Thus the telegram sent by Groucho Marx to a Los Angeles club.
Nobody likes a quitter. Unless you are the MSM or the BBC and the quitters in question are walking out on a party with a manifesto which has inspired thousands of members and millions of voters. Their increased majorities in the last election were not, as Len McCluskey observed, down to their “personal charisma”; it was down to a Labour manifesto, a Labour campaign, and Labour activists.
As for me, I’m not angry. I’m disappointed. Seven individuals, each elected as a Labour candidate on a Labour manifesto, have declared that they number themselves amongst the few, the very few.
The good news is that the many remain. And remain the best hope for those, like me, who favour Remain.
I have issues with the incremental approach adopted by the Labour leadership in Parliament. But I understand that the bizarre public school debating society conventions of Parliament require some less-than-transparent manoeuvring in order to arrive at a result.
Despite this need, Labour – the many, not the few – has been on the right side of every vote relating to Brexit. And none of the seven has indicated that they would have voted otherwise in any of them. Nor have they put forward any different policy proposals, apart from Angela Smith’s commitment to the continuing privatization of the water industry which she shares with 1% of the population.
However you look at it, that’s not a vote for the many. That’s pretty much the definition of the few, the very few. And it will not include, obviously, those voters of a “funny tinge”, a statement which is the first genuinely racist comment I have heard from the Labour ranks in many years. (Sorry, ex-Labour – which is presumably why the BBC failed to report it, despite their daily accusations of Labour racism.) Another quitter, Chris Leslie, subsequently dismissed this phrase as “a slip”. Freudian, presumably.
I cannot tell you unequivocally that there is no anti-semitism in the Labour party. I can tell you that I have never heard a single anti-semitic remark and nor do I know anyone who has. Not even Chuka Umunna claims to have done so: “Some have suggested that there is institutional anti-Semitism across the whole of the Labour party – this is not a view I share, not least because I have not seen one incident of anti-Semitism in almost 20 years of activism within my local Labour party”. And yet hundreds of thousands of Labour members are being characterized as anti-semitic, and are being accused of a creating a culture of “bigotry, bullying and intimidation”.
Honestly, I resent this. At best, it is disingenuous. At worst, it is the kind of smear they claim to be opposing.
I have written before, on the occasion of Frank Field’s resignation, that I respect and honour the tradition within the Labour party represented by Field and Umunna. It is part of the movement in which I have supported for half a century. And I reiterate now my concern at the time:
With their actions and slurs, the splitters are undermining their own tradition and their relevance to the many, not the few.
Today from the everysmith vaults: My nephew, Gareth Brynmore John, has recently released a recording of Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen with Trevor Pinnock. It is quite beautiful and I commend it to you.