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Labour has been the greatest force for social progress, will it be in the future?

21 February, 2019

Sarah Hayward

• THE departure of seven MPs from the Labour Party on Monday left me sad and angry about the current state of the party.

Labour has been the greatest force for social progress this country has ever known. Whether or not it will be in future now hangs in the balance.

MPs quitting must be a jolt to action for people who believe that we desperately need an alternative to the Tory shambles and that Labour’s core values are the best alternative.

But the response has been far too weak. It seems people, from top to bottom, are trying to triangulate away a problem that needs strong leadership and decisive action.

The truth is that they will only be able to deal with the problem once they acknowledge the seriousness of it. And the tragedy is that there are solutions.

Now is the time to stand up for core Labour values within our party. A vocal and obnoxious minority in our party are trying to create a hostile environment for some members. This treatment seems disproportionately targeted at Jewish and women members.

We are supposed to be the party of equality but can’t deal with systemic abuse within our own ranks. Why would any minority group trust us to promote equality as a government?

We are a mass membership party founded on the belief that we achieve more together than we do alone. We can act collectively to make Labour the safe and equal place it should be.

We can refuse to be cowed by attempts at intimidation. We can speak up and report every act of discrimination we see. We should expect action and expect it to happen quickly.

We should be strident and uncompromising on this issue and publicly praise others when they are. And we can all play a part in making meetings less hostile – sometimes just by turning up.

At the moment we’re in stasis. But once we start to take on the discrimination in our ranks we’ll see whether fellow members reward or punish us for taking a stand against it.

If it’s the former we’ll have a party that can once again be a great force for social progress. If it’s the latter the party is lost to the forces of prejudice.

People frequently ask me why I’m still a member and if I’ve thought about leaving. I’m still Labour because it’s very difficult to change something if you’re not part of it.

I’m still Labour because our Town Hall and City Hall are leading the way in showing the best of what Labour can be when it is in power.

And I’m still Labour because, for now, I believe that Labour can once again be the greatest force for social progress this country has ever seen. Whether it will be is up to us members.

SARAH HAYWARD
Former Camden Council leader (2012-2017)

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