Although this blog is primarily for travel and photography, today I have to break with the norm, in the name of democracy.
Like many of my friends, I have spent the last couple of days feeling shell-shocked that the Conservative Party was re-elected with a majority. Those of us who voted Labour because we believe it is the party that stands the best chance of promoting social justice, protecting human rights, that will strive to maintain the NHS, work towards inclusive growth and address poverty, have been in a whirlpool of dread. We fear that the next five years will bring a return to the brutal days of Thatcherite Britain. Those were dark days that saw the persecution of people of ‘non straight’ sexuality, caused large numbers of teenagers to become homeless, saw the NHS ripped into, saw social housing stock sold off, and the neediest in society left to sink.
We share a dread of how the EU referendum is not just the start of an era of isolationism but also a fundamental betrayal of the generation that witnessed war followed by decades of co-operation.
We fear that the proposed Bill of Rights and Responsibilities – set to replace the Human Rights Act – is constitutionally dubious and marks a denial of the universality of human rights.
We realise with a sickening pit in our stomachs that TIPP looks inevitable and will (to borrow from Will Hutton) allow foreign companies to ‘plunder our national jewels’.
Personally, I don’t trust the Tories with the economy. The reduction in unemployment they have achieved is a) small and b) not directly related to an increase in prosperity for the least well off. Many of those jobs are part-time and badly paid. GDP is low and growth too.
And so the list of dreads goes on.
Over the last few years many of us Labour voters have sadly shaken our heads and bemoaned that ‘they’ chose the wrong Miliband; that Ed was unelectable. This morning I woke up to a fact that should have been obvious to me. A fact that I would urge all fellow L-voters to consider carefully.
‘They’ will be electing a new leader soon. If Labour is ever to stand a chance of being an electable party again, the right leader is critical. Every Labour voter has the opportunity to switch from passive to active at this precise moment. We can become members of the party, read about the candidates, hear what they have to say, get educated and decide who will do the best job of turning around the party’s – and therefore the country’s – hopes.
All we have to do is switch from being voters (passive) to members (active). I realised this morning that if we don’t participate in choosing the leader of the party we want to govern us, then we don’t have the right to moan if ‘they’ elect the wrong leader and fail to reform.
If I fail to switch, then I am no better than non-voters at the general election who complain bitterly that they don’t like the government that has been elected, or the system that saw them elected.
Petitions and protests will be there always as a vent for our frustrations. But we only have one opportunity to shape the direction of ‘they’ for the next five to ten years. That opportunity is now. That opportunity is to become ‘we’. I’ve joined the Labour Party today. I’m opting for participation because protests and petitions aren’t enough.