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Divided parties don’t win elections

DIANE ABBOTT MP explains why she’s backing a Labour rule change to help bring unity of purpose back to the party

THERE are many views on why we did so poorly in the elections two weeks ago, and it is important to have that discussion on all the contributory factors in a calm and reasoned manner.

But one of those factors must be that divided parties don’t win elections.

This is a truism. But, like many others it has become a truism because it carries at least a kernel of truth.

Over the past period there have been too many divisions laid bare between the PLP, the NEC, the leadership and, of course, the membership. Not forgetting the divisions within the shadow cabinet.  

Disagreement and healthy debate are one thing. These open divisions are another. They are damaging to every component part of the party and more importantly they damage the party in the eyes of those who count most, the voters.

Therefore, I support a rule change currently being supported by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) and, I hope, many others.

Currently there is no requirement in the party rulebook that the PLP must be accountable to conference. That is a mistake. 

If conference is the sovereign body of our party, which it is, then there can be no important section of the party that should not be accountable to it.

If this rule change is agreed, in future conference delegates will receive a written PLP report and will be able to discuss it.

The report will include a chief whip’s report detailing any disciplinary decisions that have been taken and conference will be able to confirm or reject any such decisions if it so wishes.  

Many Labour members will understand exactly what prompts this rule change. 

I believed at the time that the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn was completely unjust, and I continue to believe that. 

But, irrespective of your views on that suspension, surely we can agree that no-one should be suspended from the PLP when the party has made a decision that they should not be suspended from the party?  The PLP cannot be a law unto itself.

This should also be seen as a small but important contribution to reducing the disunity of the party and healing divisions. 

The electorate is always watching us. They can tell whether we are spending more time attacking each other than the Tories, and they act accordingly. 

Winning back voters requires many things. But unity of purpose is certainly one of them. 

This amendment strengthens democracy in our party and promotes unity. It will aid what should be the main task: fighting the Tories. Not each other.

Diane Abbott is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

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