Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party

3:45 pm - February 9th 2011

by Ellie Mae    

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Yesterday morning I got into a Twitter exchange with Ed Miliband (or the cyborg that controls his account), in which I declared I would never again be able to trust the Labour Party.

By the evening, I had joined. Given the scale of my U-turn, I should fit in well. So, what gives? I hear you ask.

What indeed. Well, in short, it was a pub conversation with a couple of Labourites. After a few hours of deliberating, I made a beer-fuelled acknowledgement that, in the last six months, my priorities have changed.

I have always been someone very much married to my ideals and principles. My politics have always been based on an idea of how life should be, rather than how it is. It’s a luxurious state to be in: you get to wax lyrical about the state of the world, go on a protest or two, and despise politicians for their offending lack of integrity.

But that all changed when the coalition was formed. Its devastating policies forced me to define my politics in a way I’ve never had to before. The cuts are shock and awe tactics of the very worst kind, and suddenly all I can think about is stopping them. I feel like the government has trashed my precious ideals like a dog chewing up a brand new pair of trainers.

The last six months have made me realise that I am just an unglamorous, old-fashioned socialist. I can’t see any way these cuts will be stopped, other than by working people, as represented by trade unions, which can – in turn – put pressure on the Labour party.

Unlike the student movement, serendipitous though it has been, trade unions are the permanent backbone of employee – and by extension, human – rights. This struggle cannot exist without them.

When these cuts are on our doorsteps, people will be ready to fight – if not out of principle, then out of necessity. When they are, I want there to be a credible and strong anti-cuts movement, led by workers’ unions with enough sway in politics to ensure any gains are permanent.

Maybe the only way to do that is to join the Labour party; to try and force it to acknowledge its responsibility to ordinary workers and those that represent them. The LRC is already attempting to force Labour to the left. I’m going to join them.

I very much doubt I’ll stop being continually disappointed with the Labour party. And I’ll certainly not forget its murderous foreign policies. But at least if I join, I can try and force it to be the party I want it to be, and not the party of charlatans we got in 1997.

In another six months, I will probably have left in disgust. I’ll be annoyed with myself for ever joining the party of the grotesque third way and hoping it could change. Or maybe not. Who knows? All I know is, I may be too old to be a student, but I’m still young enough to join the Labour party for a penny.

For the time being, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

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About the author
Ellie Mae is an occasional contributor. She is co-editor of New Left Project. She is on Twitter and blogs here.
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Reader comments

In other words, “Join the Labour Party: because anything’s possible…”

My parents will be so disappointed.

thanks for the penny,I don’t htink the LRC will effect lwbour’s opinion or direction, What do yuo think of most albour backbenchers voting to stop prisoners having the vote’

I really liked that, right up until the 1p bit – which just made me feel more old and disenfranchised than I already did!

Personally I doubt Labour has the will to move left. The name is merely a label and means nothing now, just as the liberals of Australia are their Tories. When almost the whole party are privileged Oxbridge graduates, and have been for some time, why assume they will ever care about us again until that changes?

I’d like to see you and others like you run as Labour MP’s, rather than simply be members. What we need is genuine representation inside parliament, until that happens nothing will change.

Jones put you up to this, didn’t he?

Joining the LRC is an entirely respectable decision. There needs to be socialists and genuine social democrats working inside as well as outside the Labour Party if the rightward lurch that politics has taken since 1979 is going to be turned around. I wouldn’t join the party myself, but I certainly respect anyone who does for the reasons you’ve described.

One thing you might find helpful would be to read some Ralph Miliband. He describes in a number of very readable books the various social forces that have tended to drag Labour away from its original purpose (not something that started in 1994 btw). Once you’ve got a clear sense of what those forces are, you’ll be better equipped to fight against them.

Good luck

You haven’t joined. You’ve applied for membership. We might not let you in. We’re not very keen on your sort. But if you’re turned down you get your penny back, so it’s worth a shot.

Part of me admires you for your courage, another part of me thinks you’ve been done and that they aren’t worth even 1p.

I don’t think I could bring myself to follow you, because I just don’t believe they have changed enough, or that the forces of reaction within the party can be faced down.

I honestly wish you luck, because I think you’re going to need it.

This is an argument to join a trade union, not the Labour party. The calls to separate the unions from party decision-making are coming from within the Labour party – although presumably even the Blarites who want to do this don’t want to hand back the money.

Aye, good luck with that. Maybe you’ll succeed where millions have failed.

I’ll keep my spine for a little while longer, I think…

Or the Co-Operative Party (http://www.party.coop/)

Spot on, Ellie. Very well put indeed.

The next blog post I’m going to inflict on the world is why I think all lefties should join the Labour Party.

But broadly this is why I think she’s correct.

The left’s argument for being in the Labour Party has always been the party’s trade union base. It is this that makes it a workers’ party (yes, with caveats). Of course, that link is bureaucratic, and the unions do not properly exercise the huge potential power they have (e.g. union representatives on the Party’s National Executive Committee voting with the leadership and against their unions’ own policies; or unions locally often back right-wing PPC candidates over left-wing ones). This is why the struggle to make Labour a party that genuinely fights the corner of working-class people has to be both in the party, and the trade union movement.

I’d argue the betrayals of New Labour happened not because the people at the top were simply right-wing ideologues (though they were): they were able to get away with it because the labour movement had suffered huge, devastating defeats under Thatcherism, and it was demoralised and confused as a result.

