My dad is a reserved man of few words, and he never shared his political beliefs with me. To this day I don’t know what he votes, although I suspect he’s a conservative. It was as if laying out your political persuasions was considered a little, well, uncouth.
And so I’ve followed his example, all these years – I’ve shared my political leanings with only a very small group of close friends.
The last few weeks have been a turbulent time for our country, to say the least, and whilst I won’t try and pretend I’m knowledgeable about all or even most of the issues, I had my opinion about what I wanted for the UK, and most of my friends agreed with me, well my Facebook friends anyway. I didn’t get what I wanted, well not yet, anyhow, but apart from what I wanted, I’ve been mesmerised by what the country’s response has been. It started with the initial backlash – the racist comments, the economic changes, and the finger pointing, squarely at Corbyn, it seemed. The summary of his crimes seemed to be he wasn’t seen doing enough campaigning for Remain and must therefore go.
And then the inconsistencies and confusion seemed to reign upon everything I started to focus my attention on. First – Corbyn gets slammed for not doing enough for Remain, and yet Teresa May gets to be prime minister for doing even less. Secondly, Corbyn is shunned by his MPs, and yet the Labour party enjoys a massive swell in numbers, presumably of people like myself, who see Corbyn as a genuine guy with the right values and a refreshing lack of interest in playing ‘the Westminster Game’. What is it that the MPs see, or fail to see, in Corbyn, that these new members don’t? Why haven’t the MPs spelled out the details of their insight, in order to disavow all these new Labour members of their illusions?
And thirdly, and this is where, for me, things seem to fall apart … what does democracy, actually mean, in the UK, in these ‘modern’ times? Yes, I’ve joined the Labour party – I never, ever thought I’d be saying this. I never even thought I’d ever do more about my political beliefs than put my cross in the box in a general election. But I wanted to vote for Corbyn to remain as the leader, because I wanted to see a shift in the political climate away from the slick spin, the eye watering expense claims and middle ground policies that try to be all things to all people. I don’t know if he’s electable, and in a sense I don’t care, because if his influence brings a change in attitude, then it may well take a very long time indeed for our culture to change and to embrace the style of politics that Corbyn represents.
So there it is, I’m come out of my political closet – I’m a paid up member … does that make me a political activist? Well more of one than I was before, certainly. But the next episode is that my membership doesn’t count, and the fee I paid is suddenly not enough, and I should now pay another £25. Yes, I can afford it, but there are many 1000s of other people who can’t, and so here it is the principle I strongly object to. Imagine if I bought new trainers, paid my money and took them home, only to have the shop assistant come to my house and take them off me a couple of days later saying the price has gone up, and I should pay more.
There’s always a work around, these days – no Pokemon Go in the UK, but there’s a work around by going through the US site … and for the work around in this case, Unite opened its arms and offered participation in the leadership election through affiliated membership of the union. So I did that … although still couldn’t work out why I needed to do this – I still couldn’t quite believe that the party I had joined didn’t want my voice to be heard. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, the next development is that that all Labour meetings are now cancelled until after the leadership election. My attempts to get involved and try to make a difference are met with what feels like a gagging order. I can’t vote without paying extra fees, and I can’t even meet with local members to explore what others opinions are. And this evening I read that even those who have taken affiliated membership through the unions can’t vote either.
This has left me feeling confused and insecure. I have always trusted in the democratic process of my country, and yet now it seems that this democracy is being manipulated and controlled by ‘them’ … like some kind of fascist dictatorship that happens in countries you don’t go to on holiday … that you hear about in documentaries … not here, in Britain.
Does my voice count, or not?