Curtains for democracy

New Labour’s leadership has imposed a ‘discipline code’ on the parliamentary Labour Party, which makes it an offence to “bring the party into disrepute”. This is purely a Sword of Damocles directed against potentially subversive left-leaning MPs.

Thus the left-ish Campaign Group inside the Labour Party voted against the new code virtually en masse. Showing a talent for black humour, a Labour whip insisted that, “Only the paranoid would have a problem. There is no sinister plot to get backbenchers.” This failed to convince Ken Livingstone, who has complained: “Only dictatorships insist on one line going out.”

Gerald Kaufman, the obnoxious rightwing MP, best summed up the mood of Blairism when he stated that any ‘disruptive’ behaviour when in government could cost the party the chance of being elected for a second term.

The ‘leftwing’ opposition to the new discipline code was truly feeble. Except for a few reprobates like Ken Livingstone and Dennis Skinner, the other ‘Campaigners’ were bought off by an amendment stitched together by Dennis Canavan and Donald Dewar. This ‘sweetener’ clause says: “These duties shall not be interpreted in such a way as to stifle democratic debate on policy matters or weaken the spirit of tolerance and respect referred to in clause four of the Labour Party constitution.” Reassured now?

The code has been greeted with much approving noises from the media. Donald Macintyre of The Independent applauded it:

“The code is designed to try and make the Labour Party as disciplined as the Tories were in the 1980s ... To send a clear message that you can’t be elected on a New Labour platform and then spend your time sabotaging it once you’ve arrived” (December 3).

Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, amongst one, will heed the “clear message”. His signing of the SWP’s ‘save the soul of the Labour Party’ petition was regarded as a heinous crime which threatened to “bring the party into disrepute” - even if he did innocently claim that he had “no idea” that the SWP were involved. A second ‘offence’ and it could be curtains for Jeremy.

Communists are familiar with such codes. The old CPGB also had a similar clause, which was wielded anti-democratically against dissenters and troublemakers. Nice to know that Blair has learnt something from the Communist Party. Such moves by New Labour may push some leftwing MPs into the arms of the Socialist Labour Party. Unfortunately, given the witch hunting atmosphere currently reigning in the SLP, there is the worry that Arthur Scargill himself might follow suit.

Eddie Ford