Monday, 9 July 2018

No Chequered Message

On 28th October 1971, the great Labour coalition of 1945 was destroyed when 69 Labour MPs voted in favour of the Conservative Government's European Communities Bill, while a further 20 abstained, easily cancelling out the 33 Conservative votes against it, and thus granting victory to Ted Heath. 

By common consent, the Parliamentary Labour Party was never the same again after that night. It was the end of the sense that, in spite of everything, all Labour MPs were essentially on the same side. Within 10 years, many of the rebels had left the Labour Party altogether. It would be 26 years before that party would again enjoy a workable majority in the House of Commons.

There will of course be a Labour three-line whip to vote against the Chequers proposals. It is highly likely that a certain number of Conservatives will also do so. If the Government won on the votes or abstentions of Labour MPs, then the great Labour coalition of 1997 would be destroyed, and the great Labour coalition of 2022, hitherto gestating healthily, would be aborted. There would not be another Labour Government in a quarter of a century.

To preempt that, the Labour Whip must be withdrawn from any Labour MP who attended this afternoon's meeting with the Government Chief Whip, and the process initiated immediately to expel any such MP from the Labour Party. Yes, for mere attendance. This is no time for half measures.

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