Why I Resigned From Labour
Peter Tatchell's resignation letter to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, in protest at Labour's rigging of the London mayoral candidate selection contest and the party's ditching of its commitment to equality and social justice.
Prime Minister & Leader of the Labour Party
Tony Blair MP
23 February 2000
Dear Tony Blair,
I joined the Labour Party in 1978 because I wanted to help create a democratic socialist society, based on liberty and justice for all. I still believe in the ideals of democracy and socialism. You do not. Under your leadership, Labour has ceased to be either socialist or democratic.
After 22 years of Labour membership, I am tendering my resignation - with regret and sorrow. I cannot belong to a party that has contempt for democracy and its own members.
The rigging of the London mayoral candidate selection is the latest, unforgivable abuse of the democratic process. It follows similar gerrymandering in the selection of the Labour candidates for the Scottish and Welsh elections, and your plans to pack the House of Lords with unelected, unaccountable cronies and back-scratchers.
Your autocratic, Tammany Hall-style of leadership shows that you do not trust the people of this country - or your own party members. Proof of this distrust is your refusal to allow the Labour candidate for Mayor of London to be chosen by Labour Party members on the basis of one member one vote, as originally promised. The imposition of an electoral college was a calculated, cynical attempt to ensure that your favoured candidate won - and he did. My objection is not to the person chosen, but to the electoral swindle that gave him the candidacy.
I have stuck with the Labour Party through thick and thin over the last two decades. I bit my lip and stayed loyal through the progressive abandonment of socialist values and policies. But your subversion of democracy is one abuse too many. Respect for democracy is non-negotiable. Full stop.
The gradual undermining of democratic participation and decision-making within the party over recent years has paved the way for the demise of Labour's commitment to social justice. By weakening party democracy, you have been able - against the wishes of most grassroots members - to ditch policies for a fair and equitable society.
Ingratiating yourself with millionaire businessmen like Bernie Ecclestone, Clive Hollick, David Sainsbury, Bob Ayling and Geoffrey Robinson, you have cut benefits to the disabled and single mothers, set the minimum wage at the poverty level of £3.60 an hour, and this year limited the rise in pensions to a miserly 75 pence a week - at a time when there is a £6 billion excess surplus in the national insurance balance.
Despite your professed opposition to discrimination and hate crimes, the Labour government rejected amendments to the 1998 Human Rights Bill to outlaw discrimination based on age, religion, sexuality and HIV status, and it refused to extend the hate crime provisions in the Crime & Disorder Bill 1998 to protect gay people and religious minorities against prejudice-motivated violence.
I am not willing to remain a member of a party that puts power before democracy, privilege before justice, and appeasement of prejudice before legislation on human rights. Resignation is my only option, because the Labour Party no longer has any mechanism for democratic involvement and transformation.
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