Why I’m not joining the Labour party

20Aug10

There have been a lot of previously independent minded people on the left mentioning that they may be considering joining the Labour party. The coalition’s shock therapy on public services is obviously creating a great deal of unease, and joining the sole major national opposition seems like a sensible thing to do. Furthermore, with a leadership election and perception that the party is at a crossroads, it would seem now is a good time to enter the party and try to shape its future direction.

The problem is I think that this is a flawed piece of thinking. It seems to stem from a view of the current problems of the British state that sees the problems as being primarily caused by the fact the conservative party are in power, and that therefore the solution to our problems is to remove them and replace them with what now seems the only alternative.

And that is a very depressing thought. Do we really forget about the last 13 years and the abuses of power Labour inflicted upon us simply because we have a conservative government practicing BDSM on the economy?

The answer clearly has to be no, and if we are serious about examining why the state repeatedly adopts illogical, sub-optimal economic and social policy that benefits a few at the expense of the many then the answer  “because the conservative party are in power” makes little sense. To sum up, is the problem the conservative party, or the nature and structure of the British political system?

The former just isn’t plausible with any long term analysis. Yes the political parties have differences and can be expected to react to events differently, but there are also other influences and incentives at play.

To be fair, most of the indie leftists already know this, but feel that:

“It’s easier now that much of the old-guard from May 2010 have been ousted or retired. My hope now is that the party takes a different road now to reconnect with those voters again.”

In other words, labour may have been part of the problem, but it now has a chance to rehabilitate itself in opposition. It is a comforting view. The problem is that a great deal of the party remaining show no signs of understanding that they need to change; indeed many are actively conspiring with the conservative establishment to resist structural changes. One thinks of Tom Harris MP producing his absurd and bizarre posters against AV, and the GMB actively deciding to finance the no campaign in the referendum (as if they were strapped for cash….). It isn’t just on electoral reform that the old guard seek to maintain the duopoly, several senior labour party members (David Blunkett) actively attempted to prevent a lab-lib dem coalition following the election and now leadership candidates such as Ed Milliband want to refuse to work with the lib dems. At times it feels as if the party is almost glad to be in opposition.

But perhaps worst of all is that the ‘old guard’ are actually making no attempt to ‘reconnect with those voters’ who deserted the party, save for absurdly believing that if only they were tougher on immigrants and welfare recipients they would have won. It takes real ignorance and stupidity to think that Labour’s election loss came because of this.

You can of course argue that at least joining the party enables one to challenge these dinosaurs, but it is unlikely that the old guard are going to go down that easily. They’ll view everyone who abandoned them as a naïve child returning to the fold, never to abandon it again, and this will strengthen the political duopoly of the UK. Actually the solution is to break the duopoly not to maintain it by seeing one party as the only vehicle for change.

Furthermore I don’t think a partisan hatred of the Tories helps anyone. Outside of its economic policy (truly destructive) there are actually a few policy areas where the coalition is more preferable to continued new labour dominance:

(1)    Criminal Justice: The announcements of ending short term prison sentences, abolishing asbos and the noises about ending mandatory life sentences for murder  illustrate a contempt for the Daily Mail that is truly welcome. At this rate we may even see science re-introduced to the drug classification system.

(2)    Immigration policy has become less draconian with the intention to end child detention, the ending of deportation of gay asylum seekers to Iran, and Theresa May’s decision to examine ways of extending loopholes in no recourse to public funds laws to ensure women fleeing abusive relationships can obtain places in women’s refuges.

(3)    The great repeal is going to remove some of the more draconian aspects of new labour, re-instating the right to protest and ending ID cards for example.

There are also some other factors that are positive; it is a coalition so at the next election the conservatives and lib dem campaigns (at least against each other) are going to be more policy orientated and less personal, and coalition politics will become decontaminated in the conservative mind. But perhaps the biggest factor to admire is the actual balls of the government; it is acting like it has a 3 figure majority when it is in reality a coalition. It has aims and objectives and it is setting out to achieve this regardless of what the opposition says; Blair had a 3 figure majority twice and pissed it away. It’s almost refreshing to see a government not care about the polls.

The problems in the UK do not stem from the persistent popularity of the conservative party, and are not going to be solved by simply replacing the governing party with another. They stem from a duopoly system that has enabled both parties to commit major abuses of power whilst being too frightened of a media that frequently acts as the biggest obstacle to rational and sane policy. Rather than join one of the duopoly it makes more sense to try and break it up. This means saying to the labour party “you are part of the problem”.

I think a large contingent of independent lefties (whatever that word means) campaigning for decent candidates (be they labour, lib dem, Conservative or whatever) or against crap candidates (Nadine, Phil Woolas) is far preferable to another large labour majority full of whipped MPs. I’d take Ken Clarke over Blunket any day, and David Willets over Tom Harris? Not even a contest. Hell I’d even have IDS over some of the blairites now pretending to give a shit about people on benefits.

So that’s why I’m not joining the labour party.

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2 Responses to “Why I’m not joining the Labour party”

  1. I would add cancelling the third runway as another area where the Coalition has improved on a Labour policy.

    What’s wrong with anti-social behaviour orders, though? The alternative of asking the public to become more involved doesn’t work as people will be afraid of reprisals.

  2. 2 Peter Reynolds

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