Dear Ed Miliband,
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this letter. I was very worried it would seem as if I were pulling a Bozier (“to pull a Bozier”; verb; to act like a pretentious and self-righteous wanker upon the leaving of a political party entirely for personal gain), but having spoken to several wonderful friends I have, I decided you needed to hear this.
Yesterday, I left the Labour party. I have been a member for more than 3 years. In those three years, have worked to the bone, I have screamed and shouted myself hoarse in arguments, I have volunteered for the party on several levels. I loved and still love Gordon Brown as a man who sought change and fought for what was right, even, sometimes, when that was not a popular idea.
I spent a lot of the leadership campaign working for you, although I was concerned that you lacked the charisma to appeal to a wide audience. I felt the public might perceive you as too far left, and how very wrong I turned out to be.
I think I need to tell you why I left the party, because I think you need to know. I think there are people that are as hurt as I am by what you’re doing to our party, and you should be listening to them, and you aren’t.
My hero is Aneurin Bevan. He is the greatest leader we never had, and his formulation of the NHS and refusal to compromise on its core principles is something which should be admired and aspired to. The idea of what he would say or think if he could see the Labour party this week makes me incredibly sad, because this is no longer the Labour of the NHS, or of the Welfare State. This is something entirely different.
The modern Labour Party is corrupt at every level. I’ve seen dozens of fixed and uncontestable elections. If you want to contribute, you have to be in the casual meeting in the back of a pub, not the formal meeting everyone else attends. People who attend that meeting don’t have to be committee members or elected; they just have to be friends with someone who is. Expressing your point of view or any problems you’re having is difficult and pointless. Egotistical, power-hungry men run riot through the whole system, building their careers around them. I was a candidate this year, and the effective psychological torture that came about from this corruption wore my health and my self-confidence down to nothing. People like me, who just want to make a difference and aren’t eying up their careers, back out.
The modern Labour Party is cold and opportunistic. You are seizing on Tory tactics, copying their policies and changing one clause. The “benefits cap” is just one example of this. There appears to be widespread public support, and so one of the aforementioned men who is itching for power makes the wonderful suggestion that it could boost Labour in the polls. Because that is all that matters, right? As long as you’re slightly to the left of the Tories? The general membership of the party is horrified and appalled – they read the real statistics. The benefits cap means that for a family with four children, after bills, the household will have 62p per person left each day. Could you live on that, Ed? Have you ever had to?
I can’t be a party to this anymore, I can’t add my name to your slate. You are compromising my beliefs, and this is not the Labour Party that I once knew and loved. The party of Bevan and Benn and Foot. The party that told people that there was hope, there was something to believe in and change and be inspired by. You have killed that now.
The support of the general membership, friends and comrades, has been inspiring and very comforting. This isn’t true of Labour Students, but I think I’ll let that one slide… You should be ashamed of yourself. You have some of the best people in the world, collected, putting their faith in you, and you are destroying it, bit by bit. Will you notice, before you have no one left?
I hope you do. I hope one day I will be able to return to you. But I can’t justify funding your policies anymore. I will not be a silent voice, assumed to be in agreement. Maybe if this happens enough, it will make you realise just what has happened.
“What is the point in democracy when both major parties are the same?”
Yours sincerely, for the last time,
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Yesterday, I was fully in solidarity with the public sector workers who stood and attempted to defend themselves from the Government’s almost ruthless attack on their rights and their futures. Thanks to their birth, and the wilful neglect of the private and banking sector during the boom, millions of British people are being asked to pay the price for the budget deficit. Frightened and desperate, they took to the picket line. Always a last resort, and sadly here, always necessary.
I watched as MPs I knew and loved came out in favour of the strike; John McDonnell, Katy Clark, Caroline Lucas. And I waited, and waited, and waited. I heard a couple of film analogies yesterday which sum up this wait perfectly; in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the final battle where you know they will lose without Aslan, and you wait and wait for Aslan, knowing he’ll save the day. Only there was no majestic lion to symbolise the struggle of the workers; the people waited and waited, and got nothing. The Labour Party failed those who had placed their hope in them yesterday. Ed Miliband laughed at the palace with the architects of his followers’ misery whilst faith in the party burned.
Dear Ed Miliband.
