It’s been a while
Posted on May 10, 2010
When I was a member of the Labour Party it was back when Clause IV was an integral part of its constitution, and when it was still being printed on the back of the Party membership card.
In other words, it was a long long time ago.
In fact I first joined the Labour Party as a teenager in the early 1980s, when Thatcher had been in power for a few years, and when it was already becoming clear to me that no matter how much my dad tried to talk her up as the best thing that could have ever happened to the country, there was no way she had the interests of people like us at heart. And yeah, it’s been a long time coming, but can I just say for the record – I told you so, Dad.
So anyway, for a few years there I was: active in the Labour Party Young Socialists (as well as a brief membership of the National Organisation of Labour Students); involved in the local Labour Party Women’s Group; a regular attendee at local Party meetings, and at the grand old age of 21 being mooted as a potential candidate for the local council elections – a position for which I refused to stand, I hasten to add.
By the late 80s though my activism had begun to wane. Don’t get me wrong, I still kept up with what was happening, but I was too preoccupied with my young family and with worrying about how we were going to keep a roof over our heads to be bothering with all those meetings and things. Plus, I’d had enough of seeing some of my most committed and principled comrades being witch-hunted and hounded out of the Party, and I was starting to lose heart with the rightward direction in which the Party was so obviously going.
Eventually then, by the time Blair had purged Clause IV and turned socialism into a dirty word, my Labour Party membership had lapsed.
And I never took it up again.
Until now that is.
Because yesterday morning I did what I never ever thought I’d do again: I rejoined the Labour Party.
And I know I’m not the only one.
I’m not sure I can even explain why I’ve done it, beyond that it just feels right, like now’s the right time. It just feels like after all these years of arguing with trade union colleagues that no, I don’t think it’s better to be “inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in;” after years of feeling completely alienated from everything New Labour and its proponents stand for, from being made to feel that there’s no place in the Party for old-school working class socialists like me, it just feels like there’s a change in the air, and that now is the time some of us have been waiting for.
I also accept that there’s an element of tribalism about it. That there’s a sense that the Labour Party may not be perfect (and god knows I’ve made my views clear on that score), that even though it’s let down so many of us, and betrayed so many of its core principles in the last 13 years, a sense that fuck it, this is still our Labour Party, it’s still the only true party of the working class, and we’re not going to let it go down without a bloody good fight.
I laughed a few months ago when I found myself listed by Ian Dale as one of the top 20 Labour tweeters. And I found it a surreal experience to see myself included in the Daily Mirror’s “We follow: Labour on Twitter” election widget:
But now I’m beginning to wonder if, despite my constant protestations that the Labour Party had nothing left to offer people like me, my party loyalties have been crystal clear to others all along. If it’s a “you can take the woman out of the party, but you can never take the party out of the woman” type of thing.
I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that when I tweeted about my decision last night, one of the first responses I got back was from a Labour Party member saying “Welcome home”.
And do you know what? That’s exactly how it feels: it feels like I’ve finally come home.
Now I’m realistic (or cynical) enough to know that my budding new relationship may well turn to nothing. It could all turn to shit and I could easily end up with egg all over my face. But it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.
Because like I said, there’s a change in the air, and just like Martin Bright, I too “would like to be involved in whatever it is that happens next.”
And because I’ve been outside the tent for long enough.