LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for right wing Labour MPs to ‘think again’ after reports that some are planning a ‘semi-split’ breakup of the party.
Saturday’s Daily Telegraph reported that a group of senior Labour MPs are looking at plans to set up ‘alternative Labour’ if Corbyn stays on as leader. The Tory newspaper said ‘leading moderates’ in the party were planning to elect their own leader and shadow cabinet if Corbyn wins the current leadership contest, and possibly launch a legal challenge for Labour’s name and assets, including property owned by the Labour Party. This allegedly would constitute a semi-split!
The plot is for Labour right wingers to also approach House of Commons Speaker Bercow and argue that, having more MPs than those loyal to Corbyn, they should be named the official Opposition. Corbyn has responded by saying there was ‘no alternative. . . we are Labour’, and the party should unite to fight the Tories.
Corbyn, who held rallies in Hull and Leeds on Saturday, said: ‘Whoever is saying my leadership is breaking up the party is speaking nonsense. Since I became leader membership has doubled, activity has increased.’
Corbyn urged MPs to ‘work with the elected leadership of the party to bring about the defeat of the Tories’. He said: ‘If people want to split the Labour Party then they’re splitting something that was the creation of pioneers to bring about social justice in Britain – with a party that brought the National Health Service, that brought human rights, that brought the Equalities Act of Britain.’
Appealing to the Blairite traitors he said: ‘Surely there are some achievements we can all be proud of – and the next achievements are to defeat the politics of austerity and cuts.’ He added: ‘We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph – the very existence of this party.’
Leadership challenger Owen Smith, who was at a rally in Liverpool on Saturday, said: ‘I do worry about there being a split, I say that very seriously. I think the Labour Party is standing on the edge of the precipice right now. But we’ve got to heal the party, we’ve got to come back together and that’s why I’m running to heal the Labour Party, to unite us to get us ready for government.’ He alleged that there were ‘some on the far left of the party who have become fatalistic about the prospect of a split’.
Meanwhile, Corbyn has pledged to scrap the Blair-Brown governments’ anti-union laws in favour of collective bargaining. Writing in yesterday’s Observer, Corbyn said change was made urgent by the corporate governance scandals involving Mike Ashley at Sports Direct and Philip Green at BHS, and the row over the decision by the Byron hamburger chain to help immigration officials arrest 35 of its staff who were working illegally in the country.
‘Even Theresa May understands she has to pay lip service to change in the workplace and the boardroom,’ he wrote. But the best way to guarantee fair pay is through strengthening unions’ ability to bargain collectively – giving employees the right to organise through a union and negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at work. That’s why it should be mandatory for all large employers, with over 250 staff, to bargain collectively with recognised trade unions.’
Corbyn also proposed that all employees be given guaranteed hours which must be specified and written into a contract – bringing an end to zero-hours contracts. If an employer wants workers to work beyond those hours, they must specify the length of additional work along with a reason for asking.
He wrote: ‘Economic failure is a central reason why people are no longer prepared to accept politics as usual, across the advanced industrial world. It’s one of the reasons I was elected Labour leader in a landslide 10 months ago – and why there can be no going back to a broken economic model or the politics of the past.’ The result of the leadership contest will be announced on 24th September.