Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Labour doesn't represent me any more

I have voted Labour at every election since I gained my majority, and became a member of the Labour Party around 1990. I am now going to leave the party, and will not be voting for them at future elections. This is not a decision I've reached easily, so I wanted to explain some of my reasons. From conversations with other people, I know I'm not alone.

I have multiple sclerosis and other long-term conditions. I wish I was well enough to work, but I know I'm not. I don't think I'll ever work again, unless there's something I can do from home, for one or two hours each week, and entirely under my own control as and when I feel well enough.


That being the case, I don't think it's extreme to expect society to provide me, and other long-term sick and disabled people, with support. After all, we consider ourselves to be a civilised country, and as Mahatma Ghandi said:
A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.
According to its website, the first and second values on which the Labour Party stands are social justice and strong community & social values. So Labour must agree that sick and disabled people should be supported, right?

Well...it's hard to tell, really. It was the Labour Party which awarded the contract for the unfit for purpose Work Capability Assessments to the iniquitous Atos. They have not, until recently, spoken up against the Welfare Reform Act, which has forced so many genuinely disabled people into abject poverty, and the fear of which has caused many people, sadly, to kill themselves.

Party leader Ed Milliband has relied too much on "I met a man who..." rhetoric, rather than engaging with the issues and meeting those with first-hand knowledge of living with long-term sickness and disability. Was the party trying too hard to keep the support of the middle ground, poisoned as they were by media and ConDem stories of benefit scroungers?

Through all this, and other issues (that's just the one most personal to me), I kept my faith with the Labour Party.

As I write this, the House of Commons is debating emergency legislation brought in by the government so that they don't have to pay back benefit owed to jobseekers after the Poundland workfare ruling. It seems obvious how Labour would vote in this debate. Labour, yes? It's a debate about the use of people's labour. Whether people deserve to be paid for...their labour. The Labour party came out of the whole workers' rights movement. And think back to those values: Social justice. Community and social values.

Well, the Labour Party have told their MPs to abstain.Yep, not vote at all. I mean...what?


So, Labour Party, it's not me, it's you. You walked away from me. You don't represent me any more. I'll be resigning my membership. Ironically, it looks like I'll be abstaining in future elections, as there's no other party I could bring myself to vote for.

And that's the end of me and Labour.

14 comments:

  1. They're just scared to speak the truth for fear of alienating voters. The three main parties have lost track of what they're supposed to stand for. I still want to vote, but hope I don't have to send in a blank slip

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  2. Well said Margot. Labour have screwed themselves with this, and I've seen many people say they will not be voting for them anymore.
    It appears there is no party for the people anymore. I dread to think what will happen at the next election.

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  3. In 1997 I would have voted Labour if I weren't 16 days too young to vote. But because I believed in their principles I put a "vote Labour" poster up in my bedroom window to encourage others to vote the vote that I was denied on the grounds of not having been born 16 days earlier.

    In 2001 I would have voted Labour if not for the need for tactics. I lived in a Tory constituency and the 2nd party were Lib Dems. With Labour being only in 3rd place I figured an LD vote more likely to dislodge the incumbent Tory.

    But I have had absolutely no desire to vote Labour since then. And haven't. In 2005 I was relieved I wasn't registered to vote (had just moved house) because I didn't have to pick as not one was worth voting for.

    I live in a v safe Labour seat now so my vote doesn't really matter anyway. But I voted LD in 2010 in part because I was gullible, but mainly in protest at my MP's moderately homophobic voting history. (I was pleased to notice that he has evolved and did vote in favour of equal marriage recently.)

    The only thing that could get me to vote Labour in 2015 would be if they scrap PIP. If assessments of us indefinite-ers isn't until autumn 2015 and Labour come in in May 2015, they could just pull the plug. But unless they vow to do that then I'm voting Green.

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  4. I feel exactly the same. I have always voted for them, since 18. This was the last straw for me.

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  5. I could have written the firs paragraph about myself. I feel as if I am in mourning today, for a set of values that no longer exist, and for a community of people who will be left to die by the very people who claim to represent them.

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  6. Well said. It's sad, it's pathetic and it's wrong - this complete denial of core values. I'm no longer in the party, carried on voting, but will have to abstain in future. As trabasack says, it's the last straw.

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  7. Yes, the last straw for me too. They will no longer get my vote. Shame on those MPs who sold themselves.

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  8. Perhaps I ought to add that at least some Labour MPs stuck with their principles and should be acknowledged.

