What’s left to say?
After Labour’s summer of madness and the first bizarre, chaotic weeks of Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, it’s hard to feel anything more than numbness at the daily digest of political missteps and pratfalls that now define the party of which I’ve been a member for 31 years.
What’s left except perhaps to hide under the duvet and hope that you, or perhaps the country, will wake from this nightmare soon.
Then Catherine West prodded me out from under the duvet. The new Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister was reported as having told a meeting of Stop the War activists that Labour would consult them before deciding how it would vote on any future motion on military action in Syria.
Consult. Stop the War.
My, that red mist is a pretty colour, innit?
With the kind of efficiency and professionalism that would put Alastair Campbell to shame, the Labour press office roared into action. And said nothing. For 12 hours. Some sources claimed Ms West had actually been addressing her promises of consultation to Syrians in the room. But then, having finally worked out how to log onto their Sinclair ZXs and operate the fax machine, HQ was on the case: “Yes, we’ll consult with Stop the War.”
Words cannot do justice to this situation, but I’ll give it a go.
Have you ever seen a Stop The War march? It’s as if the bar tender in the Star Wars cantina suddenly shouted, “Time, please gentlemen, drink up your blue milk and get out!” and the patrons had nowhere else to go. All human life is there, apart from the human life with an ounce of sense. They’re at home watching the rugby. Pacifists, Greenies, Marxists, Trots and, of course, Islamists – representing the homophobes, misogynists and amalgamated anti-semites. What do they want? Whatever America doesn’t. When do they want it? Whatever timescale will annoy America.
These are not people who represent a broad cross-section of civic society, like the Rotary, or the Women’s Institute. Or Al Quaeda. These are the kind of people who, if they’re not shouting “Tory scum!” and threatening young women with rape as they walk into Conservative conference, are justifying such putrid behaviour on their Twitter accounts. These are people who would rather take sides with Putin, or Hamas and IRA terrorists than with any democratic government, especially any democratic government of the hated West.
And now they’ll have a say in Labour’s defence and foreign affairs policies.
And Labour still expect to be taken seriously as a potential government? Really? Don’t they understand there are Student Union presidents up and down the country shaking their heads in dismay at Labour’s immaturity?
So why don’t I just leave?
It’s tempting, I’ll admit. And it is embarrassing when people find out I’m still a member; that tilt of the head and the sympathetic smile that says, “Ah, bless.”
I often ask myself what the point of staying in the Labour Party is when there’s no prospect of their forming a government. And my first answer to that is usually, well, I’m also a member of the National Trust for Scotland and I don’t expect them to be in government any time soon either.
But two things keep me in, for the moment at least: sentimentality is one. Being a Labour Party member has defined my entire adult life – what would I be outside it?
But the second thing is bloody mindedness. Every sensible, moderate person who – for perfectly understandable and noble reasons – walks away leaves space for the practitioners of idiocy who increasingly make up the party membership. And in the same way that a coma patient’s loved one might resist the doctor’s advice to pull the plug, I still live in hope of a sign of recovery – the twitch of a finger, the flicker of an eyelid, a remotely sensible policy proposal…
But patience and tolerance are finite. My fear is that my party will dismiss the concerns of one ex-Labour MP without understanding that an awful lot of voters are as appalled by the idea of Stop The War-made policy as I am.
This article was originally published by the Daily Telegraph.