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 I rescinded my membership as soon as Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership contest the same year, for the reason that I thought he was unelectable.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.