Now that three Tories have joined the new “independent grouping”, we should be under no illusions that this rightwing establishment tribute act’s sole aim is to prevent a transformative Labour government at any cost.
When members overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn twice as our party’s leader, it wasn’t because they were wedded to one man or one leader. It was because our party and the political landscape in this country had caught up with the seismic shock caused by the global financial crisis. The frustration with an unfair economic system and anger at austerity imposed on the many to pay for the greed of the bankers had become a thirst for real change.
It is our job to deliver this change to create a fairer Britain. To uproot an economic model built around the financial system and to replace it with one that invests in all parts of the country, people and our public services. This is what Labour is about, it is what the party has always been there to achieve, whatever part of our broad-church movement you come from.
The era of big money corporate donors bankrolling politicians so they can preserve a system that rips off the many and works only for the super-rich is over. That is why this breakaway of a handful of MPs from both parties must be fought and rejected for what it is – a well-funded and co-ordinated effort to defend the huge power and privilege that the 1% enjoy.
Sadly, the change that a Labour government will deliver was too much for some colleagues to take. If any of these supposed independents, all of whom saw a huge increase in their vote share in 2017 standing on Labour’s overwhelmingly popular manifesto, had an ounce of decency and respect for their voters, they would call a byelection to prove that they still have the support of their constituents. We showed at the 2017 general election that our policies are what most people want, delivering the biggest increase in the Labour vote since 1945. But these newly independent MPs are refusing to hold byelections and have so far refused to tell us where their funding comes from. We can only speculate as to why this might be.
But it would be too easy to simply ignore the concerns that this group of former Labour MPs has raised. As party chair I recognise that antisemitism is a growing concern across our society and sadly within small pockets of our party. The abuse that Jewish MPs, and female Jewish MPs in particular, receive both online and in person is abhorrent.
If Labour party members are found to be antisemitic they should be booted out of the party and they will be. The Labour party under Corbyn and general secretary Jennie Formby has now adopted the most stringent procedures of any UK political party to root this evil out of our movement.
I am proud to be the chair of a Labour party that is funded by half a million members and millions of trade unionists. It is our job to deliver for voters all over the country who are crying out for the real change that a Labour government will deliver.
This establishment coalition of MPs who have split from their parties seem to share a passionate desire to preserve our failed neoliberal system, defend austerity and protect corporate tax cuts and privatisation.
The only reason they want to stand against Labour candidates is to try to stop Labour winning the majority of MPs we need to form a government. Millions of people are reliant on the Labour party to transform our country so that it works for the many, not just the privileged few. We won’t be distracted by the last cries of the 1% for protection.
• Ian Lavery is chair of the Labour party