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  • How should lefties deal with party loyalty and ‘collective responsibility’?

    by Sunny
    15th July, 2010 at 9:28 am    

    Madam Miaow (and I think Harpymarx agrees) says this about Ed Miliband’s position on the Iraq war:

    Broadly, Ed M, like the other guys, was quiet over Iraq when he was in power, probably the most important issue of his Labour government’s tenure. While he was relatively good at the New Statesman hustings, this raises the question of why he is only talking about it now.

    The elephant in the room is the issue of career. If he remained silent so as not to rock the boat and send his career off course, then that says something about his character and indicates how he is likely to perform as leader of the party.

    I think this deserves a response in itself, and I think there are two issues here.

    The first is that of discipline. There are loads of times I disagree with comrades on the left on issues, but I stop myself from publicly fighting with them. There are plenty of times when I’ve felt deeply uneasy about things feminists, anti-racists, socialists or environmentalists have said or done. I’ve seen tons of infighting among the liberal left groups I’ve been involved in. To watch all this can be annoying but I don’t always jump in there to publicly criticise them because it doesn’t help anything. I try and follow my own maxim that lefties should spend less time fighting with each other and more with the right.

    For a long time the Labour party suffered from the same problem: party discipline was terrible and they couldn’t get anything done. The Democrats across the pond have the same problem - Joe Lieberman. I accept that the left and Labour are big tents and so there will be more disagreements. But around Neil Kinnock’s time (I’m assuming) the Labour party realised that unless there was more party discipline they wouldn’t get elected or get anything done even if they did.

    And so Labour became an intensely centralised machine where discipline matter a lot. Too much, in fact, but many of them were carrying scars from a previous era. To be honest, while I accept that there was too much emphasis on discipline during those years - I also think a lot of it was necessary. If you have people constantly resigning or contradicting party lines then the media will tear you apart and nothing gets achieved. Voters would start believing that Labour didn’t know what the hell they were doing, or what they stood for, and vote them out. This is partly why Ed Miliband didn’t speak out when it wasn’t necessary.

    The second point is that of pragmatism. You’re tasked with trying to push the environment up the agenda and make the world realise it’s an important issue or we’ll all be dead in 100 years. Or you’re running a women’s shelter and trying to help the victimised. In both cases you believe you are very capable and could make a lot of impact.

    And yet your government did something wrong that you disagreed with a few years back. You could speak out but it wouldn’t make any difference. But you would lose your job and that brief might be passed on to some incompetent fool who doesn’t care. Let’s be clear - if I was tasked with something I passionately believed in and wanted to make a difference on - I’d get on with the bloody job and make a difference that way. I respect people who resign (as John Denham did over Iraq) but I’m not going to start hating on people who resign or people who don’t. Different priorities.

    It’s far too easy for us to assume that just because a person resigned that they’re ‘part of the loony left’, or if they didn’t then they’re a self-serving shit. In some cases people are either of them, but I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    All I’d ask is that others on the left do the same - otherwise it becomes far too easy for everyone to point fingers at others to question their motives. I’ll even accept that some people had the right motives when they first supported going into Iraq (Johann Hari, Oona King), though if they show no signs of accepting they were wrong then I’ll happily point fingers (David Miliband).

    This is why I’m unwilling to say that just because Ed Miliband didn’t speak out against Iraq after being elected in 2005 that he should not be trusted. His position has clearly been that we fucked up and that huge lessons need to be learnt. That is what I want to hear.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Party politics

    31 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blog post:: How should lefties deal with party loyalty and 'collective responsibility'?

    2. Jim Melly

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: How should lefties deal with party loyalty and 'collective responsibility'?

    3. sunny hundal

      @gift_of_the_fab thank you! and to address your point… :)

    4. sunny hundal

      @BigGibb answer to that is here: :)

    5. sunny hundal

      @hali__ see these two blog posts: and

    1. cjcjc — on 15th July, 2010 at 9:40 am  

      I think it’s safe to say that 99.999% of us will be dead in 100 years.

      Even the great Ed wouldn’t have been/won’t be been able to stop that!

    2. Leon — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:08 am  

      Sunny, I hate to be the one to say it but how do you square your disdain for lefties fighting each other with you starting a fight with a leftwing blog like Harry’s Place?

      Genuine question because I really don’t understand what you have to gain from a blog war and what you have to gain from espousing left unity while engaged in one…

    3. Leon — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:08 am  

      To be clear, I’m not out to have a go just really don’t understand what you’re playing at!

    4. GW — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:40 am  

      Some of us happen to believe that the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan was correct and principled.


    5. BenSix — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:42 am  

      Voters would start believing that Labour didn’t know what the hell they were doing, or what they stood for, and vote them out. This is partly why Ed Miliband didn’t speak out when it wasn’t necessary.

