Otto English on why, like many other Labour voters out there, he decided he wouldn’t vote Labour in yesterday’s local elections.
I grew up in a political family. My parents were Tory activists. My mother had worked for a Conservative MP and my Dad was a Conservative councillor, but I learned a lot from them politically, because they were not ‘drones’ or Heathites or Thatcherites or any sort of ‘ite’ at all. They didn’t blindly toe a party line and were not afraid to say so. It was extremely admirable in retrospect.
My Mum had grown up in a pit village in Staffordshire and was enraged with her government over the treatment of the miners in the 1980s – and despite campaigning for the party in 1983, she hinted to me later that she had voted Liberal instead. She once wrote an angry letter to The Telegraph about expenses and discovered that a memo had promptly been sent to her constituency office asking if she was a local communist. A letter was sent back informing that she was, in fact, the branch Chair.
In her later life she worked with refugees and having heard their stories and known them as human beings she was equally passionate about their circumstances and their fate and angry again with the way the immigration and asylum debate was going. Consequently, she spent most of the nineties falling out with fellow members and Shire Tory friends over their unhinged xenophobic opinions. She wasn’t right about everything – far from it – but she was very right indeed about putting principle before party.
For my own part, I began as a teenage Tory, became a Liberal, flirted with the hard left, came to my senses and since my early twenties have (mostly) voted Labour.
As a Labour member, I went through the trauma of witnessing Kinnock’s defeat in 1992, the loss of John Smith and the rise of Tony Blair. Like many, I was rather sceptical of Teflon Tony but warmed to him in his first term only to come crashing back to Planet Reality after the invasion of Iraq. I departed after that and voted Green in 2005 in protest, but I returned to Labour in 2010, 2015 and for Corbyn, last year in the 2017 election as well as locally and in all of the EU elections in between. Yes – it said in the manifesto that they would implement Brexit – but I hoped that Labour might come to its senses and anyway it’s ‘my’ party – so I voted for Jezza.
Since Corbyn came to power, the party has increasingly turned its back on people like me. I view myself as a progressive and a centrist, and the Labour party doesn’t do those things at front bench level anymore. Corbyn may have his acolytes and Momentum, but in order to win elections in the UK you have to appeal to those beyond your immediate constituency, and if he has lost me and thousands like me, then he will never become PM, and there will not be a Labour government, and we are stuck with the Tories and their disastrous out of control administration.
That Labour (incredibly) continues to trail behind the unbelievably useless and unlikable Theresa May and her barmy Brexit army in the polls says it all. The main reason for that is blindingly obvious, and it has nothing to do with the MSM or ‘Centrist Dadaists’ or whoever they are blaming now. The truth is this: Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is blindly following the agenda of the most ghastly Tory government in history in pursuing the most suicidally stupid and unnecessary political endeavour since – well since ever. By enabling Brexit, the Labour party hierarchy is ignoring the will of most of its members and supporters and doing the 48% of largely progressive and outward-looking Britons, who voted Remain, a massive disservice. Yes there is a slight nuance of approach – but then Pepsi is essentially Coca-Cola isn’t it – they both taste much the same – while fucking with your teeth.
There are those who claim that Jeremy Corbyn is actually a Remainer and that he is simply going along with the democratic choice of 52% of the people of the UK; but then there are also people who believe that the Earth is flat.
So, yesterday, I did vote on the issue of Brexit – and as such I didn’t vote Labour.
“But wait! Hold on!” I hear you cry “Brexit isn’t a local issue!” And that, my imaginary reader who disagrees with me, is sadly where you are mistaken. Brexit is a local issue precisely because Brexit affects everything. Brexit is like taxation or those Kardashian people – you might not want to hear about it or have any interest in them – but it is an unavoidable, big fat arse casting a shadow across the land and unlikely to go anywhere any time soon.
Now, given that you have read this far, I am guessing that you are a Remoaner. I have talked here about the Labour party, but precisely the same logic (and some) applies to you if you are a Conservative Remainer. If you want to stop Brexit, you need to give the leadership of the two main parties a mighty wake-up call, and you could do that yesterday by not voting for them while making sure you still voted.
The one place you can hit the government and the Brexit friendly Labour leadership is in the ballot box. You will never win the Lotto, but you do have that power.
Brexit has shaken up the old convictions and the old certainties and sometimes you have to stand firm in belief over tribal loyalty – just as my parents did. I have deserted Labour with a heavy heart yesterday – but I did so in the hope of brighter days ahead.🔷
(This is a slightly edited version of the piece that was originally published on The Pin Prick.)