Jeremy Corbyn’s current Shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis MP, showed what real opposition looks like on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 18 September.
Rather than promoting a conservative model of top-heavy, technocratic control of political parties like others in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Lewis championed the expansion of democracy.
Marr’s first question was on the ‘removal’ of sitting Labour MPs:
Can I start by asking you about all these stories we’ve been reading in the papers about plans to deselect Labour MPs? If the party membership has moved a bit to the left and if some of your colleagues still go back to the Blair and Brown years for their loyalties, should they not be removed and MPs who are more in tune with the new Labour Party put in their place?
In response, the MP for Norwich South did not just answer the question. He also challenged Marr’s perpetuation of a false media narrative surrounding ‘deselection’.
But he began by drawing attention to the smearing of Corbyn supporters as ‘far-left entryists’:
There are lots of ‘red under the bed’ scare stories that are coming out now. Now, we have form on this. Last year, the same production company produced a hatchet job on Jeremy Corbyn a week or two before the election announcement. Now I think we’re saying the same thing again.
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In early August, Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson said ‘Trotskyists’ were “twisting the arms” of young Labour members, in an attempt to explain away the surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn.
A look at the facts exposes Watson’s claim as, quite frankly, a laughable conspiracy theory. The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) publicly claims to have just 6,000 members, and few of them are active. Other Trotskyist groups in Britain are even smaller. Considering Labour membership is approaching 600,000, it appears that the only thing being twisted is the truth.
Back on the Marr Show, Lewis set the record straight:
You call it deselection. The other word for it is actually a democratic election for your representatives in parliament. And I think there’s a legitimate argument for that.
Leadership challenger Owen Smith has epitomised the false narrative by accusing Corbyn of “threatening MPs with the sack”. In reality, sitting Labour MPs would be standing for election against other potential MPs. Not quite “the sack”, then. Anyone within that MP’s constituency could vote by becoming a Labour member. If that MP has enough support within the constituency they serve, they have nothing to worry about.
The Shadow Defence Secretary then insisted that Corbyn has not “created” a shift to ‘the left’. Echoing his former letter in The Guardian, Lewis proclaimed a shift in politics across the Western world. For Lewis, the “top-down, vertical power relationships of the past” are now clashing with popular demands for more democratic decision-making processes. While Corbyn is working to facilitate this, he alone is not the cause of it.
Responding to a question on shadow cabinet elections, Lewis advocated a mixed proposal from Corbyn:
I think the idea that’s come out that the PLP potentially could elect a certain percentage of the shadow cabinet, the leader another percentage, and the membership another percentage is a genuine idea.
Corbyn recently proposed that a third of the shadow cabinet could be elected by the PLP, a third by the membership, and the final third by the leader. Proponents will argue that the idea gives equal weight to each face of the party.
On the Marr Show, Lewis exposed members of the PLP and the media who portray the democratic election of MPs as Corbyn ruling the party with an iron fist. Elections expand genuine democracy within the Labour Party. MPs would not be “sacked”. They’d face a democratic process.
Watch the full exchange here:
– Read our other stories on Labour.
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