Sunday 22 April 2007

An Unseemly Atmosphere of Intimidation

I'm just back from Scotland, campaigning for Elaine Smith MSP. Elaine is a principled socialist who has worked tremendously hard in the Scottish Parliament and in her area. She was born and bred in her constituency of Coatbridge and it was strikingly obvious from talking to local people at the meetings I attended and when we were leafletting from a streetstall in the town centre how well she was known and respected for her hard work in her constituency.

Elaine is in the finest tradition of Labour representatives. Someone who is steeped in the community she represents and who clearly loves the area and its people. The New Labour practice of parachuting favourite apparatchiks into safe seats has undermined this once proud tradition of our party and has contributed to alienating our support.

I am sure that Elaine will do well in her election and if there is any vacancy for a Scottish first minister or any senior ministerial post in the future the party would do well to consider supporting Elaiine for this post. She would serve Scotland and our party with talent, sound judgement and commitment.

As we were campaigning I picked up the article in the Guardian reporting that because I was close to securing sufficient nominations to stand for Labour Leader the Brown camp were worried and, to quote, " were intent on stopping a challenge from the party's left wing, most likely from John McDonnell." According to this article from two of the most reliable and respected political journalists in the country, David Hencke and Tania Branigan, Brown and his campaign managers are determined to stop me getting on the ballot paper even to the extent of trying to pressurise some of my supporters to switch allegiances.

Creating this atmosphere of intimidation and this unhealthy climate of bribes and threats is just unseemly and demeaning for those who are involved or who have sanctioned this behaviour. Why can't MPs be left to make up their own minds in an atmosphere free from bullying threats about the implications for their future careers? Why can't they be left to make a judgement on whom to nominate based upon what they believe is best for the party and the country? Many MPs just want to nominate to allow all party members and trade union affiliated members the chance of a vote and say in this leadership election.

Yet again my message to all of those New Labour factions around Blair and Brown is to lighten up and let democracy work. Let's have an open and friendly debate and a democtratic election. An election with a smile on its face. A bit of maturity and dignity wouldn't go amiss.