I love the Labour Party, more than I love almost anything else in the world, and I will keep faith in it until the very end. But how can I answer the people who say I’m decieving myself? How can I respond to those people who say you don’t care about them anymore? How can I stand on their doorsteps and ask them to vote for us now? How can I convince them that you are, as I believe, going to make a fantastic Prime Minister, if only they’ll give you that chance?
Please, please, tell me that.
Yours ever faithfully,
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1. Gain a reputation as an anti-Blairite and find yourself somewhat disliked by the Blairites.
2. Gain a reputation as a staunch Brownite and find yourself somewhat disliked by both the Blairites and the Anti-Blairites.
3. Write a blog that is not overly keen on Ed Miliband, and find yourself likely disapproved of by the New Generation.
Two down, one to go. So let’s go for it.
I am rarely evangelical about any topic. I will criticise anyone. I criticised Gordon Brown on the 10p tax rate, I criticised Paramore on the second half of Brand New Eyes, I criticised the student protesters on violence, I criticised the Labour Party on the electoral college, and guess what? I’m about to criticise Ed Miliband.
I’ll take you back to the point just a teensy bit prior to that. At the start of the leadership campaign, I liked Ed Miliband. I worked for him. But, according to the membership of the Labour Party, David Miliband won the election. I was sat in the announcement. I heard the reactions, I had fingernail marks in my cheeks – but this didn’t feel like a victory for anyone. This felt like a victory had been stolen from David Miliband, created by the Unions.
There are two problems with this – one, it gave the right of the party a real reason to dislike the very left-wing ties we have with the unions. I love the Unions. But finally, finally, the right of the party (most of whom, admittedly, supported David Miliband) had a REASON to disapprove of the Unions. This makes their arguments powerful, it gives them reason and substance. The party needs the unions, but is also a broad church – and because of their apparent power, they could be disconnected and disregarded by half of the congregation: creating separation and a divided Labour Party. Perfect. I’ve been waiting for the 80s to come back.
The second problem is simply a question of fairness. I saw how hard the Ed Miliband volunteers worked. I can only imagine that the volunteers for every candidate worked just as hard. It seems almost ridiculously unfair that the vote, after all this hard work, should be decided by electors whom the volunteers had no details for. No campaign team had union membership lists, or SS membership lists. There could be no canvassing, no convincing, no ability to show how hard a team could work – from any team.
The introduction of the new voting system in 1993 was a revolutionary breakthrough; but it was not enough. At the time of the leadership election, I was a member of the Labour Party ; as such, I was able to cast one vote. Harriet Harman was able to cast 7. I think the record I’ve seen so far is someone with 13 votes, and this, in a democracy, is of course ridiculous. I would be a member of many more socialist societies if I had the money, but I simply don’t. And I would not want the extra vote. It feels like cheating.
(For interest purposes, I would now have 5 votes. Woo.)
The Unions are an incredible asset to our party and are the foundation it is built on – but what we have to remember is that they are not members of our party. The most suitable leader for the Unions, and the most suitable leader for the members are often different; and why shouldn’t they be? Whilst our interests are similar they are rarely exactly the same. The unions represent one section of society. The party must, if it wishes to be in power, represent everyone.
Members of Unions who agree with the Labour Party should be part of our movement, of course, intrinsically – but they should do it from the inside. Most of the members of Unions (the turnout, by the way, was ridiculously low) who vote in these elections are also members of the Labour Party. Why not make it a requirement? Why not give them incentives to join us? Of course the Unions should be able to back a candidate. But they don’t need an election. If the Labour Party will insist on using a collegiate system of election, then there should only be two colleges : the PLP and the CLP. The party itself.
So, let’s reform the system, says Ed. Great!, says I. Let’s add ANOTHER college of non-members!, says Ed. Oh God, says I.
I simply do not understand this suggestion. In his opening speech, Ed stated he wanted us to become a party of mass membership; I would love to see that too. There’s nothing I love better than engagement. So what on earth is this?
One of the massive pros of being a member of the Labour party is the ability to vote in elections; to have your voice heard and make sure the party truly represents you. That is why we gained so many members over the summer, core supporters finally wanting to make their voice heard. So why, if you want members, make it so that your core supporters can vote in Leadership Elections? Why not persuade them to join the party? Why not lower the cost of joining the party? Our core supporters, like the unions, should be at the heart of the party. Not pushing from the outside in.
