Burgon in an open honest interview that puts other so-called Left MP’s to shame also points out the fact Labour lost the general election because of Brexit not any socialist policies
In an interview with the Mirror, the left-wing candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership explains why he thinks the party should double down on giving members the final say – and argues MPs are ‘seduced’ for ‘forget their roots’
The Shadow Justice Secretary shot to prominence is an unwavering defender of Jeremy Corbyn and the left-wing politics which also propelled the Labour Party into having the biggest membership of any European political party.
However the party is still licking its wounds after its heaviest defeat since the 1930s, and a long contest to replace Mr Corbyn is under way, along with the vacant position left be ex-deputy leader Tom Watson, this contest has seen all but the most loyal question the ‘people power politics’ which put Labour’s left in control of the party – but didn’t put them in power.
Richard Burgon pull’s no punches in his interview with Andrew Marr, Burgon is honest and direct.
Sat in his Westminster office, beneath photographs of former NUM leader Arthur Scargill being arrested and Labour founder Keir Hardie, the Shadow Justice Secretary firmly rejects the idea that it was the party’s left politics that lost them the last election.
The Leeds East MP is unrepentant and believes it wasn’t the party left-wing policies that kept them from power.
It was Brexit and the second referendum that lost Labour the general election not socialist policy’s
He said: “In 2017 we had a socialist leader, Jeremy, the manifesto of socialist policies and we came close to winning. We came to close to winning, it was an electoral advance if only we’d have won.
“In 2019, same leader, manifesto of socialist policies and we got smashed. It was a devastating defeat. And what changed in those two years was the Brexit issue and also I think the right-wing press upping its game at demonising Jeremy.”
Richard Burgon offers Tony Blair a free place at his School of Political Education
The Labour deputy leadership hopeful this week also pitched a new Tony Benn School of Political Education if elected to the post, as part of a wider push to build “widespread support for alternative ideas”
Asked whether Tony Blair could teach at at the school named after the veteran left-wing backbencher, he told the Andrew Marr show: “He’d be welcome to come and learn at the college if he liked.”
Marr: “Could Tony Blair be a lecturer at a new ‘Tony Benn School of Political Education’?
Burgon: “He’d be welcome to come and learn”
Mr Burgon said: “I know that Tony Blair introduced tuition fees. He could come and study for free at the Tony Benn School of Political Education.”
Mr Burgon believes that this brand of Bennite politics will eventually win the day – if the party has the appetite to face the heat it generates from a powerful establishment.
Burgon’s no hypocrite
Many of Mr Burgon’s former comrades on the barricades seem to have lost their appetite for a strand of Labour politics that puts the party’s members, and affiliated trade-unions, firmly in the driving seat.
” Brexit overshadowed traditional party loyalties,” he says.
Mr Corbyn was a man “targeted by the right-wing press” because of his socialist politics.
The answer isn’t to change course, he argues the heavy fire is evidence that the party is in the right place and the establishment is unsettled.
MPs, he says, need to realise the limits of their judgment – and the risks that being in Parliament could see them lose their values.
Mr Burgon says: “I think people have got to understand, and Aneurin Bevan talked about this, that Parliament basically is a system designed to make people sell out without realising.
“It is a system designed to make people lose touch without realising it.
“So most people don’t wake up as a Labour MP, on the left or the right, and say, you know what today’s the day I’m going to sell out and forget my roots.
“The system embraces them, the system seduces them.”
This he warns leaves them at risk of becoming “out of touch” and leads them occasionally “losing the plot”.
He added: “A good example is the ridiculous attempts to get rid of Jeremy in 2016.
In an interview with Andrew Marr Richard Burgon points the finger directly at the MP’s that carried out the Chicken coup the Monday morning after the EU referendum as the people that undermined the Labour party
“If it hadn’t have been for the disloyalty and disgraceful behaviour by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 2016 we’d be three years into a Labour government now,” he told the Andrew Marr show.
“Three years into scrapping tuition fees. Three years into people getting paid ten pound an hour minimum wage. Three years into building 100,000 council homes a year.
“So responsibility, I have to say, does rest with them in relation to unnecessary behaviour.“- Richard Burgeon
The irony is that Sir Keir Starmer, is running on a Labour Leadership ticket for ‘unity’ yet he is one off the MP’s that carried out this unnecessary coup. That gave the Tory’s the position of government.
However, Mr Burgon, who is backing Rebecca Long-Bailey for the leadership, vowed to serve any of the three leadership candidates if he becomes deputy, saying he would be “laser-focused on getting them into Number 10 Downing Street”.
“I’d be loyal to Keir Starmer, loyal to Lisa Nandy, loyal to Rebecca Long-Bailey,” he said.
“But I’d be loyal to he Labour party members. I’ll be a voice in the Shadow Cabinet and hopefully in the Cabinet for Labour members and trade unions.”
Asked if he was the “continuity Corbyn” candidate, Mr Burgon replied: “I certainly am.
“I want to defend what I think are the three pillars of Corbynism: democratic members-led party, an anti-austerity, pro-public ownership party, and an anti-war internationalist party.
“And that’s what my three pledges as a deputy leadership candidate are based on.”
Mr Burgon’s claim is in direct contrast to left-wing leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has repeatedly insisted she is not the “continuity Corbyn” candidate.
The Shadow Justice Secretary also admitted he “made a mistake” in calling Zionism “the enemy of peace” in 2014.
He told Mr Marr: “I made a mistake in saying that. It was a crude phrase. I said it before I was an MP.
“I think it’s important that we all get involved in the Labour Party fulfilling a moral duty to fight anti-Semitism whether it occurs in the party or in wider society.
But he stood by his refusal to sign 10 demands to tackle Labour anti-Semitism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews – which are backed by every leadership hopeful.
He said: “I feel uncomfortable as a non-Jewish person signing up to a pledge which refers to other Jewish groups as fringe Jewish groups. For example, Haredi Jewish groups, what are they? LGBT Jewish groups, socialist Jewish groups. I want to work with the Board of Deputies, but with groups right across the Jewish community to fight anti-Semitism, but also a whole lot of other issues.”
Mr Burgon said Labour has no future politically, morally or electorally if it drops its anti-austerity approach – and warned Jeremy Corbyn’s successor as leader against moving away from the party’s “socialist” policies.
Back to Blairism
On the prospect of frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer moving the party back towards the centre ground if he became leader, Mr Burgon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think we need to ensure we keep our socialist policies by ensuring we have a democratic members-led party.”
Asked if he would be worried by such an approach, Mr Burgon replied: “I don’t think there’s a future for the Labour Party politically, morally or electorally by trying to triangulate our way back to power.
“We can’t drop our anti-austerity politics, we can’t return to the days of the controls on immigration mugs, the days of supporting illegal wars, the days of Labour leaders not supporting strikes, the days of only opposing Tory cuts and supporting austerity as long as it doesn’t go too far too fast.
“We can’t go back to the future…”
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