Wednesday, 23 May 2007

First foray

I live in the UK and politics has always been a passion with me. I'm the kind of person that watches and listens to every good TV and radio news programme so I know whats going on in the world. My Internet homepage is BBC News and I get excited at election times. I stay up all night to watch results and I actually know who's standing in various constituencies! I also teach politics, so I have to know whats going on.

I've always considered it to be a duty to vote and I have always voted for the Labour Party. At least up until the last few years.

Like many people I was elated when Blairs government first came to power. It was like the end of a nightmare and the start of a brand new dawn. Of course I also knew it would never live up to expectations - I can be idealistic, but I'm not stupid! However, I had no idea just how disappointing it would turn out to be and how angry I would end up feeling.

But its not just anger, its also sadness and disconnection. For the last two general elections I didn't vote Labour at all - believe me, for me thats a big deal! And I don't know what will bring me back again. Now I'm the proverbial floating voter (though there are some parties that will never get my vote).

Any party that blithly continues with the privatisation of health and education, not to mention an illegal war, will never have my support. But thats not the thing I find most disgusting. It is the total usurping of democracy that I am most offended by.

I used to be proud of the fact that the Labour Party was a democratic party. John Smith worked hard to ensure one member one vote and everyone got a say. The Tories were the ones whose leaders 'emerged' or were stabbed in the back by pragmatic politicians who thought power was the ultimate goal. Now its the Labour Party completely disregarding democracy. Two men go for a meal and make a decision about who gets power first 12 years ago and everyone else goes along with it!

Over the last few years it has simply been taken as read by MPs and Journalists that this is the way it is. How can such an important decision simply be in the hands of two men? Why are we all going along with this?

Of course I know the answer to these questions: a) there is no constitutional reason why this can't happen and b) the Parliamentary Labour Party have ratified it. But that does'nt really answer the question. It provides an explanation, not an answer.

I suspect the real answer is one of subservience and fear. The leadership of the party has such a stanglehold over the selection of prospective MPs that only those who will stick to the party line are elected; and they have become so used to simply doing as they're told they have lost all sense of what democracy means. Added to that is the spectre of all those years in opposition; it haunts them still. But if they think taking this road will ensure success they are wrong! This way will only lead to a build up of anger and frustration. It may take a little while, but they will pay dearly for allowing themselves to be manovered into this decision. When Churchill said all those years ago 'damn your principles and stick to your party', I don't think he meant stick to an arbitrary decision taken by two power hungry men over dinner!