During the Syrian conflict, the international community chose not to intervene as 200,000 people died. But there wouldn’t be a more pathetic image of Western weakness than if action was taken to save Palmyra.
The world must create safe areas and a no-fly zone to protect civilians — it must be hoped that, even at this late stage in the conflict, we value human life over statues.
In his last actas Labour leader, Ed Miliband bequeathed standards for the leadership election that will help ensure that the party wins again. He urged us to conduct the process “with the same decency, civility, and comradeship that we believe is the way the country should be run”. He spoke of personally bringing a culture to the party, summed up as “the ability to have disagreement without being disagreeable.”
Ed’s words are not idle niceties. As we carry out the post-mortem, offer diagnoses and seek to raise the Labour Lazarus, they compel us to do so in a climate of open, respectful debate. Those of us who believe that the clear conclusion of the 7 May result is that the party must move back to the radical centre ground of British politics and who sympathise with rather then shun New Labour, must reacquire the confidence to “disagree without being disagreeable”.
We’ll need to be robust, confident and organised, particularly given that trade unions such as Unite have called for Jim Murphy to stand down. We must challenge them when they use deliberately loaded phrases such as “the embrace of Blairism”, designed to delegitimise an entire strand of Labour thinking. It is unthinkable that someone from the right of the Labour Party would ever cite the “embrace of trade unionism” in a statement calling on a politician to resign.
Following the election defeat, we must guard against a revisionism that argues that Labour failed because Ed wasn’t allowed to be radical enough due to the malign influence of Blairites. Such a position is as illogical as those who sometimes argue that the chaos in Syria remains the fault of the West, despite the very absence of Western intervention.
It is particularly important that those who believe in a modern, progressive party, overcome the habit of self-censorship developed in recent years. Parties are necessarily broad churches, and when one group is in the ascendency, it is natural for others to self-censor in the interests of unity. One of Ed’s many achievements was maintaining party unity after losing the 2010 election, in part due to his and his senior team’s openness and the support of key people like Stewart Wood for new ideas and initiatives.
But unity also flourished because people who didn’t vote for Ed and disagreed with some of his approach, chose to give Ed their full support, despite him not being the choice of a majority of party members and the Parliamentary Labour Party. We went further than “disagreeing without being disagreeable”; we rightly offered him our complete loyalty and worked hard to ensure that he became Prime Minister. In light of this, we must not feel defensive in now setting out an alternative prospectus to the one that was soundly beaten last week.
There is little point in rehearsing the arguments ably outlined by Tony Blair, Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Dan Jarvisand Peter Mandelson. I would add that the party must not just focus on policies and personalities but must review our structure and modus operandi. CLPs do admirable work throughout the country, but are often impenetrable and unattractive to ordinary voters. Success will be defined not in a new constitution but when we as ordinary members spend more time looking outwards and listening to voters, rather than inwards, talking to ourselves.
In order to do this, the party must learn how to have a more intelligent, honest conversation with voters. The old CLP mantra of canvassing in order to identify “our” voters must be overturned. We should be reaching out to people who have shunned our party in recent years. Let’s build on Ed Miliband’s call in July 2013 for us to “reach out to others outside our party” in order “to genuinely build a movement again”. If we conduct the leadership election as Ed instructed us to, we might just win the right for an audience with our true leaders – the British people.
The following speech is from our Hanover Communications office election hustings. I had two minutes to deliver this as "leader" of our Labour Party. The results were: Tories (23), Labour (18), Lib Dems (7). Well done to all my colleagues from the other parties and all who asked brilliant and challenging questions.
is an election where expectations nationally, and in this room, are being
Ed Miliband smashed the caricature, hugged a Hen party, while Dave forgot his
a Long Term Economic Plan unravelled into a Short Term Economic Con.
it’s now Labour competence, versus Tory chaos:
Responsibility Lock: their £8bn unfunded NHS spending bribe.
balanced deficit reduction plan; their plan for secret cuts, which would result
in the lowest number of soldiers since Cromwell and benefits slashed for
working families and the vulnerable.
ruling out an EU referendum, while the Tories are endangering our businesses to
appease those Cameron called “fruitcakes, nutters and closet racists”.
Crosby’s Daleks went negative, Labour rose above the fray, and Ed looked Prime
Ministerial, Zen-like, some would say Calland-like in his poise.
Ed worked here, I’m sure he’d even replace the coffee, use the correct
recycling bins and unblock the disabled toilet.
only have we shown ourselves to be competent, but we’re having conversations
with ordinary people - 4 million so far and counting. A contact programme so
efficient it must have been run by a Hanover intern.
say Cameron isn’t looking keen enough for a second term. Yet Ed said he’ll meet
anyone, including Russell Brand, to encourage them to vote.
we’re are a party with a mission – to confound expectations about what our
country, our politics, our people can achieve.
Only by making the right changes, all from a simple
prospectus: that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.
get Britain working for all of our people, by investing in skills and jobs,
reforming broken markets, backing business, sorting out our long-term
infrastructure and challenging vested interests.
ask you to use your uncommon sense, confound expectations, vote Labour, support
our better plan, and together, we can build a better Britain.
• The deaths of so many migrants in the Mediterranean shows the moral vacuity of EU governments’ belief that we can inoculate ourselves from our moral and legal duty to those in need. Since 2011, our government sought to convince the British people that it can fulfil its responsibilities to Syrian civilians merely by generous aid to refugee camps. Recent events show how shortsighted this has been for regional stability, and how tragic for the civilians involved. Similarly, the EU has cut its capabilities for maritime rescue just as the need increases, leaving the Italians virtually alone to deal with a collective responsibility.
EU governments, especially maritime nations such as ours, should offer all possible assistance to our Italian friends. If the EU is to mean anything in this dangerous world, it must show itself capable of much more than standing by as thousands drown at its maritime border. Our enemies must conclude that not only are we unwilling to fight for our beliefs and to uphold human rights, we are also willing to let innocents drown for their belief that we are compassionate, moral nations.
John Slinger Rugby, Warwickshire My other writing on foreign policy can be found here.
The deaths of so many migrants in the Mediterranean is a scar on the conscience of Europe showing the moral vacuity of EU governments' belief that we can inoculate ourselves from our moral and legal duty to those in need. Since 2011, our government sought to convince the British people that it can fulfil its responsibilities to Syrian civilians merely by generous aid to refugee camps. Recent events show how short-sighted this has been for regional stability and how tragic for the civilians involved. Similarly, the EU has seen fit to cut its capabilities for maritime rescue just as the need increases, leaving the Italians virtually alone to deal with a collective responsibility.
All EU governments, especially maritime nations such as ours, should offer all possible assistance to our Italian friends. If the EU is to mean anything in this dangerous world, it must show itself capable of much more than standing by as thousands of innocents drown at its maritime border. Our enemies are watching and drawing their own conclusions. They must conclude that not only are we unwilling to fight for our beliefs and to uphold human rights, but we are also willing to let innocents drown for their belief that we are compassionate nations.
It is vitally important that readers who care about the future or Rugby and the future of our country are registered to vote. The best way to do so is via the Government's website https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The deadline is 20 April.
I urge the Rugby Observer to publish this letter to ensure that as many readers as possible are able to participate in the General Election and Rugby Borough Council election on 7 May.