Although the Labour Party has been tumultuous since its defeat at last year's general election., and even more so since Jeremy Corbyn stepped up to lead the party last September, the past week or so has been shocking, even by the party's standards. The story is one we've heard time and time again; I joined the party on 8th May 2015, after convincing myself of a Labour win, only to be left angry and disappointed. Yet, during my short time as a member of the party, my view of my fellow members, the MPs and the leadership have changed drastically.
The image that I have etched in to my head from the general election is that of me and a group of friends from university, sat together in front of the big screen in a bar that was showing the results. With most of us being Labour supporters, this is perhaps the moment where I've felt closest to the party, and this was before I even became a member. Perhaps there is something about defeat that brings people together, but whilst I watched as Ed Miliband resigned, I felt as though joining the party would enable me, and everyone else who was shocked by the outcome of the election, to work with the party to make sure we wouldn't risk another defeat in 2020. Naïve or not, I felt that the one positive thing to come from the general election could be unity within our own party.
However, looking back over the past year, I've come to realise that the Labour Party has a huge problem with divisiveness, disloyalty and elitism. Having been interested in politics for a good number of years, I've often scoffed at people who say they have no time for politicians, whether it's because they don't trust them or because they don't think they can enact any real change. Listening to people tell me that politicians are all the same, or that party politics is just a petty game has often bewildered me; surely if you want to see change happen, then being a member of a movement is the greatest way to ensure it does? Yet when you take yourself out of the mind-set of a party member, when you consider the views of an ordinary person looking in on the Labour Party from the outside, it's easy to see why people don't always want to engage with us. Who would look at the disunity, the antisemitism, the sexism and the power struggles that our party faces and think, 'This is something I want to be a part of?'
Part of me feels as though I'm not best placed to voice this complaint. I'll be the first person to admit that I haven't been as involved with the party as I'd have liked over the past year, and sometimes I've watched from the side-lines during the most difficult periods. I often find myself feeling hypocritical; here I am, telling people that they should get involved with politics if they want to see change happen, but I've often failed to do just that. But I can't help feeling that, even as a party member and politically active young person, I too fit in with those who won't necessarily engage with politics. I wasn't even two years old when Tony Blair became Prime Minister, and only fourteen when Gordon Brown resigned. The years in which I've become more engaged with politics have been dominated by the coalition, and now the Conservative majority governments.
I feel like I haven't seen the Labour Party at its best, whatever that best may be. Instead, all I've known is a party divided. Of course, my experience isn't shared by everyone. I know some people for whom the party has helped immensely. There are some that tirelessly campaign, door knock and speak out for the Labour Party and I admire the work that they do. These are the members who can encourage the disillusioned and the apathetic to get more involved with party politics. But unfortunately, not everyone is like them.
Whilst my own personal stories are ones of feeling like I don't have a place in the party anymore, other members have faced far worse. Some have spoken to me about bullying and intimidation, others speak of the antisemitism that has plagued the party. Sexism is another problem; how can we claim to be a party of diversity and equality when women are spoken down to and jeered at in meetings?
It hasn't been the longest of relationships but I feel like I'm falling out of love with Labour. For now, my membership remains. Looking forward, it seems as though a new leader could soon be taking the reins, and a general election could be on the horizon. Politics is an amazing thing, and I can't deny that I've been fortunate enough to meet wonderful people by getting involved with it, but sometimes it's hard to truly appreciate that when so many things are going wrong within the party. These problems are by no means unique to Labour; factions and turmoil have also hit the Conservative Party recently, but the Tories are also the ones that are in power. Right now, we're failing as an Opposition, and all levels of the party should be unifying, not fighting. I desperately want to believe that a unified Labour Party is possible, so I'll refrain from cutting up my membership card for the moment, but if the current conditions continue, I and perhaps many others may find ourselves reconsidering our positions within the party.
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