Aspiration has become the new buzzword of the Labour leadership fight. Rebecca Barnes asks for ‘austerity’, or more pointedly ‘anti-austerity’ to be put back on the table
In the run up to the General Election campaign, I acted upon some very sound advice and rejoined the Labour Party. I had previously been a member from the tender age of 18, this likely the result of being bought up in a family that championed fairness, although not especially politically vociferous my parents are keen upholders of Socialist values. The seeds already sown by my forebears were later propagated by a left leaning wholly influential Sociology teacher. I subsequently left the Labour Party during the Blair era.
In the months leading up to the general election I complained bitterly that Labour no longer presented itself as the party for the lower classes. It was my good friend a life long Labour Party member and fellow trade unionist, who explained that the only way to make change to a movement is from within the ranks. He was of course correct; the success of our own trade union is testimony to this. It was on this advice I signed back up as a Labour member.
I spent election night with a small gathering of friends and family, including my two eldest daughters, both also newly joined Labour members. We started the evening with optimism sharing pizza and drinking Whisky. The alcohol consumption was soon to manifest itself into a bid to drown our sorrows. As the night progressed our optimism waned and gave way to misery as the proceedings grew depressingly worse.
Three weeks on from that disastrous night I was still licking my wounds and attempted to seek solace with like minded individuals on social media. This being my chosen method of campaigning throughout the election due to family and work commitments. I found little comfort in online forums and became increasingly frustrated with the dead end discussions and lengthy debates centred on whom was to blame for our defeat. To me our failure was brought about by a combination of contributing factors but mostly attributed to what was offered in the manifesto or lack of it! Online battles amongst like minded individuals seemed counterproductive and neither healed our wounds nor presented any useful foundations to build upon.
I aired the lack of quality engagement I’d encountered to a friend hoping for his usual insightful input in the stagnant forums, he wasn’t keen on this and instead suggested I should start my own Facebook group. I set about this challenge and he came up with name Labour Refocused’. The group was an instant hit and now boasts 307 members in just two weeks. Clearly other Labour supporters had grown weary of pointless rhetoric found banded about online and also sought constructive discussions as a basis to form strategies thus to pave the way for a brighter future for our party.
Labour Refocused members were discussing the Labour leadership contest recently, it was a lively thread with the general consensus reached that none of the candidates who’d come forward were offering true Labour values, they hadn’t learnt from the mistakes of the past and were still projecting the same ‘Tory lite’ agenda, further distancing themselves from Socialism. An active member of our group Chelley Ryan brought my attention to an open letter that had been penned by 10 new Labour MPs and thought we should do something similar, a petition of sort. Feeling inspired by Chelley’s idea I wrote our letter, which is from grassroots level showing our solidarity to the 10 MPs seeking a non austerity driven leader, a leader in support of public ownership, one who’d be prepared to abolish tuition fees, a leader that recognises the need for good quality regular work, more social housing and holder of many more traditional dare I say it? Socialist Labour ideologies.
With my letter completed I was unsure where to go next, I was advised I should contact Red Labour.
Red Labour campaign on the left of the party, they were excellent, I liaised regularly with Red Labour’s Naomi Fearon, and it was Naomi who set up the online open letter campaign. We have campaigned tirelessly ever since the campaign went live gaining over 4600 signatures in support of our open letter.
We’ve now moved further on in the leadership elections and its looking less likely that an ideologically sound candidate will put themselves up for candidature, this, however hasn’t put us off. We’ve kept up the pressure but remodelled the campaign presentation focussing on sending a clear message to those standing for election. We state in order to succeed Labour needs to offer a clear alternative to the current political climate. With plenty of encouragement from the media UK politics are veering further to the right however just emulating the Tories but in a watered down form is not what the voter seeks. The lack of real choice and proper opposition was a frequent complaint found on the doorsteps by Labour canvassers.
Labour need to oppose the Tories, not appease them.
Lastly, might I make a suggestion? If we must appear fashionable by spouting the latest grossly overused buzzword ‘Aspiration’ then can we ‘aspire’ to be the Labour party?
By Rebecca Barnes
Rebecca and Red Labour friends have launched this petition demanding an anti-austerity direction for the party from its new leader. Red Labour and Labour Refocused also have vibrant facebook pages.