Wednesday 17 May 2017

Fight Hard To Win

Yes, I have waited my entire adult life for this Labour manifesto. Yes, I do want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister instead of Theresa May, and I question the credibility of anyone who will not say that while professing to oppose British intervention on the Islamist side in Syria. And no, I am not at all impressed at, by or with the manifesto that has today been published by the Liberal Democrats. But we elect individual Members of Parliament in this country.

What I am about to say would never have been necessary if anyone had listened to me, instead of to people who had spent their political lives on the fringes, or in other parts of the country, or both, rather than as the Secretary of Derwentside District Labour Party, as a long-serving Lanchester Parish Councillor, as a governor for a cumulative 16 years of two schools in Lanchester (one of them serving almost the entire Derwentside area), as a subagent who had secured Labour an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in what was then still a traditionally Conservative ward, and now as a governor of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

I told them that it was not only reasonable, but morally and politically obligatory, to call for the election of no Labour candidate whatever to Durham County Council on 4th May. And then, what? A Cabinet position for every non-Labour Group and for those of no Group, with the numbers made up based on their relative size. The same for Scrutiny Chairs, obviously never mirroring the portfolios of their respective partisans. And representation on each committee and subcommittee in proportion to their numbers on the authority as a whole.

If they had paid any attention and run with "Anyone But Labour", then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council, as very nearly happened, and we would now be dealing with whatever had come after that, made up as it would have been of our stalwart friends and allies. In which case, it would have been possible to advocate a Labour vote without complication at the forthcoming General Election.

Instead, though, with the Labour Party in County Durham still unpunished, and with my impending show trial (a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths") to add to its long list of offences, Grahame Morris is the only Labour parliamentary candidate who deserves a vote. Indeed, he more than richly deserves it.

There is no reason to begrudge the Conservatives their victories at Bishop Auckland and at Sedgefield. What would they make any worse? They are as welcome to those seats as they are to the ones that they are also going to take from the SNP, which deserves to lose to "the TOR-ies!" as surely as does the Labour Party in County Durham.

In City of Durham, and in North Durham, make a judgement based on your local knowledge. Here in North West Durham, consider that only Owen Temple had an address in this constituency two weeks ago, and that he is tied with Alex Watson as the County Councillor who has done the most for the Teaching Assistants.

Is there still a Constituency Labour Party here in North West Durham? If so, then what is it for? What is the point of a CLP that had no say whatever on the selection of the parliamentary candidate? The one whom the Labour Party has imposed here clearly intends to stay for 35 years. The CLP nominated Ed Miliband in 2010, Andy Burnham is 2015, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. But there is Left and there is Left. Even were she to be elected, then Laura Pidcock's Marxism, her radical feminism, and her anti-Catholic zealotry would be the road to deselection before 2022. After all, the CLP was never asked whether it wanted her in the first place.

North West Durham is a well-known psephological anomaly that has baffled the boffins for most of its history. Nothing about it suggests a safe Labour seat apart from the fact that it is one, or that it has been one, more or less, up to know. It really ought not to be one, and it is regularly pointed out as an oddity. People who grew up Amish mostly think that the Amish are normal. But they are not.

This ought to be a seat that all three parties felt the need to fight hard to win, not one that a single party could give as a coming out present to a debutante. A debutante, moreover, who walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally because a speaker, from this constituency, had dared to propose exactly the right electoral approach.

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