A political party is a machine for turning values into actions. In viable Opposition it’s powerful and in Government there is none better. But, like every machine, it can break beyond repair. If it does, it’s not merely useless. It actually gets in the way of achieving those values. Keep it and you can’t get a better machine. One that works.
Under the first past the post system there’s only room for one party on the Left. If that party is Labour there can be no other. That’s great if Labour is, or reasonably hopes to be, in Government. But, if you want to turn your values into actions, and Labour can’t, you need a machine that can.
So the question you should be asking yourself is whether Labour is broken. Be honest: is there a realistic route back to Government for it? Is it still a powerful machine for turning values into actions? Or is it just a space where people go to talk to one another about what they want?
Those questions aren’t easy to answer.
For many, your attachment to the Labour Party goes beyond the rational. Your narrative of who you are, your relationships, your career and status, all are bound up with the Labour Party. But if you believe it is broken and you stay with it just the same you should be honest with yourself that it’s not about the values. You’re not achieving change in society, indeed, you might even be impeding it.
Leaving isn’t about letting ‘them’ win, or it being ‘our’ Party, or us being a ‘family’, or whether we still have values in common. Those questions face inwards to the Party rather than outwards to the country. If your focus is on making the country a better place the only question is whether Labour can function as a powerful Opposition or is viable as a party of prospective Government.
I’m not going to help you answer it. I’m not even going to tell you why I’ve answered it ‘no’. I just want to pose what I think is the right question.
Many of us are wondering, if we leave, where do we go?
At the moment, because there is Labour, there is no new machine.
But at the moment that doesn’t matter.
Fewer than 1 in 50 of us is a member of a political party. But the votes of the other 49 count just the same. Indeed, they may even count for more. Don’t be taken for granted. Let them come to you – Labour and the Lib Dems and the Tories and the SNP. Let them try and persuade you that they can deliver what you want to see. On competence, on Brexit, on employment, on welfare, on immigration, on the economy, on defence, on our place in the world.
And when something new rises – and if Labour fails it will – join it. But by propping Labour up you make that impossible.Follow @jolyonmaugham