Is it time to join the Labour party?


3:30 pm - June 25th 2010

by Septicisle    


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In the five years that I’ve been running my blog, it could probably be classified as being written by a stereotypically angry leftie who felt dispossessed from the movement he felt he ought to be comfortable within, if not proud to say he belonged to.

Well, nothing’s changed, or at least has with me personally. I still feel dispossessed from the movement I should be able to belong to; I’m still a stereotypically angry leftie, still naive and still completely uncertain of my own surroundings.

The change, it has to be admitted, is that the government I found myself raging against which I felt I ought to be able to at least sympathise with, is now no more.

Frankly, I should have taken a reality check a long time ago, but a change of government to the traditional opposition is something that always results in a reappraisal. I can’t help but wonder, especially in the aftermath of this week’s budget, whether Polly Toynbee and those like her have had a point all along; that while the economic situation for so long was, if not rosy, at least neutral, that we took it for granted and instead focused to the detriment of inequality on civil liberties and also foreign policy.

Before I start recanting almost everything I’ve written over those 5 long years, all I’m admitting is that she has something approaching a point. Civil liberties should never have become a middle class concern because they affect everyone equally; it’s the Labour party and the authoritarian streak which it has always had which ensured that was the case.

While in government, there was never the slightest possibility that I could have justified to myself being a member of the Labour party. I was never going to be able to have the slightest impact on party policy. In that sense, nothing has changed.

I’m still highly unlikely to have the slightest impact on party policy. I can however, this time, at the very least vote for the next leader of the party. I can at least attempt to make my voice heard.

I’m not completely decided yet. I could make a different case, in fact probably a far better one, for joining the Greens and helping to build them as a real alternative. I’ve voted for them the same number of times as I have for Labour after all (both times in the European elections, and last month, which I don’t in the slightest regret).

I’ve voted for Labour twice locally and, to my still eternal regret, in 2005, in a futile attempt to save a doomed MP who had at least abstained on the war and voted against the worst of the anti-terrorism legislation). They’d probably be far more in tune with my actual views though, and as my blog perhaps has shown, where’s the fun in being in a party where people actually agree with you?

Complaining, moaning and conducting why-oh-why exercises like this one are far more fun and intellectually nourishing, if not actually helpful in the long.

Oh, and I can join for the colossal sum of a whole pound, so it’s not even that I’m vastly contributing to the coffers or a party which will take my money, ignore me, and carry on as before, as it undoubtedly will.

You can of course, if you so wish, persuade me otherwise. And let’s face it, the more votes that go to people with names other than Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and David Miliband the better.

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


“I could make a different case, in fact probably a far better one, for joining the Greens”

Then I think you have your answer.

Take a look at this, and decide where you stand:

http://politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

Unable to handle the compromises of Government, you can only bring yourself to join the party after it’s bankrupted the country, but is back in opposition, shouting “CUTS! Waaaaa…” from the sidelines

And you’ll ignore 13 years of the most Savage assault on civil liberties.

Very mature.

3. margin4error

Joining a party is a bit like voting. No one party utterly compliments any one member’s views. There is often also a compromise to make between agreeing with a party, and it’s ability to win and make a difference.

Likewise in terms of changing the party as a member, just as voting in an election, one vote only goes so far.

But actually, being a member of a party opens doors to talk to other members and elected officials. It means offers a chance to attend events and conferences and hustings and so on to get better informed and to make a case that may win round, or harden the resolve of other members – or just spur valuable debate that may not have been had.

It is all a bit intangible, but if your motivation is your horror at the present utterly regressive government, then maybe Labour is the party for you as they have a shot at getting them out. Who knows, maybe they will even grow more ambitious as a party of the left now they seem to be the only one.

4. margin4error

by “only one” I want to make clear I mean the only one able to get into government.

As some one who wants the greens to grow into a national force I didn’t mean to dismiss them at all.

@2. Jackart

And you’ll ignore 13 years of the most Savage assault on civil liberties.

Oh get a grip on reality.

Having some CCTV cameras pointing at you when you go shopping is not the arduous trial cushioned liberal lefties made it out to be.

Now we see what the true cost to society is of Tory governance and still the self indulgent scweam their little hearts out about non existent invasions of their precious privacy.

Give me strength!

If I still had a Facebook account I would “like” this. Agree with every word (and am just as torn between joining and not-joining).

#1 Hamish

Ermm huh?

How do you equate how authoritarian support for ID cards is or how libertarian it is to oppose them? While one could tot up the list of “authoritarian” policies of a party, or the list of policies regarded as being “right of centre” how can you determine to what degree? It seems silly to provide a measure, and (as a trained scientist) I would say that it is ludicrous to quote such arbitrary values to three significant figures!

(My results are apparently more left, -7.75, and more libertarian, -6.4, than the Greens at -3.8 and -4.75, respectively, and yet I am an enthusiastic supporter of nuclear power.)

Oh, and I can join for the colossal sum of a whole pound…

Joining Labour: one pound.
Buying rail tickets to the conference: twenty pounds.
Finding oneself in a Party led by Ed Balls/David Miliband, surrounded by glassy-eyed ciphers who can bear to use the term “regressive”: worthless.

