Hilary Benn has shown the way. Moderates must stay and fight for our Labour party

by Samuel Dale

Every day I have to convince myself not to leave the Labour party in these dark days of the Corbyn nightmare.

I voted for Liz Kendall in the leadership along with just 4.5% of members. The party has clearly changed beyond all recognition since I joined at 16 in 2003.

Every day brings a fresh humiliation, a fresh moral and electoral disaster. Snubbing the national anthem. Shot to kill. Mao’s Little Red Book. Momentum bullying. Everything Ken Livingstone says. The Syria free vote shambles. No press release produced responding to autumn statement for the first time ever. And much more besides.

It is not so much the policies but the sheer incompetence of a shambolic and ramshackle leadership that has dragged the 100-year old Labour party into the moral and electoral abyss in just three months.

So it is natural to think about leaving. Many have. The FT reported as many as 1,000 members have left in the last month in despair at Corbyn’s leadership.  I understand why they have left and it is easy to lose hope. But we have to stay and fight.

That is why Hilary Benn’s speech in the House of Commons was so important.

He made the case for bombing Isis in Raqqa with passion and persuasive verve but it represented more than that.

Whether you agreed with his arguments for bombing or not, all Labour moderates should revel in his defiance in standing up to the intolerant hard left.

It represented a moderate element of the Labour party that is refusing to walk quietly into the night. Refusing to simply leave its party in the grip of a Marxist cabal obsessing about internal party structures and ignoring the public.

“I will do everything I can to stop my party becoming essentially the cheerleader, the vanguard for a sort of angry, intolerant pacifism,” said John Woodcock.

Stella Creasy, who has had mobs outside her house, staff threatened and a nasty deselection campaign against her, ignored the threats and voted with her conscience.

And then there was Benn who summoned the moral history of the Labour fight and its fight against fascism.

The Left that stood up against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s, fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War and stood shoulder to shoulder with Churchill against the Nazi appeasement.

He recounted a history of the Left that does not actively seek to fight but does not shirk from its responsibilities when that fight is brought to its door.

And Benn did it knowing many were waiting in the wings to use his late father’s name against him. And the hard left were waiting to dish out their social media punishment beatings to anyone who doesn’t toe their line. It was one of the most brave and impressive speeches I have seen in my lifetime by a politician.

Labour’s civil war is only just beginning and the victor is not yet known. It could easily still descend into an irrelevant unelectable rump to be replaced by other parliamentary forces in the next decade.

Or it could return to its former glory of seeking election to shape the country for those people that need a Labour government.

The future is unclear. What is clear is that moderate MPs are not ready to hand over the party to the hard left just yet.

And that should be a message of hope to moderate members. Please don’t leave. The Labour party needs you and the country needs you.

The 2020 election is gone. This isn’t about the next five years, it’s about the next 30 years and how Britain’s politics will be shaped.

This is moment when we need fighters in CLPs as much as the PLP. Defy the Momemtum bullies. Stand up and be counted.

Let’s keep calmly making arguments for a centre-left government, persuade moderates to join and convince existing members the hard left is not the answer. I am and Hilary Benn has given me a reason.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

Tags: , , , ,

27 Responses to “Hilary Benn has shown the way. Moderates must stay and fight for our Labour party”

  1. Mike Homfray says:

    I thought it was an emotive slice of showboating, but not a lot more – he has good oratorical skills, but there wasn’t much in the way of content. It was all emotional stuff to try and paint Labour as the party of dropping nbombs on civilians

    Clearly he is positioning himself as the leader of the right – but is this a sensible subject to choose when clearly his view was appreciated far more from the Tory side, and when even more clearly members are not in favour of it?

    Perhaps if he could be one iota as passionate about social security cuts or privatisation, he might be able to win over more followers, but as you say, your favoured candidate got 4.5% of the vote

    The other problem is that the speech looks somewhat cynical and opportunistic after reading this – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hilary-benn-shadow-foreign-secretary-says-labour-wont-back-air-strikes-on-syria-a6734651.html

  2. paul barker says:

    Stay & be slowly worn down, embittered & burned out. End up as another anti-politics cynic whining from the sidelines.
    Labour centrists have to face up to their defeat, in large part deserved. You stood shoulder to shoulder with The Trots when attacking The Libdems as Tory scabs & Traitors & this is your reward when the bullies turn on you.
    You lost deciseively because you had nothing much to say & your position in what used to be your Party grows weaker every day. Have the courage & sense to jump before you are pushed, dont drop out of politics, come & join The Libdems where people can disagree without calling each other scabs.

