Six reasons writer Deborah Talbot won’t desert the party in the 2017 election
I’ve always been ambiguous about the Labour Party. In my lifetime, I’ve flirted with the revolutionary left, anarchism, many, many subcultures (the finale being rave). Once I hit my thirties, I did the detached, analytical academic thing, fully equipped with a thoroughly bogus ennui.
I embraced full-throttled feminism from an early age, and once I moved to London, the home of freewheeling identity, it just seemed normal. I was my own one-woman, left-field performance art, on a path to enlightenment. The Labour Party just seemed a bit fusty, or, as a friend put it, “Y’know they are the unwitting agents of the state, right?”
Like many people I know, I rolled my eyes at Blair and marched against Iraq, winced at Brown and looked sideways at Miliband. How could they so continuously elect such odd leaders, I wondered?
I confess I’m not keen on Corbyn either. Electing him leader, I thought, was an act of desperation – the last stand of a Left that was dying. His inner circle seems a bit humourless and the hits he scores lie amid a desert of missed opportunities. Mugwump? Any half decent PR person would have got that printed on mugs, T-shirts and tote bags. For anyone who knows the history, it’s a bloody compliment.
But here’s why I’m going to vote Labour anyway.
1 Labour’s bigger than the leadership
The Labour Party now is more aligned with the constitutional traditions of the UK than the Tories have ever been. Our Prime Minister is not supposed to be presidential. The executive branch is the Cabinet; Parliament passes laws. The party ranks over the person.
I don’t think Corbyn matters that much. The policy initiatives coming out are the product of the efforts of the half a million members.
That’s a damn sight less scary than “strong and stable” (ahem, autocratic) leadership.
2 I’ve seen the difference they make in London
In London, you get really complacent about government. Ordinary folk like me got to live in the outer suburbs, mostly under the rubric of Labour councils. These largely did the right thing, encouraging small business and creativity, working hard to defend locals, reducing traffic and encouraging cycling, managing a stretched social care system, sweeping the streets and repairing roads. Even when I moved out to the sticks, the only people with any strategy for developing the areas we live in has been the smattering of Labour councillors.
Living under a Labour regime is just better, because they run things for everyone, not just an old boys’ network. For the rest of us, having people paying attention to public transport, local business and retail development, and providing homes, is a good thing. Pretty darned essential actually.
3 Brexit blues
Like a lot of people, I was incandescent about Brexit. To me, it exposed a cultural fault line that was very much fascist versus progressive, with Brexit being bought by the millions of narcissist Aaron Banks and his posh pal Farage. It was a right-wing coup that was all about inventing reality, not understanding it.
I was also pretty angry with Labour for, well, being a bit limp during the campaign and afterwards.
But, of course, the culture wars are not just within society, but within political parties too. Just how was Labour meant to juggle its Brexit-voting Northern working-class constituents with London, the cities and Scotland all voting Remain and, moreover, being pretty passionate Europhiles?
There’s no way the party could go full pelt to overturn the referendum result: we have to move forward from the now, not the past. Labour’s defence of EU citizens’ rights, social and human rights, and single market membership is, to me, the best we can hope for.
4 And I can’t stand the Tories…
Thatcher destroyed the lives of some of my friends and delayed my entry into sensible employment for 15 years. Her government was destructive, and May’s is even worse.
Every time the Tories get power, they destroy everything Labour has achieved for women, the disabled, the unemployed, the working class, black and ethnic minority people, LGBT people, and instead hand lots of stuff to people who are already exceptionally comfortable. They are totally self-serving, passing resources from Labour-voting cities to Tory-voting areas.
They are the class enemy. It’s as simple as that.
5 Tactical voting won’t work
Now when I say I’m voting Labour, it does rather depend on who might be most likely to win. I’m a big fan of the idea of the progressive alliance and coalition governments. It helps, I think, to engage with difference.
If I were in a marginal seat, I’d think about tactical voting. But I don’t. I live in a small liberal enclave within a safe Tory seat, with an MP who is the biggest Brexit-loving blowhard around (and notoriously lazy). So my vote doesn’t matter under first past the post.
So I’ll just cast my vote with my allegiances in mind and hope in my heart that one day, things might be different
6 No one’s perfect
So there you go. These are my reasons for voting Labour. No party is perfect, and they all make mistakes. The Labour Party is not our mummies or daddies; it’s made up of adult men and women who are trying to make things better. We are also adults who can, all things considered, make a pragmatic choice to make things better.
So let’s try not to fret over the hurts of the past, and think about the bigger picture.
Deborah Talbot (www.deborahtalbot.com) is a journalist and researcher on culture, society and all things urban