Gone is the broad church, Labour’s all yin and no yang

COMMENT: A record round of deselections in the Labour Party this week raises the question: can a democracy truly thrive without scrutiny and challenging debate?

Thursday, 2nd December 2021

paultomlinson

Labour councillor Paul Tomlinson, who has been booted out of the party’s team of election candidates

SIX months to go until the council elections and preparations for a most unusual Labour coronation are already taking place.

Voters face an uphill task of trying to distinguish between the candidates – and perhaps for the first time in Camden’s history, the ‘left wing’ of the Labour Party may be almost undetectable on the ballot paper.

The fabled “broad church” within the party is unlikely to exist in the council chamber from May.

Drearier and drearier, what a stale and predictable place it will become if even the pretence of debate is replaced by the endless echo of politicians saluting one another’s common wants and cares.

All yin and no yang, a dystopian future is emerging on the political landscape where administrators are rewarded for marking their own coursework.

Dissent, we have seen in what appears to be a record round of deselections this week, will not be tolerated.

The group of councillors who have been told they are no longer wanted may be asking themselves if their perceived crimes fit the punishment?

Take for example, the softly spoken Paul Tomlinson, (The big purge? Councillor who spoke out against new skyscraper on green space is deselected by Labour, December 2).

He can hardly be said to be the worst destabilising Machiavelli to stalk the council corridors. His interventions have not led the Town Hall to collapse.

His offence, from the outside, may end up be being viewed as simply sticking up for residents by calling out developments like the Somers Town tower. When did Labour get so thin-skinned?

Intolerance to any critical voice within the party risks disenfranchising the many voters who have always loved our borough’s history for radicalism and rebellion.

Taking criticism, of course, is not easy. Harsh words dent egos. Bad blood can linger. Sometimes it all feels unfair. But, to speak the council’s language, feedback can make you stronger.

And politicians should learn to embrace difference, and even disagreement – sometimes too when it might not feel constructive.

For what does it mean to be a Labour councillor today? Is it to fulfil a worthy ambition of representing the residents that elected them?

Is it to stand up for the people who are worse-off than yourself? It seems that establishing an all-conquering regiment is the most important motivation in this era of management politics.

The rules are the rules, you will be told, as if set forever in stone.

Some may see these deselections as petty, or even vindictive. Scores which nobody outside of this world of crispy local politics will have cared about or even probably even noticed, will have been settled.

But can a democracy truly thrive without scrutiny and challenging debate?

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