In the last few days or so (perhaps since the press discovered that Jeremy Corbyn was in with a shout) I’ve been told that I’m stupid and naive, blinkered, backward looking, likely to be siding with Palestinian terrorists (thank you Nick Cohen) and pretty much all round making Labour unelectable. Huh, and all that just because I don’t fancy voting for one of three candidates anointed by the (mainly right wing) press.
Meanwhile the aforementioned right-wing press are supposedly rubbing their hands in glee because ‘my’ candidate is a ‘bearded voter repellent’ that will ensure Tory hegemony for decades to come. Blimey, such power.
The thing is, all I think I’m doing is exercising my right to vote for the leadership of the political party that I joined many years ago. I joined then because I wanted to be part of a movement that valued the rights of workers over CEO’s, who believed in the NHS and the social security system set up post-war to ensure that poverty wouldn’t stalk the unemployed again, and I hoped for a better life for all (not just the monied classes). I didn’t vote for Tory, oops, Tony Blair because I mistrusted a man who put pragmatism before values and I think I was vindicated: he secured elections wins but never made the changes to UK life that I hoped for.
I will be following my conscience again and I won’t be lectured, browbeaten or shamed into making a decision that I’m not comfortable with. If you decide that an election win at any cost is all that matters, well that’s your choice too, but a pragmatic leader delivering populist policies has been done before. Was it worth it? Well…Iraq, PPPI’s, partial privatisation of the NHS, stagnating wages, a dearth of social house building, casino banking, Mandelson, the birth of buy to let and the housing bubble, academies, student loans, continued support of privatised utilities and public transport (the latter propped up by public subsidy) etc etc.
For anyone who’s just tuned in: Andy lost against Ed (oh oh). Yvette isn’t my cup of tea anyway but I’m fairly sure that being Ed Ball’s partner won’t win her any votes (unfairly obviously), and Liz really is in the wrong party. Jeremy should have simply been the catalyst for a proper conversation about where the Labour party went wrong and now looks likely to be in with a shout of winning…much to the dismay of the party bigwigs. If I vote chances are I’ll plump for a Corbyn and Creasy ticket. If I vote.
I’ve already talked about (at length) where I believe the party went right and went wrong: I don’t think that its because we aren’t right wing enough, those that say that clearly have not learned from history. We’ve had all of this soul searching before and out of it came the SDP – headed up by Shirley Williams and David Owen, it was another an attempt to shift the Labour party to the right. It failed, with the dregs allying themselves with an ailing Liberal party. This is largely because unless you have PR (proportional representation) politics is about two different directions of travel – middle ground in this case is as useful as the space between two train tracks.
The Tories are about big business, banks and looking after their own, Labour are supposed to be about looking after the majority, facilitating employment and ensuring that services, industry and business are effective without sacrificing the well-being of their employees. Tories are about getting rid of the state, the Labour party expects the state to be the well-run lynch pin of a good society. Tories blame the poor for their ‘own’ misfortune, Labour ensures that everyone gets a chance to better themselves, but can have a decent life if their luck runs out. The Tories hate the unions, Labour supports membership and takes advice from them (or it effing-well should). I might be a bit blinkered, but I’m struggling to see how you can have a ‘middle ground’ between these positions: love unions but hate state hospitals; privatise electricity and nationalise gas? Love bankers but hate hedge funds? And I guess I’m not the only ones who struggles to believe in the magical middle ground of politics: Labour lost the last election with a slightly raised proportion of the vote, it was the Liberals who were destroyed.
The Labour party might win the next election if they embrace an approach that combines all the “best bits’ from the Liberals, Tories and their own current narrative – certainly Osborne’s last budget suggests that nicking stuff from other parties manifesto’s is ‘quite the thing’, but I’m not sure that I can get behind that approach. I didn’t join the Labour party to see its history forgotten, its legacy trashed and its members mocked. I don’t want a Labour party that now sees its past successes (nationalised transport and utilities, the NHS and the welfare state) as an embarrassment.
If we spend ten years out of government the Tories may indeed wreck a lot of lives, but I lived through Thatcher and Major and the sun didn’t go out. I don’t want to compromise, or be ashamed of voting for a tainted Blue Labour party.
I may vote for ‘none of the above’