So Clare Short has hinted that she might wish to rejoin the Labour party in Parliament following Gordon Brown’s new ‘all inclusive’ approach to politics. The question is, will Labour have her back?
Back in December 2006, in her letter of resignation of the party whip to Jacqui Smith (the then Chief Whip) Short argued that she was leaving the party because she had no confidence in the government. According to Short the government had lost its way and was no longer a ‘Labour’ administration. Less than eight months later you have to ask what has changed? Brown is still in favour of a replacement for Trident and the renewal of nuclear power plants. The government is still committed to staying the course in Iraq and the middle east is still a huge mess. Perhaps Short herself has changed? She may no longer feel that electoral reform is the key to fixing our politics and changing our country.
There is no doubt that Clare Short suffered badly from the perception that her resignation from the government over the Iraq war was less ‘timely’ and a good deal less honourable than the late Robin Cook's. Many thought that on leaving the Labour party she would join George Galloway’s Respect party or even sit with the Lib Dems – she did neither. We should not forget that Clare Short was an effective minister and as International Development secretary she did an enormous amount of good both in raising the profile of DfID and in being prepared to say unpopular things in the cause of third world development. Despite all this the Labour ‘blogosphere’ is awash with postings and comments on whether Short should be permitted to rejoin the party. According to some Labour bloggers Short is a traitor who abandoned her principles years ago in a desire to hold onto high office. Others point to the fact that Ken Livingston was allowed to rejoin the party and to Brown’s recent invitation to SDP founder Shirley Williams to play a role in advising the government on nuclear proliferation. The now former Labour party chair, Hazel Blears, has kept the door open for Short to rejoin the fold stating that “If she wants to sign up to our whip and our policies and vote for our legislation then that probably will be a great thing, but we shall see.”
So should Brown welcome Short’s change of heart? Of course he should. It would be ridiculous if, in the same week as the party welcomes a pro-hunting, anti gay rights former Tory MP it rejects someone who has been a member of the party for 36 years (24 as an MP).
Welcome back Clare!