British Labour on verge of organising locally?

If this week was a good one for the Northern Irish Tories, the next few week could be the turn of Northern Irish members of the British Labour Party. Andy McGivern of “Labour Members in Northern Ireland” and the recently converted Tory James Leslie are on Inside Politics with Mark Devenport tomorrow. McGivern will say the Labour Party may be on the brink of allowing its members to organise here. He also talks about Peter Hain and Alan Johnson’s track records re Northern Ireland membership.It also seems that Peter Hain is due to address local members in early October:

All Labour Party Members living in Northern Ireland are cordially invited to attend an address by the Secretary of State prior to his leaving for the Cross Party talks in Scotland on the resumption of the Assembly. The event has been organised by “Labour Members in Northern Ireland” who have been lobbying within the Labour Party for the extension of Labour Party organisation to Northern Ireland.

The event will include feedback on our recent attendance at the Labour Party Conference. The Labour Members in Northern Ireland Steering Committee view this address as evidence of movement in relations with the Party and would ask all Labour Party members to make every effort to attend.

To our knowledge this is the first time a senior member of the party has specifically address NI members.

BTW, it seems the story of Ian Paisley turning up at the Labour conference in Manchester is groundless. But we should be able catch up with him when he’s with the Tories in Bournemouth!

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  • comrade

    Hain is doing this for the worst of reasons – he wants the GMB’s votes when he runs for Labour deputy leader.

    The good news is that the Labour Party’s general secretary, Peter Watt, thinks this is a politically stupid idea and a waste of money.

    Plus, Hain has no formal party role and nor is he likely to get one.

  • Crataegus

    I hope that the Labour Party does contest elections in NI. Their attitude to membership in NI has been singularly atrocious and has no defensible justification whatsoever.

  • TAFKABO

    Comrade.

    Are you arguing that giving disenfranchised people a voice is a waste of money?

  • Fanny

    If Labour were to organize here would it be along sectarian lines? To do otherwise would surely not be in keeping with the NI ethos.

  • Craataegus

    Fanny

    A while back I did hear that there was some agreement in the offing with the Southern Labour Party as well, but I do not have direct knowledge and am open to correction. In fact I would be very interested if someone could give authoritive comment.

  • Garibaldy

    Crat,

    The southern Labour Party does have members and a platform up here, partly a consequence of the DL thing. Mark Langhammer is involved in it.

    Part of the problem was fear of getting associated with one side or the other. Can’t see them running in elections even if branches are allowed to be formed, but who knows? 10 years ago they might have been more popular anyway.

  • Crataegus

    Garibaldy

    Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember hearing of a possible agreement (say a year ago) between the Southern Labour Party and the Labour in NI lot (new Labour in NI I suppose) that they would both support or endorse the same candidates in the North. I was wondering if that project had moved forward?

    I didn’t pay much attention at the time but it struck as the way to go. You could have Nationalists and Unionist types together contesting elections with policies based on NORMAL issues and agreeing to simply accept the outcome of some future referendum when it comes to the united Ireland question.

    I myself don’t see any real problem with having people of broadly similar beliefs agreeing to differ on an issue like nationality within that context. I am not sure how it would work with party constitutions but where there is a will….. the Greens were possibly thinking about some such, but from what I hear botched it. Again based on rumour and tittle tattle rather than any direct knowledge.

    I have given up on any involvement in NI politics long long ago it is pointless and in any case am often elsewhere now, but I really would like to see some fundamental shake up of the existing order of things. There has to be a way beyond the confines of the UUP, DUP, SF and SDLP. A way that is not confined to this introspective piece of turf. A way that people of common interest, but different National aspirations can cooperate equally and both feel equal and included. There has to be a way!!!!

  • Fanny

    “Part of the problem was fear of getting associated with one side or the other.”

    This is what I was getting at. Seems to me that unless a party is aligned to either the Unionist or Nationalist community it’s doomed. I need hardly cite the sad histories of the Women’s Coalition and Alliance.

