Corbyn or Smith, Is Labour’s Problem Just Too Much Baggage?


As an ex Labour member, I know what a terrible wrench it is to leave the Party which, despite its size, operated very much like a (slightly dysfunctional) family at local level. I have no recent personal experience of the party other than reports from people who have been describing a Party at war with itself rather than with the Tories.

Despite my sadness at the state of the Labour Party, I am going to make some points which I know will hurt many current Labour members for which I apologise in advance. Causing personal injury or offence is not my goal. Positive exchange of views and political change remain my only objectives.

One of our local Green Party members made a comment to me recently which shocked me but for some reason came as a Eureka moment. She said “that the problem with the Labour Party is that it has to carry far too much baggage”. I immediately agreed, not in a condemning or judgmental way but rather as a straightforward acknowledgment of the fact.

Tradition and history in politics are very important and anyone who doesn’t study history, identify recurring damaging patterns and try to avoid making the same mistakes is a fool. Tradition gives texture and colour to our actions. All of that said, any party can have too much of a good thing. Labour appears to be paralysed by its past, Ramsay MacDonald, the IMF, the Winter of Discontent, Union Block Votes, Benn v Healey, Militant Tendency, Miners Strikes, 1992 Sheffield Rally, John Smith’s tragic death, Blair’s invasion of Iraq, the 2007/8 global financial crisis, BigotGate to name only a few. The rabbit is mesmerised by the headlights and the car is upon it. Too much baggage.

Right now the Green Party is like a flea on an elephant, extremely small, hardly noticed except for the occasional ‘bite’ but very agile, resilient, constant in objective but adaptable to the changing fortunes of its host (in this case, humanity and the Earth). It has little baggage and travels light. It has a huge raft of forward-looking policies (many still unavoidably Beta) but if anything, it is lacking in transitional bridge policies to get us from where we are now to where we need to be as fast as possible without causing massive social dislocation or precipitating a reactionary authoritarian response from the darkest forces in our society’s elite. Members tend to free-thinking radical libertarians, highly diverse in their reasons for being Greens. Most of our members reject any form of tribalism which is why people move freely into and out of the Green Party and sometimes (like me) back again through their lives. We share an underpinning philosophy that guides the direction of Party policy but it is not driven by dogma but rather by what we think will work, what will deliver the best results for people and planet (inseparable objectives).

Although I still have an emotional connection with Labour which causes my current distress, strangely I have no such emotional link with the Green Party. I like our local members but I consider the Green Party only as a vehicle. If the Green Party ever got into government and decided to invade Iraq without proven cause, I would leave the Party without hesitation as would nearly ALL of the members I know. That is something VERY different to Labour. Being Green is very different but now more than ever I would argue it is better for anyone on the principled, democratic, libertarian left. Whatever happens when (as looks very likely) Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as Labour Leader on Saturday, the Green Party must I hope be seen as an option for anyone who doesn’t only want a progressive LEADER in the Labour Party, but also progressive POLICIES. That has yet to happen and my bet is it never will.

The last straw for me with Labour’s tribalism was when Corbyn appeared to reject the Green Party’s offer of an electoral pact on a shared platform of delivering electoral and constitutional reform. Yet again ‘our turn to govern’ or ‘winner takes it all’ has overriden the best chance of defeating this evil Tory administration at the next General Election and delivering fair votes for all of the people and parties of this country for the foreseeable future. With PR enacted after the next election, Labour could split into as many pieces as it wanted without risking electoral oblivion for the centre and left as is threatened now.

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