Disillusioned with Labour

Opinion Uncategorized

A reporter who helped in the 1997 Labour campaign that brought the party to power considers her political allegiance after the shock seizure of one of its "safe" seats this week.

It is September once more and I have been sent a letter reminding me to renew my Labour Party membership.

I joined the Labour Party in 1994, three years before the famous landslide election of 1997, which swept New Labour to power and Tony Blair to the helm.

The 1997 election was a defining moment for me, being the first election in which I was old enough to vote.

I was actively involved in the Labour Party campaign for 18 months before the election, working with Barbara Follett’s campaign team (Editor’s note: Barbara Follett is now a backbench Labour MP for the south-eastern town of Stevenage in Hertfordshire).

The constituency of Stevenage was a "key marginal seat", and Miss Follett’s task was to topple sitting Tory MP Tim Wood.

I worked harder for New Labour than my teachers thought necessary while I should have been studying for my A-levels.

I spent hours every weekend doing walkabouts with the candidate, weeknights in meetings and afternoons doing telephone canvassing.

Of course, by 1997 "telephone canvassing" was no longer in existence. It had now become "voter ID-ing".

I learnt the party manifesto inside out, and became proficient at discussing the finer points of party politics with members of the general public.

On the 2 May 1997, after the euphoria of the results, I watched the sun rise over the suburban landscape of Stevenage, bringing the Labour Party to power. We were going to change the world.

Six-and-a-half years later ours is the longest running Labour Party government in Britain ever.

Even the 1945 government which brought us Clement Atlee’s NHS cannot surpass Tony Blair for longevity. However, will this government be remembered as fondly?

Personally, I am floundering with my membership. As a traditional socialist, I find it hard to place myself behind Tony Blair at times.

His "third way" seems shockingly like centre-right politics to me.

Yes, he must be congratulated for the peace he has brought to Northern Ireland – a feat not managed by generations of politicians.

But what about university tuition fees, which are set to almost treble in the near future?

This is not what I had in mind when I campaigned for Labour to take power.

We have seen the fervent opposition against Blair’s decision about sending British troops to war in Iraq: the largest anti-war protest seen in this country for generations which took over London for a day. We vociferously told Mr Blair where to go with his plans for an invasion, but he did it anyway.

What is the alternative to him and his party for those who have decided they want out? Iain Duncan Smith?

A party leader needs charisma, and for all his faults Mr Blair has this in abundance.

Just this week Brent East, a former Labour stronghold, fell to the Liberal Democrats in a key north London by-election.

Britain is speaking once more. Clearly, Labour has travelled too far from its roots in search of popularity.

Mr Blair has hurriedly signalled his readiness to listen to voters’ concerns.

Will I renew my membership to his party? I am undecided.

We live in a country whose government came to power in a wave of popularity. Much was promised, some has been delivered. But, without question, I feel sorely disappointed with Mr Blair’s administration.

It will cost me £12 to renew my membership this year, nearly double what I paid last year.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t fall into the "unwaged member" bracket. If this is the labour party of the future, I want out.

Besides, I don’t think I can afford to be in.