Why is a ‘leftie’ like you not a member of the Labour Party?

One of the major reasons a ‘leftie’ like me can’t support the Labour Party is because it’s fundamentally a class based party. A party which encompasses such a broad range of political opinion is bound to be riven with sects perpetually at war with each other; that’s Labour’s burden which has bedeviled it and held it back from being a truly progressive party for as long as it has existed.

Yes Labour’s so called middle class supporters are often progressives who’re for example anti-Brexit and they’re predominately of the left/left of centre. However, many of the party’s core working class (you could even say their white working class) supporters drag on the party like an anchor. They’re often far from being progressive with racist/antisemitic views and with a reluctance (or damn right objection) towards real social reform.

Karl Popper’s ‘paradox of tolerance’ comes to mind: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

To my mind Labour tries to manage and suppress the intolerance within its core vote but it must be like squeezing a balloon in that for every part you push in an equal part pops out. Indeed, if you look at Labour’s political sects they’re seemingly set up to be intolerant of other political sects and I don’t just mean sects outside of Labour here!

I became an active trade unionist in 1975 when I started work some 5 years before I became a Liberal Party member, or you could say until I realised my views were ones of a leftie, radical and Liberal nature. In my early days as a trade unionist I often scratched my head when hearing some folks in the TU movement who said they were socialists and/or members of the Labour Party but who seemed to hold views of a right wing nature. It took me a while to realise that they were invariably white and they would often refer to themselves as working class*. The Penny dropped when it dawned on me that anyone within a social class could hold any kind of view within the political spectrum and they certainly did! So to base a political party on a class of people means that some very intolerant and racist folk belong to the same political movement as folks with progressive and left wing views. That the right wingers are clearly tolerated within Labour despite their views has long troubled me; the rule of thumb seems to be if you say you’re working class you’re one of us, if you’re not you’re a Tory.

So I rejected Labour as a party for me and I signed up with the Liberal Party which seemed to be a better fit for my leftie, radical and progressive views. And anyway I had difficulty (and still do) with seeing the world or our UK society via the prism of social class. Us and them politics has never done much for me yet I realise that it can be a hugely motivating factor in the Labour and Tory Parties who seem to thrive on it. I find it most odd when someone from a self proclaimed working class background makes a few bob and then becomes a Tory or even a champagne socialist. It’s a world I simply can’t relate to.

I found that the collectivism of the trade union movement fitted well with my Liberal views although others in the TU movement found it hard to understand my politics. However, when Labour lurched towards the centre ground of politics under Blair and the majority of my fellow TU officers (those with left wing views I mean) had left it in disgust they seemed to look upon me as a genuine leftie. The paradox for me as a Lib Dem councillor though was hearing Labour councillors shouting out ‘we’re old Labour’ whenever Blair got a mention at council meetings. You see I saw the Lib Dems as being more to the left than most of the Labour councillors who were shouting it! Where each of them really stood on the political spectrum always baffled me as they seemed to me to cover the whole political range from left to right whilst uniting under the working class banner of Labour which they felt, at the time, had been hijacked by moderate/centrists. Yet the those same moderate/centrists who were so despised within Labour were probably more to the left of politics than some of the shouters of ‘we are old Labour’. Get your head around that if you can…….

I’m certainly not a political moderate or centrist. My happiest political times were during Charles Kennedy’s period as Lib Dem Leader when often our policy positioning, particularly with regard to social issues, was significantly more progressive than those of Labour. My fervent hope is that Layla Moran becomes the next Lib Dem Leader as to me she seems to show the progressive instincts which are very much required in UK politics particularly since Labour is seemingly moving back to the moderate/centrist ground again.

That the Lib Dems lost their way after Kennedy is a statement of the blindingly obvious to me. Saying we’d oppose Labour’s imposed Tuition Fees, for example, and then not doing so was a massive political miscalculation by Clegg. It precipitated a big decline in the Party from which it has only recently started to recover.

For me the Lib Dems need to be politically radical, be a voice for the poorest in our society, be unashamedly socially/environmentally progressive and willing to take risks by taking on all those issues which the Daily Mail will hate us for. Being timid and centrist, no thank you, I’ll leave that to Starmer. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work with the likes of Starmer, indeed we should work with them where we have common policy interests and that goes for the Greens too. What I like about Moran is her willingness to work with others to try to forge common politically progressive goals…….

* And in far more recent times I’ve come across so called socialists who’ve backed parties such as UKIP and the Brexit Party at the ballot box! When they tell you they usually vote Labour, because they’re working class, but then trot out to vote for right wing candidates makes my point. Clearly, this happened by the spadeful in the 2019 General Election.

The politics of hate and division – It’s peddled by many mainstream politicians and is almost everyday language in our tribal society

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/language-public-social-media-politics-repercussions

The Guardian has this opinion piece on its web site – see link above

That we live in rather desperate and potentially dangerous political times is a given sadly, so this piece by James Graham is an interesting wake up call.

