Why Labour?


I am a Labour Party member principally because I believe in helping society, through helping its most vulnerable members.

The defection of Luke Bozier from Labour to the Conservatives a week ago, and the recent poll-wobble Labour have suffered seemed to have turned us, as a party, back onto the introspective track. Seemingly endless “coloured” ideological factions are rising up, each with their own ideas of where the party should be going.

Blue Labour think we should embrace a community-led ideology. Purple Labour think we should return to the Blairite New Labour which won three elections on the trot (pun not intended). Red Labour think we should go back to before New Labour, and shift starkly leftwards. In-the-black Labour think we should embrace fiscal conservatism (basically, our economic policies should mirror the Tories’).

I’m not in any of these camps, though I listen with interest to what each of them have to say, and I believe that all of them have a part to play in the ongoing debate about which direction Labour should take. Prior to the leadership election, I wrote about the importance of a Labour party that was “comprehensive, inclusive and effective“, and I still believe this is what we need.

The problem, in many quarters, seems to be an expectation that Labour getting back on top would happen pretty much instantaneous. There’s a very interesting article in the New Statesman that pretty much says that Ed Miliband has to address Cameron as he is, not as he wishes the PM would be. This really is true of Labour with the Conservatives on the whole. It’s almost like we’ve expected the coalition not even to try and hide the nastiness of some of the things they’re doing.

When I joined the Labour Party, between the General Election and the Lib Dem/Tory Faustian pact, it was for a number of reasons. Partly it was the dignity of Gordon Brown’s resignation speech. Partly it was fear at the prospect of a Conservative government. Mostly it was guilt at the fact that although I had always been a Labour supporter, I’d never taken the step of joining; and thus feared that I had contributed to the dreadful outcome.

You see, Labour to me is as an ideal as much as a party. There is a fundamental grounding reason behind it, that the privileged should not be allowed to benefit themselves to the detriment of the underprivileged. The Labour Party has lost its way before, and doubtless will do so again, but always it comes back to that idea of helping society, through helping the worst off.

Contrastingly, the underpinning Conservative line of thought is (since Thatcher, certainly) “Every man (and woman) for themselves”. I’ve never been able to stomach the inherent selfishness contained in this, and for me it underlines everything that this government is doing wrong. From letting the bankers off the hook, to punishing the disabled.

Luke Bozier doesn’t hold to the same principles as I do. Both the fact of and nature of his resignation from the party were timed to help himself gain maximum publicity, built on false claims of who he is. Luke Bozier is not Labour, and deserves no more thought from Labour.

The polls are a little more worrying, but not by much. This was always going to be a long term project, and the expectation that Labour’s reinvention is done (or, indeed, will ever be done) is folly. Take the polls as exactly what they are at this stage in a parliament; near-meaningless. Rather than obsessing about them, we should be doing two things:

  1. Helping the vulnerable now, through solid, effective and principled opposition.
  2. Deciding how we’re going to help the vulnerable in the future, through a comprehensive and progressive plan for government.

This is why I am a Labour Party member, and why if anyone else wants to pump out any more ideas, in any shade of any colour, I’ll be happy to read and discuss them.

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4 comments

  1. Hello from Kuwait, Matthew. I always enjoy reading your blogs and I admire and appreciate your honesty and openness. I think we are long overdue meeting up for a pint and chewing the fat with you and your folks. As you know, I have no real political allegiance, although I am strangely drawn to the Lib Dems for their daring attempt to sell adult books at the local church fayre (sic) and their lightening ability to alienate their core voting demographic – but I really must take you to task on one of your claims. The Tories letting the banks off? Come off it! It was Labour who allowed them to create the mess in the first place though sucking up to the City and allowing de-regulation. It was Labour who let them get off scot free when it all fell apart. They should have immediately ripped up the contracts of all the banks they were forced to nationalise and bail out and issued more reasonable ones based on what the banks could afford and without the huge bonuses. It was Chancellor Brown who boasted “No return to Boom and Bust” while imposing a raft of stealth taxes and raiding our pension funds. In short it was Labour mis-management that has shafted the country into the state it is in today.
    As I say, I’m not a Tory but blaming the current coalition for our woes is akin to a cancer patient blaming the chemotherapist because the treatment is making him lose his hair when the guy is actually saving his life!
    First round’s on me!.

    1. It’s always good to see you commenting, Adrian, and I salute your dedication to have the time to do so whilst in Kuwait! We definitely must get a drink sometime and discuss all this face to face!

      I absolutely don’t dispute that Labour well and truly dropped the ball on the banks. The lack of regulation was shocking, and was the root of pretty much all of our current problems. The neo-liberal consensus post-Thatcher to keep the financial sector little regulated has clearly been shown up as wrong, and whilst many Labourites would argue that it was Thatcher who deregulated it, Labour was in power for thirteen years and had ample time to redress the situation. That we didn’t is the single greatest stain on our economic record.

      That said, the Tories have scarcely changed the tune since taking power. In opposition (pre-crash) they were calling for less regulation, and now in government they seemed determined to take as little action as possible. Project Merlin was supposed to get the banks lending to small businesses, but it was an abject failure. The baking levy looks all well and good, but was offset by the sizable cut in corporation tax. Banks which are largely taxpayer owned are still paying obscene bonuses to chief execs even whilst the banks perform badly.

      Labour has to accept its failures in office (which I, personally, feel it has done to a large degree) and learn from them. But the Tories have to be equally responsible for their own actions, which thusfar has failed to live up to the tough rhetoric that preceded them.

  2. Re your tweet today:

    “Re: TURC. It’s fronted by a Nazi, a disgraced ex-minister, a failed PPC described as a liability and @GuidoFawkes. I’m not too worried.”

    If Burley is a Nazi, what does that make Ed Balls?

    Prick.

    1. Well, Balls was very foolish to dress up in that uniform, granted. But my understanding of it is that he was a student, and was not at the time an MP or a member of the government (unlike Mr Burley), and has not attempted to cover up the fact subsequently (unlike Mr Burley).

      As for whether Ed Balls a prick, I suppose that depends on your point of view. There are many who would say he is, but whilst I’ve never actually met him in person, I’ve seen no evidence that he’s a prick myself, so as such have to remain doubtful.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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