I wrote this email to John Harris after his latest piece of twaddle for the Guardian.
Who can rescue the Labour Party from irrelevance – a good question and one for which I suspect that you are unqualified to answer. I don’t know why you think you have some special insight into the future of the Labour party? Was it writing about Britpop? Was it growing up in a professional middle class household in affluent south Manchester? Was it being rejected by Oxbridge that did it or was it being involved in left wing politics when you were a teenager? Is it living in Hay on Wye (well known hot bed of Trot politics).
I come from a working class background (Dad was an lift engineer, mum worked at Sainsbury’s),lived in north Manchester, failed my 11plus, but nonetheless was the first kid in my family to go to University, came out with a good degree to find that Thatcher had removed all the jobs from the north so I went into nursing, did that until I couldn’t bear it any more, became a mum, then a travel writer of all things, local Labour councillor for a while and now run a small shop on a failing highstreet in the North. All the while I’ve been Labour, member or supporter. I reluctantly voted for Blair’s Labour even though I thought he was (frankly) a dick and his policy direction was the antithesis of everything I believed in (but he wasn’t Tory, I’ll give him that, not quite anyway) I voted Blairite Labour even though there politics were not mine, I stayed loyal even though I disagreed with the direction we were going in – even when the policy made me sick (Iraq – oh god Iraq) -I still voted Labour.
While I was a councillor the coalition started attacking local government and of course the Tories are now intent on removing Labour councils from the face of the country. Trying to do the best for your voters with a diminishing sum of money from central government was tricky but might have been less so if we had ever seen somebody from the PLP occasionally stand up and speak out on our behalf – they didn’t. In fact I had to unfriend Ivan Lewis from by Facebook page (he was then Shadow Northern Ireland secretary so presumably didn’t have much on) because we got into a row after I told him that he was as useful to Bury as a chocolate teapot (I’m paraphrasing). I met quite a few members of the PLP – very few of them garnered my respect because very few of them appeared to realise that radical policy, change, hope, a better future were essential for electoral success. I saw Ed Miliband and liked him – but of course he was obliged to toe the PLP line and modify the tiny spark of radicalism that got him elected – I wasn’t surprised at all when he lost.
The Labour party – or rather the PLP – appears to believe that Blair held the only winning formula and it goes like this – oppose a deeply unpopular government, promise vague change, roll back from that over the years, stuff a bit of money at the poor (but don’t change anything that makes them poor) repeat until your electoral lead disappears. If you don’t have an optimistic alternative to the Tories (and the anti-Corbyn PLP don’t have appear to have the slightest clue) then people will vote Tory because the UK is naturally small ‘c’ conservative. (The Brexiteers knew this and boy, did they make the most of it)
Meanwhile I voted for Corbyn thinking he couldn’t possibly win, but knowing that I couldn’t vote in a leader who was another PLP certified dead-eyed clone of Tony Blair. I voted for a shift to the left, a chink of light and and change from ’same shit, different day’. When Corbyn won I was delighted. I knew that the PLP would struggle to get behind him, but I thought of all those years when I had supported Blair despite my misgivings, canvassed for Brown and Miliband despite my doubts and thought that eventually the PLP would shit – or get off the pot. Just like we had during the years when Blair and Brown had wilfully abandoned socialist policies to keep the capitalists happy.
I didn’t for one moment consider the possibility that they would put themselves and their petty arguments before party unity, jeopardise the future of Labour and continue to insist that the only way to win was to, well, invent a new messiah, turn the clock back to 1997 and stab their twice elected leader repeatedly in the back and in public.
I think that the Labour leadership now embraces policy I can get behind and the membership agree, and you are wrong in pretty much everything you say. No-one listens to people like me though – because I just vote Labour, am a Labour member, have been a Labour councillor and will vote for a Corbyn-led Labour again. I didn’t write for the NME, and cheer on Britpop – so what the hell do I know about Labour and its future?