Ellie refers to the here and now – that is, the Government’s cuts offensive – and this is a key point on a tactical level. As the opinion polls shows, millions of working-class people – many of whom had fled New Labour in disgust – have returned to the Labour fold. Tens of thousands of people (just like Ellie) have joined or rejoined the party. When it comes to fighting the cuts through a political organisation, it’s only Labour that people are joining in considerable numbers. The left has to engage with this and – I would argue – offer them political leadership. We need activists like Ellie in the Party to give this momentum a socialist direction.

We all want this Government to be toppled. But everyone has to recognise that this will automatically mean a Labour Government. We don’t want another government that implements savage cuts, albeit more slowly or less harshly than the Coalition. Labour’s internal political situation is currently up in the air (and the Blairites are genuinely demoralised) – and we need activists like Ellie to strengthen the hands of the anti-cuts forces.

Iraq drove huge numbers of people away from the party. But this is a classic example of the need to separate the leadership from the movement. Huge numbers of Labour Party members marched against the war, and the majority were certainly against. 139 Labour MPs voted against Iraq – the biggest Parliamentary rebellion in history. To his credit, Ed Miliband has renounced the war.

And, frankly, where’s the alternative? The last election was the non-Labour party left’s big chance. The New Labour government was desperately unpopular, and had driven millions of its natural supporters away in disgust (generally, into abstention). Capitalism was in the middle of its biggest crisis since the 1930s. And yet the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition got a vote that was half, nationally, of what John McDonnell got his one constituency. If not then – when?

Every attempt at a left split from Labour has failed in the last century: the Social Democratic Federation in the early 20th century, the Independent Labour Party in the 1930s, and the Militant Tendency and the Socialist Labour Party in the 90s. In the case of the ILP, the political conditions were far better for the left than they are today.

People will sneer about the small number of left-wing Labour MPs. But would we have John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as left MPs if they’d stood as non-Labour candidates?

Ellie doesn’t have to compromise on a single one of her beliefs. But she has now given herself an avenue to fight for those politics. Yes, she’ll have the occasional frustration, or even meet fellow members she’s embarrassed about even sharing the same oxygen supply with. But I think she’s a great addition to the Labour left, and I’m glad she’s joined.

As I understand it Labour were planning planty of cuts, so the suggestion that they might adopt an anti-cuts position is disingenuous to say the least. I’ll wait until after Conference before I decide that the party has changed.

#12 – So you’ll wait to see if the heavy lifting of others shifts the Party’s position?

If everyone had that position, we would of course get nowhere.

Why don’t come and get your hands dirty and help us?

Good post, Owen. If I were to quibble ever so slightly, I might argue that it would be fairer to say that “Ellie …has now given herself a different avenue to fight for those politics”.

You make a strong argument (which I agree with) that socialists can do a lot of good as Labour party members. But I’m sure you’ll also acknowledge that the many socialists who remain outside the party also have their own avenues to fight for their politics, and that these are often just as worthwhile in their own way, whether that involves membership of another party (e.g. the Greens) or activism outside of party politics of any kind.

Yes, Labour needs to be dragged away from the right. There need to be left-wing activists acting to counter those forces that pull Labour towards conformism and subservience to power. But those counterveiling forces can just as easily come from outside the party as from inside. For me, either choice is a valid one.

I rather hope that Labour has got the message and doesn’t need any “heavy lifting” to encourage the right kind of change. However yes, you’ve pricked my conscience. I’m not a member and I won’t join yet but I’ll continue my union activities and hope for the best.

I am always puzzled when people take a position of opposing the cuts as an absolute. Do you mean all cuts? The party you are joining would halve the deficit in 4 years and the majority of this would come through cuts. So are Labour cuts better than others? Then when asked about the alternative there seems to be an absence of credible options. Tax the bankers is the usual response which will do two things; first dry up the flow of loans that the banks are only just starting to make again (every £ extra in tax will reduce their lending capacity by £10) and second it will drive any growth in the financial service sector overseas.

I am not a member of any party and question the way some of the deficit reduction is being handled but the “let’s hit the streets and oppose all cuts ” approach seems to me misdirected, ill thought through and ultimately fruitless. I also object to the term working class which you use liberally. Can’t we drop this class warfare nonsense – it really doesn’t add to the debate. You could argue that my children are middle class but both are poor at the moment and will suffer from the deficit reduction that all parties of whatever colour would need to have implemented.

People will sneer about the small number of left-wing Labour MPs. But would we have John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as left MPs if they’d stood as non-Labour candidates?

I think there is more than that…. a lot of campaigns even from the centre of the party should have LRC support – for example Stella Creasy’s campaign on regulating credit, and then there’s Lisa Nandy, Chuka Umunna has been incisive and instrumental in attacking the banks over their excesses etc

18. Flowerpower

@ 7

Part of me admires you for your courage

Yeah, she’s an inspiration to our lads in Afghanistan, isn’t she?
In what conceivable sense could joining the Labour Party be considered an act of valour?

#17 Yes of course – but I was responding to the argument put by the non-Labour left, who are incapable of electing a single MP.

