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#LabourPurge: just who are the three pounders?

MasswelcomematAny other political party would be positively delighted to wake up one morning and find itself with 120,000 new registered supporters. It would make them feel that little bit welcome, ensure that they knew when and where the local branch meets, perhaps even encourage existing members to pay them a visit just to say ‘hi’. But oh no, not Labour. As the currently trending hashtag #LabourPurge underlines, it would rather send them an email telling them to get knotted.

I’m all for tough vetting procedures to weed out our political opponents, of course. But entryism by members of other political parties seems limited to just a few thousand cases.

Anybody with any sense would have provided for such a possibility when the supporter scheme was first devised. I’m guessing that didn’t happen; talk about not being able to organise a piss-up in Brewers Green.

There also seems to be an element of untrammeled contempt at work. Influential Labour right pundits simply dismiss registered supporters en masse as ‘‘three-quid-dog-on-a-rope-rent-a-Trots’, ‘Trumpton revolutionaries’, ‘people who view a bar of soap as a tool of capitalist oppression’ and ‘Corbyn cultists’. Such were among the epithets recently hurled at applicants by Dan Hodges, predictably enough in the Daily Telegraph.

So let me tell you about some of the Corbyn cultists I know personally, and perhaps had a hand in encouraging to sign up. Names changed, details all true.

For a start, there’s an old friend I have known since we started secondary school together at the age of 11, and his wife, whom I’ve known since he started dating her when we are all sweet 16.

Diane – always the more outgoing and garrulous of the two – has since the election become a full member of the Labour Party. I’d love to see Dan call her a soap dodger to her face, because she’s never been the sort of woman to suffer rudeness gladly, and I’m putting that gently. Paul has become a supporter, but is considering full membership too.

Not only have they not read any of the more recondite political theoreticians that litter my bookcases, they have likely never even heard of them. Paul and Di are just working people with average Labour supporter views, based on notions of fairness and justice derived from their own experience rather than the intellectual output of Rawls.

If you were going to compile an identikit picture of the kind of voters idealised to the point of tedium by politicians of all parties, these two would tick every box.  Aspirational, hard-working family, play by the rules, strivers not skivers, alarm clock Britain? Check.

Between them they raised three kids, two of them with serious health issues. Then Paul got made redundant in middle age through no fault of his own, and their house got repossessed. The pair of them went to university as mature students, secured qualifications, and now have their own business.

That’s not because they see themselves as budding Richard Bransons or Alan Sugars, you understand. They’d rather have salaried positions with paid holiday, sick leave and a pension scheme.  But such is the state of the UK labour market right now that the type of employment once considered routine is increasingly harder to come by.

Like me, they chose to vote Labour in 1979, and have usually voted Labour ever since. But they have sometimes felt taken for granted. When they lived in north Wales for a while, for instance, they voted Plaid Cymru councillors, as more convincing exponents of their values at local level.

It took the Corbyn candidacy to make them conclude that the Labour Party represents something worth joining. These are the kind of people onto which Hodges pours his scorn. By contrast, I actually want them to see Labour as their obvious political home.

Then there’s Joe, a buddy from student days who occasionally joins me for a few beers at punk rock comeback gigs. I recently discovered that he had been a Labour Party member in the past, when we were not in touch, and voted for Blair as leader in 1994.

A few years after that, a Labour politician – Harriet Harman, probably, although he doesn’t remember for sure – said something reactionary about single mothers. And as he was in a relationship with a single mum at the time, he felt disgusted and let his card lapse.

Iraq disillusioned him further and he now votes candidate by candidate. He’ll back Labour if the candidate is relatively radical, and if not, he’ll switch to the Greens.

I repeat, Joe is a former Blairite, and one of the famous five million Labour voters who have gone AWOL over the last 18 years. He also got made redundant a few years back and lost his home. Freelance journalism kept the wolf from the door, and he recently landed a staff job. But his chances of getting back on the London property ladder are vanishingly small.

Now he’s a three pounder, and backing Corbyn, who is even older than some of the bands we go to watch. He was a member in the past. Can we inspire him to return for good?

At the other end of the age spectrum, I have a young nephew who has just graduated, with a colossal student loan debt round his neck. His upbringing was comfortable enough, but his folks aren’t rich.

He was accepted for postgraduate work at the London School of Economics, where I did my MSc, fees paid, full grant. But the cost of the course was well over £20,000 and that simply wasn’t going to happen. He’s going to a cheaper uni instead.

