In the dark decades prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise election as the leader of the Labour Party, the party’s democratic structures were thoroughly hollowed out, so as to refashion Labour as a reliable representative of the interests of big business before the needs of Labour.
These changes in the Labour Party’s internal structures led to ever-diminishing support after their 1997 electoral victory, which culminated in their worse than useless performance in the 2015 General Election. Lack of democracy and open hostility to representatives who were keen to fight to represent the needs of the working-class led to the flooding of New Labour with all manner of ill-informed careerists.
One stunning local example of Labour’s decline arrived in the form of Councillor Manish Sood (Fosse ward), who in 2010, was somehow selected to stand as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in North West Norfolk. To illustrate his complete inability to understand how to represent working-class interests, two days before the election he chose to both attack his own party leader, and spout utter nonsense during a painful interview he gave to Sky News (see below). Some of the highlights of this interview include his saying:
“We have to be proud of being British. We have to be proud of the Queen that we have; she’s the Sovereign of this country, if you go to any other Middle Eastern countries people are proud of their King’s and their Queens, and we have to go back to the basics there, so that people are proud of that, proud of being British, proud of the society that we live in, and things will start getting better and better. We have to control all these religious education establishments. In other words, we have to control the number of mosques being built, control the number of temples that are being built, and so on…
“At the end of the day I have visited a lot of the public services. I have visited the prisons. I think the police should be fully armed properly; the death penalty needs to be brought back in; and you know the prisoners are living in luxury – that needs to be controlled. I mean, Britain is just not a charity shop. This is what I am trying to say. We have to have people respecting this country a lot more and it’s as simple as that. If they can’t be proud of the Queen, if they can’t be proud of the system, then they’re not welcome, it’s as simple as that. And we need to go back to the true moral values of what Britain was like during the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s…”
But interestingly, the part of this interview that the Labour Party seems to have found most disturbing was his comment: “I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country”; not the bit where he pronounced: “Nowadays people just don’t have respect for each other, I am talking about the average person.” Either way after facing a brief suspension from the Labour Party he was readmitted, whereupon he said the local media: “I stand by what I said, but not how I said it.” (“Labour reinstates Leicester councillor who caused election storm,” 31 January 2011, Leicester Mercury)
At the time of the incident, David Collis, chairman of North West Norfolk Constituency Labour Party, explained to the Leicester Mercury: “Manish Sood does not represent the views of North West Norfolk Labour Party members.” (5 May 2010, Mercury) In the same article, Manish’s mum, the former Lord Mayor of Leicester Manjula Sood, said:
“I think he has a lot of anger inside him. I didn’t know what his views were until this morning when a friend called me and said I should turn on the TV news. When I saw him on screen I felt gutted, I was distraught. I was also very angry. The key thing about the Labour Party is that you must be loyal. Manish has not been loyal and he has caused trouble with a day to go until a General Election.”
If anything, the key lesson that Labour Party members must learn from this sorrowful story is that local members should demand the right to have some form of meaningful democratic control over the selection of local councillors and MPs. This could include the reintroduction of mandatory re-selection of all elected representatives to ensure they represent the interests of the broader Labour movement and their Constituency Labour Party.
Additionally, Councillor Manjula Sood (Belgrave ward) might consider the implications of the advice she gave to her son, that “The key thing about the Labour Party is that you must be loyal.” So far, Councillor Manjula Sood, who is also the Assistant City Mayor for Communities & Equalities, seems to have remained studiously silent about the undemocratic attacks upon the current leader of her party by the totally unloyal City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby. Maybe now Councillor Sood can now find the time to show a little loyalty to Corbyn’s leadership.
In the local May 2011 elections Manish didn’t stand as a councillor — which is perhaps just as well because the following year he was found guilty of pestering two children for sex and indecently assaulting a woman (“Party suspends sex assault ex-councillor,” 8 March 2012, Mercury).