I like your honesty, Ellie Mae. I have said before [probably on here!] that belonging to any grouping will always require some degree of compromise otherwise we will all be in political parties, religions or sewing groups of one. the Labour Party to which I belong now is no the same party which I joined as a Young Socialist back when rocks were soft or the Labour Party as I would truly like it to be. But it still represents the political party nearest to my ‘ideals’ the LRC is certainly the ‘wing’ of the party in which I feel most comfortable.
Before the election last May, oddly enough, I was wavering. Not because I didn’t want to vote Labour but I was wondering for the first time about tactical voting. I realised that campaigning for my party in my area would actually be a waste of time as there was no hope of a Labour victory, could not travel farther afield so what little I was able to do I did for ‘Hope not Hate’ in Barking. This was a very odd experience because I was actively campaigning AGAINST something – the BNP – rather than for a party and it made me feel very depressed. Well at least that campaigning had a positive result and once I realised that those who had persuaded me not to vote tactically but to vote with my heart [Labour!] in my own constituency had been right, I eventually realised that there was going to be an awful lot of campaigning to be done AGAINST the incoming coalition government.
So my campaigning activity has moved into a different sort of phase since May 2010. I have always had tremendous faith in the Trade Unions – after all they were members of the original Labour Representation Committee all those years ago. I am working with a major trade union at the moment in an industrial cause and the solidarity, care and support for their members and the working people is still as strong as ever.

Hurrah, another Labour lefty =D I’m very tempted by the LRC also, just somewhat disillusioned about their stance on AV…

Ellie, my dad is a Marxist who turns 60 this year and I regard myself as a socialist (though realistically my politics may be further left than that). We discussed it and both joined the Labour Party in May last year because we don’t see how ordinary people lose out more when they’re in power. It’s nothing to do with overall aims, neither of us has faith that they will make things good, we just think the Tories hurt more people who need help than Labour do. I imagine I’ll end up cancelling my membership if Labour get back into power because they’re not good, just better. I’m concerned with preserving the welfare state first and foremost and halting the irreversible so why quibble about the ethics of the opposition if I think they’ll do it more slowly? Their worse actions hardly need to be affirmed by my membership when they’re actually in government but I think it’s okay to support a Party on a practical basis. Even if you can’t sway Labour’s political position your action is okay.

@13 Owen Jones

I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. I know there is an argument to be made that it’s better to be inside working to change things, but that’s more likely to work on people who are already members, or perhaps former members who are thinking about coming back.

You are likely to benefit from a fair number of people who examine the political horizon and see no other option. However, there’s a fair way to go before you convince a lot of others to support you, still less to actually join.

Maybe I’m just not good enough at compromise, and perhaps that is a fault. I’m just not convinced that Labour has changed enough. It’s 9 months since the election, and frankly there isn’t much evidence that those responsible have repented, still less given up the ghost.

@11 The only workers’ party there is nowadays is the TUSC – and I say that as a died in the wool Liberal Democrat. Unlike the Labour Party the TUSC actually care about the working man and I’d like to see them do better in future elections.



The reason socialist alternatives to Labour have failed is because the voting system is heavily biased in favour of Labour, the Conservatives and (to a lesser extent) the Lib Dems. The voting system is also why the Labour leadership can so easily ignore their base, knowing that they have no other party to vote for. That’s why I personally think that electoral reform is the most important issue there is and why I’m campaigning for Yes to Fairer Votes.

@ 18 flowerpower

Don’t be a prat.

If your sole definition of courage revolves around being a soldier in Afghanistan, you need to educate yourself.


#17 Yes of course – but I was responding to the argument put by the non-Labour left, who are incapable of electing a single MP

What about Caroline Lucas? Fast becoming one of the most high-profile and articulate genuine left-wingers in the country. In a Labour-led coalition government she would have been of more help to the socialist left than many, perhaps most Labour MPs.

What I find a tad amusing is that many people here are making the valid argument that, if you dislike the current direction of the Labour party, it is better to join and try to change it from within than to sit on the sidelines moaning. I just wish that people didn’t reject out of hand my identical idea about the Lib Dems.

I joined Labour as soon as the coalition was formed. My priority is not to force it to the left – any mainstream party that represented my personal views would never get elected anyway – but to give any support I can in helping them get re-elected. We have to be pragmatic about this: Labour are the only option now.

For all of the money-grabbing, warmongering behaviour in the New Labour years, we know that the Tories would have behaved more badly in their position. We still would have gone to Iraq, the economy still would have crashed and we would still have had an expenses scandal. What we wouldn’t have had is the repeal of Section 28, the introduction of a minimum wage, devolution or Sure Start centres. There’s plenty to despise about the Labour Party, but nothing close to the amount of reasons we have to hate the Tories. It would be nice if we lived in some dream world where voting for the party you like best makes a difference, but in reality this is, and always has been, a two horse race. It’s just a shame people didn’t realise this before the election.

30. Hodge Podge

I joined the Greens in the hope of AV, so I can give my second vote to Labour. I may have to vote Labour anyway if we lose the referendum, but I struggle to forgive Labour unless Ed M makes some strong changes.

It is true, as some are saying here, that Labour is the only alternative government currently available. That argument has a good deal going for it. However, one should recall that the same argument could also have been made 100 years ago to persuade people not to waste their time with the newly formed Labour Party, because the Liberals were, at that point, the only available alternative government to the Tories.

With public trust in politicians at a low, and party-loyalty in long-term decline, we may well see an increase in non-Labour left-wing MPs like Caroline Lucas, or some of the nationalists, who are more palatable to the public than candidates fairly or unfairly associated with the Labour Party of Blair and Brown. Perhaps we’ll even see candidates like that winning seats from Lib Dems and Tories where Labour aren’t able to do so.

And as I noted above, MPs like Caroline Lucas would make powerful allies for the Labour left in a hung parliament situation, where their independence would be a positive asset.

Agree with Mr Wearing as ever. Activists don’t need to be members of political parties to make a difference. You can organise protests, campaign, increase union membership, etc, without joining a political party. Labour party membership is not the only route to a worthwhile political contribution.

