When I was a child there were three political parties in this country, Labour, Liberal and Conservative. The Conservatives were right wing, the Labourites were left wing, and the Liberals were somewhere in the middle. It was easy to grasp. It was like politics for primary school children. Everyone understood it. Even me.
Obviously within all that, MPs and supporters moved along the spectrum from hard left to far right, and there were all sorts of splinter groups that catered to the more extreme ends of the spectrum. At some point we also got the SDP which was, to my fairly uninformed and at the time uninterested mind, rather vague and seemed to be formed mostly of men with bad hair cuts and terrible taste in shirts. I still wonder why anyone would want to wear a shirt where their collar didn’t match their cuffs. It doesn’t work in porn. It doesn’t work in politics. It’s probably the single biggest reason why the SDP sank without trace after failing to make anyone excited about anything, ever.
It was, the SDP notwithstanding, really easy to figure out who to vote for, because depending on your political beliefs, there was a party available that broadly represented you, and which was fundamentally different from the parties that opposed it. It created a dynamic political landscape in which every person who was interested in politics could more or less find someone to speak for them.
All that changed with the rise of New Labour under Tony Blair.
Tony began well by taking the Labour party out of the doldrums, it is fair to say. He really looked like he wanted to reboot it for the twenty first century, and boy were a lot of people happy when he got elected. I mean, a lot. I remember the day the election result was announced. We were living in London at the time, and people were genuinely jubilant. People were partying in the street, laughing and chatting to each other. It was an optimistic few hours to be alive. People believed Tony could shape a Labour party for modern times, one that held true to the grass roots of the Labour movement and yet gave it some relevance for how we live now.
What a fucking disaster that turned out to be.
What we got, in my opinion, was not a Labour party for the new age. We got the Conservative party, wearing a red dress. Under Tony, Labour moved so far to the right it was practically indistinguishable from its supposed opposition. Then, with the Conservative/Liberal alliance of the last election, we got a Liberal party that was so ineffectual it was like your mum spitting on your face to clean it in a futile attempt to get all the chocolate off, rather than sending you to have a wash.
What we have now, reminds me of Michael Moore talking about the difference between the Democrat and Republican parties in the States. He likened it to only being able to go to a restaurant where they had either breadsticks or croutons on the menu. It’s all basically the same. Just the shape is different.
And while I’m on the subject of Tony it didn’t take the Chilcot report to tell me everything I needed to know about Tony Blair. And before anyone even thinks of calling me a Saddam apologist, which is what I’ve heard bandied about on Twitter over the last few days for anyone who dares to criticise St Tony of the massive, fucking lie. Don’t even go there.
Tony was no more interested in righting the injustices of Saddam’s regime than I am in learning to Morris dance. He was interested in fostering our ‘special’ relationship with the States, so that we could seem big and important by hanging on the coat tails of our American cousins. And while I’m digressing even further, do let me shatter any illusions anyone has about our ‘special’ relationship with the States, then, now or in the future. Our special relationship is us in the gimp mask and them with the nipple clamps, which is why we ended up housing their missiles at Greenham Common, fighting their oil claims in Iraq and will continue to lickspittle our way up the butt crack of whatever disastrous fucking military idea they have next. That’s special.
Tony’s special relationship cost half a million lives and sent our troops to Iraq so woefully equipped their families had to buy them kit from Amazon to supplement the meagre supplies the armed forces could spare them. The armed forces who have continually had their budget for the most basic things cut year on year, until they are basically being housed in a massive scout hut so that Tony and Call Me Dave can buy gigantic, penis sized weapons that nobody is actually qualified to use because we can’t afford to train or equip our troops properly.
And it is entirely possible to abhor war and abhor Saddam Hussein and still find a way to resolve a conflict that was never ours to fight in the first place, without killing half a million people and contributing year on year to the refugee crisis that we won’t help to solve. And none of this deflects attention from Tony’s culpability. So, like I said. Don’t go there.
This, for me, was the real beginning of feeling disenfranchised. My political leanings are naturally left, and yet the Blairing of the Labour party left me nowhere to take them except to an extreme I didn’t want to go to, and I didn’t want Tim Farron spitting on my face and advancing on me with a damp hankie.
I am, by nature, a political pragmatist. I believe that MPs should represent their constituents and the communities they serve. I believe that policy should be shaped by what is best for the country now, rather than how we voted in the Industrial Revolution or what my mate or big business want me to do so I can have a new car, or three flats or a blow job. I believe that cross party affiliations to get things done is the way forward because I really do believe that what unites us makes us stronger, and more effective. I believe in grass roots change affecting policy from the bottom up. I don’t believe we should be working our politics top down, filtered from an elite that think £13 plus grand a term is a reasonable amount to pay for school fees and that sticking your dick in a dead pig’s head is a smart move if you’re an ambitious lad about town.
I believe you cannot blame society for being disenfranchised if you are only offering them political porridge and lip service to what being enfranchised means and then getting on with political in fighting, shinning up the greasy pole and taking power because it’s there and you want it rather than because you will do good with it. And by good I do not mean good for you and your coterie of MPs, good for the people, and by extension, the country.
When Corbyn got elected as the runaway leader of the Labour party on the biggest majority in Labour’s history, and continued to attract new members to the party, I thought I could see a return to the politics of old, where the parties actually start to define themselves as separate from each other. With him, and the birth of the WEP I got interested again, because I could hear voices in politics that were actually trying to say something different, something complicated and something that might actually be giving people a real choice. Even UKIP, much as I am loathe to say it, was at least an opposition that was really opposing the morass of non choice in parliament.
I have sympathy with Corbyn. I admire his stance on many things, whilst distrusting him, as I distrust all politicians, and disagreeing with him on some key points, but I really did feel he might give Labour back some of its heart. Labour is supposed to be a left leaning, socialist movement. Corbyn is a left leaning socialist. It could have worked.
I thought, stupidly, that Labour MPs would get behind the leader that had been elected by the party membership, because that is what they are supposed to do. It’s what they sign up for. I thought we would see Labour growing into an opposition that would give the Tories a run for their money for the first time in years.
What I have seen has made me sickened and ashamed, as the MPs have demonstrated time and time again that every time they have had a chance to unite, they have chosen to split the party wider and wider. After the death of Jo Cox, I was hopeful this would change. The results of the referendum, the chaos in the Conservative party, gave a window for that change to happen. Did it?
Did it fuck.
Now we are in a position where the party would rather disenfranchise its own members, than keep its promises to those members. After promising them the chance to vote in leadership elections on a £3 membership with no time limit on membership and garnering hundreds of thousands of members, including me, I wake up this morning to find that they have back tracked. They have lied. They are doing everything in their power to discredit their own party rather than allow a fair and democratic vote for who will be leader of the party.
This is where we are at. We are at a place where naked greed, political ambition and personal interest is baldly and unashamedly more important to people who are supposed to be public servants than the welfare of their members and constituents. And do not presume to tell me that they know best, because there has never been a time in modern history when it is more clear that none of them know or care what is best for any of us.
I make no bones about it. I am exactly the sort of person the Labour party wants and needs. I am politically active, motivated, interested and I genuinely care about the people I live and work with to the point where I get off my backside and do things. My views are moderate left. I am articulate, I am keen. I am able.
Honestly, if I had been able to vote, would I have voted for Corbyn? I don’t know. You know why? Because I would look at the ballot, look at the candidates and vote on merit and what I think the party needed rather than having some other agenda. I am the voter you want. I am the person you want on your side.
I am also ripping up my membership and throwing it in the bin, as of today. If you take my voice away when it suits you, you don’t get my voice when you need it.