“As a member, you’ll be a key part of the team. You’ll be eligible to vote in leadership elections, you can help shape party policy, you can attend local meetings and you can even stand as a candidate.” Labour website (prior to 13th July 2016)
On the 3rd July I joined the Labour party. I joined because I wanted to have a say in a potential leadership election because since Corbyn won the leadership election in September 2015 I have found myself agreeing with much of what he proposes such as protecting the NHS from further privatisation, re-nationalising the railways and, most importantly of all, investing in local infrastructure projects as an alternative to austerity.
On the 13th July following the NEC ruling on the leadership ballot, the first part of the second sentence in the above quote was removed and I was barred from voting. That decision led me on a quest to understand why my vote was so unwelcome and why I was branded in the press as ‘thug’, ‘blind follower’ and a ‘Corbynista’ (which sounds like I work in corporate coffee chain), when all I wanted to do was choose the best person to make sure these policies I so agreed with would actually have a chance of happening.
What follows is my understanding of why Jeremy Corbyn is the only person who should lead the party in to the next General Election, but also why, with Corbyn as leader, the party is unlikely to win.
Who knew I was a democratic socialist – I certainly didn’t because the Labour party I voted for in 1997 was neoliberal, which according to Wiki is about “reducing state influence on the economy, especially through privatisation and austerity”. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I have no memory of a Labour Party with actual left wing policies. By the time I was old enough to vote and sufficiently interested enough to engage, ‘New Labour’ was all there was.
And since then New Labour has been all there is. I now realise that in 1997 all I did was vote for one neoliberal party to replace another. During their time in power, Labour continued to shrink the state through privatisation and it was they who introduced austerity measures widening even further the inequalities in British Society. When the coalition took power in 2010 all they had to do was continue on the same path.
My political apathy suddenly made sense. Since I have been old enough to engage in politics I have known no other political ideology than neoliberalism.
I joined the party less than a month ago and have become politically active in a way that is frankly scary to my husband. He is confused, bemused and, I am sure, wonders if I have somehow slipped between the many worlds of the multiverse and become entangled with a near version of myself – a version that watches Newsnight and listens to Radio 4 political debates, although, to his dismay, this version still does not like football.
Frankly I have scared myself a bit. It is not usual behaviour for me to walk into a supermarket and circle the newspaper carousel like a demented budgie to compare the reporting of news on Corbyn in ‘supposedly’ Left and Right wing press (at least they all agree for once). It is not usual behaviour for me to click on the ‘politics’ tab on the BBC site before I click on the ‘entertainment’ tab. In fact I never clicked on the ‘politics’ tab at all if I am being honest.
Jeremy Corybn does not represent the current ideological view of the majority of the Labour party MPs because despite its tag line of ‘democratic socialist party’ (which appears on the back of Labour membership cards), it hasn’t been a democratic socialist party since its crushing defeat in the general election of 1983.
I can see therefore why Labour MPs want rid of Corbyn because they want to win the next general election. Under Corbyn that will be a tall order because in order for them to win the next general election a paradigm shift will be required and those sort of things don’t happen overnight.
“When enough significant anomalies have accrued against a current paradigm (neo-liberalism has not lead to a fairer society, inequality is growing and social mobility has slowed), the scientific discipline (for scientific read political) is thrown into a state of crisis.”
“During this crisis, new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried (hence the constant referral to the 1950’s and 60’s socialism in the press). Eventually a new paradigm is formed, which gains its own new followers (Momentum movement), and an intellectual “battle” takes place between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm.”
So the Labour party is experiencing a crisis of ideology. Neoliberalism has so obviously failed the vast majority of British people (the oft quoted 99%), but MPs know that if they move towards democratic socialism then it could take years for the electorate to accept this new paradigm and therefore they are unlikely to win the 2020 election.
But do you know what? I accept that fact. I’d rather have a true alternative to neoliberalism in opposition rather than a dose of the same in power in four years’ time. It will take time to show how democratic socialism can reduce some of the excesses of neoliberalist ideology. But right now the party is paralysed by in-fighting and consequently the Conservative government is getting away with some of the worst excesses of free market capitalism – while stirring up racial hatred through its focus on immigration targets to keep the ‘masses’ divided and ineffective.
It is not about whether Jeremy Corbyn is more or less electable than Owen Smith. It is about whether the Labour party is going to embrace its new members, fledgling democratic socialists like me, or stick with the old neoliberal policies.
Whatever it decides, my political awakening cannot be unwoken (although I am glad MPs can un-resign).