Colin’s illness has prevented him attending tonight and he has asked me to raise a few issues on his behalf. It gives an indication of Colin’s commitment that at this difficult time he is thinking about the Labour Party.
I would like to give you some background to Colin’s thinking. He is entering the last chapter of a long and full life in which politics has never been far away. His relationship with Labour began in the era of Harold Wilson with no internet and just BBC and ITV TV channels. Politicians were respected and party leaders were iconic and charismatic household names.
Colin and I were proud to be among the Labour candidates that 24 years ago took 9 seats on the then Kennet District Council forming the council’s first Labour Group. At the same elections we gained control of Devizes Town Council for the first time with not a Guardian in sight. We should also mention some of the stalwarts of that great election result. Margaret & Ray Taylor, the Late Jim Thorpe and the late Peter Cousins.
The New Labour era when the party moved to the right did what was intended and it won Tory voters but Labour party membership fell to the lowest level since the party was formed. Many people are not aware that during the New Labour period candidates in key seats were selected by the party’s executive without any input from local members. Branches were stopped from submitting motions to the conference and leadership was all top down. This caused bitterness and divisions within the party. To continue Thatcher policy, Council house building was swapped for falsely named “affordable” homes for purchase.
Jeremy Corbyn arrived as leader when morale in the party was at a low ebb. His arrival kindled an interest in the party that has grown to such an extent that Labour is now the biggest party in Europe with more members than all the other political parties in the UK combined and double the members that the Tory party has. It must be noted that Corbyn’s success is in spite of the ongoing opposition of a hard core of New Labour appointed MP’s.
Colin wanted the scene set in this way. It brings me to the 4 points Colin wants put to you.
2 are quite simple. He asks that you Continue delivering paper info for all who needs it as you have done for him.
2 Allow non members to attend meetings to observe what Labour is about.
(3) The removal of Clause 4 of the party’s rules signalled the rise of New Labour. It was generally accepted that the Clause printed on membership cards was somewhat outdated. It called for the public ownership of all services and means of production. But rather than amending the clause it was completely removed as a symbolic gesture. Colin asks that the CLP consider sending a motion to the party’s NEC calling for the reintroduction of a revised Clause 4 to reflect the party’s current direction. I didn’t discuss with Colin how this could be achieved and it is too late for a motion to be submitted for consideration at this years conference. But perhaps at a future meeting you could discuss Colin’s request and if the CLP consider it appropriate a motion could be sent early next year for submission to next years conference. Most members would probably agree now that the return to public ownership of the Railways, utilities etc. is in tune with current Labour thinking.
(4) Lastly Colin asks if all leaflets could include at least a mention of the leader and that local Newsletters to members include details of the Party’s leader and main shadow cabinet.
Colin has, like so many found that Corbyn policies are in tune with his own opinions. This is a new brand of integrity politics. Corbyn represents to people of Colin’s age an embodiment of what socialism means and at the same time offers young people some hope for the future in what are dark times. Corbyn clearly does represent hope and that is what Colin is trying to get across to you. He simply asks that you consider the points he has raised and I am sure that he would greatly appreciate some acknowledgement that the issues will at least be considered.
We are all in the Labour party because we care. We want everyone to have the chance to maximise their potential in this short life that we have. The only way to achieve our goal is for all of us to work together, emphasising the areas where we all agree. Working together was what won us that great election result in Devizes and a positive mindset is the starting point. There is no reason why that result can’t be repeated and the next council elections is the time to do it.
Thanks again for allowing me to speak on Colin’s behalf.
7.30pm Wed 4th July Nursteed Centre SN10 3AF