Friday, 17 January 2014

Why I will not (in general) support the Labour Party.

Labour's response to Brighton & Hove Green Party's call for a referendum on a council tax rise to protect care services for the vulnerable has inspired me to write a blog post on why I don't (in general) support the Labour Party.

To explain my views on Labour it may be worth looking back through my life and my first political memories. I was born in 1987 when Thatcher was still in power but John Major was the first prime minister that I remember knowing about. I didn't know much about him other than he was in the Conservative Party, and all I knew about the Conservative Party is that they claimed to care about Britain. The first general election I remember was 1997 when Tony Blair's New Labour won power from the Tories watching the results live with Peter Snow's excellent statistical analysis and famous "swingometer". I was 9 years old. The following years I heard very little about party politics, certainly nothing that I remember hearing and thinking positively about. In fact, the only political thing I became aware of (outside of animal rights) while I was at high school was the Iraq war and the protests against it, which I supported. During history lessons I learnt about communism and fell in love with what I later learnt was actually egalitarianism, which I am still in love with. When I was 16 I picked up Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men and it changed my life for the better. I was expecting a comedy book but it's mostly political. It's largely about the corruption going on in corporations who were sacking workers but giving big bonuses to the bosses at the top, with the governments also giving them tax breaks. These were companies that were doing business in the UK and were also getting tax cuts from the UK government. The Labour UK government. I never heard anything from the Labour Party which condemned this corruption and to this day I still haven't. In fact under Blair the gap between rich and poor increased. In 2007 I got to vote for the first time ever. I was living in Poulton-le-Fylde, a very strong Conservative town. We received 1 election leaflet, from the Conservative Party and that was it. No one knocked on our door. In my ward they were electing 2 councillors so I gave one vote to the Conservative Party and one vote to the Labour Party, no other party stood. At that time I honestly could not tell what the difference was between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, their literature was quite similar. Neither party really pushed a distinct set of policies that I could use to define that party in my head. The leaflet I received just explained who the candidates were and didn't explain anything about the policies of the party. I had no way of telling which party was more right-wing and which was more left-wing.

In the following 2 years (2007-2009) the only things I really heard about the Labour Party happened to be the expenses scandal and the bailout of the banks, neither of which I could ever support. At the same time I was discovering more about politics at university in Manchester. The Socialist Workers Party introduced me to Marxism and the idea of a socialist revolution, as well as the British National Party and made me a life long supporter of Palestine, although I never joined the SWP or became a Marxist. I learnt that the Labour UK government was a big supporter of Israel and sold weapons to their government. In the run up to the 2009 European elections the SWP and Unite Against Fascism held many actions to encourage people to vote against the BNP in the election. All these radical ideas that I supported were not coming from the Labour Party, but the Socialist Workers Party. The following 2009 European election broadcast persuaded me then to vote for the Green Party:

Finally here was a party saying what I wanted to hear. Finally here was a party standing up and challenging the corruption that lies within big corporations. A party who thinks it's government responsibility to tackle climate change so we can lower our impact on the environment. A party who wants to invest in jobs and nationalise industries. This appealed to me a lot, and I had to read up on their policies. Delighted with their animal rights policies and falling in love with the citizen's income I joined the Green Party a few months later and have been with the Greens ever since. The Labour Party however just seemed to me to support the injustices made by free market economics instead of challenge them.

In 2010 I was involved in a general election for the first time ever supporting the Greens in Hulme, Manchester. It was the first time I discovered Labour election tactics. My goodness do Labour play dirty tricks, trying to discredit our candidate by all means possible even if this included spreading false truths and lies rather than giving people reasons why Labour were the right choice. After Labour lost the general election and Gordon Brown resigned, Labour received the biggest intake in new members in a generation although this was partly due to members rejoining after leaving due to the Iraq war. I paid small attention to the Labour leadership election, and I was still hearing+* no mention of great radical left-wing reforms from anyone but Diane Abbot who had no chance of winning the election. The favourites, the Miliband brothers never spoke about their views on direction of policy. Since Ed Miliband was elected as leader, the Labour Party have done little but criticize the Tory-led coalition government for doing things that they would have done if they were in power. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have both stated several times that they will not reverse the cuts and many other reforms the coalition government has brought in if they won the next general election. I am yet to be convinced that the Labour Party have radically changed since the Blair and Brown days. I still don't hear the Labour Party challenging the injustices made by free market economics suggesting in fact that they may well still support free market economics.

I hope you can understand when I say that I have no confidence that the Labour Party will drag the country in a radically different position to that of the Tories. From what I've noticed, in general Labour groups in councils follow the line dictated by the national leaders, that we must oppose the Tories in national government while not proposing anything radically different. However, I'm going to say something positive now. There are some Labour politicians that I support such as Tony Benn, Diane Abbot, John McDonnell, Kerry McCarthy and Jeremy Corbyn as well as some councillors. Left-leaning Labour councillors have managed to push through some good policies such as imposing the living wage for all council workers in many councils. When I say I will not (in general) support the Labour Party, I do not mean I will never support the Labour Party. As with most Green Party politicians, if I was ever elected I would support initiatives on a case by case basis, depending whether or not I support the proposal regardless of who proposed it.

The Labour Party continue to oppose anyone who doesn't support the Labour Party, even if it means opposing progress for the working class or opposing progress towards Labour's own values. Labour's attitude towards the Green Party in Brighton has fully cemented my position of disliking the Labour Party. Many Labour members like Caroline Lucas, yet the party are determined to de-seat her in the next general election rather than putting their resources into de-seating a Tory MP. Like in the national government, the Labour group on Brighton & Hove City Council oppose the party in administration at all costs and that often leads to rejecting proposals that are close to Labour values because they do not want to be seen to be supporting the Green Party, and that is a position I cannot support. They are making things worse for people for their own political gains. I hope the people of Brighton can see through this. Their latest tantrum is opposing the Green Party's proposal for a referendum on a council tax rise to protect care services for the vulnerable. They aren't going to vote against it but will instead abstain, obviously playing politics - neither supporting or objecting to the proposal in order for them to say they didn't support the Green Party and to also say they didn't oppose letting the people of Brighton decide for themselves what they want.

As soon as the Labour Party state they will reverse the cuts the current coalition government have imposed, give more power to local councils, start to nationalise lots of services and industries, invest heavily in public transport, impose big increases in tax to the wealthy in society, increase minimum wage to at least the living wage and promise to tackle climate change by investing in renewable energy and taxing plane fuel, etc, I will gladly reconsider my position but I honestly don't see that happening in my lifetime I'm afraid to say.