The general election in May was his first vote, and he went for the Greens. Nothing wrong with that; young people are entitled to time and space to work out his political ideas. Now he has become a supporter and will also be going for Corbyn, not least on the back of Jeremy’s education policies. Play our cards right, and who knows, he could one day end up a councillor or MP.

The obvious point is this. Blairism sells itself on the way it supposedly ‘gets’ Middle England as if by osmosis, somehow uniquely understanding the concerns of ordinary punters in a way that will never be gifted to a blinkered Labour left.

#LabourPurge suggests it really, really doesn’t. We have a once in a generation opportunity to rebuild Labour as mass party rooted in British society. Hodges shouldn’t be dissing my family and friends in the Torygraph, in the most reprehensible terms. And Brewers Green really does need to raise its game.

15 Comments

  1. Sue says:

    these stories re supporters are true of those I know also. I know at least 5 people who have joined as supporters all of them because for the first time in many years there is someone to inspires them and is saying the sorts of things they want to hear. One of these supporters is my brother. He has always voted labour but often very grudgingly. He is actually pretty well off compared to most and has benefited from reductions in corporation tax etc in the past. He was really cross about that ——- said he didnt need more money. He is so enthusiastic re Corbyn and the policies being proposed. He says he will join as a full member if Corbyn wins. All of a sudden he wants to get involved and change the country and with the Corbyn movement he feels it is possible.

  2. Robert says:

    Well we will see the issues are as most of us know the right are angry as hell that all the new people paying the fee seem to be following Corbyn and they cannot understand it. Burnham would have you think he’s centre left well of course we all know he will go what ever way he thinks will get him a leadership, Cooper was heading for the left decided Burnham and Corbyn have that and she decided to go back home Kendall is what Kendall is a right wing throw back to Blair.

    labour cannot be the Tories the Tories have recovered they are now safely back as the right wing giants of politics and labour has nowhere to go.

    I doubt anyone of those now going to go forward would win the next election, Corbyn at least may get a pile of voters back.

    1. John says:

      But the tories ,have convinced the electorate they’re in the centre,and for a while they were,

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Not round here mate.

  3. John says:

    The 5m voters who’ve gone awol since 1987 nearly 4 m of them are dead, what of the 5.2m extra voters labour got between 1983 and 1997
    Or the 5.6m labour voters that went AWOL between 1955-1983

    As for hodges writing in the Telegraph, Ken Livingstone had a column in. The Sun upto not long ago,

    If we all joined the Tories for £3 voted in Anne widdeciombe, because she’d cost them votes they’d get the hump
    And the supporters should be so called supporters.

    At the end of the day the rules are you have to support labour
    In 1997 in a constiteuncy in Scotland labour was third behind Toeies first libdems second to get the Toeies out some labour backed the libdems they were rightly expelled,

  4. swatantra says:

    But the point is you can’t seriously be a member of another Party at the same time as being Labour. However you could be a ‘supporter’ of the Greens, and a ‘supporter’ of Labour. I , for example, would ‘support’ the SNP for their strive for Independence, but I’m still a member of the Labour Party, and anyway I don’t live in Scotland. Only the Coop Party as a special agreement with Labour which recognises membership of both.
    The only way you could join Labour is to show evidence that you’ve torn up your Green card, or Communist card or Lib Dem card 6 months ago, and repented.
    Basically, the only people who will really known if a ‘supporter’ is genuine or not is members of the local CLP. So HQ should be asking them if they’ve seen X campaigning actively and abusively against Labour. If so, then application should be denied.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Just heard on Rdio 4 the Toeies are laughing at this, including the ones,that are voting for Corbyn

    2. Robert says:

      I would say if your a commie or one of the hard lefties we have trot or commie you would not be allowed in, so many have been turned away.

      Of course the Coop is one of the oldest socialist groups where as new labour is miles away from being socialist but they now run the party through progress .

      Green if your in the green you cannot vote for labour or the Tories but if you voted green or Tory they you can vote labour so long as you agree with the ethos of the labour party questions is then why did you vote for another party.

      The labour party cannot tell whom people voter for only when they knock on your door and you give them a mouth full but hell that happens all the time, I once gave a labour politician a real mouth full for waking me up from my sleep as I was working nights.

      labour problem is a simple one the recovery is taking hold wages will now rise and to vote labour will in many peoples eyes be a massive risk to that recovery.