  3. The Tories applauded him, and then two thirds of his own party’s MPs voted the other way. His Leadership bid lasted about half an hour. That speech ended his career.

  4. Getthemout says:

    Someone PLEASE expel this guy from the Labour party. Thanks.

  5. richard says:

    You voted for Liz but it’s not about the politics, it’s about the incompetence? Whatever. Your business (PR), your previous posts and supporting Liz show that this is completely political disguised as tactical and competency.
    You and those like you are looking for mistakes made by the leadership, manufacturing mistakes in order to avoid political debate because you know as far as the Labour Party is concerned your politics are bankrupt. You know that if and when the coup comes a ‘soft left’ candidate will be promoted and you will support them so you don’t want to discuss politics. For soft left read left in rhetoric, right in actual policies, a stepping stone to the return to liberal policies.
    There are already parties with politics and policies you’d be more comfortable with so why don’t you take those you are cheering for and go there, leave us to become the pressure group you belive we will become.
    But why not? Because you know that’s rubbish and you want the status, the union money, the history traditions and the prestige of the labour party to sneak liberal policies into the minds and voting habits of the working classes of this country who support Labour. To keep the ‘swinish multitude’ in a ‘safe pair of hands’.

  6. Easily the best speech this decade although the Trots on here won’t agree, the just want the Labour party to be a protest party and remain in permanent opposition.
    With Corbyn in charge we will be lucky if we have 150 MPs i 2020

  7. Feodor says:

    Sam Dale: “The party has clearly changed beyond all recognition since I joined at 16 in 2003.”

    You were a sixteen year old who joined the Labour Party of 2003!? That says it all really.

    What was it attracted you, Sam? The illegal wars? The reneging on the promises regarding tuition fees? The principle-free spin and triangulation? Blair’s charm!? There’s just so many positives to pick from…

    In any case, a 16 year old joining the Labour Party of 2003–that’s the kind of act which singles you out as an odious toady, more interested in climbing the greasy pole than in the shagging, boozing and drug taking that animate the spirits of most normal 16 year old lads.

    And evidently, you’re still cut from the same cloth now as you were then–once a New Labour bootlicker always a New Labour bootlicker.

  8. Sam Dale says:


    You will have to drag me out of the Labour Party by my cold dead fingers. I’ve been a member for half my life and I’m not going to pushed out by £3 Corbynistas.

    Bring. It. On.

  9. historyintime says:

    Stop saying 2020 is lost!. Political time moves faster nowadays and the situation is still retrievable.

  10. Ho-ho boys, were we not meant to see a terrible result yesterday as Labour was punished for having Corbyn as its leader? Seems the electorate isn’t following the script. What to do Sam, Rob and Atul?

  11. John P Reid says:

    David Lindsay the fact many MPs had made their mind up, that Cameron hadn’t put the case,so we’re going to vote against before Hilary’s speech, isn’t a reflection on him, plus Jez only had 13 MPs who truly wanted him to be leader 1/5th of the amount of people who voted for bombing, and some of them would hav voted before Hilary’s speech

  12. steve says:

    I feel genuinely conflicted about this – I dont agree with the bombing because it seems we have learnt nothing from history. From Iraq, I think we only need to learn two things:
    1) dont break international law (or skirt it, or bend it)
    2) tidy up after you (go in with boots on the ground and afterwards do some statebuilding)

    With Syria, they seem ok on (1) but not (2). Also, the geopolitics around Syria is so complex and scary.

    However, that being said, compare all the people in the shadow who voted with Jeremy vs those who didn’t. Those who did were either awful or non-entities (with the one exception of Lisa Nandy). Those who didn’t were all totally interesting, engaging, warm and likeable.

    Normally, I would agree with Yeats – the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. However, I have the feeling that, the worst are indeed full of passionate intensity, but on this issue, they have called it right.

  13. John says:

    grumpywassock as a proud member of Spellar’s ‘Tiny Trots’ I will agree with you and say Benn’s speech was good, I said at the time it was powerful and that he had clearly learnt a lot from his Dad. It’s just a pity he doesn’t have the same principles as his Dad. However after last night would you like to revise the second part of your comment?

  14. Shaun says:

    I too joined the Labour Party as a 15 year old in 1974, I am no longer a member and have not for a long time. Yes Benn’s speech was very eloquent but as one of your comments states, it had no content.
    Yes I can enjoy a good political speech even when I disagree, unfortunately what we have in the PLP and elsewhere are people who refuse to accept the democratic mandate of Part members, sounds rather familiar, will CLPD be making a come back.

  15. Ryland1 says:

    Silence? 12 hours after a thumping Labour Win and nothing to say? this result undermines the thesis here somewhat.