Also – one can be bashed about by the powerful whether a Labour party member or not.

That said – people who want to join for the right reasons (to promote workers’ rights in this instance) should be encouraged. I’ve met great activists (especially in TU branches) who were members of political parties. Local Labour is also well-regarded in many instances – I’ve heard a lot of his constituents speak very highly of Paul Cotterill, for example. It is only when people describe criticism of the party as ‘carping from the outside’ that things get difficult in my view. There is always room for commentary from those who wish to critique the party that wants a vote. A lot of us carp from the outside, because we see a lot of fallout from policy. We’re also natural carpers (word?), true, but we’re hardly inactive, or poor activists because of that.

28 George Potter

Well, as is evident, many people aren’t convinced by the argument, whether it is used in connection to Labour or the LD’s.

The number joining isn’t what either party really have to worry about (altho’ I accept you need activists), it’s non-members and voters you have to convince. The interim result for both parties is that they still have a hell of a lot to do before they can hope to make progress.

@Mr Wearing – that’s why you guys need some form of PR voting. Gets leftwingers a lot closer to powerbroking. There are a lot of problems with it, but it seems more effective than having the likes of Caroline Lucas floating about on her own. Did in the home country anyway.

19/Owen Jones: I think it’s rather bad practice to assume that the success of a political stance correlates to the number of MPs, if any, it has got elected.

The BNP, after all, have never had an MP at all, nor even really come particularly close, and yet politicians of all major parties have hurried to make immigration policy yet more draconian – towards the BNP position – to make sure it stays that way. Not bad going for a bankrupt party which got comprehensively defeated in the last elections and the majority of the country actually hates.

On the other side, the Greens pre-2010 had no MPs, but did have some success in raising environmental issues up the political agenda regardless.

Quite a few protest movements have managed to change things – to the left or right – without having a partisan political identity at all, never mind actual elected officials.

28/George W Potter: Hmm, maybe we should all join the Conservatives, then. Move them to the left and it’ll be easier to get either the Lib Dems or Labour to adopt more left-wing policies. (I mean, the Conservatives, unlike Labour, are actually “in power”, and so there’s be more effect from moving them left)

I really don’t agree with that argument, though, either for Lib Dems or Labour. Neither party is particularly close to my own politics, for different reasons. Joining a party that significantly different in the hope that I can single-voicedly bring it to my views seems rather egotistical, and, at any rate, I can do just as much arguing and convincing without having a token formal vote. (Plus, since you can’t join both at once, I can lobby both without being seen as a partisan for the other)

Right now the only hope for the disgruntled masses is Labour.

Had Tories got a majority it would have certainly been Lib Dems everyone would be flocking to.

Too many of the public believed Camerons lies about how much better we’d be, wont be cutting and how we’d all be jobless with Labour proposals for a 1p National insurance rise.

Oh and the right to recall an MP who lied to you to get in….

I’ve been a member of the LP and of LRC for more years than I care to remember for precisely your reasons. I am in sympathy with David Wearing’s stance and it is obvious that you cannot have a broad alliance across the left and green left without there being a left within the LP.

Like you I retain the option to leave at any point, but I haven’t so far. Since 94, I felt it even more important to stay to argue with New Labour. Since 2010, I am hoping that the LP will take on board that neoliberalism does not work and will move close to the Caroline Lucas’es of this world and implement The Green New Deal.

What I don’t understand is this: what makes you think that you are more likely to change Labour by joining it than you are to change Labour by not joining? If they know they can count on the support of sensible socialists like you, then there is no incentive to move to the left.

39. Saltley Gates

Brief Reminder of Labours Record

The Iraq War, the bloody deaths of 1000s of civilians men women and kids
millions refugees, millions of Iraqi kids traumatised massive mental health problems. All on the back of Lies and Propagands. Labour followed the Bush NeoCons on a rampage of destruction,looting and led to massive killings

Privatisation the last Labour Govt Privatised more than Thatcher including privatising
NHS services
Public Services and threatening Royal Mail

Inequality increased under Labour, attacks on Comprehensive Education
Labour introduced TUITION FEES
Labour brought in Academys
Labour began scapegoating teachers and teacher unions
Labour MPs increasingly went to Public Schools and Oxbridge

Labour PFI massive shift of wealth from public to private wealthy few
Foundation Trusts begining the break up of the NHS
Labour Reinstalling Tories Internal Market in NHS
Labour Increasing and Priveledging Private Contractors in NHS
Labour Attacks on Union Reps and Encouraging bullying Trust Managers
Labour Destruction of Community Health Councils
Labour Stuffing MEdics mouth with gold, again
Labour 4% Effeciency Savings Labour Policy 20 billions of CUTS
Labour Massive outsourcing and use of private contractors
Labour Massive waste of money on Consultants and Computers schemes
Labours wealthy Corporate pals got rich and the NHS was undermined

Labour increased overseas arms sales
Labour responsible for QINETIQ scandal , look it up ,
Labourin Favour of Trident, Trident enhancement and Tridents Replacement
Labour in favour of Nuclear Weapons
Labour in favour of Nuclear Power
Labour privatised Nuclear Power stations and took burden for clean up onto public
Labour prevented investigation into BAEs bungs to Torturers
Labour armed and re-armed the Saudi Torturers

Labour crawled on its belly to Murdoch
Digby Jones was a Labour Minister, Adonis, Purnell
Labour used unelected Lords to avoid questions
Labour failed over 13 yrs to REFORM the unelected Lords
Freud went from advising Labour on Welfare Deformation to Advising Tories
David Blunkett scapegoated Asylum seekers, then turned his hand to penal Reform wanting to machine Gun Prisoners
Labour policy was for UNLIMITED DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL before amended to 90 days
Labour undermined Jury Trials, Double Jepoardy and smashed the Probabation Service thjen tried to destroy Legal Aid and Law Centres

