I have voted for Labour all my life. (Loyalty)
In 2015 when I was canvassed I surprised myself , and the poor labour foot soldier, by the vehemence of my proclamation that this was the last time they could take my vote for granted. I was tired of voting with a peg on my nose. I rattled off a litany of complaints about the lacklustre, timid, campaigns of recent times. We were living under the most toxic government of my lifetime but seemed cognitively captured by the language of “austerity” and “difficult choices”. Rather than leading and shaping opinion we were assuming we had to constantly echo the language of the Tories by constantly referencing “hard working” . To me this carries with it the implication that we were overrun with lazy and feckless scroungers as so many natural Labour voters are villifed by the Tory party. Workers versus shirkers had entered the lexicon of the party of the working class! We had accepted the marketisation of education and the NHS, extended PFI, and been relaxed about growing inequality. Where was Labour?
I was not surprised when we lost. If I was struggling how many more voters were we alienating?
So I decided I could not vote Labour again.
I was out. I had bought into the myth that we had to appeal to Tory voters, in the south of England, to get power, one too many times. It had not worked. Now I was faced with a party I no longer recognised. It looked as though Labour had finally left me, and I no longer had a political home. Then, by chance, I found out about a rally in Bradford with a little known MP who had been allowed onto the ballot for the Labour Leadership. I was running late so needed a taxi. There was a massive queue so I was sure I would not make it. This was a queue with a difference though. All were there for the same reason so I shared a taxi with a father and his 18 year old daughter. I was late but that was ok because the turnout was so huge that the venue had to be moved outside, to accommodate the numbers. I listened to the speeches and, for the first time in years, I could see the point of voting Labour, not just to stop the Tories, but as a positive choice. This was not just about Corbyn but the other speakers and the energy and reaction from the crowd. Not one man. A collective roar from the disenfranchised.
Three days later. Dead people can’t vote.
On the Monday I was diagnosed with three brain tumours. (Now Jeremy gets blamed for a lot of things but, trust me, that is not where I am going😆😉). My sister got the same diagnosis in October 2013. They were secondary brain metastasis. She died on Boxing Day 2014. I fully expected this would be my path. So I had to get down to business. My sons needed a better future. It takes a village to raise a child, they say, it also takes a decent politics. This was my aim. To leave my boys in a better world.
I spent a summer of tests in our wonderful NHS. I took the book NHS for sale (Davis, Wrigley et al) with me to all my appointments and had some fantastic conversations with the NHS staff who were the embodiment of all that I hold dear about the NHS. My passion and commitment to these Labour values carried me through. I expected my time to be limited so no way was I having the ignominy and shame of dying with only 4 Twitter followers😉. As I was on steroids and hardly sleeping (every cloud) I followed the defeat of Stephen Harper in the Canadian elections and reawakened my dormant activist. I tweeted obsessively.
I attended rallies in Manchester , got involved in political Facebook groups. Talked politics during my lumbar puncture and marched for junior doctors. On the morning of the Labour leadership election I was too tense so went to a Refugees welcome march in Leeds. Jeremy Corbyn won. We won. A week later I got the news that I did not have brain tumours or cancer. Tumours now lesions. I was out of the darkest of woods.
So what does an entryist look like?
I joined labour. I got active and pounded the streets leafleting and campaigning. I met many good people thirsty for change. Also those that had been the bedrock of the local party and ,though kind and welcoming, inevitably they had some residual concern about who we were. Just for the record I am not a rabid, foaming at the mouth extremist. I am not secretly channelling Derek Hatton and the only thing I know about Trotsky is a line in a Stranglers song. I would also add that it is a perfectly valid lament ,from longstanding members, that if we had turned up earlier we may have made a difference. I for one accept the validity of that criticism.
So here we are again
Best to gloss over the last year? I joined labour. Attended branch and constituency meetings. Met some great people. I am in it for the long haul. I feel full of energy and hope. There are massive challenges that face us and they are not the battles of the 1980’s. The world is not as it was in 1997. PLP need to really see who we are and accept some humility for two lost elections. We re/joiners also need to accept some responsibility and work with, and for, people that loyally stayed.
So tell you what. You show me your loyalty and I will show you mine! 😉😉 Deal?