Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Resignation of Portsmouth Labour Party Chair

The following letter was sent to the Portsmouth Labour Party Executive by Rob Smith. This follows the departure of two (out of three) Labour Party Councillors, Ken Ferrett and John Ferrett. 

I am writing to inform you of my resignation from the Labour Party.

This was an incredibly difficult decision to make and I have agonised over this issue for several months.

I cannot with integrity and conviction remain part of a party led by a leader that I am fundamentally opposed to and will not vote for. It would be plainly ridiculous and dishonest for me to ask people to vote for a party leader and policy agenda that I have no confidence in and cannot unite behind. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has invited a wave of abhorrent and morally repulsive politics into the heart of the Labour Party. Rather than pride and tribalism, I feel repulsion and humiliation for what has become of the Labour Party, I cannot indulge or shelve these concerns for the purpose of unity. We have moved firmly away from the party I loved and believed in.

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the leadership election was compelling and absolute. The membership has clearly spoken and has strengthened Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate for change. The left emboldened by victory now seeks to irreversible change the party and will cast aside the compromise and consensus needed for party unity. It is inconceivable that the membership, now so heavily stacked to the left, will ever allow for a moderate centre ground politician to emerge as party leader. Would past leaders like Atlee, Wilson and Blair, who built electoral victories based on pragmatism and compromise with the electorate, be allowed to take us forward in today’s Labour Party? We risk becoming little more than a protest movement, reactive to and not leading change, and suspiciously viewing power as a compromise of principle. We have moved firmly away from the party I loved and believed in.

I had reflected on the possibility of staying and fighting on, making the case for the party centre ground and waiting for the inevitable failure of the Corbyn leadership. However, open and frank discussion no longer exists in Corbyn’s Labour Party, anything but slavish devotion to the leadership is shouted down and provokes a tirade of zealotry and abuse. In the past, inside Labour’s broad church, differing and opposing opinions could be reconciled because of our shared purpose and mutual respect. When Jeremy Corbyn inevitably loses the general election, the left will not walk away or reflect on where it went wrong, it will blame everyone but its self and redouble its efforts for political purity. This nightmare will not end with the passing of Jeremy Corbyn. I am no John Golding or Neil Kinnock. I have neither the energy or patience to fight a protracted war of attrition against the hard left. I cannot live my life from inside a bunker. Ultimately it all comes down to numbers, and tragically the numbers do not sit with those of us that wish to save the party and move us back to the mainstream.

I leave the Labour Party with happy memories and lasting friendships. I have worked with hugely generous and talented individuals within the local party. Political campaigning and membership asks much of the individual, from wet Saturdays on the doorstep to hours poring over leaflet design, but tribalism and a belief in your cause sustain you in these efforts. The unsung heroes of local politics are our partners and families, without their help and sacrifices so much of what we do would not be possible. I can no longer, saddled with a party leadership and agenda I do not believe in, justify the sacrifices and compromises I have made to my family life.
For those of us that believe in progressive, patriotic, centre grounds politics are only hope of moving forward is with a new party. The temporary truce between the PLP and Corbyn is a stubborn refusal to accept the reality that exists within the party and cannot reconcile their previous concerns in his leadership.

Rob Smith

Former Joint Chair of Portsmouth Labour Party.

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