Just received a mass email from Angela Eagle, via the Labour Party. Far more effective than they usually are. Poses a real reason to communicate. This is how part of the email goes:
I joined the Labour Party more than three decades ago because I was angry at the injustice around me.
My parents weren’t given the chance of a good education because they were from the wrong class. I was told I couldn’t play chess against boys because girls’ brains were smaller! I wanted to fight against an unfair, unequal society where people didn’t reach their potential simply because they didn’t have the money.
That’s why I share the values of this party — and I want to know why you do too. Tell us now:
Then a link takes you here and invites you to frame your reply in a tweet. But, as has generally been the case in the last seven years, I’ve always needed more space than that.
So whilst I still give myself time to top and tail my writing, here’s why I’m – even now – still Labour:
- My English grandparents were Labour when poverty was a common bond, and the end of the month signalled fear and hunger. Sometimes not just the end of the month.
- My parents were never primarily anything as far as I know. But my father’s father was always a dedicated internationalist, an Esperantist and an incorrigible writer of Labour Party newsletters. I figure if I’ve blogged anything useful over the past few years, it has always – both consciously and otherwise – been out of that tradition. Labour, then, as a progressive force has – paradoxically for me – been a grand tradition too.
- Labour for me – at its best and most politically lovable – has been a necessarily powerful bulwark against the abuses of violent capitalism. When it has disappointed me, which is often, I remember its most lovable moments instead. When you really appreciate some individual or some institution, you should always measure your appreciation in terms of the best sides they have shown to the world, well outside their rather bitterer conflicts. We all have unpleasant and internecine sides – let us not use them to define the worth or value of anything.
- Whilst Labour has not always been the natural place for free-thinkers, as a self-defined free-thinker I far prefer to “contaminate” its broad church with my thinking than look to less kindly souls. Yes. At its best (always remembering it at its best), Labour is packed to the gills with kindly souls. Kindness is in short supply today – to strive to be good to such an extent almost assigns a religious air to the beast.
- Finally, that is why I am Labour. Even after Iraq, even after the rank social-engineering of debt-engendering tuition fees, even after PFI, even after the groundwork legislation that has allowed the Tories to dismantle the NHS, there are still enough people of good minds, of bright intellects, of humane behaviours in the Party … people from the right side of politics, where – here – the right side means the honourable side. And in that, in a world I can only now be secular, I find myself the closest I will ever find myself to that sense of religion I suspect I continue to need; that sense of religion I suspect I will always need.
That is why I am Labour: a tradition of progressives, a sometimes pesky community of the always thoughtful, a massive weight – but sometimes a revelation – of contradictory behaviours … and – at its best (always at its best) – an undogmatic religion which allows both the manifestly secular and those believers of so many other faiths to find some productive and constructive point of encounter in a wider desire to disentangle society.
To disentangle society – and, in the end, ourselves – from that web of underprivilege currently afflicting us.
Why am I Labour? Not because of the Tories. Not because of the Lib Dems. Not because of the Coalition’s evil man-made austerity policies – for man-made, essentially, they always will be (it is, after all, the men of the world who frequently manage to damage us the most).
No. Rather, I am Labour yesterday, today and tomorrow because I choose – out of all the options available to me – the one I still feel like fighting for.
In my own ineffectual way.
But in my own way, all the same.
You will have your own reasons, of course – of that I am absolutely sure.
But these, in much more than an impossibly small tweet, are where I stand today. And I hope you can stand next to me.