Labour crawled to the CITY Brown told them they were producing a Golden Age
Brown told them he was losening the Light Touch Regulation so they could get richer
Mortgage Mandelson told the filthy rich he was relaxed about their wealth
Labour cut Corporation Taxes
Labour attacked the Trade Unions in struggle, BA FireFighters RMT etc
Labour refused Trade Union Freedoms, used Anti Union Laws against the Unions
Labour attacked our Pensions,our Pay and Conditions
Labour whipped up Islamaphobia and anti Immigrant Xenophobia
Labourdoubled the prison population, more poor, mentally ill, addicted, iliterate, working class men locked upo than ever and more and more killing themselves or self harming

Labour Lords sold influence to change legislation to Corpoate bidders
Labour MPs and Ministers where Cabs for hire, scuttling round aiding privatisatoion, Consulting for the Wealthy and Hedge Funds
Labour MPs fiddled their exspenses whilst Bhagdad burnt

Labouir has no internal democracy its Conference is a Circus where Corporate sponsors wrestled Arms dealers for access to Labour Ministers.Policy is decided by a smasll elite middle class group. FoundationTrusts for example never in the manifesto, never discussed or debated at Conference but forced through by
Milburne and Blair

Labour is gutless it wont and has never fought, on Iraq its members were remarkable by their inactivity or support for the War

Thats Labour for you thats the heroic progressive party you joined

Labour is a gutless, Neo Liberal, anti union and a Party that works for the wealthy few against the interests of the many.

Labour is an arm of the single ruling Neo Liberal Tory Party

Saltley Gates –

But what did you think of them ASIDE from all that?

41. George McLean

Good luck, Ellie Mae.

I was a Labour Party member for 20+ years and left in 2001 over what I perceived as the misleading and mistaken policy over Iraq (and not with hindsight). I did all the footslogging, office-holding, leaflet-writing, tombola-spinning and arguing for socialism within the Party, but just saw it slipping further and further into indefensible managerialism and triangulation, with even the gradualist policy suggestions of (us) trade unionists ignored (despite funding the Party and providing the footsloggers).

Now, as Mark Steel neatly says, “Labour would copy the Coalition, only they would have started the cuts on a Wednesday”. Here in Manchester, the Labour response to Coalition cuts is to close libraries, sack workers and shut public toilets, and hope to blame the government. I couldn’t sell that on the doorstep or in the workplace.

I’m not in any party now, but still a trade unionist and write “Mr Angry” letters to the newspapers. If Labour organised a coherent response to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, I’ll be there – as will most of us on the organised or unorganised left.

It would be really interesting to hear your experiences and views over the next 12 -24 months, Ellie Mae. I think this is a really important debate.

I agree with Adam Ramsay.
The Labour Party are a party of cuts, despite many of their members fully supporting campaigns against cuts, and acknowledging the alternatives, the leadership/managment will not change its tune, it cant its dug itself too deeply into a position of being a watered down version of the Tory party. All it cares about is being elected, and wont do or say anything it thinks will upset “middle england”
Try asking Ed about the Robin Hood Tax, one of the alternatives to cuts. He supported it as a candidate as they all did, but has been strangely silent since being elected. Why? Why wont the Labour leadership spell out the alternatives to cuts , and explain that cuts are not necessary ? Whats their problem?
Appreciate its hard to not be in a “main” party, but despite that being in a party with policies you believe in can really help motivate you to fight back, for me thats the Green Party.
I personally think your fighting spirit is wasted on the labour party but..each to his or her own way of doing things.

I admire the spirit but the problem is Labour isn’t opposed to the cuts it just calls them something else.

At the last election we were presented with a false choice; Labour wanted to raise NI and make *cough* savings over 10 years and the Tories who wanted to zero the deficit within five and *cough* not raise VAT. Both plans wished to preserve the countries credit rating and stave off a potential debt crisis.

Essentially both parties had come to the same conclusion – they both needed to make cuts and raise taxes – the only argument now, on either side, is which taxes – either party could have gone either way and we’d still be in the same position.

The group of special advisor’s that wrote the policies which robbed the pension funds by taxing dividend payments, sold the gold for (loosing 7 billion), placed poor people in a debt spiral with tax credits (and implemented them so badly that we lost 6 billion to fraud, created a tax code which taxes widows higher than widowers, bought in PFIs that we now have to bail out, abolished the 10p tax rate, allowed the public sector to become 55% of the economy, failed to control the banks and the housing markets is now in charge of the Labour party (F**k Vodafone, they at least have a legal argument – I want the 13 billion we spent bailing out PFI’s back!).

Both parties are a wolf in sheep’s clothing and given the state of the economy the cuts are sadly inevitable – the argument that Labour would make friendlier/better/more sensitive cuts than the Tories is a false as the argument that you can better effect change from the inside which I hear from gay conservatives all the time.

oh joy, just what the Left needs, more delluded reformists who think Labour is actually on our side…


Lots of responses. Sorry for the late reply – I’ve not had internet access until now. OK *rolls up sleeves*

Steve – I’m sorry if I made you feel disenfranchised! I was obliquely referring to the fact that the student movement made me feel old and disenfranchised.

