One persistent criticism of Mike and co runs along the lines of "if you like the Tories so much why don't you go there?" Of course, there are very significant differences between the Blairist of the Blairist and those who sit on the benches opposite. Unfortunately for some, cats are either white or black - there's no room for nuance, let alone big differences on our side of the fence. It's the new politics way or the highway.
However, I must take issue with these ripostes. He tweets:
Yes, that old chestnut. Who are elected representatives of the party responsible to? For me, the issue used to be quite simple. If you're in the business of building a revolutionary socialist organisation, you're taking on a huge political project. If Rome wasn't built in a day, the New Society is going to take a bit more time than an Enabling Act to get off the ground. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that the party, dedicated to this objective, should expect of its members to act in a disciplined way and are responsible to it, regardless of whether they're a paper vendor, a workplace militant, a full-timer, or a Member of Parliament.
A cadre party of the Leninist type is something Labour definitely is not. Dear old Vlad used to refer to it as a bourgeois workers' party. i.e. An organisation stuffed full of salt-of-the-earth proletarians but where the top was not only pro-capitalist but were implicated in and integrated into maintaining the rule of capital. He was right in this. And wrong as well. Lenin's formulation was frozen in aspic and became a model variously used by his latter day British followers for decades afterwards. After all, it shortcut the need to continue analysing things afresh (critically applying Marxist concepts can be such a chore) and allowed them to make a neat distinction between goodie proles and bad 'un bourgie types. Actually, it's more accurate to describe Labour as a proletarian party. As the political voice of the labour movement, which itself organises working people in all their variety around the workplace, the varied experiences, the progressive politics, the sectionalism, the - sometimes reactionary - sentiments find themselves expressed in the party too. And because the labour movement is in the business of fighting the worker's corner in capitalist workplaces, surprise surprise the party it bequeathed seeks to ameliorate and reform capitalism, not overthrow it. One doesn't need semi-conspiranoid theorising or convoluted theories about third world super profits to explain why Labour has always sought compromise with capital, not confrontation.
Whereas Leninist parties are organisations of self-selected revolutionaries who claim to be the most conscious section of our class, Labour is a party of proletarians - people who have to sell their labour power in return for a wage - as a whole. Unsurprising that the former has tight control of elected representatives, whereas the latter does not. Hence Labour MPs cannot be mandated under party rules by their CLPs to vote in certain ways. And herein creeps the tension Mike's ripostes to his anti-fandom touch on.
It's not enough that Labour is quite a loose party. Labour MPs are selected by the party and then elected to Parliament on a constituency-by-constituency basis to represent everyone in that constituency. And a good MP with a good team will strive to do precisely that, regardless of the political persuasions of constituents that seek assistance. Who then is a Labour MP accountable to?
Perhaps it's one squirt too many of the polemical juices, but Mike does sound as though his party doesn't matter and should have no hold over him whatsoever. It's the constituents that put their faith in him and it's them to whom he's beholden. Formally speaking, this is true. I'm also sure Mike's an all-round good fella and does a fine job by the folk of Ilford South. However, Mike - like practically every Labour MP - has the privilege of serving because he's Labour. If for whatever reason he was to stand as an independent, he knows he has very little chance of winning against the party. That's because most people still tend to vote on a party basis. Incumbency factors and personal followings count for little in the grand scheme of things. It comes back to the party and who it decides to select for elections. The electorate are formally sovereign, but in the substance it is the party members who participate in selections. It's the party and only the party that consistently holds MPs to account for their actions at constituency meetings and has the first say over their fates. If that wasn't the case, we wouldn't be seeing so much crying in the media about deselection panic and the like.
It always comes back to the party in the end. And if people like Mike want to stay on, and I suspect he does, it's best not to hide behind the cushioning illusion of constituency sovereignty lest one start really believing it.