sold out to the plutocrats. I am deeply sorry and unhappy about this.

  • john clark says:

    I joined in 1967 and voted for Jeremy Corbyn both times. He held views that were close to mine and seemed to be promoting good policies. From the start everyone apart from the Left (whoever we are) wanted his removal. The PLP played a key role. Keir Starmer was elected on what we now know to be a false prospectus. Take a long view – there have been many times when a Labour Government did the right thing, although did the wrong thing to. My view in 1967 was that only a Labour Government was worth having, and that being in the Party gave me – and many others – the chance to promote policies that would create a fairer and more just world. I still feel that way although my activist motivation has been dulled. Moving from a safe Labour seat to a safe Tory seat has sharpened my perceptions and so the period of sulking is almost over, even while the leadership behaves so badly. I’m afraid that politics is keep plugging away … with periods of withdrawal. Focus on values not personalities.

  • CVA says:

    I don’t believe a Labour Government with Starmer in N10 is better than a Tory government.
    I see Starmer and his supporters acting as fascists when they use retrospective measures to expel from the Party comrades like Jo Bird, Pam Fiztpatrick, Pete Firmin and many more.
    I am not going to vote Tory, but I am not voting Labour either, no while Starmer still leader.
    It is a question of personal integrity, how can I be a member of a Party that not only I am not going to vote for but will encourage others not to vote for Labour either under the present leadership?

  • Judith Kelman says:

    Brilliant and balanced. Thank you.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    I left the Labour Party when Blair became leader, after many years being a member. I regretted not staying to fight & just walking away. I just did it again with Stasi Starmer (Unity Candidate) because I was @ Hillsborough & he reneged on another of his promises. Now the idea of paying a subscription into his Labour Party causes me to violently react physically in a state of utter revulsion. If the cancer is not cauterised it will continue to destroy Socialism.

  • Les Hartop says:

    Just to follow on from the PR strand of this discussion…

    Full PR would be a mistake unless you devise a system where candidates & MPs could still be selected and deselected by grassroots members (unlikely under Starmer lol).

    With the exception of STV, single transferable vote, PR typically puts control into the London-based so-called ‘elites’ who draw up the lists.

    MPs would typically have jobs as long as they want them, or as long as the ‘elite’ clique allow. We could forget about mandatory re-selection contests, because candidates in PR are not selected locally.

    Control the choice of candidates in a general election, and you control the election… as so many authoritarian governments understand.

  • Chris Main says:

    For me, leaving the Labour Party is about political honesty – establishing a clear line between democratic socialism (which Corbyn represents) and social democracy (which Starmer and majority of the PLP represent), the difference between an inclusive, socialist society and a non-inclusive pro-market, neoliberalist one. The key question is what replaces the Labour Party once people leave. Ken Loach is right to say that this is a touch-stone moment for the left in creating a natural home for socialists which guarantees freedom of discussion and political democracy.

  • ian duncan Kemp says:

    Yes one does wonder what to do /I left LP last yr in disgust at Starmers behaviour re Corbyn. It was devious and unprincipled. I did not vote for him to be leader but like many others felt he would be ok because of the 10 pledges, Than the sacking of Rebeca Long Bailey finished it for me. He is the cooko in the nest and has taken over the LP along with ex Blairites and various rather unpleasant MPs like Streeting Ashurst also Hodge and Mann of cause. Felt that I could not any more support a LP with those sort of people in it.
    Starmers treatment of long term members Jewish Socialists has been a disgrace and proves I was right to leave.
    what hope the future ? I think PR would be a start allowing other parties to start. A new socialist party with union funding would get a head start.
    Also demographic changes. We oldies the over 60s start to die out. The young under 30s become the bigger electoral groups. Generally they are more internationalist are generally better educated and do not ever read the MSM for their information, so big changes are likely to come over the horizon, in the not to distant future. Add to that the climate crises will challenge the wasteful present Capitalist hegemony.
    Am I just being blind or am just a wishful thinker a fantasist.?

  • Chimes says:

    The Labour party serves to just waste the time resources and energy of a clueless left-wing who achieved nothing but a movement based on one person, then went to sleep again after the MSM took him out.
    Corbyn hangs around the party like a slapped kid in the playground wanting to get back in the gang that bullied him, while the left just kneels at this shrine, excluding anyone who doesn’t join in with their doomed bubble-think from having any choice of a serious left-wing option to vote for or support.

  • SB says:

    Sorry. Already cancelled my DD and gone. I have zero interest in Labour success anymore.