David W – yes, Jones did put me up to it 😉 I’m glad this hasn’t got me kicked off NLP! I will check out Ralph Miliband – and how utterly depressing it is to see that it was him who warned against those things, given what his sons are now doing.

Adam – you may be right, of course. I honestly don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I hope that came across in my post. I think the more lefties there are in the Labour party, the more likelihood there is of it being turned into a semi-decent party. I’m not able to join the Greens because I fundamentally disagree with their stance on TUs.

Saltley Gates – you missed out the war in Afghanistan, the prioritisation of nuclear power, the privatisation of the CDC (one of Labour’s greatest crimes), and the welcoming of Lehman Brothers into the city of London.

Nobody needs to give me a lecture on the terrible things the Labour party has done. I come from a family who cut up their membership cards in the late nineties as a result.

But the fact is, the party has an excellent grassroots movement and an obligation to trade unions. Perhaps, while it is still finding its feet in opposition, the grassroots can coerce it into taking that obligation more seriously. Perhaps it can’t. I don’t know.

The reality is that this government may go down (and I pray to God that it does – legitimately in case any police are reading). If it does, Labour will replace it. Let’s be honest. That being the case, I want to make sure Labour is socialist, union-friendly, anti-cuts, and ready to mend the considerable damage the Tories will wreak upon this government. It is none of those things at the moment.

Maybe I’m being unrealistic. Maybe I’m not. I don’t know.

The thing that really swayed me (and I’m sorry to single you out, Kate) was talking to Kate Belgrave last night. She told me that she has attended council meetings where there were only a handful of people present to witness the passing of a budget that will devastate the lives of thousands. That’s the reality of the anti-cuts movement at the moment, and no amount of tweeting from an iPad at parliament square can change that.

So basically, I’m choosing party politics as a backup in case revolution doesn’t cut it. Like I say, I might be wrong, but frankly I’m a little desperate. We all have our red lines. These cuts are mine.

Finally, George McLean – yes I will definitely be writing about this a lot. It’s almost like a social experiment for the disenfranchised left that desperately want to believe in Labour!


Oops scrap that last ‘Finally’

Should also say thanks to all the nice left-wing Labour people who have welcomed me – especially Owen and Paul, who I’m sure will pull some strings to ensure I get let in…

The Labour Party was created in order to sell out working class people …nothings changed …( 6 months ? i give you 6 weeks )….

The 3 main parties are all in favour of the privatisation of public sector jobs / services …Ed Miliband will have no problem with a cheaper welfare state ….thats why hes keeping schtum at the mo …Only thing hes spoken on recently was his nice little photo op in Afghanistan …praising the war effort ….The TUC has organised a ” protest” at the back end of March ….hundreds of thousands of peoples jobs will be long gone by then ..coincidence ? I dont think so ….The Labour Party are the enemy …

“So basically, I’m choosing party politics as a backup in case revolution doesn’t cut it.”

Please don’t join the Labour Party. Join one that shares your values. Then you can avoid the pathetic ritual of shouting “betrayal!” at the party for continuing to hold its own values rather than changing to yours.

Next week: Sarah Palin on how the anti drilling green movement betrayed her.

If the party’s internal rules are changed and becoming sufficiently democratic to provide the grassroots with some genuine level of influence, let alone control, over policy, you have a chance.

If the party’s internal rules and structure continue to consist of reams of right-wing diktat handed out from on high, with the grassroots ignored or treated with contempt, you’re wasting your time.

Good luck.

“The LRC is already attempting to force Labour to the left. I’m going to join them. ”


You sold your soul for a penny. You will dismiss this as an inarticulate ad-hominem but I know, deep inside, you feel like you’ve made a huge mistake by throwing your lot in with the party that was in government from 1997 to 2010. Like David Wearing said earlier, the pro-business pro-capitalist part of the Labour Party has been around for at least fifty years, if not longer, so New Labour was not an aberration but a continuation of that legacy. You should’ve joined the Greens or the SWP.

“I want to make sure Labour is socialist, union-friendly, anti-cuts, and ready to mend the considerable damage the Tories will wreak upon this government. It is none of those things at the moment.”

They’ve never been like that in the past, not even in 1945-51. What makes you think they’ll be like that now?

Look at it labour MP’s joining the Tories to get welfare through, now a no vote for AV, when not tell the liberals to pee off and the Labour party join the Tories.

Ellie – what is it about the Greens’ trade union policy that you disagree with?

@David I do not think Ellie disagrees with the Green Party’s policy on anything, as the Greens are old-fashioned big-state socialists. What Labour-inclined socialists dislike about the Greens are:

1) their lack of roots in the trade union movement
2) their distinctly middle class character
3) the fact that it will take them ten thousands years at the current rate of progress before they have a majority in the House of Commons.

1) and 2) are related, although of course whilst Labour has its roots in the trade union movement which supplies its cash, in office Labour has always betrayed trade unions. Never forget though, that the TUs are actually the most conservative part of the Labour Party, with the Fabians and Marxists constantly opposed to them on policy grounds.

Likewise with middle class vs working class, the Labour Party might have claimed to speak for the working class but it has always been a predominantly middle class party. The front bench team like to crow that they aren’t a cabinet of Oxbridge-educated public schoolboy millionaires. But this is silly and hypocritical, because they are a bunch of Oxbridge-educated grammar school millionaires, with quite a number of public schoolboys and girls thrown in for good measure (eg Harriet Harman).

Of course neither of these things would matter if 3) wasn’t a major issue. What is the point of joining a political party that neither has the will to attain power nor any reasonable chance of ever doing so?