9. Shatterface

‘Having some CCTV cameras pointing at you when you go shopping is not the arduous trial cushioned liberal lefties made it out to be.’

Maybe, but being shot in the head for looking a bit swarthy at a railway station or beaten to death for being in the vacinity of a protest march is a bit, um, disproportunate.

Jackart: see my response on my own blog.

As often happens, I’m already somewhat regretting writing this post. Incredibly self-important, to say the least (Monster Ego Party, anyone?). There’s also no getting away from the fact that at its core Labour is always going to remain the party which it became during the Blair-Brown years until something truly shakes it from its slumber, and the banking crisis and this budget has still not fundamentally changed the party’s outlook. It may have energised it somewhat, but that isn’t going to last, and the candidates on offer, including the least worst of the viable ones, are still wedded to the idea of focusing on the middle classes to the detriment of those that are going to be bearing the brunt of the coalition’s policies. BenSix has more than a point.

It’s not just government that requires compromise, but joining almost any sort of political organisation. Jackart might have point about it requiring maturity, and I’ve never been afraid to admit that might well be lacking. And as much as I castigate the undecideds in the centre without any convictions, I’m still completely floundering when it comes to actually signing up or not.

Maybe, but being shot in the head for looking a bit swarthy at a railway station or beaten to death for being in the vacinity of a protest march is a bit, um, disproportunate.

I haven’t checked the manifesto, but I don’t think either of those were official Labour Party policy.

There are real civil liberties concerns, most of which are about unnecessarily slow progress, a failure to improve, things that could have been done but weren’t.

And then there is wild scaremongering, indistinguishable from the nonsense talked about al Qaeda taking over Eurabia and so on, just with a different evil bogeyman.

Bit less of the second, and civil liberties just might survive the current government as a viable style of political argument.

@Jackart it doesn’t look like septicisle is ignoring any of those things and his(?) post was, in my opinion, very mature and measured. Please do join the Labour party – it could do with more members as thoughtful as you.

septicisle – if you were to join now then you would simply be joining the New Labour Project (Zombified). New Labour is still kicking, until that vile thing is dead laid next to its master Thatcherism, I wouldn’t even spend a penny to re-join the party.

Personally I am seriously thinking of joining the Greens, if that should mean anything to anybody.

jackart, try something more intelligent than drive-by trolling please.

And you’ll ignore 13 years of the most Savage assault on civil liberties.

Obviously you don’t read his blog much.

16. Roger Mexico

#10 Well you may being a bit precious, but it’s useful because this is the time when many people are thinking about joining a political party. I normally comment at UK Polling Report and it was notable that quite a few of my fellow commentators there joined up in the week after the election (all three main parties benefited).

Actually I find the preciousness is more to do with your agonising. It’s a few quid and maybe sticking a few leaflets through doors. I think they even let you leave if you want. I’m sure the clause about having to sign over your soul has been removed from the Constitution.

Political engagement is a good thing, and a virtue not much practised in Britain nowadays – one of the reasons for the ascent of the glassy-eyed with their Oxford PPEs and sense of entitlement. But, like it or not, the most effective way is still through the political parties, no matter how much chatter there is about new media.

And if the political undead get you down, wooden stakes are dead cheap.

Actually Will Rhodes @13 hits the nail on the head why a liberal-minded lefty SHOUD join the Labour party. To get in on the debate and try and drag the party out of its savagely illiberal sewer. That’s why I’m a Tory. That and I like cutting public spending.

So I’m a happy bunny. Lots of juicy cuts, AND civil liberties on the agenda.

However advocating fiscal incontinence for self-interested reasons is just immature, if it means you condone the last 13 years of appaling terrorism legislation, ID cards, surveillance and grotesque expansion of police powers.

Roger Mexico: A tiny bit precious? Moi?

😉

And if the political undead get you down, wooden stakes are dead cheap.

Hah! line of the day!

Shorter Jackart: I am an economic ignoramus.

No, because they are the exact same party they were in government & show no sign of becoming otherwise. They no more give a fuck about your concerns than they ever did, they just want to cash in on the coalition’s unpopularity which the hope wll soon happen for their own gain.

Yes, yes, I am vaguely in favour of this government but I do think the country needs a decent, strong enough opposition, as in the years 1979-1993 & 1997-2007 we suffered from the lack thereof.

But you would be wrong if you thought your efforts could change higher-ups who have no interest in changing.

Stop fannying about and join. If you don’t like it, leave again.

I don’t think I could join a party which had Diane Abbott as its leader.
She was toe curlingly embarrassing last night on This Week.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/this_week/default.stm

I joined. I’m not a fan of neoliberalism. I’m a socialist but during the election I sat down and made a list of the things that New Labour had done in power that I really thought were good (there were more than 13) and when I thought about the progression around equality of identity and welfare I decided that my opposition for conservative values was bigger than my anger with Labour. That does not mean that I am not angry or dissatisfied with the party but my perspective on life suggests that they have a better grasp of the fundamentals of living. In joining Labour I oppose the changes to housing allowance and DLA which are as important as civil liberties (which I feel the Tories have an equally erratic record on).