    Previously, I have always voted Labour. I am also a Trade Unionist whose family’s roots in the Labour Party stretch right back to the earliest days of the movement in the late 19th Century. An ancestor even stood (unsuccessfully) as the first ever Labour candidate in his home constituency.

    But now, I will not subscribe to, campaign for or even now vote for a party that supports a racist ideology, denies Scots self-determination, is no longer interested in improving the lot of working people and slavishly assists the Tories in their increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic legislation campaign.

    Luckily, I have a genuine Left Wing alternative to vote for- the SNP.

    Perhaps when the Labour Party is bankrupt and Scotland, the Party’s birthplace, has given up on it ever offering anything resembling a Socialist alternative and has walked away, the penny will drop.

  • Emma Tait says:

    Once I have used my vote in the selection for my ward LP candidates, I’m leaving. I am not prepared to carry on paying my fee, keep quiet and sulk. I won’t support New Labour Mark 2.

  • George Wilmers says:

    This piece is such a perfect example of muddled thinking posing as pragmatic objectivity that it would require a whole article to deal with it. For that reason I shall confine myself here to deconstructing just a single point.

    The slogan “Stay and Sulk” is highly disingenuous. A more honest slogan would be

    “Stay and Sulk, Keep Your Mouth Shut Everywhere, Finance Your Opponents, Vote in Rigged Elections, and Betray the Oppressed.”

    A reminder: for every 100,000 people who stay the leaders of the Corporate B Party gain an annual income of about £5 million entirely at their dispel to terrorise us further into silence with their legion of thought police. The truth is Momentum were already collaborating with the Thought Police well before Starmer took office. Do you recall the fate of Jackie Walker, or is it impolite to mention black Jewish unpersons?

    When I joined the Labour Party five years ago, I vowed that I would never allow my membership to repress my expression of my own political beliefs. I have tried hard to keep that vow though it has been hard at times. I have received two NOI’s in three years and fully expect the honour of being expelled very shortly.

    If you are a Labour activist who has never been targeted by the Inquisition, please examine your conscience instead of sulking. The only honourable courses of action are campaigning for what you believe in, or leaving. Sulking is complicity.

  • Michael Wright says:

    It’s a difficult decision to either stay or leave and I respect both positions but I have made mine. I left because I can no longer stomach the LP either nationally or locally. I think the reality is now that of two parties in one and the honest thing (for both right and left) is to separate. There’s also a personal reason for me. I would strongly argue that we have a duty to look after both our own mental health and that of others, and like many I’m exhausted. I may be proved wrong but I think it would help the left to at least examine with an open mind what activism outside the LP might look like.

  • Jennifer Joy-Matthews says:

    Stay and Sulk is one way to deal with the situation but I prefer Lurk and Irk!

  • Alan Calder says:

    Very simple:
    Stay and change from within by good argument and NO abuse.

  • Jem Coady says:

    Why stay? To spite Keir Starmer and BoDoBJ is almost enough in itself but, even under current management, Labour would be preferable to any conceivable form of tory government, let alone this venal crew, and doors need to be knocked.

  • Rose Challands says:


  • Machiela Ward says:

    Weak! The voice for the people must come from the leadership and unfortunately this is not the case and never will be the case under the present of Starmer & Co ( front bench opposition). They have systematically stripped us naked of voice, principles , humanity . The collective usage you mentioned will only be achieved on the outside ; using the political tool to patronise the Labour supporters and it’s member into believing solidarity will weald the power to control the Machiavellian, self serving right wing of the LP is either naive or lack of experience. When I read this article I thought it had been written by Blair . We need something that has a new concrete idea to achieve bringing the present leadership down, not enhance its power further still! I feel proud that people are thinking outside the box every day and refuse to be brainwashed or blackmailed into believing that this is the answer and this patronising article seemed to be talking at the people and not to them.

  • Doug says:

    Cancel D/D but don’t tell them, give them no assistance
    These are the people behind the Forde report, we know they would rather have the worst Tory government than the best Labour government, but we knew this from the A/S Scam
    They are destroying our party in plain sight and I see no resistance, no red lines being set by Unions, members and supporters
    What on earth does the Labour movement stand for that turns a blind eye to the abuse from the leadership
    Where is the challenge going to come from

  • Stephen Flaherty says:

    Les Hartop:

    As you seem to be aware, there are a number of forms of PR. We should, perhaps, concentrate on the two currently being used in this country, as they’re the ones most likely to be used for Westminster.