@ 55

Your point 3 becomes somewhat less important if and when electoral reform happens. As someone else pointed out above, the hold of the major parties will only be broken if they have little or no chance of winning a majority outright.

The reason Labour has been able to ignore the left for so long to the disgust of many “socialists”, or from another angle was able to ignore calls from social democrats to reform in the 70’s and 80’s leading to the defection of some to the SDP, was the baleful effect of our electoral system.

haha Good luck. Come back in six months.

Ellie, aren’t you welsh?

The western mail this morning contains a classic example of why the labour party remain unfit for office and are having a worrying tendancy to try to monopolise opposition. Whilst it contains the likes of Tom Harris and the thug tendancy I cannot be a member, particularly when there are good people in so many other parties here who frankly get more shit off labour than the tories do.

I can understand Ellie’s concerns about the Labour Party because, as a fellow member and also involved in the LRC, I share those concerns. I guess I have becoem something of a cynic in my old age. I look back to earlier years and see all our dreams abandoned.

Would I be better positioned outside the party? Probably not, but it doesn’t take away my concerns. As for joining TUSC, Socialist Labour, Socialist Party, SWP or one of the other left grouping? Well, let’s be frank, they are unlikely to be anything more than a fringe movement and even though I agree with much of what they say, I doubt they will inititate significant change.

No, I will stay in the party and contiue to fight for Marxist (yes, I am enough of a dinosaur to still proudly consider myself one) values. I hope people like Ellie continue to join me.

OMG, we are heading for another eighteen years out of office if this lot have their way.

I’m Welsh but I live in London – though I am in the North Wales Weekly News today!

@ 60

OMG, we are heading for another eighteen years out of office if this lot have their way.

With fixed term Parliaments, make that 20 years.

@ 62 FP

Blimey, another twenty years of destruction, nothing will be left standing to look after me in my toothy dotage.

How quickly people forget the good things that happened over the last thirteen years in their pursuit of last century’s dogmatic ideology. Move on; the electorate has.

Thanks very much for this Ellie,

I think I have/had a similar problem. I’d like to think of myself quite on the left side of Labour but my dislike of Labour’s foreign policy and feeling that for the average person, such as myself and the family that brought me up – who struggled throughout the Tory reign – that Labour did not represent us. That they did become too cosy with big business, that is was a big thumbs up for neoliberalism.

This led to me joining the Lib Dems partly out of protest, partly because I actually believed they would make life fairer. This I quickly realised would not happen when the Coalition came into existence. So I ended my membership.

I feel that I should be part of a party, that I want my views to be heard and have, hopefully, to have some sort of impact no matter how small. That was why I sent a letter to Chuka Umunna (my local MP) who made a convincing argument to join his party.

The thing that concerns is that I don’t want to join see it (hopefully) bring down the Coalition in the future and then swap it for similar policies with just more red or try an even outflank it in a more vicious attitude for civil liberties.

I understand and agree with your views, and it is good to know that there are people joining for these reasons. That is why I have now decided to join.

Thank you very much, and hope to join you in calling for Lab to listen to its voices on the left more in the future.

my mp in south hackney is private school and oxford educated. she lives in islington. it’s not just the tories who are deeply privileged. i will not be joining the labour party until it slightly represents it’s constituents.

Ive written a follow up to this on my blog now.

Saltey gates, trials without juries have only been used once in the last 10 years when there had been 3 mistrials after juries were lent on,as for Double Jeopardy,

If some kids who did racially murder a black teenager in Eltham 18 years ago then had the case agaisnt them thrown out were to face a retrial and based on evidence htey did it don’t you think they should be found guilty a second time.

68. Saltley Gates

@EM “Saltley Gates – you missed out the war in Afghanistan, the prioritisation of nuclear power, the privatisation of the CDC (one of Labour’s greatest crimes), and the welcoming of Lehman Brothers into the city of London.

Nobody needs to give me a lecture on the terrible things the Labour party has done. I come from a family who cut up their membership cards in the late nineties as a result”

Read my Brief Record, (remember that brief bit these are a few of Labours crimes many are not yet known particularly the Torture, Death Squads, Destablisation and Detention run in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) properly and you will find I mention Nuclear Power, CDC-QINETIQ and Browns talk to Lehmans about Light Touch Regulations.Afghanistan of course an open sore.

You say you dont need a Lecture. My intention is not to Lecture or hector but to recall the recent policies of your Party.

So why join a Party whose record is a Neo Liberal Tory Party because its got good grass roots? That sounds like bollocks to me, not a real argument.
Labours grass roots have been dying for years.
You know Labour has no internal Democracy so change in Labour is impossible
You know Labour attacks and scapegoats Left and active Trade Unionists
You know Millibands idea of radicalism is 10,000 Community Activists trained by the CIA and sponsored by Voda Phone

As to NHS, I have worked in front line Mental Health in the NHS for 30 yrs in Working Class Communities

In the 1980s Thatcher period we the Mental Health Workers kept the service alive against massive attacks, underfunding, abysmal wages and neglect.
Labour comes in and starts centralising, dictating, puts in bullying management regimes, smashes any sort of User Oversight, Democratic accountability is underrmined. Labour closes Community Health Councils replaces with all sorts of organisations that are closed as soon as they start asking difficult questions
Light Touch Regulation abounds except if a Health Workerspeaks out then they are victimised, see Karen Reissman. Labours policies empower the bosses and
destroy NHS values and ethos. Competition is all Cooperation laughed at.

Then Labour starts further undermining the NHS ethos breaking up the Public Health planning, the Cooperation of NHS organisations.

