The members and supporters of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland will be disappointed at the fact that it will not now be standing candidates in the Assembly elections. This is the case despite the fact that the Labour Party locally declared its intention to stand some months ago. It could not do so without the permission of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party and this has not been granted.
The Labour Party has gained a remarkable number of new members and registered supporters in Northern Ireland since the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the position of leader. This surge in membership is a direct consequence of the clear anti-austerity lead Jeremy Corbyn has provided, and the hope he has given to young people and trade unionists struggling for a better life.
The growth in the Labour Party in Northern Ireland is one indicator of the growing anger of ordinary people here at the austerity agenda of Stormont and the backwardness of our local politicians on social issues. It is a very positive development and we welcome it.
The official position of the Labour Party is that potential supporters in the North should vote for the SDLP. Some within the central leadership of Labour are in fact more supportive of Sinn Féin than the SDLP, and there are also important figures in the Labour Party who are supportive of Unionist parties. Supporting any party which is based on sectarian division does not help in the struggle to build an independent political alternative in Northern Ireland which is genuinely anti-sectarian and based on class politics.
Labour Party members now have to decide what to do next. Working people and young people need a credible alternative. Labour Party members clearly want to become part of that alternative and must make urgent decisions accordingly. We think that it would be a mistake to simply wait for the next elections in the hope that a reluctant Labour Party agrees to stand candidates in Northern Ireland in the future.
We need a new party which represents both Catholic and Protestant working people. Such a party should be a broad coalition between all those who are on the left with regards to social and economic issues, and who also reject sectarianism in all its forms.
In order to put down roots, grow and develop, any new coalition or party must be independent of the two sectarian blocs. Labour Alternative has been formed to begin the process of building a credible new force which challenges austerity and sectarianism. In our opinion, the new party we need is much more likely to succeed if it is locally based, but we genuinely regard the growth of the Labour Party here as a giant step in the right direction.
We call on all members and supporters of the Labour Party to consider coming together with other forces which are genuinely seeking to offer an alternative. If Labour members stand in the election as independents or under another banner, we ask for an early meeting to discuss cooperation and mutual support.
We are prepared to go further and offer the registered party name “Cross-Community Labour Alternative” as a title for those who wish to utilise it, in a spirit of cooperation. The platform of Labour Alternative is one that we believe can be and will be widely be supported by labour, community and trade union activists. Where Labour Alternative is standing, we would ask Labour Party members and supporters to consider voting for our candidates. Together, we can make an impact at these elections and we ask you to consider our appeal seriously and with urgency.
Courtney Robinson – East Belfast Labour Alternative
Seán Burns – South Belfast Labour Alternative
Conor John Sheridan – East Antrim Labour Alternative