    If an NI Labour “branch” has ties to the south it won’t have the support of Unionists; if it’s tied to Britain it won’t manage to tempt voters away from Sinn Féin.

    What would be fun is Tory going head to head with Labour in this neck of the woods.

  • Pete Baker

    I suspect that Hain’s conciliatory approach to the NI Labour activitists has more to do with their Trade Union connections and his own Deputy Labour Party Leader campaign than anything else.

    I could just be being overly cynical.. but there you go.

  • Fanny

    I was typing while you were posting, Crataegus! You said all the stuff that was on my mind.

  • slug

    It seems that what UK Labour are about to announce is that they will allow local members to organize constituency associations so they can participate in the strucures and leadership elections just like anywhere else in the UK. I doubt if they will change policy on contesting elections at this stage, however.

  • Crataegus

    Fanny

    Ships in the night.

    Slug

    What on earth is the point in a political organisation that does not contest elections. A strange beast!!!!

    Pete

    I have absolutely no doubt that you are right. Hain has shown little real interest in this place and is clearly pursuing his own personal interests.

  • slug

    Crat

    I should have made clear that I am speculating on that. Hopefully I am wrong but I suspect they will do it step by step.

  • aquifer

    So there seems to be a consensus in the GB labour party to keep NI members out and support a UI. Maybe a sop to the overrepresented irish in the GB labour movement and to the wannabee revolutionaries subsribing to their own regional domino theory. A bit like the role of the Jewish lobby in American foreign policy. Foreign policy is not quite central to the politics of the state, so may be sub-let to distract and appease a lobby. Could also be older brit labourites, unwilling to grant equality or influence to people with odd accents, hanging out their old ‘No Irish’ sign.

    Hard to imagine new labour becoming uncomfortable with the SDLP’s failure to engage in class warfare though. And it seems that protestant labourites are unionists before they are class warriors, otherwise Irish labour would be their home.

    If they are serious about opening up a new political front in the North, they would however have to oppose any local resurgence of the Tories.

    The unionist and irish separatist political forces having fought eachother to a standstill, the door to government could be open to others who can appeal to the highs and lows of modern income distribution.

    An Ulster Progressive Democrat party anyone?

  • Labourman

    Andy’s words were something like “expecting a positive conclusion.”

    His case is on Labour organising here.

    I don’t believe that anyone would expect to see 18 constituency parties being formed immediately, although South Belfast and Foyle are well on the way.

    The NEC have the last word on whether Peter Watt shall endorse candidates. That will continue to be the case. I know that Peter has the interests of labour party members at heart.

    Now, Mark, with your seat on the NEC in the South, surely the time for joint action has come?

  • Brian Boru

    Well regardless they will be as unsuccessful in NI as the Tories and the Lib Dems, not least because everyone will confuse the 3 Labour Parties running up there – NI Labour, Irish Labour and the Labour Party. But also because everyone in the Six Counties (except Alliance voters) vote according to tribal allegiance.

  • Brian Boru

    BTW just because Hain is meeting them does not mean Labour is going to stand in the Six Counties. I think this agenda has more to do with a feeling among Unionists that Labour’s failure to stand in NI represents some kind of snub to the Union with NI. Tough! 🙂

  • CS Parnell

    Anyone who thinks the Labour Party is about to waste what little cash it has on this fiasco needs their head examined.

  • Crataegus

    CS Parnell

    It’s not about money as, like most political organisations, I would imagine that the finance for fighting an election will be raised locally. It is about being able to vote for parties who govern this country.

    What can possibly be wrong with Local Labour groups contesting elections in NI? It will give the electorate greater choice and who knows what the future may bring.

  • Yokel

    If they do, good.

    CS Parnell, they don’t invest anything whoever organizes here will have to fund it most lilkely.

  • ‘Peter Watt, thinks this is a politically stupid idea and a waste of money.’
    As far as Labour goes standing in Surrey is politically stupid (it spilts the anti Tory vote) and and waste of money. Never stops Peter running candidates though