Am in the middle of reading the Labour Party’s Manifesto at the moment.
I’ve had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the Labour Party throughout my life. It was the party my Dad (mostly) voted for, so of course it was the party I voted against when I could first vote. (I was part of the generation that got the vote at age 18.)
By the time I went to university I was voting Labour. In my late twenties a Labour Party activist knocked on the door of my flat in Leyton, East London.
Having established I was friendly he asked me if I had ever considered joining the Labour Party? I responded along the lines of “Well, occasionally, but if I lie down in a darkened room the feeling generally passes.” However I did end up joining the local branch of the party and for the next few years being an active member was pretty much my social life.
I went to ward meetings once a week and was elected Women’s Section rep to the General and Executive Committees which met once a month. Don’t even ask – I’ve completely forgotten the arcane structure at that time, all I remember is that I effectively got four votes on everything: one as an ordinary member; one as a member of Women’s Section and two more on GC and EC. For the latter two I was supposed to vote as mandated by Women’s Section, but fortunately we usually agreed with each other.
I also became a school governor via the Labour Party and was one of the committee running our local social club.
Then drifting gently on the horizon came a dark cloud – New Labour. An organisation apparently claimed as her finest achievement by Margaret Thatcher. It became clear to me that, rather than trying to persuade the public what we stood for was worthwhile, we were prepared to sell out everything we stood for in order to get elected.
So I left the party. This was at the time of Kinnock. Things got even worse under Blair. By then I was a Legal Aid lawyer, specialising in criminal defence. The Blairite government systematically trashed Legal Aid and cut back on the Criminal Justice system to the extent that it struggled to function on a daily basis.
I remember attending a protest march in London (by then I was living in Devon) about cuts to Legal Aid. One of the speakers was Shami Chakrabarti, at that time director of Liberty, who reminded us that when Atlee’s Labour government set up the welfare state after the Second World War its three pillars were the NHS, the education system and Legal Aid. “It took another Labour government and a Labour government packed with lawyers to destroy Legal Aid,” she stated.
Ah, neoliberalism, the ideology for Labour voters who cannot bring themselves to admit they’re Tories.
During this period I did not vote Labour because I cannot overestimate the depth of bitterness and betrayal I felt towards Blair and his cronies. This was easier while living in Devon because the Liberal Democrats were the only party that had any chance against the Tories. I even had a brief flirtation with the Greens back in the 90s.
To be honest I was relieved when the Tories got back in, at least you know what to expect from the Tories. You can’t hate a slug for being a slug. I figured things couldn’t get any worse and at least I wouldn’t have any expectations to be let down by.
Ok, I hold my hands up. I was wrong.
Then along came this Jeremy Corbyn guy who looked as though he might get elected to be leader of Labour. When I say “along came” he’d actually been there for years, sticking to his principles and refusing to give up on the Labour Party. So he had more guts than me.
I kept thinking maybe I should re-join and vote for him …… and not getting round to it. Then he was elected and I re-joined Labour after an absence of over twenty years. Me and a lot of others.
After that came the ridiculous spectacle of the second leadership election. This pushed me into joining Momentum. So now I’m a dangerous Trot. You have a problem with that?
Here we are nearly at election day, the Tories having shot themselves in the foot with Brexit and now, possibly, by calling a general election which they assumed would be a walk in the park.
Corbyn has done himself and us proud with his rallies and speeches and properly costed manifesto.
I was shocked to discover that some of my supposedly left-wing friends did not accept Jezza as our lord and saviour. “Well, he just can’t unite the party behind him, a leader should be able to do that.” Ehm, how do you unite a Parliamentary Labour Party where at least a third of them have an intractable vested interest in getting rid of you?
Me and my husband have also had a few arguments over that one.
Don’t even get me started on my disillusionment with J. K. Rowling. Loved her books, admired her philanthropy and suddenly there she is tweeting nonsense about “we have to get rid of Corbyn before he drags us all back to the 70s”.
What was so bad with the 70s anyway? I was there and we had a great NHS and a grant system that allowed those of us, who would never otherwise have had a chance, to go to university. (I managed to screw up all the advantages I was given, but that was entirely my responsibility and not the Welfare State’s.)
Like the aforementioned Kinnock I was the first in my family to obtain a degree, let alone a professional qualification. Two generations previously my Grandad had to go to work to shovel coal in the railway sidings, while in pain from an ulcer on his leg, because it was piece work and if he didn’t turn up he wouldn’t get paid and couldn’t support his family. Nope, the 70s were all right by me.
Neoliberalism hasn’t worked. Can we please just admit that and go back to actually caring what happens to people?
I cannot understand why anyone other than a bloated plutocrat would even consider voting Tory given the current state of the U.K. And yet they do. Apparently my age group are the worst. I am told they are afraid of change. God, change in these circumstances would be wonderful.
It’s true that both the main parties are guilty of entirely ignoring a complete swathe of voters who then got us all back by jumping up out of nowhere and voting for Brexit. Oops. The Labour Party needs to go down on its knees to some of its previous voters who are now tempted to vote Ukip and Tory and remind them that their fathers fought and died in a war against fascism, then ask what the Party can do to assuage their fears and make their lives better.
I think Corbyn and the current manifesto have tried very hard to do just that, but still the dregs of the mainstream media hold sway over these people. Irrational fears of immigration, fear mongering over “terrorist sympathisers”, empty slogans of “getting our country back”.
If we lose on Thursday it will be because of this iceberg of voters, mostly hidden but incredibly effective at blocking progress.
And as for me, what am I doing to help Our Glorious Leader reach Number 10? Well I am one of the so-called WASPI women i.e. one minute I was supposed to be collecting my state pension at age sixty and the next the goalposts had been moved way down the field to when I am sixty-six.
So to cope with this and avoid ongoing domestic difficulties I left the country. Currently I teach English as a Second Language in Ecuador. So I can’t really get out and knock on doors, unfortunately. I do what I can. I send small amounts of money to the Labour Party and Momentum to help with campaigning. I comment and re-post on social media. It’s not much but it’s better than nothing.
Oh and I do have a vote. My husband has my proxy and has sworn to me he will do what I ask and vote Labour. Better not get divorced before Thursday then.
I did consider returning to the U.K. if Labour gets in. If that happens (and it is looking vaguely possible compared to a few weeks ago) it will be one of the most exciting periods in U.K. political history for a very long time.
But then I thought how depressed I would be if they don’t get in and decided to continue with my planned trip to Thailand to look for work this autumn.
Thus if things go horribly wrong I will have something else to concentrate on. If they go right I will only be away for six months or so. I will still have the option to come back and be a part of it all.
P.S. I will continue to read J. K. Rowling’s books. Bet that’s a load off her mind then.