Why I can’t vote Labour at the next election (LentBlog12)

I never wanted to have to say this. I never imagined I would. But I have finally lost the plot with Labour, or, to be specific, Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

I write as a resident of Exeter, the constituency of Ben Bradshaw MP, a man I admire and have voted for since he won the seat for Labour in 1997.

When Ed Milliband lost the 2015 election to David Cameron I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was and join the Labour Party. It was a short-lived decision. I rescinded my membership as soon as Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership contest the same year, for the reason that I thought he was unelectable.

But I still voted for Labour in 2017, persuading myself that I was voting for Ben, not a Corbyn government. (To be fair to this Janus-like position, everyone I know who voted for Ben said the same.)

To be clear, I still want Ben Bradshaw as my MP. He is outstanding in his constituency work, knows his city inside out, and is a truly humble and dedicated public servant. Further, he is unstinting in his fight against Brexit and has campaigned doggedly for a People’s Vote, a cause the Labour front bench has been very late to espouse (if indeed it actually does).

I reached my moment of realisation two Sundays ago during an interview given by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to Mark Mardell on The World This Weekend. In his polite and procedural way, Mardell put to him a series of questions about Labour’s well-reported problem with anti-Semitism.

And this is how McDonnell chose to answer the question of how far Labour has become institutionally racist (I am paraphrasing): as the party with Europe’s biggest popular membership, Labour is now representative of views from a much wider cross-section of society than ever before. So we shouldn’t be surprised, perhaps, when some of those  members have views, about a range of issues, that we disagree with and find unacceptable.

He said it in a voice that was both whiny yet full of bluster. He sounded as though he was complaining. As though he was irritated to still be having to answer questions about racism. Worse still, as though it was not his responsibility to lead his membership by challenging its thinking.

As though anti-Semitism was a fact of life that Labour would just have to put up with.

I was driving at the time. It was raining and grey; I felt tears pricking the backs of my eyes. And that was when I knew I could not vote for Labour while Corbyn and his cohorts remain in charge of the Labour Party.

I honestly don’t know what I will do at the next election.

Right now I am one of the politically homeless. I feel as though a weight has lifted from my shoulders. But I do feel terribly alone.

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Hello Anthony

    Very interested to read this, and I respect your views. For myself though, as a Green Socialist, it seems to me that a Labour government under Corbyn is our only chance to overturn this era of privatisation and capitalist neo-liberal ‘business as usual’.

    The anti-Semitic thing is difficult. I believe he’s being set up, and that it’s more to do with his pro-Palestine attitude than anything actively anti-Semitic – people confuse a stand against the outrages of the land-grabs of the state of Israel with being anti-Semitic (not levelling that against you, btw).

    I don’t deny that there have indeed been anti-Semitic and morally unjustifiable words from the Labour camp (though not Corbyn or McDonnell) – these cannot/should not be condoned. But I also believe – as one of the Jewish women leaders said on R4 a few weeks ago (can’t remember which programme) – that there is no more institutional racism in general (and actually probably a whole lot less) and anti-Semitism in particular in the Labour party than in the others.

    It IS hard to know where to go from here. It would make such a difference if we had some form of PR in our country.

    We’re all in this together – even more essential at such a time, I think.

    R

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with ‘R’
      And I think the ravages of austerity must be stopped and reversed, and this is more important than anything. The only way to do this is to elect a Labour government. If you turn away from Labour, you are turning away from people surviving through food banks, the homeless, people struggling on inadequate benefits, the disabled and dying who are told they are fit to work when their GPs say otherwise, those denied legal justice because of cuts, etc etc. etc. British society is disintegrating because of austerity. The Labour agenda is the way to end it. And btw I am not a member of the Labour Party.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Dear Sue, thank you so much for getting in touch about my post. Everything you say is true. It is heartbreaking. I just don’t think I can believe in Labour merely because they aren’t vicious Tories. I’m grateful to you, and take what you say seriously. With best wishes as ever, Anthony

        Like

    2. Hi Roselle, thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post. As I say below, I completely agree with you about the government of Israel. Having visited the West Bank last autumn I have seen first hand the impact of its policies on the Palestinian population. But I also think it should be perfectly possible for Labour to express opposition to these policies without that opposition tipping over into anti-Semitism. Sadly Labour’s current front bench does not seem to possess the wit, imagination or desire to nuance these arguments coherently.
      Part of the problem with Corbyn and McDonnell is that they cannot imagine that they might have a problem with telling the difference between opposition to Israeli government policy and anti-Semitism. That Corbyn has not spoken personally to Luciana Berger for over a year is not leadership. With thanks for your engagement and good wishes as ever, Anthony

      Like

  2. “Politically homeless” is good. I’m afraid I can’t agree with the view that the only way to end the ravages of austerity is to vote Labour. Their dealing with anti-Semitism is as woefully incompetent as Jeremy Corbyn’s performances at question time in Westminster. Their handling of Brexit has been equally pathetic. Why think that they would be any good in government when they’ve been so hopeless at opposing the ghastly cohorts on the other side of Parliament?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for getting in touch Antony. I agree Corbyn is woeful at PMQs. My feeling is that his ineptitude at the dispatch box masks his basic lack of curiosity and ability to imagine life as ‘the other’. With thanks again for your engagement, Anthony

