Others have left the Liberal Democrats, for making up scare stories, but for me it was more a realisation that the Lib Dem’s pavement politics lead to the recruitment of such a mixed bunch that the party is rendered incapable of producing a positive, intellectually coherent vision in any context. Principles are important, but take to two Lib Dems from different parts of Manchester, let alone the country, and you’ll find it hard to believe they’re in the same party1.
But I’ve left it a good few years before joining Labour… in 1997 I didn’t vote… I’ve voted Labour since 2001… so it may be ten years.
It’s blogging that’s drawn me towards Labour. I’ve been an armchair supporter since I began and readers have often assumed me to be a party member. Bloggers4Labour has included me on their supporters list for sometime and I’ve never objected, though I was surprised to find myself there. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.
What’s stopped me joining, until now, is a suspicion that that the New Labour project also lacks a solid and coherent intellectual base and vision. And it is still wanting in this area. Problematically, Blair appears to draw heavily on his Christianity. The issue with such a belief system is that it mistakes faith for moral code, even though all major religions have been subverted to support whatever, whenever. It denies the need to think and to build policy on firm principles which should themselves be constantly tested as part of the search for truth2. However, it’s important to remember that Blair is just one man and parties are coalitions of coinciding interests and ideals bound by tradition.
The more I write, the more I find that I mostly support the New Labour agenda. My main gripes are over a lack of boldness and a failure to lead on the issues of the day. Ministers too often refuse to engage with the media and deserve to look shifty as a result. There has been no robust promotion or even defence of the European Union or immigration policy, for example. When Labour does enter debate it gives the impression of having been forced to engage and is too often on the back foot as a result. Labour should be leading3.
But it becomes harder and harder to attack the Labour Party for being feeble. It can only move forward with confidence when it can be sure it has the support required to win the day. The time has come for me to get off the fence.
1Take Cllr. Ken Dobson who lives next to Manchester Velodrome, in the shadow of the City of Manchester Stadium. He saw regeneration, and the Commonwealth Games in particular, as an imposition: ‘it’s not creating jobs for people round here.’ Now he represents the city centre… oh dear.
2Ruth Kelly illustrates the problem. She’s right to clamp down on radical Muslim faith schools, but her radical Catholicism should disqualify her from representing the state on this issue and radical Christian faith schools should also close.
3Early on came the disastrous handling of fox hunting. A discrete issue that could and should have been dealt with quickly and efficiently, the only consensus on this debate was that it had gone on too long. Wavering as it did, Labour gave opponents time to organise and take on wider issues. Labour must take responsibility for the formation of the Countryside Alliance. Perhaps more importantly, within months of election it let it be known manifesto pledges could be renegotiated.