I went to Rebecca Long-Bailey’s meeting in Brockley, earlier tonight. I made some notes which I have polished and reproduced here. Her speaking style is not that of Ian Hodson, nor of Matt Wrack who was her warm up act as were two local Momentum supporting councillors. Maybe we’ve had enough of ranty demagogues and interestingly even when I drifted off, she regained my attention; much of her content is good. Her words were reported elsewhere but this is based on the notes I took and two videos taken by a friend and posted on my Youtube channel.

She spoke of groups and declared that it’s good to have groups, but we must debate and then unify. This is not the condemnation of the “apolitical winner take all” behaviour of some of the groups that I would like to see, but she added that it’s wrong to call groups “cults” or even “Tories”. So I hope that the call for respect and dignity is something she’s committed to. There are still people excluded from the 2015 purge who should be allowed back in. The issue of collusion by staff in this unacceptable behaviour also needs to be addressed. However, she has been quoted as saying,

“I don’t care which wing of the party you’re from. If you’re competent, professional and get the job done, I want you working for Labour,”

The problem for her, and me, is that the minute we say things like this, people, often guided by Labour insiders, focus on the very top of the organisation but the problem is more widespread than that and it’s the medium (although this may include some Regional Directors) and junior levels that need to reminded, trained or otherwise persuaded or removed to ensure that the culture of collusion, cover-up and “ends justifying means” ends.

More politically and centrally to understanding why we lost again, she described her experience in her seat; where she spoke to a family who stated that they still saw Labour as a Party of welfare and they had worked hard and didn’t want to pay for others they considered workshy. Her initial words in response to this were generous and put social security in a good light, we all need that security but this was a problem for Ed Miliband’s campaign; he tried to put together a coalition of the vulnerable and too many of those in work, often home owners didn’t want to pay the tax bill. It’s one reason why we should listen to James Meadway who argues that the tax increases on high earners are an essential part of the 2017 manifesto.

She spoke about educational access, particularly higher education access which reminded me of Neil Kinnock’s comments about how he and Glynnis were the first in their family to ever get a higher education, and this was not because all their ancestors were thick. This raises the issues of access to, and governance of, the educational institutions, together with student finance and even the Educational Maintenance Allowance. No promises were made, and not all the issues identified but let’s remember that RLB’s running mate is Angela Rayner who has been shadow spokesperson on Education for four years and our Education policy is much less well developed than our Housing policy portfolio.

What I found very positive, was her statements on constitutional reform. She sees it as an essential means of rebuilding trust. While I consider “Abolition of the House of Lords” to be a slogan, she stated it needs to be replaced by a “Senate”, elected using PR, regaining the power to reject laws coming from the Commons using a set of rules to guide them. This is a call for a basic law of rights that cannot be over-ridden by Parliament, Absolutely essential!

She also stated that a Labour Government must fulfil the promise of devolution.

On Party reform, she said we need real political education, we certainly need to discuss politics, she said, we need to allow our members to become full-scale participants in the policy making process, and she also repeated her support for  open selection, because we need our best people to be standing as MPs (and I would add Councillors, I have written a rule amendment abolishing the Councillor trigger ballot: “Coming Soon”).

An election is probably some way off, and Leadership candidates can’t offer a member led party and then propose a detailed manifesto. The answer to questions, the chosen words of the stump speech and their records in Parliament are an illustration of values and direction of travel.

In the Mirror article, they suggest she is trying to prepare some in Momentum and maybe even Unite that they need a reality check. Beattie, its author, also points out that the Lewisham and surrounding Labour Parties are large but underestimates this by a factor of ten, there are thousands in the Lewisham Parties and the Rivoli seats 600, not of all whom can be guaranteed to vote for RLB; some came to listen.

There were a couple of questions, one fabulous one on racism in our society, the need for decency within our immigration laws, and citizen’s rights; Long-Bailey replied that the immigration centres were inhumane and needed to be closed. She has said more, about not throwing migrants under the bus, and never returning to having a shameful “Control Immigration” mug.

The shameful mug

A second question was less fabulous, not so much a question but a statement that the second referendum was a mistake that lost the “Red Wall”. She did not agree, but I wonder how many people present will be choosing Kier Starmer hearing the contempt in the tone of the question?

RLB at the Rivoli
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