    Sour grapes not saying well done to a fantastic result

  16. Getthemout says:

    Re. yesterday’s election results……

    Corbyn and real Labour values: 1
    Samuel Dale’s Red Tory “values”: 0

    Start the expulsions and deselections NOW.

  17. TCO says:

    Not often you see “Benn” and “moderate” in the same sentence 🙂

    “I voted for Liz Kendall in the leadership along with just 4.5% of members. The party has clearly changed beyond all recognition since I joined at 16 in 2003.”

    Liz Kendall clearly is a Liberal, and needs to be in a Liberal Party where she would be appreciated for, and can be and express herself, as what she is.

    That she commanded less than 1/20 of the vote in the leadership election tells everyone everything they need to know about the chances of success of Labour’s “moderates” (read – Liberals in the wrong party) in re-establishing control.

  18. Trench says:

    The Yeats quote is very apt for the left-wing Corbynistas.

    Incapable of winning an argument with logic they perpetually resort to threats, abuse and just plain unpleasantness. We even see it here: “you [are}… an odious toady”; “start the deselections and expulsions NOW”… One sees it all over the internet on every chat forum, you see the eggs being thrown at anyone who disagrees; the fowl language and banners at protests; the emails being sent to their own representatives with threats.

    I’ll take your Yeats and raise you a Denning-Kruger. Their behaviour proves to me most of all that they are very wrong and woe betide the country should they ever get any real power.

  19. Trench says:

    OOps – foul language. Never heard them cluck.

  20. Feodor says:

    What exactly is the argument we’re supposed to be having Trench?

    The anti-Corbyn brigade have already made their minds up about Corbyn. Their views regarding him were already set in stone long before he ever won the leadership, and they have shown no signs of being willing to revise their opinion of him as a useless malcontent since–just look at how Atul et al. greeted the Oldham by-election result on this very blog. Every single thing Corbyn does is spun with the intention of presenting him the worst possible light, in a way which makes the postures of the anti-Corbyn brigade as predictable and unoriginal as night following day.

    By contrast, many of the so-called ‘Corbynistas’, myself included, are of the view that a Corbyn leadership shows some promise and should be given a fair chance, preferably without the constant undermining of him that has come from those who, ostensibly, are supposed to be on the same side. We don’t think Corbyn’s a saviour, nor an anti-Christ, just someone with whom we share a certain political affinity and are therefore willing to support, particularly in face of the constant sniping from those who are quick to play the victim when given a taste of their own medicine.

    Thus, given the above, I’d say the Yeats quote applies, just not in the way that you suggest…

  21. Tafia says:

    they perpetually resort to threats, abuse and just plain unpleasantness.

    Or dropping bombs.

  22. John P Reid says:

    Getthemout, If you want to expel someone who voted for Kendall ,how about that red Tory Jim McMahon,
    By the way it was 6% of members who voted for Kendall, as the £3 support and union affiliates brought it down to. 4.5%

    As for expulsions, how would you feel if McMahin as a Kendall supporter called for corbynistas to be expelled to the SWP

    Daniel Spieght, it’s the 63rd most safe seat, wait till, those seats in Bristol, or outer London with hard left MPs see the future council results, as a guide ,too hoe well they’ll do in 2020

  23. John P Reid says:

    Getthemout, you will have to make up something that he can be expelled for, these days it’s not even endorsing a non labour candidate, inciting violence, or being part ,of a party that has its own meeting to deselect others like militan…Monument ,said 20 minutes after Corbyn saying they wouldn’t,when yesterday they called for Benn to be deselected.

  24. Feodor says:

    May I inquire as to why you’ve chosen not to publish my post? I can’t see how it falls foul of the standards expected of commenters…

  25. Mike Homfray says:

    Jim McMahon may have supported Kendall but he made it plain that he opposed the Syria bombing and would have voted against. And he was perfectly happy to share a platform with Momentum and welcomed them to his campaign. I thought he was anything but partisan in the way he fought the campaign

  26. Josh says:

    It was clear the speech was a political coup which failed. As somebody put an Independent article about Benn earlier saying labour won’t back the airstrikes. He’s not as clever he think he is.

    It was also clear the blairites voted in force for the airstrikes and criticising constantly hoping to undermine labour’s chance at the bye-election, and put pressure on Corbyn if narrowly won or lost. It failed, and now in a space of a few days, the blairites wing is becoming marginalised and vulnerable.

  27. Peter Kenny says:

    Please stop repeating the lies about “mobs outside Stella Creasy’s house” – see Tom Watson and her clarifications about what actually happened.

Leave a Reply