Monday, June 14, 2010
06/11/2010 Letters: Left, right and the Labour party

As a Labour party member of 20 years' standing I am once again dismayed that the left of the party has been unable to field a credible candidate due to the manoeuvrings and machinations of the parliamentary party machine (Report, 10 June). John McDonnell would have reflected the views of a large section of the party membership: those of us who have been against the pro-business policies undertaken under the Blair-Brown governments and the unjustifiable military campaigns. Many MPs, in going out of their way to stack up votes for the Miliband brothers, have behaved shamefully in denying the true progressive section of the party a voice.

What needs to be done for the future, to widen the range of candidates and thus to give members a real say in who leads our party, is for the threshold for the number of nominating MPs a candidate needs to be lowered. McDonnell himself has argued for the threshold to be reduced to 5%, and I think this would be a suitable level to be put in place.

Although I welcome Diane Abbott's candidature as a different type of candidate to the other four, her voting record and hypocritical action over sending her son to a private school means she cannot be considered an authentic candidate of the party's left wing. It was a little galling to see so many MPs make 11th-hour decisions to nominate Abbott to get a woman on the ballot paper while knowing that, at the same time, they were excluding the only candidate who represented the socialist tradition of the Labour party.

Tim Sandle

St Albans, Hertfordshire

• As a member of the Labour party entitled to vote in the leadership contest, I can vote for one of five clones, all affluent, Oxbridge-educated, career politicians. So much for the Speaker's conference on parliamentary representation. Last January, it regretted the rise of career politicians, far removed from the experiences of ordinary people, and pointed to the rising domination of 29% of MPs (probably larger now) drawn from the tiny minority who attend Oxbridge. For the first time in 48 years of Labour membership, I may not bother to vote.

Bob Holman


• Paul Richards says Diane Abbott represents a strand of Labour politics that does not reflect the views of mainstream Labour voters and members (Comment, 10 June). Clearly he does not represent the politics of over 250,000 members who have left since 1997, presumably because New Labour did not reflect their views.

Tony Probert

Save the Labour Party

• Marc Wadsworth's appeal to Labour MPs of colour makes me cringe (Letters, 9 June). Block voting on lines of race, gender, class or creed betrays the principles of democracy and entrenches societal divides; Diane Abbott's appearance on the leadership ballot should be because of her abilities, not by accident of birth as a black woman â€" or are minorities for ever to be consigned to being the token black/Muslim/brown/female candidate?

Prateek Buch

Woodford Green, Essex

• Labour's leadership contest just became more interesting with Diane Abbott's candidature being assured by "help from on high". But this should not divert any of the candidates and their parliamentary supporters from getting on with their principal role as opposition MPs, challenging the coalition. Sadly it feels like the government is working but that the opposition is on vacation.

Les Bright

Exeter, Devon

• In the latest London Review of Books, several intellectuals commented on the new coalition. David Edgar said: "More recently, former leftwing intellectuals have abandoned their commitment to the poor on libertarian grounds, while the socially liberal intelligentsia have formed a pact with the neoliberal right across eastern Europe." In the same article, John Gray said "social democracy is … gone for good". In such a political ideological state of flux, how does a layperson understand what is meant by left and right in modern British politics, and how do the contenders for leadership of the Labour party measure up to these new standards?

John Owen

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