      So, instead they saw them going to war in service of a plutocratic, corporatist elite. That certainly showed what they stood - or, perhaps, knelt - for!

    6. BenSix — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:47 am  

      I like GW’s brassy exhibitionism. Are we going to see pride marches soon?

    7. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:52 am  

      “There are loads of times I disagree with comrades on the left on issues, but I stop myself from publicly fighting with them”

      Sunny - you do that but does Ed Miliband?

      Then why did he go to the then PM’s office ( a leader who was elected by the Labour Party and the electorate 3 times and demand he quit his office). And pretty much everyone in Britain knows he did that.

      And on his judgement - him and mr. Balls worked incessantly to install GB as PM and get rid of Tony Blair. And they worked to undermine TB government from within - that shows lack of judgement, disloyalty to the country and the PARTY.

      And now he wants to be leader of the labour party.

      Secondly on tuition fees:

      Why did him and other cronies in the GB castle wanted to stop tuition fees which ensures “free at point of delivery” and people pay back when they have a job? But rather he supports the regressive graduate tax?

      And David Miliband had actually achieved a lot when he had the climate change portfolio in the Blair Administration as Defra Secretary. Ed Miliband - what did he actually achieve there in terms of policy that was not already in place?

      A lot of lefties, (dare i say including yourself) also support Dianne Abbot - who had no qualms on sitting in the BBC studio and criticise everything the labour government did for 13 bloody years.

      But going back to ed miliband and ed balls - at least ed balls has integrity even though he is a political thug.


      Also, each and every contender except of David Miliband in the GMB hustings had nothing nice to say about Peter Mandelson - well it was Mandelson, Campbell and Douglas Alexander who ensured Labour was not wiped out in this election.

      Ed Miliband is too much like GB - so no matter how much people campaign for him to be labour leader - and he is no great inspiring character either that so many believes he is.

      There is a reason why Alistair Darling backed David Miliband.


      Sunny - I am not questioning your integrity at all. But I wonder why would you support someone who has been openly disloyal and put personal amibitions ahead of the party or the country?

    8. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:54 am  

      And also in 2005 if he said anything against the war - it would not have affected his chances to be in Government as his mentor and Godfather Gordon “bully” Brown would have ensured he got his seat at the cabinet.

      So, saying that he would have lost his portfolio is simply misleading - I think.

    9. Kismet Hardy — on 15th July, 2010 at 1:12 pm  

      Madam Miaow? Issues of discipline? Is this a pisstake?

    10. Sunny — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:04 pm  

      And pretty much everyone in Britain knows he did that.

      I didn’t know that. And besides, I’d also argue Brown needed to go. Anyway, where are you getting this from?

      him and mr. Balls worked incessantly to install GB as PM and get rid of Tony Blair

      TB had to go. Loyalty to the party also means ensuring it has the best leader, or change leaders when needed.

      Also, how is the graduate tax regressive?

      Bensix: So, instead they saw them going to war in service of a plutocratic, corporatist elite. That certainly showed what they stood – or, perhaps, knelt – for!

      You’re creating a false dichotomy - I don’t think that was what the party should have done. But that doesn’t take away the point I’m making.

    11. BenSix — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:06 pm  

      No, I’m aware of that. The problem is that going to war was a far greater jolt to “what they stood for” than a few conspicuous principles might have been.

    12. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      i also have two links from guardian & independent and two books in my study from different authors with dirtect quotes from sources.

      And ed m did not deny it ever.


      And they undermined and wanted TB out from day one in 1997 -0 so please

    13. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:37 pm  

      You say TB had to go that is why wanna be Tony blair’s are running the country now.

      We would never agree on this but lets not pretend that there was anything but personal ambition driving Balls and Miliband to drive TB out for a stupid idiotic and completely inadequate PM - GB.

    14. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      This may make things better and I could give you the two different books from the two different authors.

      Ed Miliband is as bad a political thug and a hypocrite - so lets not try to play the holier than thou image.

      And compared to the rest - DM is head and shoulders above in character and accomplishment - but in the labour party that does not count for much nowadays does it

    15. cjcjc — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:55 pm  

      “And compared to the rest – DM is head and shoulders above in character and accomplishment”

      That may be true, but they all still ALL midgets…

    16. cjcjc — on 15th July, 2010 at 2:56 pm  

      are still…

      where is the lovely edit feature?

