Three Questions to ask a Labour politician who wants your vote

One thing to know about today’s Labour Party from my experience is that it exists for one purpose and one purpose only – to get more Labour Party members into office. You ask a party member their opinion on boundary changes or vote counting methods and their opinion will nearly always be what would most advantage the Labour Party. If you want to become a Labour Party candidate, then unless you’re very lucky, as I was, you won’t get anywhere unless you say things that imply the Labour Party’s interest will come about those of both the public and your office. When the public elect a candidate on the basis of merit, they are usually looking for someone with integrity who will look after their interests. To test whether your Labour Party candidate has such integrity to stick by the principles, try asking them the following three questions:

Q1. When you were being interviewed to become a Labour candidate, how did you answer the question, “Would you ever vote against the whip?”
Every Labour politician has been asked this. When I stood for the council I answered, “I would vote against the whip if I felt it was in the interests of my constituents. If it was an unpopular decision that was in their interests, I would expect the whip to allow me to speak against on behalf of my constituents even if I voted in favour”. I managed to get onto the list for the council and the Welsh Assembly with this answer, but couldn’t get as far as the UK Parliament or the European Parliament lists. Most Labour candidates say they would never vote against the whip as a matter of expediency, knowing they will then one day do so. Asking them this question in a public place can put them on the spot. It is likely they will have said one thing to the Labour selection panel (i.e. they wouldn’t vote against), but want to say another to the public – probably more like the truthful answer I gave!

Q2. What is your opinion on Clause IV?
Clause IV (pronounced clause four), is the part of the Labour Party rules that says what it stands for. The old Clause IV called for nationalisation, and the new one introduced by Tony Blair calls for ‘competition to be joined with co-operation’ and for public services to be ‘either owned by the public or accountable to them’ – in other words it allows for a mixed model on a pragmatic basis. Most Labour politicians will say ‘I want it brought back’, referring to the old Clause IV. Few will know that Tony Blair changed it, and most will never have read the new one he introduced – I call it the Progressive Clause IV. In fact, most Welsh Labour MPs I know who have read the Progressive version say they don’t support it – I frustratingly ask them “Why are you in the Labour Party when you don’t believe what it stands for, when people like me who do are forced to leave because we are honest and true to our beliefs?!” I still stand by the Progressive Clause IV even though I am no longer a Labour Party member – unlike most people who are current members!

Q3. What do you think of the Leader?
Labour Party members are inherently disloyal. There is always someone ready to take another member’s position when they make a foul up. You will notice than whenever the NEC does not get the candidate they wanted, during the run up to the election there will be a scandal that will force them to resign so the person the NEC wanted in the first place will get in. The same is on a macro-level with the Party’s leader. Whoever got in, there will be a significant number of people in the party who didn’t want them. They will be waiting for the current one to foul up so their preferred one can get in. Also, whoever is picked, on the main when Labour are losing elections or getting a kicking in the press there will be calls for the leader to go. In the Labour Party you are not among friends, as if you make a mistake it is the ideal opportunity for someone to take your place. So asking what a Labour Party politician thinks of their leader, or indeed a colleague, will be a tough one for them if they want to be both honest and complimentary.

What should Labour’s Clause IV actually say?

Every British political scholar has spoken about the ‘Clause 4 Moment’ in the Labour Party – the point at which Tony Blair changed the Labour Party’s fortunes around by removing the Regressive Clause IV that wedding them to nationalisation, and created a new one, the Progressive Clause IV. I write here about how that had the same effect on me of convincing me the Labour Party was now ready to use Labour values in a 21st century context.

At the election account on Friday, even the Labour MP Owen Smith said he doesn’t believe in the Progressive Clause 4 – hardly anyone in the Labour Party does. This is even more frustrating that I felt I had to leave when on paper I was a member of a party whose progressive vision of pro-business, pro-opportunity, pro-market, pro-freedom I identified with as someone from a family of three generations of entrepreneurs.

Maybe if the people in the Labour Party were to be completely truthful about what they see the Labour Party as existing to do, then Clause IV would look something like this (deleted parts marked, added parts bold):

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more electoral wins than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the a few Labour Party members; where the rights we enjoy are disproportionate to reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, without tolerance and or respect for people who aren’t Labour.

New Labour’s Clause 4 – Why refound Labour again?

Certain Welsh Historians ask me why I joined the Labour Party without reading up on its history. I tell them that I didn’t join ‘Old Labour’ but that I joined ‘New Labour’. Tony Blair gulled me into thinking the Labour Party changed. This is what he said the party believed in:

Clause IV. Aims and values
1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

A. A DYNAMIC ECONOMY, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper with a thriving private sector and high-quality public services where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them

B. A JUST SOCIETY, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power

C. AN OPEN DEMOCRACY, in which government is held to account by the people, decisions are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect and where fundamental human rights are guaranteed

D. A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT, which we protect, enhance and hold in trust for future generations.

3. Labour is committed to the defence and security of the British people and to co-operating in European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all.

4. Labour shall work in pursuit of these aims with trade unions and co-operative societies and also with voluntary organisations, consumer groups and other representative bodies.

5. On the basis of these principles, Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern.

When I presented some of my policy ideas to the Ministers in the Welsh Assembly based on these premises they rejected the premise – even though it was in the rule book of the party they are a member of. When I spoke to certain members about why I had decided to leave the party after this, many thought Clause 4 had been abolished.

I recently found out that the Pontypridd Labour Party voted to restore the old Clause 4. I think many of them must get their education from Wikipedia, as they thought Clause 4 was the paragraph in Clause 4(1) above, not the whole text above.

I feel quite angry about the Labour Party at the moment with its ‘Refounding Labour’ programme – I was in the party for 14 years, unware that the aims and mission that made me join the party that were set out in Clause 4, most other members had never read, yet alone supported – they’re only knowledge of which was part 1 because it was printed on the membership cards.