The Labour Party had my first vote in 1997 when (What's The Story) Morning Glory was still ringing across the nation and Noel Gallagher was partying with Tony Blair in No. 10. It felt like a heady time in British politics. Labour swept to power and we were going to change the world.
Back then I was a single parent, signing on the dole, living in a flat in Wrexham. The benefit system was a depressing, Kafkaesque hell-hole but Labour's new Family Tax Credits made it possible for me to pay a childminder and go out to work full-time. Politics was working for me for a change. I began to believe I could shake the stigma of being 'a drain on society' and create a decent future for my daughter - nobody gives birth to a child just to get a council house or the weekly pittance of child benefit.
Labour got my vote again in 2001 but I soon became disillusioned. An increase in Big Brother activities and the invasion of Iraq were the final prompts to jump ship and I joined the Liberal Democrat party.
That didn't last too long as Nick Clegg's embarrassing backtracking of election promises throughout the 2010 coalition was enough to finally drill home that I could no longer be a staunch supporter of any one party or politician because they switch allegiances and policies to suit their own agenda with no sense of loyalty to those who voted for them.
What I've learned from these politicians (as well as rich party donors like Lord Sainsbury who bestows money upon both Labour and the Lib Dems) is that I can also switch allegiances to suit my own agenda, and I can support more than one party at once.
I am in favour of social justice so began voting for whoever had the strongest progressive socialist policies. Right now, in Wales, that's Plaid Cymru. I'm also an environmentalist and support the majority of Green party initiatives. To be quite honest I'd have a coalition of Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood & Caroline Lucas (backed by Mhairi Black) in Number 10 tomorrow if that were possible, but the thought I might consider listening to the Labour party again never crossed my mind.
Ed Milliband's most important reform was the Labour electoral system. His vision of mobilising the masses and creating collective community action worked, especially when combined with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. Thousands of disillusioned voters have returned to politics for the first time in decades and Labour membership continues to swell to unprecedented numbers. Milliband should be proud of this achievement.
I paid £3 and voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the first leadership election because his socialist agenda, anti-war, anti-Trident stance and his care for people and the environment resonate with me. (As an aside, I want to point out that I am trying to use any voting power I have to influence who is in Westminster because Wales does not yet have independence so Westminster people and policies have a massive effect on us in Wales.)
Jeremy Corbyn is a politician in England who I believe in, which is why I then paid the extortionate and exclusive fee of £25 to vote in the second leadership election. This time I received a letter from Iain McNicol, General Secretary of The Labour Party, explaining, 'A panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC) has considered your application, and has decided to reject it on the grounds that you tweeted in support of the Green Party on 8th May 2015'.
The Labour Party needs more voters to win a future election. These voters will have to come from other parties. Only a radical change of policy can achieve this. Jeremy Corbyn is doing it. I wanted to vote for him.
Voting for one socialist person or policy shouldn't then exclude me for supporting other people, parties or policies on The Left elsewhere. Our biggest problem on The Left is that instead of fighting neoliberalism, the Tories, or the behemoth of rampant capitalism, we descend into a farcical Pythonesque 'we're not the Judean People's Front - we're the People's Front of Judea' scenario.
The social media response that followed posting McNicol's letter online was unexpected. My Tweets usually elicit a few shares or likes. Facebook can feel like it actively seeks to increase narcissism and discourage political engagement by giving 100+ likes for a selfie and only five responses for a politically charged article. But the letter went viral, or as viral as an obscure(ish) Welsh poet squirrelled away in Wrexham is likely to get. The vast majority of people were supportive and I'm very grateful to everyone who sent positive messages.
The main argument in favour of the NEC is that I don't support Labour so shouldn't be allowed to vote. Given Labour's current state I can't see how anybody knows what Labour stands for - what am I not supporting? I fully back Jeremy Corbyn's vision for a socialist Britain with Trident scrapped, the NHS properly nationalised, the railways returned to public ownership and care for the environment properly advocated. I absolutely believe he could win the next election on this platform so I'm confused as to why the NEC would ban a socialist from voting for their democratically elected leader.
Originally I'd planned to appeal this decision but in all honesty I feel drained by the whole experience. One 'Welsh politico' even stooped so low as to hurl personal insults, Tweeting that I am 'dense' and a 'naïve fool'. What a charming man. That doesn't exactly encourage me to get more involved with politics - and yet these same politicos will be the ones lamenting the apathy of the masses.
Jeremy Corbyn has galvanised my support for Labour in a way I never thought possible a few years ago, but that is being blocked by people who have their own agenda. This bullying behaviour is the kind of thing I'd expect from the likes of the EDL, not a truly progressive socialist party that began as a coalition of 'working people, trade unions and socialists, united by the goal of changing the British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody'.
The Establishment NEC and PLP's grip on Labour is being prised open by the common people. We are mobilising and beginning to understand just how powerful we can be when we work together. The NEC's near-hysterical and dictatorial response to support for Jeremy Corbyn only highlights how far-removed they are from representing the interests of everybody. This is why the people are stepping up to take the party back and it's why I'll continue to support Jeremy Corbyn.
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