Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Labour Party seems to have no sense of direction.

I’ve just posted on Facebook that I have joined the Labour Party for the first time since 1984 in an attempt to have some influence on their choice of a new leader.  I’ve heard that Jeremy Corbyn has a few actual left-wing opinions, so I thought I’d support him in the hope that even if he doesn’t get in, at least he may make the Labour Party sit up and take notice if he gets enough support.  After decades of Blairism, where the party moved to the right of Margaret Thatcher – and I don’t mean that purely rhetorically, Blair/Brown actually did implement policies that Thatcher felt she’d never get away with – they now seem to have no sense of direction at all.
We saw the SNP take over in Scotland mainly, as far as I could see, because they offered a programme of good, old-fashioned socialist policies that used to be the stock-in-trade of the Labour Party.  Yes, they played the nationalist card, but when people were interviewed about why they supported them, both during the referendum and during the election campaign, they mostly said they were voting for fairness.  Essentially they wanted an end to the austerity policies of Cameron’s government that are currently retarding our recovery from the recession (and that have already wrecked the Greek economy). They saw a chance to get a fairer deal by breaking away from England.  I still have mixed feelings about whether Scotland should have gone independent, but I whole-heartedly approve of Nicola Sturgeon and other SNP MPs, like Mhairi Black.
So- in my naiveté – I would have thought it was quite obvious to the Labour Party that if they want to have a hope of regaining any credibility, they should adopt- or re-adopt – a proper left-wing programme and stop shilly-shallying around trying to be just a soft version of Cameron’s Tories.   
Apparently not.
Apparently, within the Labour Party, the hot debate is around whether they lost the election because Miliband was too left-wing.  From my perspective Miliband was not at all left-wing, he was just another version of Blair, but not as plausible-seeming as Blair was.

All this leaves me genuinely puzzled.  OK. I admit it leaves me angry and frustrated, and I want to jump up and down and scream “You bunch of numpties!” But I know that’s not a grown-up way to conduct a debate.  And I really do want to understand what goes on in the minds of the long-time party members.
When I posted on Facebook that I’d re-joined the Labour Party, I had a response from a guy who I don’t know that well, but he is a mate – which completely exemplified the kind of attitude that baffles and frustrates me about the Labour Party.  Apparently he thought Jeremy Corbyn was an example of the “loony left” and if he was elected as leader it would guarantee another Tory victory.  My friend even claimed that Tories were joining the LP in droves, just to get Corbyn elected for that reason – which left me wondering if my friend thought I was one of them. 
He did point out, quite accurately, that in England the Greens were offering the same kind of leftist programme as the SNP, and they did not do well in the election.  But considering the Greens were barely allowed a look-in on the media coverage of the election, it’s actually to their credit they did as well as UKIP, who had constant, adulatory coverage before and during the election campaign.

So- do I just live in a private universe where I see everything in a weird idiosyncratic way, because I am basically mad?
Maybe, but there seem to be a lot of other people in that universe with me. Not only do I meet people all the time who quite spontaneously express opinions that are the same kind of left-wing as me,   but I also read things in main-stream, respected newspapers, that express opinions that seem well-thought, supported by evidence, and not at all loony, but are totally left-wing. Not calling for revolution or anything daft, just good old-fashioned left wing. Like this, for example, by a journalist who is far too young to remember pre-Thatcher politics,
My LP friend described Tsipras as an opportunistic demagogue and supported what Germany and the IMF have just done to Greece.  But even Channel 4 news were asking what the implications are for democracy when an elected government is overruled by an outside power.  What exactly is loony about these opinions? To me, they seem like common sense. And Channel 4 is by no means a leftist channel. The mistake Tsipras made, surely, was in expecting to be able to conduct a rational debate with people who were genuinely interested in trying to help his country out of a mess. Not at all a demagogue.

I can only assume that LP members who remained loyal throughout the Blair years, or who actually joined the party during those years, have simply forgotten (or never knew) what the Labour Party was created to do – represent the interests of the working class, fight for justice for the less well-off sections of the population, you know, that kind of thing. (And, in my understanding, that means managing the economy to ensure some kind of stability by keeping large sections of it in public ownership, so as to avoid the kind of recession we are now still experiencing with its high unemployment.) 
But I don’t see anyone in the LP challenging the neo-liberal, monetarist policies that not only caused the financial crisis, but are still strangling any real recovery by so-called austerity. Austerity-lite is no real alternative.

I recently read a book by a leftist political activist from my youth – Tariq Ali – putting the case very eloquently about this. I assume he also would be seen as ‘loony’ by the mainstream, right-wing/centrist thinkers of the Labour Party.  But his arguments are clear and intelligent – but then I would say that as he was just confirming observations and conclusions that I had come to on my own.

But, I ask you, where are the spokespeople for the politics that are currently accepted within the party? Do they have a real philosophy, or are they really what they seem-  a bunch of hit or miss ideas based on what they think people will vote for but allowing the Tories to set the terms of the debate every time? Who do they think they are speaking for? Do they really think the British public only read the Mail?  I know my friend, and other LP members, believe in fairness and justice, they really do, but do we hear any of them challenging the frightening prospect of TTIP being passed by the EU?  Why are they happy to see large sections of the Health Service sold off to private contractors? Why, even now, do none of them challenge the current thinking on public housing? Why, OMG WHY, has Harman basically supported the abolition (by sleight of hand) of tax credits in the latest budget?

I AM angry about this, and really do have to fight hard not to call my mate a total numpty, for thinking it’s loony to be properly left-wing, but mainly I am genuinely puzzled.  I just don’t get it.  


Since I wrote this, I’ve had more opinions sent to me on FB about Jeremy Corbyn, and it seems to me that this guy is really loathed by the Labour Party and so does not have a hope in hell of being leader. I can see there was no point in my joining them, they are the same party that I have not voted for since the first time Blair got in, and have no credibility for me at all. I will try to work out how to stop my membership and donate the money to the local food-bank, where it will do more good. 

Post Postscript: 

I went and looked at how to unsubscribe from the LP and can't work it out, but I am on a cheap rate, as a pensioner (uurgh!) so I reckon they need the money too. At the end of the day, what I really want to see is a renewed and re-committed LP in power. 

1 comment:

  1. I get it. All the way across the pond, and I get it very well. I helped get the Green Party on the ballot in California in 1992, was active in Green Party politics for several years, and voted Green for any and all candidates (until there were none), or until I had become so disheartened at the continual lamenting of how the Green Party got George Bush elected, and how the Green Party had failed. These laments from seeming fellow lefties, as you say, progressives to the nth degree, but who could not/would not stand with that growing party at any time while it was burgeoning with the likes of Ralph Nader and Media Benjamin. The same old story.. that of the two-party system is set up for a third to always fail. As for George Bush having won over Al Gore in 2000, well, we all know that voting machines in Florida had more to do with that victory. It's a scary conundrum, but I must say that I am glad to see your questioning here, and I keep hoping there is a bigger shift for many, but right now, don't see that happening too soon. Peace~