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Labour needs unity not division over clause 4

Labour Party leadership candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey, wants to reopen the debate about Clause 4 in the party's constitution.

At a time when the party should be seeking to unite, this candidate is bent on opening old wounds and potentially devoting months if not years of wrangling about its constitution.



It is, of course, a pitch to the Corbyn wing of the party.   They have never forgiven Tony Blair for pushing through reform of the old Clause 4 section 4, which enshrined public ownership as an objective.

It was and will remain a source of contention in the party ever since it was written in 1918, but mainly since the former leader in the 1950s, Hugh Gaitskell, tried to ditch it.

The clause, which has sweeping nationalisation in it, was always far removed from what a Labour government would do.   But for years the party carried the burden of its intent written in stone.

For many on the left, it is a shibboleth.  To moderates, it is was an unnecessary handicap to reaching out to voters.  For the party now to embroil itself in rewriting it would be a gift to the right-wing media, bent on portraying Labour as communist extremists.  The Tory media would have a field day.  It plays into their hands and it will be a distraction from Labour's real message of hope.  Of course, public ownership plays a role in creating a fair economy, but it isn't the objective.

Tony Blair pushed through a reform of the clause.   And this is one reason why the left has decided to use it as some kind of symbolism.  It is foolish and divisive.

It is one reason Long-Bailey would be the wrong choice as leader of the party.  Member and supporters of the party who have a vote should consider what is more important to them.  Bringing the party together, reaching out to voters and forming a Labour government that the country desperately needs, or to spend the next four years arguing and contemplating the party's position on public ownership.

Labour needs a leader who can unite the party, not one that will further divide it.  

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