The following was my responses to questions asked by the Guardian, of which only a paragraph was used. I gave this opinion in a personal capacity, however I do think people in my CLP should see what I said given I was quoted as being the CLP Secretary so here it is.
Roughly, how does the membership divide its support between Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to see him replaced as Labour leader?
To respond I wish to highlight the following factual information:
- Jeremy won by 59.5% of the Labour wide membership vote. 40% voted for someone else.
- The data of how many of those 40% voted gave Jeremy their second preference is not known.
- Our CLP in July 2015 did hold a Leadership Nominations ballot – Jeremy won 76% of the vote. Our membership at this time was about 900 members of which 200 were new and joined after Corbyn announced he was standing.
- Since Jeremy became Leader our membership rose to 1700 (almost double) from Sept 12th – early Oct.
- In the last two weeks, our membership has risen a further by 700+ members (however they will not get a vote given current rules).
- At the end of June 2016, the local party did have a motion supporting Jeremy Corbyn, this was voted upon at our General Committee. It was passed with 90% of the vote.
With this in light, the response to your question is as follows:
We are yet to hold a Leadership nominations meeting for me to respond factually to this question. What I can say is Tottenham CLP does pride itself on being a ‘broad church party’ and there are of course people who did not and will not vote for Corbyn.
However there is no growth from what I can see in the numbers of members who have and always had this view.
Where the change has been is in the quantity of members compared last year and an assumption those who joined in Sept joined because Corbyn became Leader. They are able to now vote. This is the statistic that is important in my opinion.
As the other candidate(s) are yet to be decided (as they have yet to be given the nominations by the PLP) – I cannot say whether members are shifting there support elsewhere as that destination is yet to be offered.
Has that opinion changed in the wake of the Brexit vote?
Again there is no official measurement that members are ‘blaming Corbyn’ for the results of the referendum.
Most members actually agree with Tony Blair’s analysis from 2-3 weeks ago on a Sunday morning politics show that the EU result we saw could be the same in the other 27 member states if they also held a referendum. Anti EU feeling is deeply entrenched in many communities across Europe and was never going to be untangled in such a short campaign.
In my experience, the party membership has never been in so much agreement about Tony Blair’s words – but we live in strange times.
Those who are using the narrative that Corbyn is to blame for Brexit are mainly from people who did not vote for him last time. Within that are a handful of members who did not assist in the EU Remain campaign and this can dilute the seriousness of their opinion, but it is their view and that has to be respected.
However, in answer to your question, I do not feel the Brexit vote has changed people’s minds about Corbyn either way.
Have there been discussions in your local party about a split in the party, if yes what do people think?
No discussions of this nature have taken place.
Has the tone of your local membership meetings changed in the last few months?
There is a great sense of pride and energy that so many Tottenham residents have decided to join the Labour party and our family.
There has been both an excitement to campaign for Sadiq Khan and also a great sense of pride that members from all or no sides of the party, old and new worked hard to give us the result we celebrate.
There was huge enthusiasm for the EU Referendum campaign, which was resourced by members time of which 70% were members who had been with us for under a year.
There is obviously disappointment and sadness that the country decided to vote out of the EU.
There is delight that so many members turned up to our 9 Branch AGMs held on 6th July and also that members both old and new were nominated to positions on the Executive Committee giving us both stability and new skills/energy to grow our party.
We are currently focused on the by-election in Tottenham and we have a fantastic candidate which members are out campaigning for every day.
I would say that the press and criticism (especially from MPs) that new members are getting is grossly unfair. Prior to Jeremy Corbyn standing, I would say 20-30 of our members out of the 700 were ‘active’, now I would say about 120-150 are (based on members in May/June of 1700). So our membership doubled and our activity tripled.
There are members who have been with us for 10-20 years that I have never seen or even got an email from. This illusion we had 100% activeness from older members and all of these new members do not contribute is a myth and is totally disrespectful to people who pay to be part of our party.
Members are people, they need to be welcomed, made to feel valued and also encouraged to take part. We put a lot of effort to do this, from social events to our Facebook group, but we realise we need to do more and are ready for that challenge. If new members are not engaging its for the party to change not the members.
Locally, what does the future look for Labour?
Tottenham has a Labour MP, all 9 wards have 3 Labour Councillors within them, our Assembly Member is Labour and our Mayor is Labour.
Tottenham is one of the most deprived areas in London and the UK with many other social issues that also require political attention. Locally, the future for Labour in Tottenham is to continue to make an impact on the residents who voted for us to tackle many of the social issues we face as a community.
Labour in Tottenham is in power and with that power comes responsibility and it’s a responsibility the Council Leader, The MP and the Assembly Member, regardless of what wing of the party they are from, take extremely seriously. Our residents have no time for us to be messing around with this internal battle, I am not sure where other MPs find the time, but our MP seems to be focused on the job.
When do you think Labour will next form a government?
My understanding is the next election is not until 2020. I have every faith that if the party, especially the PLP focus we will win in 2020. We are a party, we all have responsibilities to make the Labour case in our constituencies and communities, it is all of our faults if we fail and to all of our credit when we succeed.
If we have a genuine concern about taking government at the next election, then our attention needs to be on Scotland. We cannot absolve Dugdale of responsibility claiming she needs more time following such a worrying losses in Scotland as she needs to tackle a problem 20 years in the making, but when it comes to Corbyn, who has stemmed the flow and we have won back City Hall, suddenly be the problem for us winning in 2020.
It gives the impression that some are not sincere about winning in 2020 when they distract us from where our real challenges lie.
This navel-gazing self-inflicted battle is not what we need and it is most certainly not what most members and voters want. The last 9 months of members of the PLP heavily talking down the party, is a luxury our voters and country cannot afford. However despite it, we still made gains and it raises the question of how powerful we could be if the PLP fully supported Corbyn if his Leadership, despite such public criticism did not wipe us out in May.
I do not accept that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. People said Boris would be ‘unelectable’ they were wrong. They then said he would become Prime Minister, thankfully they were wrong again. They also told us that Sadiq would lose as people would not vote for a Muslim in this climate, they were wrong. They told us that Zac Goldsmith would be the biggest threat to us winning City Hall, they were wrong – he turned out to be our biggest asset.
I am part of Labour because I believe politics has the solutions to the issues people face in society, if I wanted to be part of a fortune tellers society I would have joined the Mystic Meg fan-club.