This last ten days have been traumatic and exhausting for any member of the Labour Party. We are deeply divided amongst ourselves and calls for party unity can be dismissed. We must determine what sort of Party we want to become and the message we wish to present to the electorate. Whatever the outcome, somewhere between a third and a quarter of the existing membership will leave.
As a member for over 50 years I should be disappointed but I am not. Of course I am devastated by the overall political climate. The Referendum was won by dishonest politicians and we have seen the worst side of modern Britain emerge – with ignorance and racism driving the change. I can only apologise to my foreign readers: I am ashamed of my country. Such a situation demands an effective opposition and a change of direction under a new leader is essential if the Labour Party is to rise to this challenge. All credit therefore the Parliamentary Labour Party for forcing a leadership election with an uncertain result ahead.
There is no prospect of calm before the election. On 6th July we will see the long-awaited publication of the Chilcot enquiry report set up to examine the UK’s involvement in Iraq and ‘identify lessons that can be learned’. It can be expected to castigate former Prime Minister Tony Blair and give impetus to those to who support Jeremy Corbyn.
More than any other organisation, the Labour Party now defines itself by what it is against – certainly this has been the case at our local North Norfolk meetings. ‘Blairite’ is used as a term of abuse for anyone who questions the direction of travel – ignoring the fact that Tony Blair ceased to be leader of the Labour Party in June 2007, nine years ago. Sadly Blair’s legacy will be defined by his mistakes on Iraq; this has prevented any balanced appraisal of his achievements in office, not least the ease with which the UK found its place in Europe. At no time did I view myself as a Blairite but we have done ourselves immense harm as a Party by denigrating his achievements in office. Corbyn supporters at their demonstration in Parliament Square take comfort in chanting ‘Blairites out’ – this is so much easier than facing the harsh reality of the mess we are in today.