Open letter from a "quitter"

Submitted by AWL on 25 May, 2021 - 6:41 Author: Jim Denham
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If you have tears, prepare to shed them now: Chelley Ryan has resigned from the Labour Party!

Naturally, this news has come as a crushing blow to the entire UK labour movement and warranted nearly a thousand words, in the form of an open letter to the Socialist Campaign Group, in the Morning Star of 18 May (“Leaving Labour is a legitimate choice”).

Mind you, it wasn’t an easy decision for poor Chelley, who’s “wrestled with this decision for 13 months”. And she’s “sorry if I’m disappointing you.”

But Chelley, you see, is speaking for a lot of “distressed people who have fought tirelessly for the party for years... and you glibly say, stay in the party... expecting members who are overwrought, filled with despair and rage to say, ‘Ah, of course I should stay’.”

Chelley clearly feels very strongly that members (and, indeed, ex-members like her), must be listened to by the leadership and the Parliamentary Labour Party. Yet strangely, she also mentions that she “came very close to resigning in the summer of 2019, after the party had adopted a more full-throated Remain policy I was both morally and politically opposed to.”

Now this is a bit strange, coming as it does from someone who poses as a champion of the rank and file membership. Who does Chelley think demanded that Labour adopted a “more full-throated Remain policy”, if not the members? The clear wishes of the members for a reversal of the top-down steering of Labour towards Brexiting, and a return toward the definite Remain policy of 2016, were frustrated by Brexiteers like Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, key advisers to Chelley’s hero Jeremy Corbyn. They frustrated those demands and came up with what she herself described (in another open letter — this time to Tom Watson) as “our sensible compromise position”, i.e. the position that Labour put forward in the 2019 general election and that she and the Morning Star both now blame for Labour’s defeat.

Anyway, Chelley doesn’t just want “sympathy” for, and “validation” of, her decision to leave. As spokesperson for the “thousands who have left”, she wants the entire Socialist Campaign to follow her: “Many speak about their hope that you will leave the party, a party filled with MPs and staffers that did so much to deliver a Tory government in 2019 and stand as independents to threaten the status quo in Labour — but you won’t.”

There always was a strand of the Corbyn movement that was essentially an apolitical fan club, lacking any coherent programme (beyond personal adulation of Jeremy, a determination to downplay evidence of antisemitism and, very often, support for Brexit): such people, who now regularly threaten to tear up their membership cards, and evidently relish electoral defeats for Labour, are well represented on social media (e.g. websites like Skwawkbox and The Canary) and it’s no surprise to see the Morning Star offering its pages to them.

In the run-up to the 6 May elections, the paper failed to call even for a critical Labour vote (except, unaccountably, in Wales), plugged the CPB’s no-hope left-reformist candidates, carried an uncritical interview with the Northern Independence Party’s Hartlepool candidate Thelma Walker, and noticeably failed to address what it described as the “widespread belief that a non-Labour vote only helps the Tories in England and Wales, and the SNP in Scotland”(editorial,13 April).

Chelley Ryan pleads of the Socialist Campaign Group: “Don’t drive a wedge between us by dividing us into fighters and quitters”. But what should we call people who put their own self-righteous, self- indulgent sense of entitlement ahead of the struggle for socialism within Labour, and the desirability of electoral victories for Labour against the Tories, if not... “quitters”? And what more fitting print-media platform for them than the irresponsible, sectarian Morning Star?

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