      Like

  3. As far as I know the “well reported” antisemitism is more about the proPalestine sentiments. If there have been truly antisemitic views then they must be heavily criticized and those people should be held accountable. The government of Israel (nothing against it citizens) have been shown to be corrupt and have violated UN laws with regards to illegal settlements on Palestinian land and have in gerenal used excessive force under the guise of “defense”. There are Jewish people who have been huge critics of Israel namely Norman Finkelstein whose entire extended family were killed in the holocaust and has likened Israel’s goverment to an aggressor persecuting the people of Palestone, as well as Noam Chomsky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for getting in touch about my post. I could not agree with you more about the government of Israel. Having visited the West Bank last autumn I have seen first hand the impact of its policies on the Palestinian population. But I also think it should be perfectly possible for Labour to express opposition to these policies without that opposition tipping over into anti-Semitism. Sadly Labour’s current front bench does not seem to possess the wit, imagination or desire to nuance these arguments coherently. With thanks for your engagement and good wishes, Anthony

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My feelings are that institutional racism is in all of the UK major parties and that the Labour Party acknowledge this and is working to reform. I also believe that the current Tory administration is incompetent and corrupt and should not be in office. I believe they have caused severe damage to vulnerable people and to the whole of our society and a Labour vote might give us the best chance of ridding ourselves of the current Tory government. I will vote Labour. Peace and love to you, Anthony. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Josephine, thank you for getting in touch about my post. I wholeheartedly agree with you re the incompetence of our current government. They are a disgrace. Labour might well be the best chance we have. And yet. The sound of John McDonnell whining on the radio was really pitiful. For now at least, I am out. Peace and love to you as ever, Anthony x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Anthony, I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and much appreciate your views. I do disagree with you about Corbyn however. I attach a link for an article about Corbyn and anti-Semitism that digs a bit beneath the surface of what we read in the ‘quality’ press. Do read if you have time. Kind regards, Donald Gardner
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2019/march/labour-and-antisemitism?utm_source=LRB+blog+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190319+blog&utm_content=ukrw_subs_blog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this Donald. I am really grateful to you for posting this link, which I have not seen until now. I am going to take a read and hope to get back with more thoughts anon. With thanks again for your generosity, Anthony

      Like

  6. Dear Anthony – This is a desperate situation. Regarding Corbyn, I think there are different kinds of leadership and i admire his consistent approach to inequality. I can’t see (in the circumstances) how he could support a second referendum. He needs the support of the leave-voting constituencies. And I can’t see any reason why a second referendum would necessarily produce a convincingly different result.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Many of us are looking for practical, respectful, forward thinking leadership, qualities that seem to have been lost by the dominant parties in both Britain and the United States. When enough of the common people speak out, I trust this leadership void will be filled.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shocked by this Anthony. Bradshaw was (and probably still is) a Blairite through and through and was complicit in Blair’s warmongering at the time. He is not to be trusted, he is part of the Labour Party who aspire to be Tories, which is why Jeremy Corbyn is a breath of fresh air. Like others here I don’t believe for one moment that this ‘institutional racism’ is anything other than a set-up by those who can’t see that Israel is an illegally occupying state and that campaigning against this is not racist. I hope you will reconsider your position!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rupert. It’s good to hear from you. I see what you are saying about Ben’s support for the Iraq vote and subsequent war. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Nor does the fact that Crobyn was right about Iraq mean he does not have a blind spot about racism in his own party (not to mention the fact that he has appeared on Iranian state TV who promote oppression of women and hatred of LGBTQ people). Further, as I have said above, having visited the West Bank last autumn I have seen first hand the impact of Israel’s policies on the Palestinian population, which as you rightly say is not only illegal but abhorrent. But I also think it should be perfectly possible for Labour to express opposition to Israeli government policies without that opposition tipping over into anti-Semitism. Sadly Labour’s current front bench does not seem to possess the wit, imagination or desire to nuance these arguments coherently. Finally, I don’t think Labour’s institutional racism is a result of some grand conspiracy, I think it’s been allowed to happen because its front bench cannot imagine that they have a problem. It’s no different to other institutions (the police, universities, schools, etc) who own the same systemic problem. That the Tories are just as culpable for their Islamophobia does not make this any less tragic. As ever with thanks and best wishes, Ant

      Like

      1. No, it’s not some grand conspiracy: Labour’s ant-semitic stance is simply right-wing reporting. Despite what the Tories say most of the UK media (BBC, Guardian, Independent, let alone the Express, Telegraph and Daily Mail) come with a right-wing bias.

        The real problem is that socialism is complicit in capitalism, and its softer version ltimately ends up aiming for the same things: profit and power. Unless people actually take responsibility for themselves and any representative are accountable – in real terms, nothing will change. Extinction Rebellion and Occupy London are examples of the kind of direct action we need.

        Liked by 1 person

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