I have voted for Labour in every general election. I have rarely directly elected an M.P. Brian White and Kerry Pollard are rare exceptions to my miserable record. I have had the misfortune of living among those who thought that Bill Benyon, Peter Butler, John Bercow and Jack Lopresti would be better at managing the NHS, public transport, our education systems and the economy.
|General Election||Constituency||Party elected in my constituency|
|May 1979||Southampton Test||Conservative|
|June 1983||Milton Keynes||Conservative|
|June 1987||Milton Keynes||Conservative|
|April 1992||Milton Keynes NE||Conservative|
|May 1997||Milton Keynes NE||Labour|
|June 2001||St Albans||Labour|
|May 2010||Filton and Bradley Stoke||Conservative|
|May 2015||Filton and Bradley Stoke||Conservative|
In every one of those elections until 2015 a Labour poster was in my window and I did my bit in trying to convince people of the fairness and justice within a Labour Party Manifesto. I was not a member of the party, I didn’t need to be. I was, and still am, a member of the N.U.T. and did not want to be a party member, carrying the baggage of being labelled for my politics. I am one of the many that have become angry at the recent direction of the Labour Party. At the point where I could see the Country desperately lurching back to the days of Thatcher, there was an opportunity for the Labour Party to put a stop to the nonsense and restore some fairness to our society. What they did at the last election was unforgivable and I felt let down and angry that we were going to have five more years of Toryism. My anger eventually became internalised as it always does. What could I have done?
I could have put a poster in the window. I didn’t. No one knocked on my door. When I asked for a leaflet or poster to share I had the impression that the local party had abandoned my village as somewhere that it is not worth canvassing. Had the party been so short of cash and members that they couldn’t spend an hour walking the streets of Pilning?
I could have voted for a local member in the district election. NO ONE STOOD for election at the council or Parish level. I don’t want to do it myself, it’s is not my style, but surely someone could have put themselves forward.
I could have been a member and had a say in convincing the party that they had lost touch with people like me and were in danger of losing my vote. The path of Toryism within the Labour party wasn’t halted. THIS I COULD DO by joining the party.
I joined the party in the few weeks following the election. I wasn’t cajoled into it by my Union. The N.U.T. isn’t affiliated to the party. I looked up the details and found, to my surprise, that I was not alone. I was one of many who joined well before the leadership candidates were announced. The party snatched my money with some degree of pleasure. The welcome literature arrived by post and email. I enjoyed the day that the little red card could be place in my wallet. My mother would be proud, my father most definitely would not.
I was asked to explain the reasons why I had joined. The emailed reply talked of the inadequacies of the party’s defence, of the negative campaigning, of the lack of direction. Most of all I wanted someone to represent my views and those of my, most middle class, middle income, rational thinking fair minded friends. I am not an extreme left wing ideologist but there is a case for paying for public services through taxation, nationalising key infrastructure, building better houses for all, relaunching the N.H.S. creating jobs through investment and defending the criticism of the party for somehow not being able to insulate the country from a global economic collapse. None of the candidates were likely to stand on this agenda but by 2020 I would at least have a chance to suggest they might.
And then came the candidates and I found that at least Jeremy Corbyn would offer something towards the views I held. If he didn’t get elected at least the others might look at the support he would gain and trim their stance to reflect a bit of internal feedback. I note that this is the case of Andy Burnham who appears to have shifted his thoughts on nationalising the railways.
The Labour party is so out of touch with reality that it cannot even recognise who and what is happening during the election. It talks of entryism, of Corbyn’s views being at odds with the electorate, of the potential death and electoral Armageddon. What it doesn’t understand that it needs to talk to new voters to win the next election. A Tory lite agenda will not survive the scrutiny of the Tory Press. It needs to look to those who voted to the extremes of the left who took their vote to the S.N.P, U.K.I.P. and the Green Party. It needs to speak to those who didn’t vote at all. It needs to enfranchise the disenfranchised youth of inner city Britain. It needs to look to the examples of where they increased their vote. Almost uniformly the common factor in successful candidates was a charismatic member of parliament who relies of a local reputation for fighting the local cause. They are well liked and often have trust of the electorate. These MP’s increased their vote. The Labour Party think tanks are so led by the market research pollsters that they cannot see what is happening on the housing estates and village greens of Britain today.
In the last election the Labour Party had 9.3 million people who voted for them, 30% of the people who voted. 30 million people voted in the election (66% turn out). The party need an extra 3 Million voters to win the next election. 3.8M U.K.I.P votes, 1.4M S.N.P. votes, 1.2M Green votes are obvious target voters. I would argue that 15M people were eligible to vote and did not. The potential non tory voting target audience is therefore 21 Million people. Convince 3M of that 21M to vote for the Labour Party and something will change. CONVINCE people to vote for radical change and the disenfranchised may just find a reason to vote.
The Labour Party must play on its democratic past and future. It is tying itself in knots by confusing that essential democracy with the goal of winning the next election. The two are not exclusive entities but the tail is wagging the dog and the party, as it did during the last election, is running scared of what Mummy might think. Grow some balls I say. Decide what is needed not what is wanted. Create a coherent policy and manifesto and sell it to anyone who will listen. Convince the Tory Press by playing them at their game and answering the questions truthfully and directly.
The Tory Press tells us that the scared Party leaders are about to vet and cull the new members. Go ahead, vet away and should you decide that I am not eligible to vote then kiss goodbye forever to my vote. I would argue that I represent the views of many like me. Should the party eventually self-destruct then I trust those who claim the Labour flag will have the courage to take to the roots of the party for strength. If New Labour wants to split the party, let them be the ones who form the middle ground new version in their own focus group formed image.
I finish this article just as Andy Burnham’s post arrives in my door and he is on the 3 o’clock news urging people to listen to Tony Blair. No doubt in the next week the candidates will get together and someone will drop out allowing the party to get its favoured non Corbyn candidate. The party will then crow at how democracy has prevailed and how they have all learned from the process. Andy Burnham will be elected as the new leader and the party will head on blindly to a 2020 election defeat under a manifesto of more austerity to follow five more years of Tory mismanagement.
Or maybe not.