At the end of the day, the party needs a voice, like every leadership candidate, particularly the Milibands, promised. But when I am clearly already devoted to the party, and the public and the Unions are shouting too, who’s going to listen to me?
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On Thursday evening I sat, heart beating madly, and watched the votes come on for the Tuition Fees rise. I could hear Tweetdeck in the background as everyone else I knew did the same thing. In the back of my mind, I could hear the chanting from the streets of London that I’d just been watching on BBC News, and been following on Twitter. I did not like believing what I was hearing.
There seems, to me, a very distinct difference between the coalition’s opinion of the word “fair” and mine. Fair is not pricing education according to standard. Fair is not a mortgage-size debt for getting an education. Fair is not lack of access programs for underpriveledged kids. Fair is not 9,000 students being forcibly kettled, trampled, and beaten whilst 21 men in suits tutted and took their futures away. 28, to be in fact. So what the hell is this?
I’m afraid this is unfair. This is beyond unfair – it’s catastrophic. After all the work done, for the past 50 years, to reduce the social stratification in this country, one paper has taken all the hope away from those who had only just realised they were just as good as the children Westminster and Eton, those who have only just recovered from a culture where education wasn’t for them, and realised it is their only escape from the poverty trap.
I felt sick. My heart hurt. I ached for my little sister, for everyone with the misfortune to be two years younger than me, and to have to feel the brunt force of Tory ideology crashing down on their heads; just as hard as a policeman’s baton.
On Thursday night, I cried my eyes out as I watched heartbroken kids chant “The Tories fucked our lives”, because it’s true, and they have a right to be angry. The Tories, among whose number Nick Clegg and the rest of the “Liberals” who walked through the aye door without even casting their eyes at the students in the crush outside are definitely counted, have. And there’s only one solution.
I dried my eyes, and I picked up my phone. I watched as the Twitpics flowed, image after image of torn, burnt Liberal Democrat membership cards. And I mobilized. I rang every member in the North West whose email address was missing from my list. I rang and tried to get a server so I could email them all. I sat, rearranging spreadsheets, ringing round, desperate to mobilize a mass group of young, and undoubtedly angry activists, to change something.
My sister is 13 years old. She can’t do this for herself – she barely even realises what’s just happened, that whilst she was busy doing her Art homework in her dressing gown someone decided to treble the trouble she’s going to have in life – just because she’s in our family, from our background. I won’t stand for that. I won’t stand for anything like that. I know the tuition fee rise may not affect me personally. But I’m not fighting for myself; that’s not the way of the Labour Party, not at all. I’m fighting for the people who can’t fight for themselves.
We overturned the poll tax. So get out on the streets, out onto Social Media. Join the Labour Party. Grit your teeth and raise your placard and tell the Government that we aren’t standing for it. They aren’t fighting for their children; we are. And that makes us better people than them. So go on. Go.
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I joined the Labour Party when I was sixteen, and as such, I sort of expected a fireworks show when I joined.
In actual fact, I did receive a phonecall thanking me for joining and inviting me to meetings – it was from my old school Governor, who was also a councillor, and who had only found out that I had joined because my mother had told him. My old CLP was quite a small one in regard to membership, and when I joined I was the youngest member in the area for a very long time, and by at least 20 years. As such, they were really keen on me joining in – at one point my local councillor actually came to my house to ask me to come to the next ward meeting.
I went to that ward meeting, and if you’re a member of the Labour party, I don’t think I have to tell you what it was like. There were 4 people there, and we stuck to the agenda to the tee. A chair was nominated, as the actual chair hadn’t shown up, and then we went through the lengthy and horrifically boring agenda for the two hours of the meeting. 10 minutes were set aside to review the minutes from the last meeting – minutes that most of us had already had in our possession for 2 weeks.
There was nothing really inspiring about this view of the Labour Party, and I didn’t go to a ward meeting again. Everything was very closed, grey and intimidating. The last straw was a local by-election, where the same CLP basically laid into another teenager, intimidating and frightening him because of a stupid blog post whilst leafleting for the Lib Dems. I realised that the ward simply had no interest in involving young people, and to a great degree disliked them.
I left the Labour Party.