  5. Jim Hankinson says:

    since Rawls’ Difference Principle is compatible with massive inequality in disposable income, it is incompatible with modest social democracy, not to mention socialism – if you’re going to drop theoretician’s names (even theoreticians of ‘fairness’), it might be better to try another one. Just saying. The serious problem with almost all of the ‘analysis’ on this issue is that it is based entirely on anecdote (I make a partial exception for Michael Crick, but even he acknowledges that at best his estimates are educated guesses). It may very well be the case that the number of three quid electoral trolls is very small by comparison with the genuine supporters who are not unreasonably fed up with the way the Labour Party has been going. But it would help if we actually knew that.

    1. Robert says:

      How can one tell that, you can do all the checks you like the fact is if a Tory decided to vote Corbyn to help the Tories they can it seems do this so long as they are not a paid up member of the Tories, the only thing is the rule book you have to back the ideology and ethos of labour, well that one is not going to help prove or disprove anything.

      The reason labour brought in this £3 fee is to try and get money in to pay for this election, it was decided I suspect by Progress not to ask the trade Unions so you make it self funding, that has worked well then.

  6. Jim says:

    It’s another c*ck up by Party Central…… no-one will ever know the extent of the entryism – the ballot result will always be suspect. Chalk another success to the idiots running Labour. Another diversion while the Tories cut, cut cut ……

  7. Patrick says:

    Swatantra has hit the nail on the head, the CLP,s are being asked to do the dirty work for the Party,
    that is why we have decided not to report anyone, due to possible legal reasons, and as we have to live in the CLP with these people. At the count we had 106 £3 R,s and 144 Aff. who pay nothing.
    We have also doubled our Normal members ie who pay lots, due mainly to Jeremy which will see us through to 2020.

    1. john says:

      ,but how many members will leave, if Jeremy wins taking the £49 with them.
      also how much voter ID is known of people in non target areas to know if they’re 33 tories,
      or Fabians who’re paid up Libdems

  8. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    This election continues to throw up some interesting and challenging issues, apparently we were all expected to take this welcome opportunity to vote for a leader, but were never expected to choose anyone who was not endorsed by the narrow and completely out of touch labour hierarchy.

    Apparently we’re, (the lost Labor voters,) now regarded by them as being somehow, (as it were,) the wrong kind of Labor supporters or even heaven forfend, socialists.

    Burnham, Cooper, Blair, and all their equally unrepresentative, out of touch and wearisome ilk are definitely in the wrong political party and would be far more comfortable getting completely into bed with the Tories rather than contaminating a labor, party that they continue to try to operate as another Neoliberal franchise in thrall to the financial sector and corporate America.

    In a real sense this paragraph, (below,) from the article above is indicative of just how far removed from the lives and concerns of most British people that I would actually regard the person who wrote it as being so far beyond clueless that it’s beyond embarrassing.

    “Joe is a former Blairite, and one of the famous five million Labour voters who have gone AWOL over the last 18 years. He also got made redundant a few years back and lost his home. Freelance journalism kept the wolf from the door, and he recently landed a staff job. But his chances of getting back on the London property ladder are vanishingly small.”

    “Joe,” may indeed be a former supporter of the Great Charlatan, but the notion implicit in the description that he is any way typical or representative of the 5 million Labor voters who took a long cold hard look at the moral, economic and social devastation that Blair was creating and recoiled in horror and disgust is characteristically risible.

    So well dear me, he now can’t get onto the London property ladder; well boo-hoo, life’s a bitch get over it, contrast what David Osland obviously regards as, “Joe’s,” extreme hardships with the real hardships being inflicted on the disabled, the unemployed and the dire, sickening and utterly desperate plight of the hundreds of sick, homeless and truly destitute people now living rough in most major cities in condition of of poverty and desperation previously unimaginable during my life time and you;ll get some inkling of just how grotesque many people now find the Labor party leadership.

    That is Blair Labor’s real legacy and it about time we did something about it.

  9. John P Reid says:

    Those showing outrage on the purge are the same ones trying to get so called Blairites deselected if they don’t follow the whip, but it was admirable for ex labour members to go libdem in 2005
    Corbyn wants to re open the pits, suppose a moderate labour MP was against fracking and felt opening pits was environmentally wrong,and voted against the whip and deselected

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