    Under AMS (Scotland and Wales), there are Constituency MPs (MSPs or AMs, to use the Scottish and Welsh terms, but we’ll stick with MPs) and also Regional MPs. The former make up c. 2/3 of the intake, the latter 1/3. Constituency MPs are chosen like any other Constituency MP, with all the inherent corruption that can entail and the possible parachuting of candidates into safe seats by Head Office that can also follow. Regional MPs are, I believe, chosen at a regional level. This could be democratised, but that depends on the Labour party, of course. However, I would argue there’s only the POTENTIAL of grass-roots democracy under the current arrangements anyway, that it’s more of an ideal than a practice. Certainly under Starmer.

    STV (Used in Ireland, North and South, and in local elections in all three Celtic countries) has multi-seat constituencies/wards, usually 3-5 MPs/Councillors per Constituency/Ward. Again, similar arrangements to what are in place now would likely continue, with a larger constituency.

    (The big difference with STV – and one of the reasons I like it – is that it allows VOTERS a chance to influence the selection of MP/Councillors. Unlike with FPTP, it’s very rare to find a 3-seat Ward/Constituency that will elect all 3 as Labour – 2 Lab and 1 other is more likely. So the voters get to decide which two of the three Labour candidates gets elected. Or, more practically, which one DOESN’T get elected).

    Both of these systems COULD be democratic in the way they select their candidates. And both of them could be abused by a leadership willing to impose its choices on CLPs. Neither seem INHERENTLY more corrupt than current arrangements and STV is arguably very much less so.

    (My personal choice, incidentally, is that we could combine them – have multi-seat constituencies to elect 80-90% of the MPs under STV and then a 10-20% “top-up” of Regional MPs, like AMS).

  • Karen Sudan says:

    All very well. But not all those who have left the Party were those who joined under Corbyn. There have been many of us who spent years (50 in my case) doing exactly as has been suggested in the article.
    The lack of solidarity from those newcomers towards the hundreds of us who have been abused has been breathtaking. Easy to advocate ‘staying and sulking’ when it hasn’t happened to you, and the ‘stayers’ treat you like a pariah for fear of the same thing happening to them. The Labour movement will achieve nothing while cowardice prevails.

  • Mark Sharkey says:

    Just because Starmer wants socialists to leave Labour, doesn’t mean it is the wrong thing to do. even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  • Tony Gill says:

    UK is dominated by two right wing parties, Labour is one of them.
    You cannot call yourself left-wing, or any kind of socialist, if you’re not fighting both of them. And I mean fight, not hang around inside, paying dues, sulking, and vainly hoping the people who run it “might” enact a few crumbs of left policy alongside big wedges of neoliberal privatisation and evil foreign policies. Get out, and attack every right-wing seat in the UK, meaning Tory, Lib Dem and LABOUR.

  • Kuhnberg says:

    I left when my relationship with the party became like a bad marriage. I was no longer allowed to speak my mind on questions of conscience and I saw others with the same views being punished for expressing them. I saw that an ethos that encouraged honest and open debate had morphed into enforced long periods of silence, punctuated by self-serving lies and evasions. I was expected to obey the dictates of a clueless authoritarian and his hapless stooge. Everyone I saw was either cowed and miserable or spitefully triumphant at the public humiliation of the only party leader I have ever admired. To remain in this relationship would have meant surrendering my personality and principles. So I left, and feel all the better for it.

    Will a mass exodus of the left doom the Labour party to defeat at the next general election? I don’t believe the Labour Party under Starmer deserves to form a government, just as it doesn’t deserve my allegiance.

  • vikki says:

    If you think any political party working in the existing system is worthy of support you are naive and misguided. The sooner people realise there is no demoracy and it is all a sham, the sooner we evolve into something just, fair and humane. Leave the Labour Party. Stop voting for anyone. Stop buying crap you do not need. Stop participating in a thoroughly corrupt system.

  • Pat Mitchell says:

    We have less than 10 years to prevent climate change and or nuclear war from destroying life on this planet as we know it. Neither a Tory government, nor a right wing Labour party/government led by Starmer or anyone else of his ilk will do what is necessary to prevent either catastrophe from happening. And because of our electoral system and shenanigans within the Labour Party, that’s all that will be on offer within the time left to us. Unless a new political party is formed which is avowedly socialist and with a genuinely green agenda (the Greens don’t fit the bill). Opinion polls suggest that such a party would be likely to gain considerable support across the population. In the meantime we fiddle as Rome burns.

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