My husband is a lovely man, kind, generous, thoughtful. I married him…he’s lovely. He donates to charity and gives paper money to homeless people. He never stops being grateful for the free university education he had (and for the two years at a grant maintained sixth form that gave him the opportunity and confidence to be the first person in his family to go to Uni). He got a 1st in Physics from Manchester.
He appreciates he has a good job, he’s happy to pay his taxes (although increasingly he worries where those taxes are going), and he’d happily pay more because we live well enough and he believes strongly in public funding of public goods.
Working class at core with parents who both saw the army as a step out of their own working class ruts but not away from their roots you’d expect him to support Labour.
And he did.
We’re the same age and when we met we discussed our political affiliations, like you do, and we both considered ourselves to have been strong Labour supporters (I was even a youth member) and we both voted for Tony Blair with great hopes for the future. We both voted Labour in every election, local and national from being 18 – our first General Election vote was in 1987.
And then came the whole debacle of lies around the Iraq war, WMD, and the relationship with Bush …. and that was it for both of us (later disillusionments regarding civil liberty infringements, privatisations, crackpot unnecessary bits of legislation and the current obsession with austerity uber alles just added nails to the Labour coffin). We found we had common ground in hating Blair, and all that he stands for, with a passion. He’s a lying, murdering war mongering bastard who we hate perhaps even more than Thatcher…. anyone left leaning of our age expects to hate the Tories..it’s just ‘what you do’ but the hatred for Blair and his cronies and the whole shiny veneer of NuLabour and Blairism is far more vitriolic because it involves betrayal… the destruction of our ideals…. the wiping out of what we believed the Labour Party stood for and believed in…. which was putting the good of the people first.
And so we moved on and voted Liberal Democrat….
We felt so betrayed by NuLabour that neither of us could envision a time or a reason for ever going back, and like the rest of the country we had a growing sense of being disconnected from politics because ‘whoever you vote for the government always gets in’ ; we had a sense of powerlessness and a disconnection from democracy.
Skip forward to early this year and as the General Election loomed we hovered undecided around the Liberals and the Greens. I decided to support the Green Party to ‘punish’ the LibDems for the coalition and for Clegg’s University fee turnaround… I went so far as to join the Green membership surge to send a message to the established parties…. I delivered leaflets and nominated a friend to be a local Green councillor (and he’d have been a cracking councillor if it wasn’t for the staunch Tory ‘no hope for anyone else’-ness of where we live)…and we asked my husband to sign and second the nomination and he did. (and that is the only thing we can imagine he got purged for… for thinking a friend who is a member of the Green Party would make a decent Green Party representative on the local council)
My husband, forgave the LibDems having wisely decided the Conservatives would have been ever bigger bastards without their influence and they kept his vote – for what it was worth- as our rural constituency ended up with an increased Tory majority and an incumbent MP who is a rising star of the party, flown in to a safe seat.
Then came the Labour Leadership election…. we gave it a passing interest. I know Andy Burnham of old and have never been impressed…and the two women – even this far into the contest I have problems remembering what they are both called. It wasn’t anything to concern us…more NuLabour posturing, style without substance….more Tory-lite and nothing to do with us because we’ll never vote NuLabour.
And then Jeremy Corbyn happened and when the buzz started that NuLabour didn’t approve of him and that he was one of the few who voted against the governments welfare bill , we checked his voting record. This guy had voted against the whip on all sorts of things…. he was a Labour MP who seemed to hate NuLabour as much as we did, who seemed to hold all the old Labour principles….plus a lot of green stuff…plus he seemed a chap who said what he meant and meant what he said and is comfortable in his own skin…fucking hell…. someone who had slipped through the blandification process of the Labour party and hidden in the cracks of just getting on and being a good local MP. That he’s anti-war and pro-Palestine were the icing on the cake.
For the first time since 1997 we were fired up about Labour…. about left wing politics…. the hope that those two things could once again become one and the same thing. That we could have a new, better politics. A real alternative to so called middle ground tussles for the few dozen floating voters who we’re told are the only important constituents in the whole election process.
Corbyn stands for the people…he’s one of us. The people are what make a country and there is a chance of us all working together to make a better future. He’s inspirational.
He’s also a parsimonious vegetarian who lives in London and there’s a very good chance we’d disagree with him on lots of issues…he’s not perfect… but he never says he is and we *know* that even if he ended up (by some freak chance) holding the reins of power for as long as Blair, he’d never, ever, claim to have a hot-line to God.
We decided we had to help make his leadership happen…. like many we’ve become desperate for some chink in the vast edifice of the establishment that is politics and the media…somewhere to get a toe hold in and somehow become re-engaged with the political process of having a say in how to become a better, more caring, more united society – some way to bring the Labour Party home – and this is that time.
I decided it’d be dishonest and daft to pay my three quid to be able to vote in the election because I knew that my joining the Greens meant I couldn’t vote in the elections of any other party. But my husband…never having been a member of any political party ever not only paid his 3 quid but also ‘gave a little extra’..because that’s what he tends towards….always giving a little extra for the common good…because he can. He also hesitated over applying for actual membership but decided if Corbyn didn’t become leader you would remain a party he didn’t want to be a member of.
That was weeks ago…. and as the Labour Purge hit we watched well known bloggers, comedians, and twitterati hit the decks. Even friends… friends like us who couldn’t think of any reason their Labour credentials would be doubted other than at some point in the Blair years they gave up on Labour and hadn’t until now seen any reason to go back.
Later today Jeremy Corbyn is coming to our local town… we haven’t got tickets but we’ll go along for the overflow speech….to be in on what we hope is the next chapter of politics in Britain… we’ve not had much time to think about JezWeCan this week… the refugee crisis has been on the news and on our minds and we’ve watched, and helped (in our own small way) a society pull together, people caring about fellow humans… we’ve been the sort of big society David Cameron could only ever dream about and never understand because he, and NuLabour never really put people first… and when they do see people they see the borders between them first.
Yesterday we were shopping and my husband stopped stock still in the middle of a shop.
What’s up? I said
I’ve been rejected. He replied.
From being engaged with the democratic process and excited about the future of politics, he went back to feeling rejected, frustrated, disenfranchised and angry in one fell swoop of an email.
Oh he’s filled in the form on Labourpurge.org but we don’t hold out any hopes.
We hope Corbyn can still win but have a feeling that the rot we knew was inside British politics is so putrid, so deep..so widespread that even if Jeremy Corbyn wins he won’t get a chance to change anything. Those in NuLabour, those in the Tory Government, their mates who own the media and vast corporations… they (especially you) may have ballsed up and let people get a toe in the door of power but the establishment’s bread is too well buttered to let actual change happen.
If NuLabour can get away with purging my husband there’s no rightness left in British politics… I’ve suspected that’s the case for a long time now but this has rammed it well and truly home and I’m fucking furious.
Finally Mhairi Black MP (who I already consider a great, great missed opportunity for the Labour Party) summed it up so well in her maiden speech…
“I […] come from a traditional socialist Labour family and I have never been quiet in my assertion that I feel that it is the Labour party that left me, not the other way about.”