Monday, 29 August 2011

The Labour Party and I- the end of a 47 year relationship

I got back from holiday to discover a letter from the Labour party rejecting my readmission. I had attended an appeal a few weeks ago and the tenor of the meeting was such that it suggested to me that the outcome was a foregone conclusion. I really regret allowing myself to be gulled into re applying and allowing myself to be angered by the attitude of some people in the Staffordshire Moorlands Labour party who used this process to discredit me. No one likes words and phrases like " unstable", "not a team player" or "untrustworthy" banded around but they were. I disliked it because I don’t believe it to be true.

 I do regard myself, as being a good team player as I hope my colleagues on the Leek Co-operative Emporium will testify. I am particularly good at coming up with ideas. This might be a problem for the Labour party. The whole exercise of the appeal was bizarre and perhaps the apogee or nadir, dependent on your position, was reached when I was asked whether it was on my "conscious" to have worked and stood against the Labour party. I obviously led the more spineless and weak willed into voting green and depriving them of their chance to be part of the Socialist Commonwealth offered by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. I was asked the question on conscious with a straight face. For a second I thought it was a joke but obviously it wasn’t and I said "no".

How could I not stand against a party that supported the 90 day detention, was keen on ID cards and most heinous of all for a left wing party carried out the 10p tax fiasco in June 2008. What was going through the heads of people to tax the lowest paid workers at a higher rate. Such a policy seems to me a lack of a moral compass, if one existed in the first place.

Now I know many good people in the Labour party. I also know or have been told of a fair number of crooks, lechers and thoroughly disreputable types who are or have been Labour party members. Some have flourished as well. I was told by a fellow Councillor that one other Councillor was the most corrupt politician operating in North Staffs. The person was returned to an authority last spring. I presume that his loyalty and unthinking commitment to the Labour Party overweighed the lesser virtues of integrity, honesty and public service.

No I think that "conscience" is not an issue there.

I suspect what doomed me in some quarters was that I have an independent streak and I’m not easily controlled. Being thought of as intelligent also does not help. And I have the proof. Somewhere I have in my possession two copies of applications that were made for a chairmanship in the County Council. The documents are about a decade old. I filled in my application seriously as if I was applying for a job giving many examples of my interest in cultural and conservation issues. My form was densely written. My opponent submitted the same form leaving large areas blank. Reader, who won the contest? Well, it was not I. In any other walk of life the winning application would have been just tossed in the bin but because this particular Councillor was highly thought of by the leadership then there will prevailed. Independence and probably having a little intelligence have always been a barrier as far as my relationship with the Labour party is concerned.

I had thought that with the emergence of Ed Milliband then all that would have changed and that a welcoming hand was being proffered to former members of the party, but this was illusionary. There are elements in the Labour party who cannot help themselves. I read of the recent vote taken of the Bentilee community facility where pressure was applied to difficult councillors who represented the area. I recognised the scenario as the same had happened to me in 1999/2000 over the closure of a local nursery. I ended up being disciplined by the County Group for my apparent failing in standing up for a community interest in the ward I was representing. The sane response would be to let the ward representatives speak out and let them vote the way that their constituents would want them rather than applying group discipline.

Again I reiterate there are some good people in the Labour party, but there are others where meeting the electorate especially the disadvantaged is an exotic experience. I can recall an occasion on Election Day 2010 when I was in the back of a candidate’s car when another party member and subsequent Councillor openly mocked the poorly dressed people of Stoke as we drove down London Road. I was open mouthed at the sheer arrogance of this woman. I hope that in the intervening time she has acquired empathy because the display of snobbery I witnessed does not sit comfortably with the "peoples party".

It is my intention never to have anything to do with the party. I will recognise positive policies when they come out with them as well as criticising them if they are in error but I cannot get away from the thought that politics is changing, the old certainties are breaking down, as are the old voting loyalties. A Labour Party that is closed to ideas and demand unquestioning loyalty is doomed.