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  9. I wrote the following the other day about the need for the Lib Dems to get rid of tainted candidates (that is, most sitting MPs) if they are to stand a chance of not being almost wiped out in 2015: Lib Dems Must Act againt Back-Door Tories. In my area the Lib Dems are the only serious opposition to the Tories, and for former Lib Dem voters to vote Green or even Labour will just mean we get a real Tory again. And a Tory-only government will mean the attacks on the welfare state go much further, and we lose the Human Rights Act and possibly even the ECHR, we may pull out of the EU, we lose Scotland (because leaving the EU and ditching the HRA and/or ECHR will settle things in favour of independence north of the border) and we turn into an isolated little backwater. The best we can hope for after the election is a Labour/Lib Dem coalition, and we cannot rely on UKIP taking Tory votes, because the Tories may well make those seats up with former Lib Dem seats. By all means don't maintain your membership (it's not a democratic party and they do not value freedom of speech - if you publicly suggest voting other than for their candidate, they will throw you out), but don't be tempted not to vote. A non-vote isn't a vote for "none of the above", it's a vote for "whoever".

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  10. In the end, Labour abstained. Forty-four backbenchers voted against the whip - a substantial rebellion.
    The Labour left, like yourself, are very angry about what they see as yet another betrayal by the Labour leadership; the beyond-Labour left are further alienated - I cannot help but think that it was a mistake to abstain.
    Liam Byrne wrote in the Huffington Post about why they chose to abstain. It is a confused article, which muddles the topic-in-question with general attacks on IDS and the DWP. But the general brunt of his argument seems to be:
    1. the Poundland ruling not only overturned the Poundland case, it removed the DWP's right-of-sanction; this would have enervated the department and made a quarter of a million decisions illegal - so to save the rule of government, the Labour Party had to be responsible and reaffirm the DWP's right to sanction. If this is true, then it is a very strong argument - Labour had no alternative.
    2. Labour seems to have prized a right-to-appeal out of the government, perhaps as a quid-pro-quo. This kind of horse-trading may be part of day-to-day government, but it is seen by the left as double-dealing.
    Part of the problem is that the Labour leadership has utterly failed to explain itself in a way which justifies its actions to the man-in-the-street. So we are left, once again, with the feeling that we are demanding one set of things, and that the leadership are ignoring us. This engenders a lack of trust which is most damaging.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/liam-byrne/workfare-vote-liam-byrne_b_2908861.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false
    I hope you and others re-assess your decision to leave. the only answer to a pusillanimous Labour leadership a stronger steer from the membership, and if all the left-leaning members leave, then you cannot ever hope for a Labour Pary which will do the right thing.
    People need to be obdurate,stick in, engage with the policy process, demand of their NPF reps, and demand the right to influence policy.
    Most of the rank-and-file agree with you; but we need to persuade the leadership to listen.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately you're arguing form a position of ignorance. The court determined that sanctions had been applied without, and this is key, sufficient prior explanation of when and why sanctions would be applied. In the same way that a law must be properly understandable before it can be considered legal, sanctions on government programmes _must_ be properly explained so-as to provide the subject a proper opportunity to avoid them.

      In the cases involved, one was told that sanctions would apply when they didn't and the other was not told that sanctions would apply if he did not attend and yet he was sanctioned for six months.

      There is absolutely nothing in any of this case that states that the DWP cannot apply any sanctions at all, only that it must properly inform those who may be subject to such sanctions and that because it did not do so that past sanctions were applied in an improper and unlawful manner.

      In short: point 1 is complete and utter bollocks.

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    2. In the first paragraph of that article Byrne claims that the appeals court has 'struck down' all DWP rights to apply sanctions which would indeed be incredible' if it were true as no court in this country has the power to change laws, only to interpret existing law.

      Utter, utter garbage.

      As with the ruling that threw out the Blair government's secret anti-terrorist laws the ruling is simple: you cannot apply rules that people must not break and not clearly explain what those rules are. All the DWP has to do is explain things clearly and as unfair as the system is they can sanction to their hearts' content.

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  11. It's interesting. I really feel MPs are moving to a situation where party political bitching and security of one's seat takes precedence over any behaviour along the lines of core principles. After all, we don't want to run the risk of being unemployed after the next election, do we?

    On the subject of the DWP sanctions, I suppose there's horse trading going on behind the scenes. But Labour are in danger of alienating its core voters. Yes, we want proper jobs and proper wages, but any party that thinks we can return to anything approaching full employment has their head in the sand. There are no jobs for the educationally disadvantaged. We have no mass employment for those with few skills. We have little manufacturing in this country now, and what there is, is highly automated and employs the barest minimum of workers. So a party which stands up, recognises this fact, and puts in place policies to deal with it instead of making nebulous statements about "getting people back to work" and "making this country a great manufacturing nation again" will get my vote - and to do that, they will need to address the stigma that has been created about those needing to live on money from the state.

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