When I moved to my current ward, Levenshulme, in Manchester Gorton CLP, I very tentatively joined the Labour Party again. This time, there were no fireworks and no phonecalls. As such, apart from my membership card, there was nothing really to make me feel involved in the Labour Party at all, until Manchester Young Labour was set up and suddenly there was something for me to be involved in. Within the ward, there was nothing for me however, the new ward secretary took over. Now, I could sing her praises all day, but all you really need to know about Kate is she’s very devoted to relational thinking.
The first ward meeting I was invited to I skipped for revision, assuming it would be like all the rest and I would be left alone – but Kate persisted. She sent me texts, letters, emails, all inviting me to come – how could I resist? I went to my first meeting here in June.
The meeting was at 7 – and every member was invited to begin arriving from 6, in order to get acquainted with each other. Everyone was given a cup of tea, and around the room small conversations blossomed and people began to interact with people they didn’t know. I was in a conversation about Unions and Compass. By the time the meeting was due to start, there were nearly 20 people there.
Now, I’ve never known they Labour Party to be like this – we sat in a circle, not in rows, and one of the members – not an officer – introduced himself and invited the person next to him to do the same thing. We went round the whole room, and all of a sudden I realised how relaxed an environment I was in. They passed a single copy of the agenda round, and then began talking.
We didn’t talk in line with the agenda – we just talked as the conversation dictated, and then as the meeting came to a close, we checked the agenda to see if we’d missed anything. This might seem a very unorthadox way to hold ward meetings – but I tell you, I’ve never seen a more fantastic turnout in ward meetings, and I try not to miss them for anything.
The movement for this – relational rather than bureaucratic grassroot politics – is a growing thing. It’s been lit up by the Movement for Change campaign and I have nothing but praise for the movement. In my training with the campaign, I found how quickly you could make friends in an environment that would normally be stoic and cold, just by changing the tone of a meeting. I was reminded of my ward meetings, and the difference that makes to our grassroots.
The thing I love about the Movement for Change is how inclusive it is – you don’t have to be a bureaucrat to be interested in politics anymore. You don’t have to know people in high places to have other people acknowledge your existence, to have local people of authority knowing your name. It provides basic members, and especially young members, with a huge amount of power they’d never had before.
I do sincerely believe that the only way to move the party forward is a transition from bureaucracy to relationships. Forging relationships in the community is what’s important, not writing letters of support. Getting your members out on the doorstep is hugely more important than delivering leaflets. And interacting with and befriending your members locally is the only way to empower the grassroots.
Our membership leapt forward in the aftermath of the general election. Let’s keep up that trend, by making ourselves appealing to everyone. We know we’re appealing with our policies – now let’s make our actions speak louder than words for the first time, and show every Labour voter why it’s so inspiring and worthwhile to be a member of the Labour Party.
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If any of you follow me (@calamitykate) on Twitter, you will have noticed a pattern emerging in my tweets. It usually follows this format:
Dear [arbitrary object]. [Angry remark]. Regards, Kate.
Well, today’s arbitrary object is The Daily Mail, and my angry remark relates to this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1299315/For-goodness-sake-Sarah-Gordon-Blue-Harbour.html.
If you don’t want to taint your eyes with it, it is basically a scornful report on how Gordon Brown still wears a suit, even on weekends out with his boys (oh the shame!) complete with picture. It then goes on to point out that this wasn’t a weekend out but was in fact an official opening of an event. Um…
I think this article summarizes everything that I despise about the Daily Mail. This isn’t the first time they’ve made the focus of their political criticism clothing – in fact, they do it regularly. Sarah Brown’s trip to a Women’s Summit in a temple resulted in – instead of an article on the women’s summit itself – an article on how ugly her feet are. Welcome to 21st Century Feminism.
I don’t see why a national newspaper that isn’t considered a tabloid can see this as a story worthy of publishing, and what’s more can see any way in which it’s their – or the public’s – business. More importantly than political allegiances or anything else, can we not just leave the poor man be? To quote him, though it makes me teary to do so, he has been humiliated enough.
Dear Gordon. I’m glad you look so happy and calm now. Don’t stop wearing your suit. Much love, Kate.
