On Thursday 27th April the former Labour MP Emma Dent Coad announced “after a great deal of soul-searching” that she was resigning from the Labour Party after nearly 40 years of membership. Another Socialist Campaign Group MP who, in her time in the House of Commons from 2017-2019 was part of the small minority within the Parliamentary Labour Party who firmly supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, is no longer a party member.
Emma, a Kensington and Chelsea councillor since 2006, won the Kensington parliamentary seat in one of the upsets of the 2017 general election, overturning a Tory majority of 7,361 in a never-Labour-before seat to win by 20 votes, recording a 10.6% swing. Days later the country was rocked by the Grenfell Tower fire in her constituency, which she denounced as an “entirely preventable tragedy” resulting from Tory policies locally and nationally and New Labour’s effective complicity with them.
Two years on, after a concerted media campaign to promote the former Tory minister turned Liberal Democrat Sam Gyimah as the main challenger to the Conservatives in Kensington, she narrowly lost the seat, by 150 votes. Gyimah finished third and now serves on the board of Goldman Sachs International Bank – while last October, Emma Dent Coad, despite the backing of the Unite union, was excluded from the ‘long list’ of potential candidates to contest the seat once again. Now she has resigned and we print below her statement, first published on the Labour Hub website at https://labourhub.org.uk/2023/04/27/not-welcome-here/
Candidates from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in this week’s English local elections are standing on a positive platform of using councils’ powers and resources to open up a new front in the battle against the cost-of-living crisis (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/18435/07-03-2023/tuscs-core-policy-platform-for-the-may-2023-local-elections/). But a vote for TUSC, where there is the opportunity to do so in the elections on Thursday, is also a vote in solidarity with those like Emma Dent Coad who, in her words, “can no longer be complicit with the current trajectory” of Keir Starmer’s new New Labour party.
TUSC is standing over 250 candidates on May 4th who will offer a fighting socialist alternative to the austerity consensus of all the establishment politicians. The full candidate list, and the details of 34 other left-of-Labour candidates also standing on Thursday, is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Final-list-of-left-candidates.pdf ■
Not welcome here
As the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster approaches, Emma Dent Coad reflects on how it is being portrayed and explains why she is today resigning from the Labour Party. First published on the Labour Hub website on April 27th.
I’m not clear why there have been so many dramas and other cultural offerings about Grenfell this year in particular, but there have been, more than in other years. I’ve been to three plays and two exhibitions to date. Some I just can’t like. Some make me angry. Others get it right.
For me the dividing line is simple: people from the area write or paint from within, looking out; it’s about us, as subjects. People from outside write or paint from the outside looking in; we are objectified. There may well be some excellent dramas from outsiders but I really don’t want to be told what I think. Lionising groups or individuals makes a great story, but this isn’t who we are.
I can’t pretend everyone feels like this, but for me, and many traumatised people I speak to regularly, it is absolutely essential that we feel we have agency in how we are represented. In some cases we do not.
These dramas are not interpreting history. Grenfell is very much alive, facts are still emerging, hurts are still multiplying, homeless households are still homeless. Maybe after ten years we could bear to hear an analysis of what happened, but it is simply too early. And it feels exploitative.
We are all very sensitive, and it’s hardly surprising. The Council continues to fail their repairs and refurb programme, rents and services charges are through the roof, and some Council leaseholders, after years and years of Council neglect and disrepair, are now facing bills of £100,000 for repairs to pretty basic two-bed flats they bought 30 years ago.
They don’t have the money of course, and being told “it’s OK: when you die we’ll take it then” is hardly comforting.
Amid all this chaos, with many North Kensington residents acutely aware of the nationwide cladding scandal, and indeed in contact with campaigners around the country, we were shocked to read that the Labour leader had accepted over £1000 worth of tickets to a football game, from Mullaley, a contractor fined over £10m for works on high-rise buildings in Portsmouth in a case very similar to Grenfell, using flammable insulation and very poor construction standards. For many it was a slap in the face, the kind of antics we expect from senior Tory Cabinet members, not the Labour leader.
When our Group of Councillors refused to allow publication of a public statement challenging this outrage, as it would upset the leader, I saw that sadly they were right. We could, as a Labour Group, be suspended, and London Region would be delighted to do so.
This realisation has been just one more straw in a very long line of last straws for me.
After a great deal of soul-searching, I decided to resign from the Labour Party as of today, 27th April 2023. I’ve been a member for nearly 40 years, and in that time I’ve been a critical friend, but have always felt part of the broad church of the labour movement. I have campaigned for every leader, London Mayor and parliamentary candidate. That is loyalty.
Sadly I no longer feel welcome in the party. Members who campaign for peace, against nuclear weapons, in support of refugees, for equity to reduce inequalities, for an end to the persecution of Palestinian civilians by Israeli military forces, are being hunted down and forced out or expelled.
When a million people protested against the Iraq War, no one was suspended or expelled from the Labour Party. Our MP at the time was Karen Buck, and I know she had a difficult conversation with Blair, but he didn’t force her out.
Today, no more broad church. No more armies of inspired students to help door-knocking. Not welcome here.
It is simply incomprehensible that the Party which created the world’s first National Health Service is now complicit in destroying it, while some senior members of the Party are accepting funds from the private health care industry – and hospitality from contractors involved in the cladding scandal. How can the Party of the workforce refuse to stand by the right to strike? How can the Party that set up the welfare state penalize benefit recipients?
I’m not leaving the Party. The Party has left me. It is unrecognisable.
I will continue to sit on Kensington and Chelsea Council as an independent Councillor, will work hard for my ward constituents, and will continue to research and write on the multitude of issues exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire. I will stand by those whose lives have been devastated, across the country by the cladding scandal, but also, always, with my neighbours in North Kensington.
This has been a difficult decision, but I can no longer be complicit with the current trajectory of the Party, constantly looking over my shoulder and waiting for suspension. I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent.