I am currently politically homeless. Nothing could ever persuade me to vote Conservative and the Lib Dems are tainted in my book for taking jobs in David Cameron’s vicious Tory austerity government from 2010. I’m not voting Green because I need to drive my car to do my job and can’t afford to pay much more to do so. So, that leaves Labour, right? Hmm.
I have supported and been a member of Labour since I first was able to vote in a general election, which was in 1979. I was active in the Labour Party at the time, too, at a time when the hard left, exemplified by the Trotskyist Militant tendency, was taking over vast swathes of the party with a combination of ruthless organisation and bullying.
My MP was Tony Benn. He was a decent MP, usually coming down to Bristol every Friday evening, staying in one of the city centre hotels. He would often hold a public meeting at a variety of locations in the constituency on the Friday evening and would return to hold an MPs surgery on the Saturday, before returning to London. I didn’t much care for him, to be honest. In his pomp, he was aloof, often arrogant and nothing like the kindly uncle he apparently became in later life. The hard left were his allies. He more than tolerated them, he actively encouraged them. His constituency officials were members of Militant and he knew full well they were recruiting both to Militant and Labour, in that order. I stuck with Labour because at least they didn’t control the levers of power. Neil Kinnock took on the hard left and won. We owe Kinnock a huge debt for laying the ground for the three Labour governments elected since I was able to vote, the prime minister on each occasion was Tony Blair.
Labour disastrous election of 2015 was followed by a catastrophic misjudgement by the outgoing leader Ed Miliband. He allowed thousands of non members of Labour to choose a new leader. Then, a group of normally sensible MPs decided that to make the new leadership contest into more than a beauty contest, nominated the veteran backbencher and serial rebel Jeremy Corbyn. The rest is history and the result was that Labour was completely taken over by the hard left. And now it is, at every level.
I will not vote for a hard left Labour Party that supports a hard Brexit, whose leader calls the terrorists like Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA friends, a leader who has been a major figure in CND and the SWP front organisation Stop the West…er…War, who cannot bring himself to say anything rude about Russia, who is actually a pacifist. And a man who is so utterly out of his depth as leader of the Labour Party, as out of depth as Theresa May is as prime minister and is so obviously the monkey to the slippery organ grinders in the modern day equivalent of smoke-filled rooms. So now there is talk about a new centre party to fill the enormous vacuum at the heart of British politics. I remain to be convinced.
My politics is left of centre. My politics is the NHS, good schools for all, dignity in old age – the usual soggy left of centre liberal positions. Mainstream left, that’s me. A mixed, well regulated economy and strong public services. Which means my roots are in mainstream Labour, which no longer exists. If any new party does not share my political philosophy, what does that mean? What if the new party believes in more grammar schools, continues with privatisation, cuts benefits to the working poor, supports Brexit (any Brexit) and continues with austerity? None of that represents anything I agree with. So I’d remain politically homeless.
Is the best option for the Labour Party in its current hard left guise to ultimately implode – as I firmly believe it will – and then hope that women and men from the traditional mainstream left pick up the pieces and rebuild? I think it probably is. I do not believe for one second the sixty-somethings of Corbyn’s laughably titled “new politics”, which is little more than reheated 1980s Bennism, would have the slightest clue how to run the country should they win an election. My view is they would crash it in no time at all, allowing the Tories to march back to power on the basis of “saving the country” and Labour would be lost for perhaps a generation. I see that as the most likely scenario. In the meantime, I have no one to vote for.
I’m afraid it’s Labour or nothing for me. Labour has moved away from me and not the other way round. My politics has barely changed in my lifetime and I see little prospect or it changing, of me becoming some kind of free market Tory or a nationalise-everything comrade. As things stand, it’s nothing.