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This government has gone to war with Labour’s so-called big-brother state. They’ve scrapped ID cards, they’ve placed tighter restrictions on CCTV, there’s a whole new set of restrictions on the keeping of DNA. Welcome to the era of civil liberties. Now, I’m not going to argue the toss for these initiatives – that isn’t the point here. What I’m going to argue the point for is consistency.
Megan’s Law came into effect in 1994 in New Jersey, after the murder of Megan Kanka by a registered sex offender who had lived across the road from her, with two other sex offenders, for several years. Megan’s Law is a requirement of sex offenders to register, to notify government of any change of address, no chance of parole on reoffense, and, most importantly, the ability to notify communities when a sex offender moved into their area.
Crimes which constitute as a “sex offense” : paedophilia. kaedophilia. incest. rape. statutory rape. sexual assault. grooming. indecent exposure.
This is by no means a complete list, but it highlights the point I want to make; if a drunk lad urinates in the street and someone sees him, suddenly, according to Louisa County Sheriff’s Department, he’s a paedophile (and isn’t permitted to live within the city limits). Now, not that I’m condoning public urination, but surely we understand the difference between the two..?
As history has demonstrated, clearly not. In 2001, a paediatrician in Gwent came home to find the word PAEDO crudely graffittied across her door by someone who had evidently only read five letters before letting their brain finish the word and gone on a course of vigilante action. She moved to a different part of the country shortly after.
Sarah’s Law, named after Sarah Payne who was abducted and murdered by a registered sex offender when she was eight years old, is a law which parallels Megan’s Law and is due to be expanded in the UK by Spring 2011. Under Sarah’s law, parents would have a right to know of any sex offenders who have any access to their children – which includes people living on the same streets as them. What Sarah’s Law seems to fail to outline is what sort of offence was committed by the offender who you suddenly know the details of; and due to the nature of the law, the automatic assumption is that all those people who have done something stupid whilst drunk are suddenly child rapists.
I should probably point out at this stage that I am in no way condoning any action that gets someone onto the sex offenders register. What I am saying is that you can’t assume just because someone is on the register, they want to molest your children. Even people convicted of paedophilia very often complete their sentences and never reoffend – only 2.5% of all people on the sex offenders register reoffend after release, and reoffence in this context also covers missing a sign-on or a parole meeting. Perhaps the greatest thing that is removed from those on the register by Sarah’s Law is the right to redemption.
A 2008 legislation analysis of Megan’s Law (“Megan’s Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Efficacy”) found that (to cut a long paper short) it had literally no effect on reoffence or new crimes committed. It was considered, by the paper, a waste of money to implement and to maintain.
Where the Government seeks to promote civil liberties in one area, it simply seeks to compromise them in another. The right to privacy is a hugely promoted ideal by both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat party. Surely they can see that this is the ultimate compromising of privacy? Just because someone has a conviction does not stop them being a human being.
This brings me rather nicely onto my next topic of discussion. My brother is in prison for petty crime. A repetitive shoplifter, he was finally caught and given 3 months imprisonment. Whilst my brother is in prison, his throat is slashed by another prisoner with the razorblade and my brother is permanently scarred. After recovery, he decides that he wants to sue the prison service for damages, because they have not met his requirement for care and have placed him in a position which endangered his life and he should have been protected from. Is he wrong to do so? Of course he isn’t.
So why is Ian Huntley?
I’m going to play a rather unpopular card here (as Sally Bercow was so brave to do on Twitter in response to this news story) and remind the general populus that Ian Huntley is still a human being. If this had been a prisoner number, rather than a name, there would not be the level of public outrage that is currently prevailing. Ian Huntley, of course, creates a strong reaction in everyone; I can appreciate that. But the fact that he should have to live – even in prison – in constant fear for his life, is sickening. What’s more sickening is our “empowering” Government saying they are going to resist his appeal at every turn – not because he’s wrong to be appealing, but because he’s Ian Huntley, and therefore is of course sub-human.
Huntley committed a heinous crime, and he will probably spend the rest of his days in prison – as well he should. But that’s for the justice system to decide, not the other prisoners who have also committed crimes and are by no means prize pigs themselves. We are a liberal, respectable country, and as such we treat all human beings with dignity and respect. Just because he has not proved himself to be respectable in that manner does not mean we have to degrade ourselves to his level.
I am afraid, Iain Dale, you’re wrong again. How surprising.
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