Sunday, 19 April 2009

Labour is an utterly busted flush

The Independent on Sunday reports today that Alice Mahon, Labour MP for Halifax for 18 years until 2005, has left the party. She says Labour has broken many of its election manifesto commitments, and adds:

It is not a party I recognise. I have lost faith with it ..... I am very, very sad: the Labour Party has been my life. I have reached the conclusion that there is not any avenue left in the structure of the Labour Party for people like me. Any threat from anybody marginally from the left and... the party machine comes down on them like a ton of bricks.
This comes top of a little-noticed piece on the Guardian website (though for some odd reason not printed in the paper) by Bryan Gould (remember him?) titled I disown this government, in which he refers to "shameful episodes at home and abroad which cumulatively are a complete denial of what a Labour government (or any British government) should have been about".

There have been some achievements, Gould writes, but these have been "molehills, judged against the towering peaks scaled by New Labour in its rejection not only of Labour, but of any decent and civilised values". It is a piece well worth reading.

Of course, to the ruthless New Labour machine exemplified by thugs like Damian McBride, people such as Alice Mahon and Bryan Gould do not matter a toss.

For me, and I am sure many others, the latest appalling revelations merely underline what I was already thinking, which is that I don't want to have anything to do with this loathsome gang ever again. I have reached the point, for the first time in several decades of political involvement at one level or another, where I am not merely resigned to the prospect of the Tories taking over, but actually looking forward to it -- not because I want the Tories, of course, but because I now feel an overwhelming desire to be rid of New Labour whatever the cost.


Neil Harding said...

I sometimes look at the direct debit going out of my account to the Labour party and think what am I doing.

But then I remember that without members funding the party, without the unions funding the party, the only people funding it would be rich people in the city. With funding comes power to influence policy.

Why does this matter?

Because unfortunately there are only two parties likely to form a government under first-past-the-post and the Labour party is the only party of the two that allows its members some say over policy. Yes, its a debilitating process and increasingly difficult - but if the 200,000 people who have left were still in the party and their numbers had been boosted, maybe battles over things like fairer votes (both within the party and in the country at large) and fairer taxes could have been won. Ultimately the leadership will try to ignore the members if they can (and Gordon Brown is the worst of the lot at this) BUT with their opponents outside of the party this makes that job that much easier.

Of course, you are sick of this spineless Labour government - I am sick of this Labour government. But a return of the Tories offers us nothing (their members have no say at all over policy) and there is no other credible left of centre option but to support the Labour party.

The Lib Dems are nowhere in most seats and anyway seem to be giving up a lot of their best policies, with most of the rest just watered down more regressive versions of Labour policies. And the Greens will never be a national force in our lifetime (even with proportional representation). Even if the Greens did by some miracle become the biggest left of centre party (probably after 2 generations of Tory rule) their internal constitution would inevitably morph into something similar to Labours. So the only option IMHO is to work with the biggest left of centre party we have. If we all on the left became members now, we could have real influence and power. Think of what Ken Livingstone achieved with his limited remit in London. Ignoring the Labour party, is just ignoring the only real democratic option we have. All progressives should join now and campaign for electoral reform. That is the one change this government could make (and of course it is a manifesto promise they made to us) that would transform this country so that no-one on the left would have to wish for a Tory government just because they were fed up with a Labour one.

peezedtee said...

Hi Neil, thanks for these thoughts. I do admire your stamina and determination, and I think it is good that there should be people in every party where there is any chance of making a difference, pressing sensible points of view. But for myself, I have to say, been there, done that. I was a member of the Labour Party for some years in the seventies and I wore myself out at grassroots level trying to press issues like electoral reform, public transport rather than private, and sexual freedom, all to absolutely no avail at the time. I was banging my head against a brick wall. Then I worked for a while at the House of Commons for a Labour MP and discovered that what the grassroots party decided was neither here nor there. I was then a member of the Lib Dems for a while in the 1980s and they were at least as hopeless as far as trying to influence things was concerned. After that I decided that political parties are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I find one can make more waves in single-issue pressure groups, though I agree it can sometimes be useful also to have ginger groups within the parties -- there used to be one within Labour for proportional representation, for instance. I'm not sure if it is still active.

I worked hard for Ken Livingstone this time last year, above all because of his transport policies, not because he is Labour. I will probably be voting Green in the Euro elections, and Lib Dem at the general election when it comes, because I happen to be in a constituency which they hold and have a reasonable chance of retaining. I would rather not feel tied to any one party. If course, if we really do ever get proportional representation, that will change everything.