‘How Very Dare They!’ Me, New Labour and Jeremy Corbyn
When Jeremy Corbyn hit the scene, I was pretty excited, to say the least. Here was someone I had always admired from afar, best friend of our best friend in Probation, John McDonnel and one of only a handful of genuine socialists left in the Labour Party. I watched the first hustings on TV, and my husband and I kept saying to each other, ‘look how he is getting most of the applause!’. You could feel the excitement even then, though perhaps you’d have needed a crystal ball to imagine what has followed…
After that, along with thousands of others, I became more and more excited, signed up to volunteer, and dragged my husband to a Q & A in Coventry, where we arrived late and stood at the back on tiptoe to see the great man greeted as a rock star. After we got back, John told the children that I had shouted out ‘we love you, Jez!’ and screamed like a teeny bopper when he made his entrance (much like I was once overheard shouting ‘we love you, Bob’ at a Dylan concert, but that’s another story…). Rather worryingly, my kids shrugged wearily and clearly believed every word. Obviously, I was becoming a slightly crazed groupie.
Anyhow, needless to say, I paid my £3 supporter’s fee at the first possible opportunity and, rather naively as it turned out, put my reason for becoming a supporter down as not only to vote for Corbyn but to contribute to the great political revolution of re-nationalisation, redistribution, fairness, less inequality, scrapping of tuition fees, scrapping of Trident and above all wresting the Probation Service out of the clutches of greedy, incompetent and psychopathically run private companies.
My first rejection came in an email claiming that the Labour Party could not match me against the electoral register. I tried a further 3 times and I even registered on the electoral register online. But they kept rejecting me on that basis. If I were a suspicious person (heaven forfend), I would think this was a first way of diverting Corbyn voters up a side alley. Certainly, it is interesting that 15% of those ultimately purged were apparently due to electoral register problems, and I’d like to hear about any others…. Eventually, I phoned up, and they found me in seconds: unsurprising considering I have been voting for 30 years. Hmmmm…. But as I say I am not a suspicious person.
But I then received a phone call interrogating me about my membership of other parties, my intentions in becoming a supporter, and whom I voted for in the last election (whose business is that, one wonders, when ballot boxes have curtains). I answered truthfully though, if a little annoyed. Nonetheless, the Labour Party man basically welcomed me back into the fold, or so I thought. But, as you might imagine, I never did receive my welcoming ballot paper. I never even received the rejection others got saying that they did not sufficiently support the ‘aims and values of the Labour Party’.
When I phoned again, I was told I had been blocked now, but was given no explanation. What is clear is that Labour have been scouring the on line profile of voters. Given that the vast majority of my profile has to do with opposing the privatisation of the Probation Service, and re-tweeting types like Caroline Lucas, Owen Jones, and David Graeber, I might have expected some Labour bods to sympathise. Granted, my membership of the Labour Party lapsed after they took us into the Iraq war, but so did many people's. Perhaps also they didn’t like the way I have been affiliated with TUSC (passingly), and the Greens. So anti-privatisation and anti-war, pro unions and the environment – on this basis, clearly, I can have no truck with the values and aims of the Labour Party! At least I am in good company along with Mark Serwotka and Jeremy Hardy.
So, the Labour Party have acted in a stupid and undemocratic way, in my view, and a sinister way too, when you factor in their intrusions into people’s pasts and online profiles, their second-guessing of people’s voting history and intentions, and their self-serving adjudications about who supports the aims and values of the labour party. Monstrously too, they reserve the right to cancel out votes already cast! In short: How dare they (or as that character on TV used to say in outrage: How very dare they!) Where is the democracy and transparency one wonders in all of this? And how are people to identify with a party that can stoop to the sort of stuff Labour have stooped to in attempting to engineer this result?
After all, any child could point out that surely democracy is about allowing people to make a choice, and so to recruit new people once they have changed their minds if they want to? Above all, where are the socialist aims and values of the Labour Party? Not in the hollowed-out remnants of New Labour, that is for sure. But perhaps we don’t have to look too far for those values, and maybe that is the point. Clearly a lot of these blustering keepers of the Blairite flame are very worried that all those people who are turning out to vote for Corbyn might be those who actually see what the aims and values of the Labour Party really have always been, and can be again.
Annoyingly, my husband did get a vote which has led him to remind me on a daily basis (and I quote) ‘Jez, I can, Jez you can’t!’