The horrifying, dog’s dinner motion to censure Canterbury’s MP Rosie Duffield caused gnashing of teeth among local members even before it made the news.
As MPs rallied round Rosie last night, our anger and anguish at the move by a minority of members to discipline her came out at a meeting of our local Labour branch. We supported a second motion, asking them to withdraw theirs.
That debate was almost one-sided, such was the opposition to censuring Rosie. Members old and new, many with politics to the left of the 2017 manifesto, spoke with cracked voices and tears in their eyes about the inevitability of leaking, the pointlessness of censure, the right of Rosie to attend what she wants, the absolute need to stand against anti-Semitism, the destructiveness of the attempt to censure her, and the folly of the whole thing.
And above all, emotion was spilt on the desperate need for a Labour government, for the people within and without that room, for our community, for the kids we teach in austerity-battered districts.
Lots of members had been insulted by Rosie’s overheard comments about MPs “going on strike” over anti-Semitism and feel that she doesn’t engage with our CLP if she can help it. Others defend her on both counts, but almost all members asked the movers to withdraw their censure. It was defeated by an overwhelming margin.
An hour later, in the pub, we saw the consequences of the anti-Semitism row: a Jewish bartender, who described himself as apolitical, asked me without anger how he was supposed to vote Labour given what he sees in the media. Then word came that those who moved the motion against Rosie had reflected and withdrawn their censure.
It wasn’t a collective u-turn or even really the quashing of the misinformed minority by the majority. Some people chose a dreadful avenue to criticise their MP for slights real and imagined, and the vast majority spoke out and persuaded them of their error, or at least that they had no chance of representing the rest of us.
It was a rough day but democracy won out. While other CLPs might be imploding, Canterbury Labour Party knows what it’s here for.
Stefan Vassalos is a member of the Canterbury branch of the Canterbury Constituency Labour Party.