Ed Miliband's refusal to fight elections in Northern Ireland slammed by Labour members
Published 05/03/2014 | 01:30
Labour leader Ed Miliband has been accused of running the party like a "colonial oppressor" over its policy of not contesting elections in Northern Ireland.
Boyd Black, secretary of the Northern Ireland Constituency Labour Party, accused Mr Miliband of an "undemocratic, 1950s, colonial governor mindset" at a Westminster meeting yesterday.
"The cumulative effect of Labour's stance over time is the single most politically destabilising factor in Northern Ireland," he told the meeting in London.
"We have failing sectarian politics in Northern Ireland, not because of the flags protesters or the dissidents or the on-the-runs, but because the Labour Party suppress grown-up politics."
The event, entitled 'Northern Ireland: building a common future on Labour values', marked the formal launch of a petition urging Labour to change its longstanding policy of not contesting elections here.
It was hosted by Baroness May Blood, the Belfast trade unionist who is president of the NI CLP, and three Labour MPs – George Howarth, a former junior minister in the NIO who represents a Liverpool constituency, Gerry Sutcliffe, a former cabinet minister, and Professor Roberta Blackman-Woods, a Durham MP and member of the shadow cabinet, from Belfast.
Mr Black compared the attitude of the Labour leadership to colonialism, as described by Frantz Fanon in his book, The Wretched of the Earth, which described the plight of subject people in the third world.
"We in Northern Ireland, both Labour Party members and the wider public, are the Wretched of the Earth – when it comes to our relationship to the leadership of the Labour Party," he said.
"The Labour Party leadership are our political and psychological oppressors, always putting us down, always being condescending, always keeping us in our place."
Mr Black quoted Mr Miliband, who told the 2012 Labour conference the party would not contest elections here because it needed to be "an honest broker" if there was disagreement between local parties.
"It seems to us to be the expression of an undemocratic, 1950s style, colonial governor mind-set, straight out of Fanon," Mr Black said.
"Ed's statement sums up succinctly just how completely the Labour leadership is disconnected from the society it is aspiring to govern and hopefully will govern, in Northern Ireland.
"It encapsulates the consistent position of the Labour Party over the years.
"The party is disrupting the development of Northern Ireland CLP with its 300- plus members, by not allowing us vote for Labour Party candidates. People say, what is the point of joining a party that will not run candidates? It generates widespread cynicism about the party. It damages the brand."
There are over 300 members of the Northern Ireland Constituency Labour Party. It is affiliated to UK Labour, which refuses it permission to fight elections. The SDLP normally votes with Labour in Westminster, and this is a factor in leadership thinking. Members were allowed to join and organise here following threatened legal actions. The GMB union supports the Labour organisation here as does the Irish region of Unite. Baroness Blood, who is from Belfast, is the NI CLP's president.