Labour then brings in Foundation Trusts a major effort by stealth to break up the NHS

Labour reinstates the discredited Tory Internal Market and Patricai Hewitt advertises Community Health for sale….. before backtracking. Milburn,Hewitt and the rest worked as hard asthey could to break up and privatise the NHS
Remember NHS Logistics sold to TNT

Now the ConDems use another Labour wheeze GP Comissioning, trialed by Burnham and Hewitt.. to break the NHS.Essentialy they are breaking it into so many fragments and competing providers it will be impossible to put back together. Labour laid the demolition charges under the NHS and ConDems set them off. Labours destroyed the NHS.

Labour brought in the 20 Billion saving /effeciencies that no Health Service has ever achieved in history my job is now under threat as are thousands of other front line NHS Workers.This is Labour Policy

Labour encouraged private sector to take more and more roles in the NHS and ex Labour MPs and Ministers are now leading the Privatisation charge
So read Alyson Pollock on how Labour has competed with the Thatcherites in underminig, attacking and fragmenting the NHS

@EM You know these things, so If this record is not enough to make you think then you are fooling yourself and trying to fool others.

Labours lost to the Neo Liberal wealthy worriers and Murdoch grovellers, a new
Left will form, one not based on Labour.

Although it’s become a matter of survival to get the Tories out, Labour wasn’t without their own horrors:


Lest we forget Blair came after a 17-year “attack on living standards”. He did little to reverse that process, and Miliband is very much a protoge of his model.

70. Peter Benson

I am in my mid fifties and have voted Labour all my life.But I am growing increasingly angry about the New Labour neo liberal aspect.
I am gravely concerned about welfare reform but the New Labour party does not seem to be so concerned.Indeed most of its passage through parliament has been unopposed.
IDS seems intent on following Bill Clintons idea of welfare reform which has caused increasing poverty in the US.He obviously wants workfare.When that happened in the US a lot of public service employees were fired and then were put back in there jobs for a lot less money under workfare.A splendid capitalist idea.Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer.New Labour must like the idea also because they do not seem to oppose it.Indeed it seems as the New Labour Party is in coalition with the ConDems on Welfare.
Already the Tories are hinting at lowering the Rich Mans 50p tax rate.In the sixties it was 90p.My how the rich have prospered.
The recent Murdoch debacle shows that Governments getting to close to big business is unhealthy.It seems more and more that big business calls the shots not the voters.
At election time you can vote for the neo liberal Conservative Party,the neo liberal LibDems or neo liberal New Labour.And this is democracy.
We don’t vote for the party we trust any more but the one we feel will do the least damage.
Is it any wonder that turnout at elections is low.If New Labour does not change they will probably end up in coalition with the LibDems in 2015.Another disaster waiting to happen.
Labour needs to go back to supporting the poor or expect a poor turnout.
The only person ConDemning the ConDems is Caroline Lucas.What a plank you are Ed M.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  2. Don Paskini

    RT @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  3. Ellie Mae O'Hagan

    In which I sell out completely: http://bit.ly/gRJPLd (for @libcon) cc @OwenJones84 @CarlRaincoat @BickerRecord

  4. Owen Jones

    Are you a socialist wresting with your conscience about joining the Labour Party? Read @MissEllieMae on why she joined http://bit.ly/gRJPLd

  5. Owen Jones

    Are you a socialist wresting with your conscience about joining Labour? Read @MissEllieMae on why she joined http://bit.ly/gRJPLd

  6. Rupert Griffin

    RT @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  7. James Tanner

    .@MissEllieMae explains why she's joined the Labour Party. Her reasons are very similar to mine: http://bit.ly/gRJPLd

  8. Tim Moore

    Great words @MissEllieMae: reflects my own "journey" a bit, too. http://bit.ly/gRJPLd /@OwenJones84

  9. mark wright

    @hand_of_Ike http://met.al/gqq

  10. Jude

    This article by @MissEllieMae (with @OwenJones84's comment beneath) gives me hope: http://tiny.cc/wpuw1

  11. Carl Packman

    RT @MissEllieMae: In which I sell out completely: http://bit.ly/gRJPLd (for @libcon) cc @OwenJones84 @CarlRaincoat @BickerRecord

  12. salardeen

    RT @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  13. Emily Davis

    Good explanation of my general feelings and decision too. @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  14. Aaron Kiely

    RT @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u – nice one @MissEllieMae look forward to working with you 🙂

  15. LRC Northern

    Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/IkMtil2 via @libcon

  16. Why I’m not a member of the Labour Party | Bright Green

    […] blogger Ellie May has just joined the Labour Party. She explains why over at Liberal Conspiracy. So, I thought I’d follow the trend, and write about my membership […]

  17. Michael Marten

    On joining the Labour party: http://bit.ly/gRJPLd – and not doing so: http://bit.ly/fDNrXj

  18. Why I joined the Greens | The Top Soil

    […] is a response to the initial pro-Labour Party post by Ellie Mae and the proceeding post by Adam […]

  19. Liz K

    RT @libcon: Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party http://bit.ly/gUsV3u

  20. Why Labour is the left’s only hope « jonesblog

    […] with a Labour party card. Tens of thousands of others have wrestled with their conscience and, like Ellie Mae, joined up despite their huge […]

  21. jamiejones1977

    Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/vcca4cz via @libcon

  22. Paul Gleeson

    Why I u-turned and joined the Labour party | Liberal Conspiracy: http://bit.ly/hZ9fve via @addthis

  23. Aidan Skinner

    @RLemkin @MissEllieMae put it very well here: http://s.coop/14fs

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