@23

Well join and vote for someone else to be leader?

@24

Would like to see that list please!

@23 — she is a damned embarrassment. Her performance was a disgrace; so much for all the crap we heard about her alleged competence. I reckon that Milliband and Harmon put her up to make the Labour left look like a gang of clowns.

Yup, as I tweeted earlier, that performance was appallingly bad.

I just re-watched it, not only does she come over as deeply stupid; but she is also very weaselly. Amazing that she thinks she can just refuse to answer questions.

Stop fannying about and join. If you don’t like it, leave again.

Boy, how could one refuse!

30. Rhys Williams

“So I’m a happy bunny. Lots of juicy cuts, AND civil liberties on the agenda.

However advocating fiscal incontinence for self-interested reasons is just immature, if it means you condone the last 13 years of appalling terrorism legislation, ID cards, surveillance and grotesque expansion of police powers.”

So are the anti terrorist legislation and the laws brought in by Labour are to be replaced.
Also as for CCTV and surveillance. I doubt the number of cameras will be reduced because most are owned by private companies protecting their property. Also hasn’t Boris increased the number of CCTV cameras on the tube

Also Mr J, I remember the shoot to kill policies, arresting trades unionists at service stations, internment, politicalization of the police, and supporting unpleasant regimes such as Chile and apartheid.

Most governments, come in with idealism but end up as corrupt and sad collection of losers.

Also the cuts may be essential but to enjoy watching. I think with a sexual type pleasure, a LSA on £10,000 lose her job, is why I could never vote Tory.

As for joining the Labour party perhaps their needs to be a new party for the left of centre that is not contaminated by the past.
Perhaps most of us would join that party.

31. Rhys Williams

Sorry
there needs

32. Rhys Williams

As for Diane Abbott,
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Just for the hypocrisy with her son and private schools.

The “you can join for a pound” and anti-Balls, anti-Miliband, anti-Burnham argument is alomst compelling. But the other alternative’s hardly inspiring, let’s face it.

If you’ve voting for someone in a leadership election purely because they’re not X, you’re in no better a position than you were before.

Were I the sort of person who joined political parties and were I a full-on lefty, I’d be far more tempted to join the Lib Dems at the moment – they’ve got a far better chance of bringing down Cameron than Labour have, as well as a genuine chance to do some damage limitation in the short term (not to mention a constitution that’s far more open to change from below than Labour’s). The more lefties join the Lib Dems, the more fragile becomes the coalition – which means the more concessions to lefty demands Cameron is going to have to make if he wants to hang on to some semblance of power.

The left’s “Waaah! Traitors!” response to the Lib-Con coalition is ridiculous – lefties finally have a tent in the enemy’s camp, albeit a small and flimsy one, and should be using it to its maximum effect. (The left’s continued belief that Labour is of the left is almost as ridiculous – but that’s probably for another day…)

Nosemonkey @ 33

You’re right that much of the “Waaah! Traitors!” rhetoric is ridiculous, kind of missing the point of why Lib Dem supporters weren’t Labourites, Greens or whatever in the first place.

On the other hand, as a more-or-less lifelong Lib Dem voter (former student activist, member etc.) I can’t help but feel gutted at the glee at which the Lib Dem leadership seem to have formed ranks behind this Tory-with-tassles-on-it budget. It’s certainly not what I was hoping for.

So treachery, no, way too harsh; but I am wondering if I have been voting for the wrong party all these years.

35. Margin4eror

@ Mr S. Pill and Nina

Now might be a really good time to draw up a list of the things Labour did right over 13 years.

Obviously if we go into detail there will be thousands of things to list, just as there would be thousands of things wrong. 13 years is a very long time. But actually reshaping the main party of the left will need some attention to what was right about 13 years in government as well as what was wrong. (and that gets discussed all the time)

Obviously judging “results” of individual policies is a nightmare and ends up being a political tennis match with little ever really agreed. But judging intentions and direction of policy would be valuable.

For example – in employment one area to commend would be the minimum wage. It didn’t itself raise millions out of poverty, but it was a policy the aim of which was to improve the living conditions of poor workers. Likewise the promotion of union training reps.

That direction is worth commending and promoting as the sort of priority Labour should have under a new leader.

I may write a series of blogs on this. Will be interesting as an exercise for me anyway.

“As for joining the Labour party perhaps their needs to be a new party for the left of centre that is not contaminated by the past.
Perhaps most of us would join that party.”

More middle class lefties might join such a party, yes. But hardly anyone would vote for it.

As a partial reminder of what Labour were like for 13 years, here’s a comment I left over on Giles Wilkes’ site back in April:

http://freethinkingeconomist.com/2010/04/12/labours-rally-atmosphere/#comment-2877

@ 5

What he said.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Is it time to join the Labour party? http://bit.ly/befIl4

  2. Jo Simmonds

    Is it time to join the Labour Party? http://ow.ly/23hb0 #fb





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