I have commented before about how Liberals were always looked upon with a fondness by the electorate generally but ever since Charles Kennedy stood out against the Iraq War, whilst Labour and Tories alike were on a war footing, attitudes have changed and some now have very negative attitudes to Liberals. At first I found this rather odd but I have come to rather enjoy being hated as a Liberal as to me it means that Liberal ideas are seen as a threat by the rich, by the powerful to the right and the left – we must be doing something right!

But ‘hate’ is an every day word these days and some point back to what the EU Referendum unleashed in terms of racism, intolerance and yes ‘hate’. There’s no doubt that Remainers and Brexiters have been pitched against each other and that there is little if any common ground between them. Do I act with intolerance towards Brexiters? Well yes, quite obviously I do if you care to read the many postings from me about Brexit. But is it right that a Liberal should be intolerant?

My brand of social Liberalism is all about radicalism, its about taking power from the rich and powerful so that the ordinary woman and man in the street has real control over their community and their futures. So hey a radical social Liberal is a threat and I expect to be disliked and indeed to be attacked (verbally of course) for my beliefs.

Ordinary people can only take power and use it if they are in full possession of facts. In the EU Referendum they were not, indeed they were lied to on an industrial scale. The referendum wasn’t an exercise in democracy it was an exercise in the abdication of responsibility by our leaders and of manipulating the electorate to do what the rich and powerful wanted them to do. It did not empower the people, as Brexit leaders claim, it cyclically used them in a way that shames our democratic credentials as a civilised country.

Am I angry with Brexiters? Hell yes. Do I feel my country has been had? Of course. Am I proud of my intolerance? No not really as I should not have had to find myself doing battle over such terrible lies and the consequences of them.

This radical Liberal and trade unionist is indeed angry and in no mood to compromise with people who are deliberately destroying my country and its way of life.

And on a different tack, since I have been using social media (Facebook in particular) I have noticed far too often the reach of huge levels of intolerance often about reasonably trivial matters. Swearing is now common and is almost expected as a social norm rather than the odd expression of shock and disbelief as it was once reserved for. I often ponder on whether folks use bad language on social media as they feel it is expected on them or that they will not be seen as fitting in if they decline to use it?

Yes our society has taken a turn towards anti-social behaviour being an every day thing, but how far will it go before the pendulum swings back towards a less racist, more intolerant and more inclusive society again? Or will we march ever further towards a hate filled fascist-type society?

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Angry & Intolerant – A response from someone who knows me well

My recent posting regarding my own anger and intolerance over Brexit brought back this insightful response:-

Anger can be a useful tool if it can be directed, it can fuel difficult actions and hard campaigns. As long as you have control of it a little anger can take you a long way, sometimes further than you thought you could make it.

I don’t think Anger is an inherently bad thing, there are things that SHOULD make us angry. You are angry not because you got beaten but because you watched too many members of a generation who won’t be around to see the consequences of their vote to make life harder for their grandchildren, because you saw vulnerable people lied to and exploited, manipulated into voting for something that won’t benefit them in the least. In their case the anger they were entitled to feel at the neglect of the system got used by someone else, perhaps partly in fear of those people directing their anger towards the right targets and the people that had consistently failed to help them, or worse still failed to really try.

You are angry because there has been a backlash of hate, of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia, the list of rising hate crimes is too long to go on with. You are angry because a young woman trying to work for her community got savagely murdered in the streets.

You SHOULD be angry, we should ALL be angry, but anger is only useful if we direct it into purpose. This may be the biggest threat to our country, to the liberal values you and I both hold dear, in a very long time. It should be fought. Tolerating other people’s views doesn’t mean you stop fighting them when you think they’re wrong. It means you fight them in the right way, that you don’t stoop to name-calling, to slurs and intimidation. You treat them with the respect owed to all human beings while fighting against the effects of their views and trying to convince them they are wrong. That’s where anger starts to get in the way, you don’t change anyone’s views by shouting at them.

We need to remember that more important than politics, than economies, than anything, is our relationships with our fellow human beings. Events like this make us want to retreat to the safety of those that agree with us, make us want to get behind a barricade and throw projectiles at the enemy but that isn’t really going to help anybody. Martin Luther King quite rightly said “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”.

We need to be careful about indulging in some feeling of moral superiority and feelings of blame, how we got here is important but how we move forward is even more so. All far easier to say than to do, but I grew up with a good example of all this so somehow, occasional shouting aside, I think you’ll do just fine.

Well, it seems like I could consider an apology to those I have insulted over the Brexit vote following this advice. But, I will have to sit on that for a while as the anger is still very strong and the full consequences of that vote are unknown. Put it this way, if my genuine fears about the future of the UK prove to be unfounded and that Brexit ‘visionaries’ were right in saying leaving the EU will be the making of the UK then maybe I will apologise. However, based on the evidence that I saw before the referendum and what I have seen since I still can’t understand why Brexiters pressed what I see as the self-destruct button. Yes, still very angry indeed!