At the weekend I joined the Labour party. For many of you this may come as a shock. I've lost track of the number of times I've spat venom about Labour-this and Labour-that as the last government trod all over our civil liberties and disappeared up its own arse on countless other policy occasions. I still have a folder of unpublished blog posts written in exasperation at Labour's efforts to square capitalism with socialism.
Despite this, they're perhaps the only major force the left can have any hope in, if that makes sense. I'm more closely allied to the Greens than Labour, but are the former really in any position to oust the Tories anytime soon, especially with firm electoral reform still pretty far away? While I'd love to see this country morph into a giant Zapatista-style commune, it isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I'm going to have be pragmatic about how I can help fight the right.
Many people have told me to join Labour and try change things from the inside, but most of the time, I can't stand party politics. Rather than get on with doing right by the people, partisan bickering brinkmanship and sniping clouds debates and discussions. There's too much politics within parties themselves and power relationships that the autonomist in me feels entirely uncomfortable with, especially when there are other ways to become involved in politics, such as Climate Camp or the Open Rights Group.
So, baring this in mind, why have I joined? To be honest, I'm not quite sure myself, it just sort of happened, but I think it comes down to one thing: fear of the Tories. I can't stand the thought of society being ruined as we lurch even further to the right. Don't get me wrong, Labour helped bring us to this point (not that I ignore many of the welcome social policies they implemented) but - please! - we have got to stop this pursuit of unbridled capitalism.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think Labour are a silver bullet. One of my key criticisms of Labour in recent years has been the usurping of the cause by the continued existence of the party. What is the party if it has nothing to believe in or fight for? I see the next few years as an opportunity for the left to find its feet again and reconnect with its core, and herein lies an opportunity for staunch lefties to try and exert some influence on Labour. This links back to what I said at first, that they're perhaps the only realistic option in putting an end to Tory government.
So I've tentatively joined the party. I don't feel comfortable with it and I don't really know what my 'game plan' is. I'm not accepting Labour on its current terms; that definitely isn't why I've joined. I have my core principles and ethics which I refuse to sell out or compromise on. I guess I'll take things as they come and hope I, and many others, can try and nudge Labour back to the left, to less authoritarian and more equitable terms. Hopefully I can help inject some of the introspection and self-criticism into the party which is sorely needed.
At some point maybe I'll draw together some kind of criteria which I think Labour should satisfy in order for me to remain a member (like Gordon's economic tests, ha!). And if I feel like these things aren't possible, that it's going to be more of the same, then I'll have absolutely no qualms about canceling my membership.
I guess you could call it a marriage of convenience; I don't know what to call it. I'm just trying to do right by my principles, trying to help change society for the better and maybe this move will help. I can but only try and I guess I'll find out soon enough.