This blog tries to treat new political ideas sympathetically. It has also praised Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, for standing firm against the manufactured smears of the Murdoch mafiosi. But sometimes the realisation has to be faced that some ideas are not going to gain acceptance with the wider electorate - or, whisper it quietly, the credibility their author desperately needs in his search for the Labour deputy leadership.
Richard Burgon MP
Politics is, as always, the art of the possible: there is no right, when it comes to an election which is open to all those covered by the current franchise, for those deemed more ideologically pure by their own party membership to do better than those who are not. So that is why someone has to let Burgon down as gently as possible over his latest wheeze.
Here is what he has offered voters, in his own words: “Today I'm announcing my plan for a Labour Peace Pledge. This will change Labour's constitution so our Party never again backs military action abroad without the explicit backing of party members, except in a national emergency or where there's UN backing”. Ri-i-i-ight. Do go on.
“Great coverage [article in the Independent] of my pledge to change Labour's rules so that we won't back military action without the members having a vote. With this pledge, Labour members will never again experience the shame of having to say ‘Not In My Name’ against their own party”. If only military actions were all like the Iraq war. Or the Falklands.
But they are not, as has been discovered recently by anyone studying the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the plight of the Kurds, caught between the Iraq fallout, the Syria conflict and Turkish intransigence, the continuing mess that is eastern Ukraine, the aftermath of failed interventions in Libya, and the stalemate in Yemen.
So while LabourList has covered Burgon’s intervention, telling “Richard Burgon set to unveil 'Labour Peace Pledge' giving party members veto power over military action being supported by the leadership”, some are not persuaded. And they are the kinds of voters that Labour needs to convince in order to regain power.
Typical responses have been “Just wait a couple of months while we ballot ... (loud explosion sounds in the background followed by silence as rubble settles)” and “I like Burgon but he keeps coming out with pledges that are genuinely electoral suicide. You cannot give party membership power over military decisions. That's madness”. Labour needs to have people like that on board. They won’t be with ideas like that.
More damning has been the brief but telling response from one media voice whose vote one might think would go to Labour without a second thought: Dave Hill, former Guardian London correspondent, and who now runs the OnLondon site, took one look at what Burgon was proposing and concluded “This man is a loony”.
He wasn’t quoting the Monty Python Fish Licence sketch, either. This one will not fly.
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Burgon's idea needs to be considered carefully and not just dismissed out of hand.
The fact that his ideas sound a bit barmy show how conditioned we are to accept war.
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