Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Less Than Magnificent Seven.

It was hardly  the Limehouse Declaration.  when in 25 January 1981, leading figures from the Labour Party (Roy JenkinsDavid OwenShirley Williams and Bill Rodgers, known collectively as the "Gang of Four") launched the Council for Social Democracy, which later became the Social Democratic Party in March of that year 
The "Gang of Four" were centrists, who had defected from the Labour Party due to what they perceived to be the influence of the Militant tendency and the "hard left" within the party,
Yesterday Seven Labour MPs have quit the party citing several reasons including that it has become 'institutionally anti-Semitic' and Brexit.
Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Chuka Umunna announced their decision to leave on Monday.
Of these only Chuka Umunna  may even approach the prestige of three of the Gang of Four whilst the rest seem to resemble Bill Rodgers who was labelled Bill Who by Private Eye.
Twenty-eight Labour MPs eventually joined the new party in 1981, along with one member of the Conservative PartyChristopher Brocklebank-Fowler, MP for North West Norfolk. Williams and Jenkins were not at the time Members of Parliament, but were elected to the House of Commons at by-elections in Crosby and Glasgow Hillhead respectively.
The breakaway group will now sit in the House of Commons as independents.
They held a press conference at which they took it in turns to explain their reasons. They said they would not merge with the Liberal Democrats.
In a Statement of Independence, setting out their values and approach, they promised to "pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the parties' interests".
"It’s never a good look for a politician to have fewer principles than UKIP. When Tory MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless defected to Nigel Farage’s party, both stood down from their seats and fought by-elections to establish whether their electoral mandates were personal or owed to the party. Both of them won. (Though both men subsequently lost at general elections and Reckless has now returned to the Tories.)The seven Labour MPs who resigned from the party today have no such honour and no such respect for the electorate. They’ve quit the party but not their cushy and lucrative jobs as opposition MPs, and will bring about absolutely no practical difference other than sitting a few feet further to the left in the Commons voting exactly the same way as they did before".

It was seen as disrespectful for the  seven Labour MPs to announce their split from the party while colleagues are morning the death of Paul Flynn, as pointed out by Labour's Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevenses.

The Independent group who stated that one of the reasons why they split was Antisemitism  were rather exposesd when one of thier  MPs Angela Smith had to apologise after sparking a racism row by referring to black people as having a “funny tinge”.
Later she appeared on the BBC's Politics Live, and took part in a panel discussion on racism in the UK.
She said:
 “The recent history of the party I’ve just left suggests that it’s not just about being black or a funny tin... you know, from the BAME community.” BAME refers to black, Asian and minority ethnic.
Political journalist Ash Sarkar, who was on the panel alongside Ms Smith, interrupted to ask: “A funny what?”
In a statement issued later on Monday, Ms Smith said: 
“I’ve seen the clip from politics live, I’m very sorry about any offence caused and I’m very upset that I misspoke so badly, it’s not what I am and I’m committed to fighting racism whenever I find it in our society."
As Munguin's Republic pointed out
It must be something of a record to have to apologise about something as divisive as this within hours of launching a breakaway group. Maybe the rest of them are wondering if she is much of an asset.
It would even be a bigger record if following usual procedure Ms Smith had been suspended by her new group.
When the SDP was formed they could rely on the Gang of Four to hide the fact that many of the Labour MPs who left Labour to join them were relatively second rate
Pontypridd MP Owen Smith  his indicated he is leaving Labour, but his prestige was severely damaged when his challenge to Jeremy Corbyn  failed spectacularly.
In the first years of its formation the SDP polled considerably well winning notable by elections but were ultimately defeated by the Falklands Factor in which Ms Thatchers response to the Argentinian  invasion , revived the fortunes of an already unpopular government.
At the moment  the  split is clearly damaging to Labour , letting probably the worst Prime Minister  and government in history off the hook.
But there's always a possibility they will be joined by disillusioned Tory MP's  and who can predict the future then.

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