Yesterday I broke the habit of a lifetime and joined a political party.
I handed over £25 to become a registered supporter of the Labour Party so I can vote in the upcoming leadership election and try to restore some order to the party and provide genuine opposition to parliamentary politics in the UK.
I spent the first 27 years of my working life as a journalist. Call me old-fashioned, but I never thought it appropriate or savvy for anyone working in the media to be a member of a political party, any political party, because hostages to fortune and all that.
Times have changed – boy, have they ever.
Disclosure: In my voting lifetime, I have voted Labour, Green, independent, hell even SNP on one occasion that still brings me out in hives. However, I haven’t put my cross beside the Labour party since the 2001 general election. The war in Iraq and the blatant disregard for the overwhelming public opposition finished me with Labour.
I was 14 when Thatcher’s Conservatives came to power. It took 18 long, long years to unseat the party that considers itself the natural rulers of Britain.
The Blair years have been dissected in enough detail everywhere else. Suffice to say, there are a whole lot of good things – a whole lot of poverty elimination, a whole lot of equality giving, a whole lot of equitable redistribution through tax credits etc – that put plenty in the plus side to try and balance the dreadful deficit that is Iraq.
I don’t want – nor do I have time – to wait out another generation of Tory rule while the Labour party destroys itself from top to bottom, left to right and every nook and cranny in between in a factional war.
The EU Leave vote still devastates me a month on. I want, need, demand a coherent, strong opposition in parliament to hold the government to account on every single decision, every step they take toward Brexit and toward whatever economic calamity they are going to visit upon ordinary people.
Endless protests in Parliament Square won’t achieve that.
So, having bitched and moaned and, yes, even cried, yesterday I swallowed hard, got out my bank card and joined the Labour Party. If you have £25 and you care about democracy and stopping the onset of one-party rule in the UK*, I hope you can do the same.
Right now I know next to nothing about Owen Smith, who is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, aside from the fact that he‘s against Brexit and pro a second EU referendum – which does endear him to this committed europhile.
Smith has about six weeks to convince me and thousands of others he has coherent and workable policies that appeal to a broad swathe of voters, that he has the backing of the parliamentary party, members and activists, and that he’s serious about both opposing the current government vehemently and actually winning power to put his own policies into action.
It’s a big ask. I hope he’s up to the job because the alternative under the frankly hapless Corbyn is a continuation of the all talk, not action that means nothing to those of us who want a credible opposition and those who desperately need that opposition.
Because otherwise we’re looking at the next decade of this…
*I realise many of my friends and families have zero interest in the future of the UK because their focus is on an independent Scotland. This is for those of us for whom that is not an option.