It’s hard to keep up with the figures, so by the time I publish this mine will be out of date. Variously, 20,000 people joined the Labour party directly after the election. Since Jeremy Corbyn, it has been reported that 150,000 have joined Labour – or it could be 200,000. Staggering numbers, meaning the total Labour party membership is now around 2 to 3 times that of the Conservatives if a total membership of 500,000 is correct. To put it another way, that is more members than people willing to admit they voted Lib Dem in 2010.
A lot has been made about this growth, firstly by the right wing media of how this is a “left-wing” infiltration and take-over of the party. Where I live in Liverpool this has included dire threats of a return to the 80s “militant tendency” days. This probably hasn’t been helped by choosing the name Momentum. After all, 8 letters, begins with an M, it’s an obvious punt for the silly in the right wing press. Confusingly, a lot of Labour’s own MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party have also expressed concerns – how they will be deselected and pushed out by these left wing joiners. Can anyone defend Simon Danczuk – a man complaining about the party with which he won his constituency, through their hard work, funding etc. now complaining that those members have the hubris to think they should have a right in asking him to represent their views?
At this point, I should hold my hands up and be completely honest. I am one of those 200,000 (ish) people to have joined. Therefore I am sure you now know that I have been brought through student politics and protests, the trade union movement, have a grey beard and sandals and refer to everyone as “comrade”. Whilst working my way through a public sector job for the last 20 years I have made sure I am protected by being a shop steward and selling copies of the morning star. After all, the Daily Mail have plotted the new Old Labour party as attracting these Dave Spart caricatures – so it must be true.
Actually, not much could be further from the truth. My new party colleagues (apologies, I am going to really struggle to start using the term comrades, and I hope you can forgive me for that) are probably going to be quite surprised to learn who I am. I am a 30something (not giving up vanity yet) white male, who is a husband and father of 3. I am also a property owner in a very well off, leafy corner of Liverpool – where I moved to with my wife so that my children could get to the Catholic school of her choice. I am a chartered accountant who works in financial services. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, I am also a serving member of the British Army. I believe in capitalism (with controls). I don’t believe in centralisation as always the best answer. I don’t believe in nationalisation as always the best answer. I don’t believe in reducing our military and the level of power we can project.
If we are to believe the rubbish the mainstream media presents, then a lot of the Marxists and Trotskyites that I met at the first Momentum meeting I attended are right now choking on their warmed soya milk. After all, we are all members of the “loony left” aren’t we? And aren’t we fighting against the right wing of the left wing (I think, I always get confused on these debates). After all, we have frightened off Lord Grabiner and Lord Warner. Well, I say frightened off, it’s not as if they were still all that keen on attending the House of Lords. Lord Mandelson is hanging on in there for
his business interests the good of the party.
So, why the hell have I joined? Maybe out of guilt for becoming middle class? Anger from not having made it to the upper classes? Boredom or to try and destroy Momentum from within perhaps? Well, none of these really. It is because of humanity. I honestly do not believe there is any way that any human with an ounce of decency can continue to support the current Conservative attack on this country and its people. Whilst George Osborne has given tax breaks to the largest corporations and wealthiest families he has systematically attacked the disabled, the working poor and the public sector on which we ALL rely. There is no set of facts or arguments that can refute this view, no spin that can suggest anything else.
Our way of life in Britain is being attacked. Not the way of life of “scroungers” or “immigrants”. Our way of life. All of us. We all rely on the NHS. We all rely on social services. We all rely on mental health services, on education, on the blue light services. All of these have been put to the torch and provided the fuel to stoke the engines of the wealth factories for the very rich. I have joined the Labour party because I have no choice. There will be no Britain left if this continues – not one we recognise and certainly not one we would want to live in.
That is what makes watching this branding exercise of left wing and right wing so frustrating. Anyone who thinks their “wing” is the only one that cares or can deliver for the people of this country is wrong. And all the time the party is tied up responding to the complaints of Danczuk, Field, Warner, Grabiner and others is less time spent trying to wrest back power and protect those people who most need it. Call me what you want – left wing, right wing, centrist. No skin off my nose, just let us get on with the job.
The press are going to paint it their way to support their right wing media owners agenda. But we don’t have to. Stop worrying about wings – our policy ideas can’t fly without both anyway. And if you do now feel that this party no longer reflects your own views as an MP / councillor / representative, then have the integrity to move aside – or take your support with you. Because once you decide your view is more important than the democratic mandate that got you there, you are no longer fit to govern, and this has stopped being a calling and become paid employment. Because if we can’t turn this Momentum into something good for the people of this great country, we don’t deserve to continue either.