Political Promise

Joining The Labour Party is not good for your mental health

In Aaron Frazer on September 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Aaron Frazer gives all fellow Labourites a public health warning.

Joining the Labour Party at this particular moment may seem like boarding a rudderless vessel sinking hopelessly into obscurity. Because Labour have no leader, criticism of the coalition has become positively schizophrenic: an array of incoherent mumblings from different people simultaneously.  Undoubtedly the most unsavoury aspect of becoming a Labour Party member is the e-mails. Dozens of them. Invariably they  disseminate a type of heady idealism that only comes from the reluctance to say anything of substance, significance or logic. I feel like I am being bombarded by the most Obama-esque of megalomaniacs who propose fantastical changes in society without mentioning what combination of policies  will actually facilitate this. The ‘change’ fetishism of Ed Balls and only differs from Obama’s in being less contextualised and much more painful.  Andy Burnham in contrast  promises a return to Labour values. This is in case you were thought incorrectly is “aspirational socialism”; the ideology which underpinned the policies of Keir Hardie and Clement Atlee.  I am still unsure as to whether aspirational socialism means aspiring to be middle class, aspiring to be equally rich as everyone else or simply aspiring to be socialist. Arguably it cannot by definition mean any of the above because in essence it means nothing and that’s the entire point. A meaningless phrase that continues New Labour’s noble tradition of deceptive and manipulative terminology. However it has the handy knack of ensuring that sentimental grass root types think Labour’s ideological metamorphosis can and will be partly reversed.

Arguably David Milliband grates the most. He/his office sent me a truly bizarre stream of consciousness last week. He claims to be “sick and tired of the caricature that this leadership election is a choice between rejecting or retaining New Labour……Because I want to lead a government not a gang, a movement not a machine, where honest debate can be a source of strength, not a sign of weakness”. Yes, quite.

Perhaps my annoyance at  all of this is exacerbated by my  misguided assumption that joining the Labour Party was like becoming a sort of socialist Freemason. Maybe I thought I would be invited into a cosy world of rosy cheeked socialists, warm hearted union banter, eccles cakes and the regular veneration of my Labour heroes. It has, alas, been more strange and far less fun. Despite the numerous amusements I have enjoyed from being a Labour Party member I worry that the government of the day is profiting hugely from the absence of a sustained and pertinent critique of its policies. Arguably Labour’s ideological shift has left an array of policies implemented with a broad cross-party consensus. However, despite the fact that Labour are going to be the last ones to openly criticise the governments extension of PFI, academies and the privatisation of the Post Office, much of the governments energy is being focused on making changes to the NHS which are devoid of any electoral mandate. This and the true implications of the coalitions broad and extensive cuts must be the focus, squeezing out inane rhetoric in the process.

  1. Interesting views on the leadership contenders, but a valuable point is missed: the relationship between member and grassroots party has never been worse. This connection has always had a vital role in the mobilisation of Labour voters, but its breaking down. Labour lost Lancaster and Fleetwood in May by 333 votes because it did not do enough to get its supporters to the ballot box. In Coventry, life long backers feel distanced. Localism matters to British politics, now more than ever and its high time Lab

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