Labour rebels deserve the respect of pro-Union voters

Morning View
Morning View

An exciting political move was revealed on Tuesday: a breakaway Labour group is planning to stand in the coming Assembly elections.

Their decision to defy the party leadership is a vivid illustration of the contempt with which members of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland view its recommendation that they support the SDLP.

That party has since its inception had some members who are part of what Claire Hanna described, in a thoughtful article on these pages yesterday, as a leftist nationalist tradition.

But latterly they have been few in number and the SDLP as a whole is much more green than it is on the left.

The UK is one of the limited number of countries in the world in which a left-wing political movement was allowed to make considerable democratic progress, which helped to entrench the welfare state that is so treasured today. In much of the world, the ruling establishments would not permit any forays whatsoever in the direction of socialism, which only came about through violence (and with disastrous consequences both for the said countries and for the socialist ideal).

Yet the high command of the Labour Party has denied people who are British citizens, but happen to hold left-wing views, the opportunity to vote for Labour candidates, simply because they live in Northern Ireland. It once denied them even the opportunity of Labour membership.

Much of the party leadership, including Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham, see the absurdity of such restrictions. But Mr Johnson sidestepped the issue in a News Letter interview last week, when he was in the Province on an EU ‘Remain’ tour.

He now serves under a leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is so enthrall to the notion that Irish nationalism is a progressive cause that he once stood in silence for one of its most extreme manifestations – a ruthless IRA gang stopped by the SAS.

The Labour rebel candidates deserve respect and support at the ballot box, even if in the form of lower preference transfer votes from pro-Union voters who reject Labour ideals.