So farewell, Frank Field
IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, relations between ex-Labour MP Frank Field and his constituency party and local branches hit rock bottom, culminating in a successful motion from a local branch to the CLP to apply to have the Labour whip withdrawn. Further to this, at the CLP meeting, an amendment to the motion, seeking not to re-select him as the choice of candidate for Birkenhead at the next election, was also passed. Field then resigned the Labour whip and quit the party.
The largely hostile media and the ever more hostile right wing of the Labour Party would simply want party members, media outlets and the general public to see this as a dastardly plot by Jeremy Corbyn or a ‘hard left’ infiltration - with comparisons to Militant in the 1980s.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact dissatisfaction with Frank Field’s maverick behaviour and Tory-lite policy views had been growing steadily over a number of years within the CLP. He just didn’t cut it anymore with local members of the party in a safe Labour town, starved of investment and hope, like Birkenhead.
It has been largely overlooked just how far apart Frank Field and his CLP were on his parliamentary voting decisions and choice of media interviews. The assumption outside of his local CLP was that he was censured for his support for the government in the recent Brexit vote - but this decision was only the final straw for many members. This was not because of Brexit but because his vote propped up this government when his priority, like that of any opposition MP, should have been to mortally wound this appalling government on behalf of his constituents.
This decision was one of numerous acts over the years of promoting his own agenda above that of the party and labour movement. His paid journalism for the Sun, which is reviled on Merseyside because of its smears against victims of the Hillsborough disaster, was also hugely divisive and too emotive for many to forgive.
He has a wretched record on a number of issues:
Back in 1987 Field provoked an outcry from Labour supporters when he publicly advocated tactical voting for the SDP-Liberal Alliance in that year’s general election - a call to vote against Labour candidates that was in clear breach of party rules. Even worse, Field circulated a letter attacking Labour left winger Lol Duffy who was standing as a parliamentary candidate in the neighbouring constituency.
Field consistently pushed the myth that migrants are the key cause of society’s problems. And during Ed Miliband’s leadership, Field questioned his own place in the party due to his perception that it was weak on immigration.
He has promoted his right wing views on welfare reform and abortion rights, while expressing his admiration for Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell. His statement that Thatcher was a hero of his should also have been enough for the party, although he is not unique in that opinion, as one former Labour leader can testify.
Being chosen as Poverty Tsar - and accepting the post - by David Cameron was hugely inappropriate and again a massive snub to many constituents and members as well as another massive error of judgement.
Other examples included apologising to Tory MP Esther McVey, whose views on the most vulnerable in society are well documented.
Field’s accusations of antisemitism and intimidation were just a diversion. The reality is that his position within the local party had simply become untenable.
The parting of the ways between the CLP and Frank Field was another chance for the media to try to divide the party, but it is also a great opportunity for Birkenhead to select a Labour candidate who reflects the views of a vibrant Labour Party - a candidate with socialist views, benefiting constituents and members alike, someone in tune with the national leadership, to promote a manifesto to address the needs of the many and not the few.
Our new candidate will have to counteract the legacy of Field’s inability to interact with members and trade unions in order to help build our Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party. This aspiration should be in the DNA of all members, especially in the current PLP, who should take serious heed of the policies and views that will best serve their constituents.