Labour: One Nation visions

ed miliband train Labour contends that its One Nation vision covers Northern Ireland but local members want to go further and run for office.

One Nation Labour is relevant to Northern Ireland, a party spokesman has claimed, despite the party’s decision not to contest elections in the province.

At their conference, Ed Miliband and other senior figures described ‘One Nation’ Labour in the context of the UK. He had described the union as “perhaps the most important institution of all” while the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont pledged that Labour would “fight the case that the nations on these islands will stand together.”

“One Nation is about people not geography,” a Labour spokesman told agendaNi. “It’s about making sure that everyone in the United Kingdom – including, of course, Northern Ireland – can be ambitious for themselves, their family and their community.”

The very first Labour Party conference was held in Belfast in 1907. The British Labour Party allowed Irish Labour to organise on an all-island basis in 1913 but this was opposed by trade unionists in Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Labour Party was formed after partition but was wound up in 1987. After several years of campaigning, UK Labour allowed Northern Ireland residents to join in 2003. A constituency Labour party for the province was formed in 2009 but the party decided, in January this year, against contesting Northern Ireland elections.

Local Labour members had argued that electoral participation would promote normalised politics and therefore help the peace process. The SDLP, though, was opposed on the grounds that sister parties do not compete against each other. The party would also have been likely to lose some support to Labour.

Northern Ireland Labour representatives would designate themselves as ‘other’ if elected. They want to initially contest Assembly and local elections before going on to Westminster and the European Parliament polls.

The Labour spokesman said that “now is not the right time” for contesting elections in the province and accused the Tories of “playing party politics with Northern Ireland.” He reaffirmed that Labour supported Northern Ireland’s place in the union as long as a majority of people were in favour.

Ed Miliband visited Stormont in March 2011 and promised an “open door” to the First and deputy First Minister. He has welcomed the choice of Northern Ireland for the G8 summit and called for an inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. agendaNi understands that Miliband also closely followed the flags dispute last winter, which Labour considered to be a national security issue.

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