With 3,000 new supporters already purged from the Labour Party ahead of the leadership election, and news that Harriet Harman is aiming to reject 100,000 more – it is clear that supporters of such efforts simply do not get democracy.
I should start with a disclosure. I’ve been rejected in this purge. I got the email, and when I asked for evidence for the decision, the Party was silent. But yesterday, a friend pointed out that the Party had ‘outed’ me in the Guardian newspaper as an ‘infiltrator’.
This references a Twitter conversation with my local Labour MP Kerry McCarthy prior to the 2015 General Election. I stated how sad I was to be unable to vote for an outstanding local Labour MP because the leadership of the party were standing on the promise to continue Osborne’s failed austerity programme. Labour used this Twitter conversation as an excuse to reject me from voting.
Here is that conversation in full. See for yourself how Party, and the Guardian, turns a nuanced, reasoned conversation into something black and white.
They also failed to take into account the various other public, collaborative communications between me and my Labour MP Kerry McCarthy. You can see for yourself here.
From this, it appears that I am not allowed to vote for a left-wing Labour Leader because I refused to vote for a neoliberal one – because whatever one thinks about Ed Miliband as a man (and I rather like him), his platform was to continue austerity, he made no stand against TTIP, and his shadow cabinet contained people like Rachel ‘I will be tougher than the Tories on Benefits’ Reeves in the DWP.
The argument from pro-purge types goes like this: You advocated against the Labour Party then, so you cannot be a supporter now. Which is interesting, because I was being told something quite different a few months ago, before the general election. Back then I was being told: “Don’t abandon Labour. Join us and influence our ideas.”
It is one thing disallowing registered supporters with a right-wing history, having gathered robust evidence that they are seeking to undermine the party. The case of conservative columnist Toby Young is one such example. But I would be against rejecting any new supporter, whatever their voting history (but especially social democrats) who seek to help build the party into a broad, popular, social democratic movement. By kicking out anyone who voted Green in 2015, they are basically barring the route back to Labour for disaffected social democrats.
Furthermore, if Labour don’t win back these voters, they are sunk in 2020. Labour need to win an extra 106 seats in 2020 to gain a majority, an almost impossible task. But that almost impossible task becomes totally impossible without a mass, popular movement to reengage the public. Just 24% of people voted Conservative in the last election, 76% didn’t. The largest gains went to socially democratic populists the SNP, who killed Labour in Scotland. The biggest losers were the Liberal Democrats, the only ‘centrist’ party in town.
So why would the Parliamentary Labour Party NOT want to harness the power of a populist, social democratic movement? Especially when it is the only chance they have of regaining office in 2020.
It is becoming ever more clear that the Labour Party in Westminster has become a part of a permanent political class alongside their Tory and Liberal Democrat counterparts. Disengagement and voter apathy means a fairly stable job, a few seats lost and won either way each election and no big surprises. The chance to earn a great wage and pass policies which guarantee lucrative consultancy/director roles after politics. All done with the passive acceptance of a disaffected electorate, half of whom don’t even bother to vote anymore. To this permanent political class, a popular movement based on social democratic values is about as welcome as a fart in an elevator.
This is why Harriet Harman is planning to cull over 100,000 so-called ‘infiltrators’ from the vote. This is why self-appointed voice-of-the-left Polly Toynbee, the Guardian editorial team, and most of the press (right and liberal) are character assassinating Corbyn and anyone who would give him their vote.
The knee-jerk response to this from those of us caught in the crossfire is, let’s be honest: “To hell with you Labour!”
I am furious at being treated this way. I literally shook with rage when I read that piece in the Guardian. It reminded me of every single reason I stopped being a Labour voter in the first place – even though leaving the party of my youth, family and community hurt like hell. But then I realised, it is also the strongest possible reminder of why it is so vital that we take our party back. Because it is ours, whether they like it or not. This party was founded by socialists like Keir Hardie, not a ‘centrist’ liberal accountant with a conscience. The Labour Party’s greatest gifts to Britain are it’s national education system, health service and social housing – all of which are today under threat by neoliberals in both main parties. This is not the time to be apathetic, annoyed and walk away. This is the time to fight for our party.
I’m in. Are you?
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