Tuesday night was an odd night for me. From the outset it wasn’t that different a night to any other as I watched TV, poured myself some coke and then watched more TV. What was different about Tuesday was that it was the first time, in what I call my political life, that I and another family member disagreed on a public political issue. The much publicised Labour leadership debacle.
Before I start on the issues and debate we had I feel like I need to add context. I’m a twenty-two-year-old who graduated this week and as such realise that I am not in the same position as everyone else around me. One of my biggest flaws, of which there are many, is that I am an idealist. While I realise that this may change with age I also accept that this is the stage I am at. You may mistake this for naivety but for me, I believe that a left-wing government is both an ideal and feasible one. That does not mean I am unwilling to compromise.
I recognise that I am biased towards a left-wing Corbyn and accept that, to put it mildly, he is not to everyone’s taste. There are numerous issues that have sprung up, both pro and anti-Corbyn, that have for better or worse seemed to harden my views. From the moment my Corbyn vote helped usher him in as the new labour leader last September the parliamentary party has tried to oust him. Brexit has seemed like the worse time they could choose to do it but it is also an opportunistic one.
There is clearly something here that is wrong, even recent changes to the leadership voting regulations, show us this. The tightening of the rules, to me at least, did not seem to be as much of an issue when he was running as an outsider last August and September but now that they could help Corbyn stay on as leader they have been changed to make it harder for new members to vote. While the rules on voting are a whole other debate, it is clear that there is a disconnect between a labour membership and the parliamentary party that could genuinely split the party officially. Just ten days ago Labour officials were trying to work out who exactly owns the name of Labour. While this is only a precaution it shows the real danger that the party is in. My debate on Tuesday helped me realise that while part of me says if they want to split let them split there is, in fact, a bigger picture at stake here. Not just a credible opposition, a credible left of centre government that would look out for the poor and vulnerable in our society.
As much as you can praise Cameron and the latest government for fiscal security, it is hard to deny they have achieved something, I still believe that there is a way more benefiting for those lesser off that could have taken us to the same destination, just down a different path. Rising food bank usage is just one example of the social inequality of the Tories’ actions. The Trussell Trust wrote up a press release just four months ago that noted food bank level uses at an all-time high. ‘1,109,309 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people in crisis by the charity’s network of 424 foodbanks in the 2015/16 financial year, compared to 1,084,604 in 2014/15’, a figure that is constantly growing. While not intentional this is one result of what I think comes with a right of centre line of thought. People will disagree with me, the Tories won a majority in last May’s general election after all. The point is that to me I see a left of centre government as being beneficial for those more vulnerable. This debate on Tuesday was not a debate about left or right, we are both left to varying degrees. It was about how under the current Labour infighting and its possible consequences we could be stuck with a right-wing government for decades. Something that neither of us wants.
On Tuesday night I defended Corbyn in the same way that I have since September, he has the mandate. What I failed to realise until recently was that this is not simply the PLP versus the membership. The many million 2015 labour voters interests should play a bigger part and they are represented by the PLP, a factor that didn’t cross my mind until Tuesday night. I still think the treatment of Corbyn is unfair and unjust. The way he has been treated and disrespected is ironic to me. One of the reasons I voted for him was not because he would win a general election, although I think it possible that he could, but because I was convicted to support a man who seemed to be above the slimy, untrustworthy and sleazy politics that have plagued the system since I have become involved, the MP expenses scandal was one of the first major things to happen when I started to take a more active interest in politics. The sleazy politics that is now trying to remove him and has had people dropping out of his cabinet rather than working with him. To me Andy Burnham is one of the only people whose reputation hasn’t been dented because while he has been public of his differences with Corbyn so has he also been public about how he wants to try and make things work, there is very little he can do to change things when he is away from the table. The problematic issue I face is that the side of me that is disgusted with how he has been treated is fighting against another principle of mine social injustice and inequality.
I mentioned earlier that I think the best for the poor and marginalised is a left of centre labour government, not just the Blairite model but a genuine left. This is why I support Corbyn but over the last few days I have come to realise that as left as I am I must be willing to compromise otherwise we will not get a Labour government at all for the foreseeable future. The battle is how far I am willing to budge to vote for a different candidate against the need for an effective opposition that could prevent years of the Tories. I am saddened by the way Corbyn has been treated by the very style of politician that caused me to vote him in but I am weary the effect five consecutive Tories governments would have on those lesser off while labour either united under Corbyn or separated. Labour would have to reinvigorate themselves to a point where they would be electable again. I don’t know the answer here but with each day I am swinging towards the latter. I think a suitable opposition for me that prevents a ‘focused on the rich Tories’ is more important than the need for a radical left wing at this moment in time.
It is a conflict I am going to be trying to resolve right up until we eventually vote on the leadership, I can actually vote in this as I’ve been a member of the party for a few years now. The Labour Party members are not the be all and end all I have to take into account the Labour voters that the PLP represent. While it may not completely justify all their actions it does change my perception. Along with this I simply feel too strongly about the need for greater equality, an equality that would seem further off if I voted for Corbyn and was one of the reasons for a potential split. Having said that we need to find a suitable candidate who is trustworthy and capable of both unifying the Labour Party while simultaneously being honest and offering a new era style of politics. I don’t think I can vote for Angela Eagle. I’ve come to realise that Corbyn probably needs to go, as much as that pains me, but I want a suitable candidate to run against him. When someone who can unify the party arrives I will vote for them, it may be a pipe but it’s a requirement. An austerity-heavy government would cause more pain for the poorer than my need for my heavily leftist views to be represented in Labour. For the first time in my political life, I am having a legitimate political struggle. But, as Spock rightly says in The Wrath of Khan, ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’.