    17. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 3:01 pm  

      Have fun reading this: and not one single source denied this story ever:

      “Members of the Chancellor’s entourage tried to take things into their own hands. Ed Miliband was always regarded as the least thuggish of the Chancellor’s crew, but the iron had now entered his soul. He stormed in to see Sally Morgan. “Why are you still sitting here? Why haven’t you packed up to go?” demanded Miliband. “There’s a deal and he’s got to go. There’s a deal. Prescott was the witness to it.” Morgan claimed never to have heard of any such deal: “I don’t accept what you’re saying is true.” She went into the den to tell Blair: “You’re not going to believe this. I’ve had Ed Miliband round telling me to pack up.” Blair contacted Prescott, who “went mad” because he didn’t want to be dragged into it. Miliband phoned Morgan soon afterwards. “How dare you tell people?” he shouted down the phone. “That was supposed to be a private conversation.”

      According to David Hill : “It happened quite regularly. You’d have numbers of Brown people coming round to Number 10 saying: ‘You shouldn’t be here any longer’.”

    18. cjcjc — on 15th July, 2010 at 3:14 pm  

      What a nice crowd they all sound.

    19. MaidMarian — on 15th July, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

      ‘it becomes far too easy for everyone to point fingers at others to question their motives.’

      Exactly the point. There has been far too much finger pointing and not enough argument on the issues.

      While the left is merrily pointing fingers about cuts being wrong because X supports Y cut the right are getting on creating a narrative that blames the public sector for banks crashing the economy, and making it common currency.

      The fingerpointing might make people feel good, but it it terrible people’s front of Judea.

    20. boyo — on 15th July, 2010 at 5:34 pm  

      the only one who will be able to differentiate himself (because diane is a non runner) from clegeron is burnham, for all his shortcomings

      im serious - over 5 years of cuts, the labour movement will need a spokesperson who can credibly differentiate himself from southern public school continuity, and the only one available is burnham

      its shallow but true. Ed is too clegeron. David is too wonk. Balls is an ass. Only burnham has a chance to signal something different yet plausible to the people

    21. Niels Christensen — on 15th July, 2010 at 9:08 pm  

      Now, a possible Labour government is a partner in a world, where post war Iraq could play ( we don’t know) an important role. To chose a leader, who openly declared that the war wasn’t a good idea isn’t very smart, what will the Iraq leadership think ?
      The new Iraq with all it’s problems is a fact. Helping it on the way and criticizing those who tries to sabotage the development in Iraq, is a a more important political task.

    22. Sunny — on 15th July, 2010 at 9:59 pm  

      I’m actually glad to hear that Shamit. I thought there was no ruthlessness within the Labour party and they’d turned into wetbags. Phew.

    23. Sunny — on 15th July, 2010 at 10:01 pm  

      I know you’re a big fan of Tony Blair but I’m not. I’m glad they tried to get rid of him or the Labour party would have been finished.

    24. Shamit — on 15th July, 2010 at 10:30 pm  

      The sad bit Sunny - they were not ruthless - they were whingers - trying to stab him in the back.

      The Labour party won 3 elections under Tony Blair - and lost the one run by Gordon Brown and his coterie. It was so bad that GB had to bring back Mandelson and Campbell to ensure there was some sort of saving face.

      Tony Blair pretty much left on his own accord - and he got a standing ovation in the house of commons - and in the next election - the country chose another wanna be tony blair.

      Labour party was not finished under Tony Blair - it won elections. And without power political parties are nothing but talking shops. I would take a Tony blair anyday over losers who prefer to win the good moral fights on the despatch box but can’t do a thing because they can’t persuade people to join them.

      Finally, even after Iraq war, Blair’s majority was more than Mrs Thatcher ever got. What was the majority Labour party won with Ed Miliband writing the manifesto? oops it lost.

      And now he wants to forget the manifesto - because he did not want to write it but was forced to? Did he ever do anything that he wanted to do? hmmmmmm….

      Tony blair despite all the hatred has been the most successful Labour politician in history - his administration has done a lot whether its the NHS or localism, or ICT enabled service delivery or using the voluntary sector - or international aid. Despite best efforts of Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Ed miliband he stilld elivered - and if these small fractions of human beings helped him rather than hinder him - imagine what the labour government could have achieved.

      Finally most importantly, Tony Blair, rightly or wrongly had some convictions - what convictions does Ed Miliband have? Apparently he has never done anything that he wanted - he always followed orders.

    25. dave bones — on 16th July, 2010 at 1:15 am  

      You call people Comrade Sunny? ha ha ha you are a political animal. You should live in the coop down here. I think people should get used to politicians having open barneys all over the shop. It is entertaining. The only place they shouldn’t have barneys is the place they have barneys all the time- in the commons. They should take things fucking seriously there. I am pleased when the speaker tells them in no uncertain terms that the public detest the way they behave.

      These guys are all bland. vaguely amusing, but bland. And they aren’t “left”. there isn’t “left”.

    26. dave bones — on 16th July, 2010 at 1:16 am  

      If Blair wins by turning the Labour into the conservative party who wins? Mrs Thatcher.

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