After the last few weeks it should be clear that to unite our divided community, we need a new brand of anti-sectarian electoral politics, based on shared Labour Party values.
This NEC statement does not provide the result we wanted. We are disappointed that it is the view of the Labour Party NEC Organisation Committee that it is not advisable for the Labour Party to start organising electorally in Northern Ireland at the present time. This is an abdication of responsible political leadership, at a time when we have a leadership void in Northern Ireland.
The Labour Party is continuing to deny people in Northern Ireland their fundamental democratic rights in a discriminatory way. We remain unable to vote for the party that aspires to govern us and which, if successful in the next general election, will set our taxes and determine the level of our public services and benefits. We are all effectively disenfranchised by the Labour Party.
It is ironic that, on the same day that the NEC report was issued, Tom Watson MP, Labour’s campaign manager, circulated an email to all Labour Party members in Northern Ireland asking for financial contributions for the Labour Party’s general election campaign, claiming the party was: ‘fighting for fairness in the North, South, East and West – in Scotland and in Wales. There will be no ‘no go’ areas for Labour’.
We regret that the suppression of our democratic right to vote Labour is based on opposition from other parties. Sadly, the SDLP, a party that developed out of the civil rights movement, now wants to deny people the most basic civil right of all, the right to vote for the party which may form our government. The party of civil rights insists on suppressing Labour Party politics, even though we now have PR STV in local, Assembly and European elections. The SDLP is being kept on ‘life support’ at the cost of our democratic rights.
There are some positives to be taken from the NEC statement.
The decision on fighting elections will be reviewed in due course.
The Labour Party in Northern Ireland’s own proposal for a consultative ‘Council of Labour for Ireland’ is going to be set up. We welcome this proposed forum and believe it has considerable potential. However, it is no substitute for active electoral engagement.
We look forward to entering into dialogue with colleagues in the Irish Labour Party. The decision of the Irish Labour Party to work together with the Labour Party in the forum is significant.
We will also be interested in talking to the SDLP, with whom we share many policies and priorities, as we do with other parties in Northern Ireland. We note however, that the SDLP, despite its often positive role and its support for many Labour Party policies, has not as yet shown the potential to cross the communal divide in Northern Ireland.
The yardstick against which such talks must be measured is their potential for breaking the mould in Northern Ireland politics and promoting the cause of Labour representation on a cross-community basis.
Contact: Boyd Black 07715045985