Sunday, 21 September 2008

The people's flag is palest pink...

Genitals, Ladymen, comrades, compatriots and fraternizers:

I've been at the Labour Party Conference for two days and my back and brain are aching. The sweet scent of power and privilege overwhelms the subtle breeze of socialism blowing through the hallways. Everybody knows that the party needs a new direction, and some people are even starting to say it out loud: what Hazel Blears MP yesterday called 'the unsayable'. The fact that Labour is 'not about altruism, or philanthropy, but about personal advancement and gain for working people' - for those poorer social groups who are now leaving the party in droves for the Tories and the BNP. Labour is not about the good-hearted rich giving out sweeties - it's about the people making a better deal for themselves. And now the party has retreated to Westminster, the cost of abandoning its communities is racking up. One councillor from Stoke, a new BNP heartland where skills are amongst the lowest in the country and where the Labour presence dropped from 60 to 16 seats at the last election, noted at a debate yesterday: 'we can have all the policies we like, but if we're not out there knocking on doors, then the BNP will be.'

The Comrade Did Not Mention Socialism!

...is what John Denham MP wanted someone to yell out from the audience, but nobody did. I'm tempted to do it myself this afternoon when Millie gets up to talk about foreign policy, but I'm on the mikes for that event and I like my job.

Last night I went to a party, drank four glasses of free champagne and compared dresses with important political ladies for a set period of time before going outside to smoke with the other interns and attempt to throw up my own lungs in a paroxysm of horror. What on earth happened to the Labour party? What happened?

(I spent the rest of the evening shouting about the RMT to Boris' transport minister and attempting to get people to stand on chairs with me and sing 'the red flag'. I'm not sure I'll be invited back.)
At every event they're edging closer to coming out and admitting that Labour has abandoned the grassroots. Peering out from their glittering Westminster bubble, even the chummy delegates and media flunkies here in Manchester are starting to get a little bit worried. If they don't mobilise, if they don't involve the communities and do more to address the needs of the people who vote for them and buy their newspapers, the number of expensive dinners on their horizon looks to significantly dwindle.
All this gets forgotten, of course, as soon as Club Miliband arrives at any given venue. The thrill of celebrity is thick on the air from the moment the security detail arrives, and even the bomb-squad sniffer dogs have been scampering up and down the halls with excitement (either it's excitement or there's something they're just not telling us). Everywhere he speaks, crowds of hopeful delegates and camera crews follow in his godly wake, waiting, just waiting for him to say something new. Anything new. Something hopeful, something fitting from the son of the man who wrote 'The State in Capitalist Society'. But no, there was nothing. Just a Blairite turn of phrase and Millie was away, avoiding the awkward questions with the flair of a schoolboy trained for power. He's shaved off the stupid little moustache, but he's still no Barack Obama.
We used to be more than this, and I'm coming to realise that it's this very thing - the glitter and privilege of power - that's been thrown in our eyes, divorcing us from our principles and our roots. In the week that big business was sent to the naughty step, in the week that the Telegraph - the Telegraph! - wondered if maybe Marx was right all along, let's remember where socialist politics began and what they were for. Let's remember that before it's far too late.

5 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I'm confused by the tone of this article... the irony/self-deprecation quotient is so high that I'm not sure at what point you are actually expressing your true opinion...?

    I mean, it's hardly breaking news that the labour party is not socialist in any meaningful sense of the word and has been moving rightwards for a long time. The careerist culture which you jokingly implicate yourself in ("I like my job") is an obvious reason for that.

    I guess what I'm saying is you seem too perceptive to be wasting your time with these people... but the undertone of this piece sounds like you feel more committed to the Labour party now than before? :-/

    Run, before it's too late!!

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  2. Don't worry, babe. If I find myself losing my soul, I'll jump ship, and I rely on my friends and people like you to give me the heads-up on that one. Thank you for the compliment though!

    So this seems cynical and tongue-in cheek? Well, I think that's the only reasonable response to the hypocrisy I'm seeing on the Labour stage every day. The trouble is, I don't want a Tory government, not even to bring the party back to its roots.

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  3. You know what the solution to this is, love. Come to the Lib Dem side. We have cookies ;)

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  4. I may not have been around for a lot of politics (Born 1990), but I can see that everything's going right. I'm exceptionally glad I'll be able to vote in the next election, and Lib Dem does seem to be the way forward.

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  5. I agree with Penny - dismal as this current manifestation of the Labour party is, they're still a sight better than the Tory alternative.

    And whilst the Lib Dems looked a possible alternative when they had a more radical tax policy they have caved in to the red tops' message of 'tax is bad'.

    Unless we are willing to invest in the NHS education (and invest in equipment and people - not management consultants) nothing will improve.

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