This is not an independence related post, but, I feel, an important one in the context of the current political turmoil currently consuming the Labour Party.
I do support independence for Scotland, and indeed for anywhere in which it can make a real and positive difference to the democracy therein – I always will. And it’s that fundamental belief in democracy that’s making me so frustrated about what’s happening within Labour. You don’t have to be a Labour-supporting unionist to feel angered by that. You just have to support decent, principled politics.
I’m not a Labour supporter. I was, briefly, a long time ago, back when I thought I could trust that they held genuinely left of centre principles.
I turned 18 in 1994, so my first opportunity to vote in a General Election came when Labour finally wrestled back power from the Tories in 1997. I helped to do that by voting for them, and I literally shed a tear when the results came in. I’m sure a great many people did.
But my relief was all too short lived. The work of Blair and his shadow puppets put that trust which I had invested in their party to bed very swiftly. Perhaps that was my fault, as a politically naive youngster, foolishly expecting that a party which I had previously believed to have decent, socially-conscious principles would not abandon them at the first sniff of power. But if that was my fault, a hell of a lot of other voters share the blame with me.
Over the thirteen years which followed that historic election, I watched as the top tier of the Parliamentary Labour Party attempted to redefine what it was to be Labour. They even came up with a name for it, ‘New Labour’, as if this rebranding somehow provided justification or legitimate cover for their attempts to drag the whole party to the right. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now. What they did to the party was change it to suit their own desires – not allow their supporters to shape the party.
And that’s exactly what we’re seeing today. We’re seeing the selfish desires of a few near the top of the party trying to seal the deal on the leadership election. Not allowing the party’s supporters to shape the party. Not allowing the absolutely fundamental political principle of democracy to take place within their own allegedly democratic party.
This should be ringing alarm bells so loudly in the ears of those who forgave them the Blair years. It should be deafening. This is the New Labour moment mk2 – and this time they’re trying to seal the deal forever.
Labour have always had members and supporters across a reasonably wide field of the political spectrum, and that is, I believe, quite healthy. But this current shutting-out of politically intelligent and vocal left-wingers, such as Mark Steel, is changing that. Those on the right of the party are trying to claim the party for themselves alone. They’re literally cutting off those on the real left by denying them a voice in the current leadership election. This, so Labour insist, is their most democratic leadership election ever. But if they’re hand-picking those who can and can’t vote, there is nothing democratic about it in the slightest. It’s an affront to democracy, just as New Labour was an affront to the principles of old Labour.
This HAS to be the left’s clarion call. They must not allow the hijacking of their shared party to be completed. But neither should they continue to attempt to share the party – they’ve tried too long to do that now, and it’s clearer than ever that the two sides have to shake hands and go their separate ways.
Painful in the short-term, electorally speaking? Yes, of course. But without it, the left of the party will continue to be squeezed out until they have no say at all, and the credibility that they have for standing by their principles will be shot to pieces.
Whether Corbyn wins or not, the time has come to separate these two divergent winds of the party. I personally don’t care what happens to the Blairites – they’re power obsessed and lost to the world of principles and ideologies. But I do care that those who hold genuinely left-wing beliefs, those who really believe in a state which has a social conscience and actually does something to achieve true equality – those people I do care about, no matter what party they set their stall out from.
Cut yourselves free – for your own good and for the good of our political environment. Do it. Please.