Labour, Corbyn and national unity | Letters

Gerald Dunning says Labour’s overriding aim should be to ensure there will never be another Tory government, David Thacker thinks John McDonnell is right to reject a government of national unity, while Roy Boffy criticises Corbyn. Plus letters from Virginia Yates and Ruth Knox

Polly Toynbee’s acknowledgment of Labour’s unwillingness to join an alliance of anti-Brexit parties (A government of national unity can deliver us from no deal, Journal, 6 August) is disheartening, not only because of what will be at stake in an imminent general election, but because that mindset has played a significant part in failure to break a Tory hegemony.

Labour has held power in its own right for only 30 years since first forming a government in 1924, and many economic and social reforms enacted by the party since the 1970s have been ruthlessly reversed by succeeding Tory administrations.

In addition to the serious threats to progressive politics posed by a no-deal Brexit and the rightwing complexion of Boris Johnson’s cabinet, a re-elected Tory government would almost certainly implement the most recent constituency boundary changes, which have been forecast to give the party a future advantage of 30 additional seats.

Labour needs to recognise that stubborn insistence on partisan purity has proved counterproductive, both to its own fortunes and the interests of the reform-minded majority of British electors.

The overriding aim of the Labour party should be to ensure there will never be another Tory government, and it must accept the need to work with other parties to secure that end. The electoral history of the last 95 years indicates that until that can be achieved other successes are likely to be provisional.
Gerald Dunning
Tonteg, Rhondda Cynon Taf

• John McDonnell is right to “reject a government of national unity” (Report, 8 August) but he presumably realises that, although a Labour government formed after a successful no-confidence vote would be constitutionally legitimate, most people would doubt its democratic legitimacy. Isn’t the most principled and plausible way for Labour to form “a caretaker government with the support of other opposition parties and rebel Conservative MPs” to guarantee that the Queen’s speech would contain a commitment to an immediate EU referendum and a general election within six months of the result?
David Thacker
Professor of theatre, University of Bolton

• Any talk of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, even of a caretaker government, is entirely fanciful. He is probably the most disliked politician in the UK and his performance since becoming leader of the Labour party has been lamentable: he has shown few, if any, leadership qualities or skills. He is a campaigner rather than a politician, who has refused to lead or campaign on the most serious and pressing issue of our times. A general election with Corbyn in the lead would leave Labour destroyed for a generation, if not for ever, though it might produce a refreshingly different parliament.
Roy Boffy
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• With the Tories seemingly hellbent on an act of national self-harm and a general election around the corner, what is the focus of the Labour party? We are to get bogged down in trigger ballots that allow the deselection of any MP who cannot muster the approval of 66% of their wards and affiliates (Trigger ballots, not the general election, focus Labour MPs’ minds, 5 August). This is odd for a party whose leader, in a recent YouGov poll, commands only 56
approval ratings from national party members. What chance a trigger ballot for the leadership?
Virginia Yates

• Your article on trigger ballots reflects the growing gap between Labour MPs and the 485,000-plus membership on the role of the MP. A number of current MPs clearly feel entitled to a career in politics, to the point where joining a different party is an acceptable means of preserving that career. There is no sense that to represent the Labour party in parliament is a privilege, not a right, and that their function as MPs is to pursue the inspiring socialist policies agreed at the last party conference.

Calls for a reselection process for candidates are not a vindictive vendetta, but part of a healthy democratic process whereby members choose who can best represent their views and then put them to the electorate. How I wish that the campaigning activities outlined in the article – phone banks, leaflet, knocking on doors – were being directed towards campaigning for the Labour government we so desperately need.
Ruth Knox

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