Sunday, 28 September 2008

Tainted love - ex Labour voters

. I have mentioned elsewhere a debate I had with Charlotte Gore on her blog. Charlotte doesn't much like the Labour Party; hardly surprising since she voted for them previously. Meanwhile, on Liberal Conspiricy another ex-Labour voter, MatGB took issue with me questioning whether it was really fair to say Labour and the Conservatives were essentially the same.

Something struck me during these exchanges; namely the psychology of ex-Labour supporters is much like that of the jilted lover. It has been also said to me by another Lib Dem refugee from Labour that 'Labour left them' not the other way round. It seems a fair few people have something approaching an emotional relationship with the Labour Party. I hope I am not disturbing any spouses of Labour members who are reading this and suspect their other half of having an emotional affair with Gordon Brown. One wonders how Sarah Brown feels about being a thrid wheel; mistress to the thorny red rose spouse.

I think this stems from the fact that for many Labour is more than a political party; if you happen to be working class it's an embodiment of a movement. Indeed the terms labour movement and Labour Party are held as being interchangeable by more single-minded Labourites. Labour has also been representative of hopes and dreams as much as actual policy commitments, as much a party as an ideal. In that it is exactly like a relationship, all your hopes and aspirations become tied to this one person. When tragedy strikes it is thus hurtful and so it was with Labour. When you discovered Tony Blair had been unfaithful; trading your hopes and dreams for ranch-side sunsets with a strapping Texan you took it personally.

Blairism generated an awful lot of hopes dreams in 97 - come on, confess you hummed along to 'things can only get better' didn't you?? Now the custodian of all that is a dour Scotsman who isn't exactly brimming with charisma. It's like waking up one morning and discovering all those 'beauty spots' you knew existed but glossed over in the heady days. It get's worse; you go for a morning kiss and your partner just rolls over and grunts. So it is with Labour; it's core vote has discovered it doesn't care and never has, the falling back of scales from the eyes can be quite traumatic as anybody who has ever had their heart-broken or seen it in other people can attest. Meanwhile, the fly-by-night suitors who once deified you are off chasing the slick new Etonian from down the street.

You never know what is round the corner; there is always hope as I discovered this year when I met my partner. I stopped looking in the wrong places and found something and somebody so amazing and beautiful it's untrue - it's about time Labour voters learned the same lesson. Stop hoping that your party will change because you wish it was so; look around you and the right party is out there for you too ;)

7 comments:

Costigan Quist said...

I don't think it's just Labour: most of us who are heavily involved with a political party, football club or even company invest a lot of emotional capitol in the relationship. Leaving's hard to do and betrayal hurts like buggery.

Jennie said...

I agree with the commenter above. My relaionship with the Labour party ended much earlier than Mat's, is all. I have never voted for them. But when I was a kid, they were the party I felt instinctively closest to. Of course, the more I grew up and learned about the world, the less enchanted with them I became, finally going over to the liberal side at about 14 or so... I'm thirty now.

To be fair, though, Mat voted Labour tactically, not out of affinity. He foolishly believed their commitment to electoral reform.

Darrell G said...

True, my point was more with regard to Charlotte that it's resulted in a bit of secterianism....this is actually going to be a big strategic question with the 50 Labour target seats.....also thanks for not pointing out my woefully bad spelling of charisma...

Charlotte Gore said...

I voted Labour in 1997 because of the promise of a minimum wage from Labour and the threat of Community Service for the unemployed from the Tories - I earned £3.50 an hour doing seasonal work and spent all winter unemployed, and was 'poor' by every measure. I'd grown up under the Tories and for me everything they did just seemed wrong. I was 21 then, absolutely gagging for an opportunity to vote against the Government.

In 2001, things were better, and I was grateful for the minimum wage and the New Deal which indirectly helped me get on my feet. I still hated the Tories and considered myself very left wing. I thought Tony Blair was great.

By 2005 Tony's lie about Iraq caused me to entirely rethink the trust I had in Government and in Labour. I voted Liberal Democrat that year and started increasingly questioning things that I'd previously taken as self evident truths.

By 2008 I realised that my problems with Labour ran deeper than mere personalities and implementation. I feel like someone that's ordered something from a menu in a language I didn't understand. At first I accept what's put in front of me, but eventually I swallow my pride and say, actually, this isn't what I wanted. I made a mistake... can I have something else please?

My hostility to Labour comes from anger at myself at being so willing to believe them, that's true. But then, I'm also angry about the product they're trying to sell. It's a lemon.

I do draw a distinction between Labour and Labour voters, however.

Darrell G said...

Thanks for that Charlotte :), not least for making me feel young (16 in 97, and you are now probably going to hate me even more)....

I take it that means your distinction doesnt extend to Labour Party activists who may share alot of our common misgivings about their party but for the reasons quist stated find it hard to leave....?

Barrie Wood said...

I'm an ex-Labour councillor. That party's shift to the right meant they left me rather than any move rightwards myself !

As I see it (traditionally) I view Labour as competition for the progressive vote. The Tories are the 'enemy'. It is between Labour and ourselves [and in a lesser way the Liberal and Green parties] to provide an alternative to the Conservatives and Conservatism.

This 'bad' Labour government has still delivered (at least partly) on improved public services, devolution to London, Wales and Scotland, civil partnerships, right to join a TU, the minimum wage .. etc. These are all things the Tories would never have gone for. The debit side is well chronicled so there's no need to repeat it here.

In short, give me a 'bad' Labour government over ANY Tory alternative always.

Further, at a local level, I see the Tories trying to outsource, flog off public assets, introduce parking meters galore, regenerate Torbay to the design of consultants rather than residents.. the list goes on. So much for a changed and 'moderate' party.

Rant over !

Darrell G said...

Tend to agree with you Barrie to be honest, even a 'bad' Labour government can deliever positive reforms which the Conservatives never would not even in their 'one nation' incarnation...