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Election 2017: what should you do if you support Labour but can't stand Jeremy Corbyn?

I can’t campaign for Corbyn. But we have to work for something to remain of the party after him, which means campaigning for those candidates who offer Labour a future. 

I’ve had a lot of conversations about Jeremy Corbyn with fellow Labour supporters. Well, arguments, really. A lot of the kind of arguments that devolve into apoplectic stammering, mutually hostile blinking, occasional tears and, in one case, mimes. Back during the 2015 leadership campaign, I angrily told a Corbyn-backing friend that his candidate would be an electoral disaster for Labour. In reply, he smiled and acted out setting off the plunger on a stack of dynamite. For a lot of Corbyn’s supporters, his victory was the moment to rip everything up and start again; to tear down all the apparatus of New Labour, and write a new origins story where Tony Blair never happened. 

It didn’t quite turn out like that. For one thing, Corbyn the radical didn’t materialise: most of his policies could have sat comfortably in Miliband’s manifesto (if they weren’t there to begin with), and where his values did diverge from recent Labour history, they sometimes came as an unpleasant surprise to his base. Take, for example, Corbyn’s attitude to the EU, manifested in a Remain campaign to which he brought all the vigour and pep of an exhibit in Bodyworlds – no shock to Bennite old lags, but a grievous insult to the younger idealists of his coalition. 

Yet with no major electoral tests, the Labour Party has maintained a rickety sort of stability despite the mass resignations of the shadow cabinet last summer. The shell is standing, but the supporting beams have collapsed. And now Theresa May has announced her intent to call a general election in June, we’ll see just how fragile the party is. Although an early election spares Labour the pain of the 2018 boundary changes, its terrible position in the polls – and the dire personal unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn – mean there’s very little comfort for Labour. The party, which is my party, is looking at a catastrophe. 

For Labour members (including me) who recognise how much of a liability Corbyn is, this is going to be a difficult campaign. One of the most compelling arguments against Corbyn’s leadership is that he’s toxic to voters; but clause 1 of the Labour rulebook commits members to “promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process”. So do we promote the election of Corbyn, however hopeless we know it to be, however much we know that promoting him injures Labour’s prospects at every other point? Or do we sit this one out, twisting our membership cards in our restless fingers?

But it’s not just that Corbyn is unpopular. It’s not even just that he’s incompetent – although you’re clearly in the realms of political imbecility when a moderately successful week of opposition announcements in the run-up to Easter brings supporters out in spasms of relief. It’s that he’s unconscionable. In the most serious possible way, it is morally intolerable to imagine Corbyn as Prime Minister. Corbyn, who has been responsible for an unparalleled abdication of opposition over Article 50. Corbyn, who has led the way in smirking denial of anti-Semitism within Labour, even while one of the greatest threats to the nation and the continent is the creep of the far right. 

For those reasons, I can’t campaign for Corbyn. But we have to work for something to remain of the party after him, which means campaigning for those candidates who offer Labour a future. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have one in your constituency: you live in Birmingham Yardley and can vote for Jess Phillips, or Bristol West and can vote for Thangam Debbonaire, or to be honest most places that aren’t Islington North or Vauxhall (seriously, that’s enough Kate Hoey now). If you don’t, then find the nearest constituency with a candidate worth supporting, and volunteer. The 2017 general election is going to be a brutal one for Labour, but it can survive. The country still needs Labour, and Labour needs to become a party that deserves to govern again, one day. 

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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