This is the text of Graham Taylor’s resignation letter from the Labour Party
Today an historic vote took place in Parliament to give same sex couples the right to marry. Not least this is historic because it was tabled by a Conservative led administration and in recent history all advances in social justice and equality have been won by the Labour Party against opposition from the Tories.
I can understand why many Conservative activists and members opposed this measure – it’s in their blood to resist changing anything. What I cannot excuse is why the leadership of The Labour Party, a party that enshrines social justice and equality in its constitution allowed a free vote on this.
I’ve been a party member for 21 years
· I was immensely proud to work on Stephen Twigg’s campaign in 1997 and to be able to vote for an openly gay man to be the first ever Labour MP to represent the constituency I grew up in, Enfield Southgate.
· I was immensely proud to campaign for Oona King, in Bethnal Green and Bow, in 2001 and to be her election agent in 2005. One of, then, only two black female MPs.
· I was even more proud to help win back Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010 and defeat Respect (a party that thrives on religious and communal prejudice) as election agent for Rushanara Ali, our first Muslim women MP of Bangladeshi origin.
Why did I do all of this?
Unlike so many activists I meet, I’ve no ambition to become a politician. Nor do I hold some sort of outdated notion of building a socialist utopia. I did it because I believe in social justice and equality. And I thought the Labour Party did – these objectives are enshrined in word – in clause 4-2(b) the Labour Party constitution;
1 The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
2 To these ends we work for: …
(b) a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power
and they are enshrined in deed – carried through actions of the great Labour Party social reforming governments of the 40s, 60s and 90s/00s.
Today the Party leadership performed an act of political cowardice in not whipping this vote. A number of Labour MPs walked through the ‘no’ lobby or sat on their hands. One, Stephen Timms, is MP for a near neighbouring constituency to mine. I’ve a number of friends that live there who voted for him in 2010, thinking they were voting for a party that believes in equality – they won’t be voting for him again.
I can no longer claim that the party – and in particular its national leadership – believes in equality and social justice, and it is with regret that I resign my membership forthwith.
Graham was the former Chair of Tower Hamlets Labour Party