by Roger Silverman
As an NEC member, I would campaign vigorously to restore the supremacy of party conference, uphold the democratic right of open selection of candidates for office, end arbitrary suspensions, and put forward radical socialist policies along the lines of the 2019 election manifesto.
I was born into a Labour family and have been a lifelong party activist. My father was a left Labour MP for 33 years and an elected member of the NEC. I am a branch delegate to the GC of my local party and was its main delegate to the 2019 annual conference.
Labour’s defeat in the December general election was a crushing setback, but despite media distortions it was not “the worst result since 1931”. Labour actually won more votes in 2019 than in 2015, 2010 or even 2005 (when Labour won). We are still the biggest political party in Europe.
We are currently living through a “perfect storm”: a deadly pandemic, the prospect of a devastating slump, the threat of environmental catastrophe. The Johnson government is already widely discredited. We must seize the opportunity to harness the energies of our half a million members to build a Britain for the many not the few.
Why am I standing? Despite having been a party member for six decades (with the exception of the long and barren New Labour years), I’ve never stood for any office in the Labour Party apart from last year, when I was elected West Ham CLP’s primary conference delegate. So why am I now standing for what is supposedly the party’s main policy-making body between conferences?
Too many socialists are leaving the Labour Party. Hundreds of thousands had joined to support Jeremy Corbyn; that was a broad but soft and passive support, and the current exodus, in which too many party member are melting away, is the flip side of that support. It is necessary to raise the banner of socialism not just when it’s easy and there’s little overt resistance, but crucially when it’s tough going: when it’s a question of swimming against the stream and fighting back. A strong showing for the left in this election will show that we’re still a force to be reckoned with.
At a superficial glance, it seems that the left is in retreat. Rebecca Long-Bailey was defeated in the leadership election, and she has been sacked from the front bench. Does that mean a return to the New Labour years? Not at all.
I am editor of a socialist journal called (prophetically) ON THE BRINK. That title is already redundant: society is already over the brink! The most dangerous and catastrophic period in human history is opening up – a perfect storm, a period of successive and potentially more lethal pandemics (a result of the greed and wilful sabotage of the agribusiness companies), of rapidly approaching environmental catastrophe, of a slump on the proportions not just of the 1930s but of 1709, of a rash of repressive and racist regimes, and of a clash between a dying superpower in its death throes and a ferocious emerging rival.
The younger generation will see a definitive outcome to this crisis one way or another within their lifetimes – hence the magnificent uprising of youth worldwide, in Extinction Rebellion, in Me Too, and most spectacularly in the Black Lives Matter, uniting black and white youth across the globe.
What hope could there be for a New Labour-type “third-way” policy of “moderation” in this situation? That road is doomed. Look at the ignominious fate of the defectors Chukka Umunna & Co (remember them?); look at the career of the last LibDem leader, who started the election campaign as “Britain’s next prime minister” and ended not even an MP!
Socialist policies are overwhelmingly popular within Labour’s ranks. What’s the proof? The fact that hundreds of thousands of people joined the party to support Jeremy Corbyn. And their opinions have not changed. For one thing, Rebecca won 135,000 votes – way more than any former left candidate prior to Corbyn. Second, many if not most of those who voted for Keir Starmer did so trusting his assurances that he wanted to adhere to Corbyn’s radical programme, that he was best placed to secure party unity, and in the belief that he was more likely to secure a future Labour electoral victory. There has not been a shift to the right in the ranks of the party membership and support base.
Outside Labour’s ranks, too, socialist policies are supported by most of the population. The socialist policies in Labour’s 2019 manifesto have never been more popular. In opinion polls, there are clear majorities for renationalisation of transport and the utilities, taxing the rich, taxing higher incomes, funding the NHS, free health and social care, a green industrial revolution, etc.
And what about the media’s complacent chortling that the last election was Labour’s “worst result since 1935”? No, it was our second best result since 2001 – under Corbyn it won more votes than Miliband in 2015, Brown in 2010, and even Blair in 2005, when he won! Only in 2017, also under Corbyn, did Labour win more votes, winning back a full three million of the votes lost under New Labour.
I am standing for the NEC to revive the spirits and morale of the hundreds of thousands who voted for Corbyn and the millions who voted Labour under his leadership; and to put socialism firmly back on Labour’s agenda.
NOTE: Thanks for their overwhelmingly favourable response to the hundreds of comrades who have supported my candidacy. However, one or two people have expressed concern that by standing I might risk splitting the left vote. I would like to reassure them that there is no way I would allow this to happen. It is true that my name does not appear on any current left slate – but drawing up a slate at this stage was in any case an entirely pointless exercise. The right time to do that is only once it is established how many candidates have received sufficient nominations from Constituency Labour Parties to go through to the ballot. Let the party membership decide! That is the most democratic test of who has the best chance of winning. Only then should those who have received the fewest nominations drop out, to leave the field clear for those with the best proven prospects. This is a far fairer and more objective way of determining who should stand than by secret caucuses held behind closed doors. I therefore give this pledge: if I receive fewer nominations than other left candidates, I’ll happily withdraw in their favour. And I naturally have a right to expect a reciprocal commitment from fellow left candidates.
See also Roger’s talk to Labourt Left Alliance about his standing for the NEC
For more information, please visit silverman4nec.org.