The hardest decision | @RosMcM

JpegAfter 31 years of teaching, 15 of them as firstly Headteacher, then Principal, and latterly as Executive Principal and CEO of an Academy Trust, Ros is now working independently in the sector.

Last December I wrote a blog for this site about why I was staying in the party and why everyone else should too.  So agonising this week and looking again at the decision I re-read it.

My thinking back in December was that we could leave and let the party implode to electoral oblivion or stay and fight. Well we stayed and fought. And we lost. What now?

I realise that many reading this blog are energised by the Corbyn takeover and think it a great thing for British politics. As a teacher I cannot share that view because I remember 1979-1997 too clearly. I remember what our schools looked like. I remember the lack of opportunities for so many of my generation. I remember the condition of our hospitals and I remember the homeless on the streets. And it is all happening again. The answer isn’t to shout about austerity; the answer is returning a Labour government.

“Look at how many people Corbyn attracts to rallies; feel the enthusiasm” they tell me. Yes, well we lost a safe Sheffield council seat after one of those rallies took place in the city. I know from the bitter experience of my youth it matters not how many people you get energised at rallies; what matters is convincing the electorate to vote for us. And the party is shedding, not winning, voters day-by-day. I cannot have a conversation with anyone these days without them saying that Labour is unelectable and any member who has been on the doorstep reports the same. The public are not going to vote for Corbyn as Prime Minister. The evidence is all there but those carried away by the ‘momentum’ and talking to each other either don’t see it, or do see it and don’t care.

The call for unity now means accepting defeat at the ballot box. So what matters more to me – my party or my country? The fake unity “for the sake of the party” plays straight into the hands of the Tory government – an unelectable opposition.

Continuing to tell the truth from within the party only highlights how disunited we are (not that this is a state secret anyway) but it certainly wouldn’t help our electability.

Tearing up the membership card and letting them get on with it, lose drastically and shed all these new energised members – maybe that is the morally right thing to do? I really don’t know.

What I do know is this: I am in politics to get stuff done and that requires being in power. In a democracy gaining power inevitably means pragmatism and compromise. Inside our party now we have two clear groupings – those who are prepared to be pragmatic and compromise and work to gain power to get stuff done, and those who want to talk to themselves and feel good about their principled opposition. The party is in the control of the latter group. This means a nasty Tory government who will unfortunately be allowed to get stuff done: stuff that will damage the young people in our care.

So I, like many others, am having a long hard think.

2 thoughts on “The hardest decision | @RosMcM

  1. You could remain an affiliated supporter by joining one of the socialist societies, and/or join the Co-op Party. That way we can show our support for the Labour movement, and even the party, and at the same time show our dissent. Since Corbyn has refused to resign, despite the fact that he has next to no support among MPs, we have no other way to express our displeasure with the way the party leadership (the NEC) has allowed the party to be taken over by its incompetence in drawing up a set of election rules which can reflect the wishes of all sections. The ‘members’ mandate’ argument needs to be defeated. Labour is a parliamentary party within a wider movement, or alliance of groups. It does not exist to represent the views of one section, no matter how many votes that section can gerrymander. Staying in means doing nothing to rescue the party, since the moderates now have no real power, and are due to lose even more. If Corbyn had accepted shadow cabinet elections, or stepped down as PLP leader, it would not be necessary to resign. He has done neither, so it is.

    1. I too have been a teacher, totally committed to the state education system, for 30+ years. For some of that time, I have also been a Labour Party member.

      However, I did in fact resign at one point – when it became clear that New Labour’s education policies were, unbelievably, not only perpetuating destructive and educationally discredited testing and inspection regimes, but also actively facilitating the fragmentation and privatisation of the state education system. This seemed unforgivable to me, and still does.

      We will never build a fair society without a fair education system.

      The one we have ended up with is increasingly inequitable and fragmented. Only the better-off have “choice”. Many children have been marginalised and suffer distress and disaffection as a result of an overloaded curriculum and a punishing and educationally unsound testing regime. Teachers have been appallingly treated and the profession is demoralised – hence high drop-out rates and increasingly serious recruitment problems.

      PFI has now been acknowledged as a disaster for which we are paying dearly.

      Through supply agencies, academies and free schools, private business is syphoning off public education money. Teachers’ pay and conditions have been deregulated and driven down, their rights eroded and their experience and knowledge ignored. There are many abuses – for example, the manipulation of working agreements for the profit of agencies and other business interests.

      The interests of private business are absolutely not compatible with the provision of a fairly planned, stable, equitable, free, state education system. We need a Labour Party leader who understands and states that uncompromisingly, and who also recognises the importance of constructive, evidence-based education policies.

      Before Corbyn, we didn’t have such a leader. He has been the only Labour leader ever to address the NUT conference. He genuinely understands all the issues mentioned above, and more.

      Between 1997 and 2010, Labour lost over 60% of its membership and 5 million votes. New Labour pragmatism and compromise delivered power for a while, but it came at a very high price – and many people have now understood that. The core values matter.

      Thanks to Corbyn, suddenly (and unexpectedly) people feel hope – some of the lost trust has been won back. I’m staying in the party too now – to work as hard as possible to make sure that trust isn’t betrayed again.

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