If you want to change the Labour party then join us and change it from within.
This has been the call over the past decade or so from those still within the party responding to the fall out over the Nu Labour years.
Well guess what?
When you actually follow their advice, they don’t want to change the old power structures.
The Labour party is still a lumpen beast of a machine that still doesn’t understand that real change only comes from the bottom up.
I have followed the Labour leadership contest with great interest. At first I thought it was just another cosmetic beauty contest to carry on with the old guard.
Back in the summer of 2010 I attended the Brixton hustings for the Gang of Five. It was clear then that the message of change was still a long way off.
Like many people, I initially dismissed Jeremy Corbyn’s involvement as a token gesture from the right of the party to appear to be democratic. At least he appeared to be a credible alternative to fill the comedy seat sat in by Diane Abbott back in 2010.
But then as the campaign started to develop, the credibility of Corbyn started to rise. He spoke about the type of Labour values that I have always held.
It’s too simplistic to sum this up as a grass roots movement. But anything that supports a shift away from the careerist crowd that has come to control the political circles that I observe, has to be a good thing.
And so if you want to change the Labour party, then change it from within.
I bought into the message. Having long since resigned my Labour party membership, I decided that I was now ready to enter the fold once again.
I registered to become an official supporter of the Labour party as there was finally a candidate that believed in the same values that I have always held.
Plus I was becoming increasingly interested in what Christian Wolmar had to say as part of his campaign to become the Labour candidate for the Mayor of London.
I’ve listened to Wolmar speak at meetings and have been impressed with his level of understanding when it comes to cycling in the capital.
I was ready to help change the party from within, and to campaign to kick out a Tory government and a Tory Mayor of London.
And then this morning I heard:
“We have reason to believe you not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party.”
It has taken me a long, hard personal process to resolve that the Labour party is once again an organisation that I can campaign for. It took a quick email this morning to reverse that belief.
My application has been rejected. No specific reasons have been given, no right of reply.
It has led me to question: what exactly is a Labour party value in 2015?
For a party that was rejected on a mass scale at the ballot box only three months ago, you would have hoped that a Labour value is something different to what the dogmatic party machine has been pushing out for the past couple of decades.
My own involvement with the Labour movement started over thirty years ago back in Nottingham. Perhaps I should have seen then that my support for the miners wasn’t exactly a Labour value.
But I stuck with the cause, and the party. I campaigned for Labour in the 1987 General Election.
I attended rallies and admit to even having a bit of an “Well ALLRIGHTTTTT!!!!!” moment when listening to Glenys Kinnock.
The ’87 defeat was a crushing blow for my young idealism. I carried on supporting the Labour party throughout college and University, being a Labour rep on the NUS whilst studying for my ‘A’ Levels, and then being a party member at the very active Essex University branch.
Along came Mr Tony soon after, and my Labour values didn’t appear to chime with his. I carried on supporting the party in name, but not in membership.
The move to South London came in 1995. I voted for the party locally, but soon became aware that it was controlled by the extreme right wing of the Labour movement.
And that has pretty much been the Me and the Labour Party story for the past two decades.
Lambeth is a special case when it comes to Labour party politics. From the outside the misguided tag of Loony Lambeth still sticks. The harsh reality is that all three CLP’s are tightly controlled by the right wing Progress group.
For many people locally, it still is very much Loony Lambeth, albeit at the other extreme of the political spectrum.
It has become a breeding ground for right wing twonks, keen to pass the work experience test at the Town Hall, and then feel entitled to a seat in nearby Westminster.
It worked for the Progress MP for Lambeth South / Croydon North. There is no shortage of other political careerists queuing up to play out their political fantasies in Lambeth, in the hope of the larger political prize.
Meanwhile it is some of the poorest residents in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country that suffer.
Six estates are being ‘regenerated.’ At Cressingham Gardens this means that we have a Labour party being able to boast that is can deliver new housing where 15% will be available at council rent, compared to a whopping 60% for the private sector.
We have a ‘Co-operative Council‘ that wants to close two libraries and stop funding three others whilst passing on the responsibility to residents.
Local people have been asked to find £9m for the parks budget. An optimistic crowd-funding route has been suggested by the Labour group.
If you dare to question any of these ultra-Blairite policies then the standard line of “Conservative cuts” comes back at you. The real looney legacy in Lambeth is that the local Tories are often left speechless at the actions of the right wing agenda of the local Labour party.
I want to play my part in helping to challenge these policies. By nature I am not a Conservative. I want to change these policies from within.
I have never been a member of a political party other than the Labour party. I now find that at a time when it appears that the party is actually open to change and opening up the rigid party structure, then apparently I don’t support Labour party values.
Of course I have been dobbed in by my Progress controlled local ward. Remember what Comrade Kinnock had to say about a ‘party within a party?’
I started a petition because I think we should take time to weed out entryists. Result – hard left threatening to deselect me!
— Cllr Alex Bigham (@alexbigham) August 13, 2015
— Jason_Cobb (@Jason_Cobb) August 13, 2015
Thankfully not everyone within my CLP is so resistant to change and new ideas. My local MP Kate Hoey has very kindly contacted Harriet Harman on my behalf:
“Jason is exactly the kind of person on we need in the Labour Party and I can only agree with him that perhaps because he has made an enemy in a senior Lambeth Councillor he is being unfairly victimised. I want to place on record my deep concern at his exclusion and believe that it should be challenged.”
— Kate Hoey (@KateHoeyMP) August 20, 2015
You can change the Labour party from within, but only if the limits of change are tightly controlled by the parameters of the right wing of the party. I’m not sure if I want to be part of such an obsessive organisation to be honest.
How did a political movement founded on the values of equality become so paranoid about participation? Who does it represent? The members and supporters, or the Progress mob who are desperately hanging on for power?
I spent a decade fighting Thatcherism. I now find myself still carrying on that fight, only the real Enemy Within is the right wing of my political party that refuses to accept change.
Plus do I get my £3 back please?