A footnote

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.



8 thoughts on “A footnote

  1. brief ! brutal ! and so true

  2. Diem2025

  3. It’s good to see this reasoning as it sums up why I did not vote for Labour (whom I’ve always voted for in the past) at the last election. I am now a Green Party voter (I live in the Derbyshire Dales where the Tories are dug in like ticks) and am content with that as many of their policies chime with my values.

    I have to say though that I am somewhat disappointed that the vacuum left by Labour’s navel gazing has not been filled by others including the Greens. I also feel that the opposition parties should really work more closely together to stop the Tory Party PLC from destroying the country.

    Labour has proven itself to be inept at balancing the different tribes within it unlike the Tories whose greatest asset is to stick together under such pressure and still put on a united front. The Labour Party should be ashamed of itself. Most of them anyway.

  4. This view of ‘Labour’ and ‘opposition’ and ‘power’, etc, is simply out of date. The pertinent point is “Under the first past the post system there’s only room for one party on the Left”. Exactly! Once everyone on the ‘Left’ finally accepts that the future of politics is, and absolutely should be, with full, fair and effective PR, then, FINALLY, we can all unite with a critical mass in demanding and achieving that goal – then it becomes essentially irrelevant which faction you belong to or identify with – you will have a realistic choice at the ballot box, a real shot at your values, principles and aspirations being represented in parliament. It’s the system that’s broken – once that’s fixed, Labour (Old, New, Modern, Post-modern, Retro, Recycled, Upcycled, whatever) can be in as many pieces as there are seats, it doesn’t matter. Power will be shared, and politicians will have to care individually and collectively primarily about the plight of the people, the country and the planet, not who’s in the top spot and whether you can persuade enough candidates to prostitute their principles in favour of ‘appearing’ to unite for a few weeks every five years. PR Now! – PR Now! – PR Now!!!!!!!!!

  5. Is there a party which speaks out in favour of voting reform, house of lords reform, for the EU and against Brexit?
    Hint: http://www.libdems.org.uk/

  6. You use the word “values” a lot.

    How do you feel that the values of a typical Labour Party member differ from those of, say, a Green Party or Lib Dem member or even a Conservative ?

    Isn’t it possible for people to have similar values, yet differ on politics, because of having different ideas about how the world works ?

  7. The boat has sailed on voting reform I think. We had our chance, and we blew it. I was just as disappointed when we lost the AV vote as I was at Brexit.

    We are stuck with FTFP I’m afraid, but the next time there’s a coalition I hope to goodness we can treat the minority coalition party a bit less hysterically.

  8. I’m not arguing for voting reform, for the avoidance of doubt. I’m just making an observation about the consequences of the system we have.

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