Some time ago significant numbers of former Labour members came across to the Lib Dems from the Labour party, in both Birmingham and Derby if memory serves me correctly. Similarly a number of leading figures in the Ealing and Southall Labour party moved from that party to the Tories, with another coming to the Lib Dems. Am I alone in viewing with suspicion the bulk transference of party allegiance ?
Historically, and well beyond the Asian communities of this country, we've seen diverse communities vote [ or join] in overwhelming numbers for a particular party. In Scotland the so-called 'Catholic' vote has been a bedrock of Labour support in the central belt, with the Tories 'Unionist' outlook gaining much support from working class Protestants well into the 1960s at least. More obviously, and for more understandable reasons, voting patterns have been polarised in the north of Ireland.
All this makes it difficult for smaller parties to break the Tory / Labour hegemony.
However, did the en-masse defections alluded to above enhance democracy in any way ? Are we really to believe that collectively in large numbers these individuals became liberals, socialists or conservatives overnight ?
Did personal sleights and failure to be selected for particular 'seats' drive any of these defections, rather than political conviction ? When I lived in the London borough of Brent in the early 90s it was like a game of musical chairs in the council chamber at one time !
Hmm... yet all parties parade such 'captures' with glee !
That said, being in a political party can be a difficult choice. Tribally I was part of the Labour fold for many years, despite being at odds with many policies, especially now their authoritarian policies and lack of internal democracy [ to say nothing of the bloody war in Iraq]. I used to joke that the only remaining 'democratic centralist' regimes left after the fall of European communism were to be found in North Korea, the Vatican and under the 'Dear Leader' Blair in London.
The radical message of the Greens seems outwardly appealing, but their wish to 'impose' solutions to the threatening environmental crisis is alarming. Add to this their near non-existence here in South Devon then joining them would be a pointless exercise.
The Lib Dems ? The progressive strain of modern liberalism influenced by Keynes, Beveridge, Asquith, Lloyd George et al is attractive. Likewise, the emphasis on issues like fair votes, civil liberties, decentralisation, progressive taxation, green issues and democratic conferences all are facets that I like about the party. Having an excellent MP and being the only party able to challenge the Tories locally is also a key factor in their attractiveness.
Being a party of contrarians and being a group of people who can be swayed by debate is more attractive than the ' sellouts and betrayals' mentality of 80s and 90s Labour I knew. The 'culture' of the Lib Dem party is much more encouraging.
I was asked about my 'liberalism' at the candidate approval panel for the 2007 local elections. I said prefer the hybrid party name of Liberal Democrat to that of being a 'Liberal' and can claim the former title. Whilst being personally and socially liberal, I would not describe myself as an economic liberal ! In economic terms I remain social democratic in my leanings, albeit with a greater emphasis being put upon decentralisation and local accountability. Crucially, I still have a passion for equality, not just with regard to opportunities but with regard to outcomes too. From how I see things, none of the main parties seeks this now, not even Labour.
On the downside the 'Orange Book' element and the strident economic liberalism of some is far from where I am. Many Lib Dems in blogoshere represent this strand of liberalism, although I believe them to be over-represented online in terms of the wider political balance of that party.
The changing positions on tax and Trident are ones I'n not enamoured with. Certainly a 'hung parliament' and any deal to propel David Cameron into Downing Street would almost certainly mean me heading to the exit door.
As it is, I've found it easy enough to fit in to the broad church that makes up the Lib Dem party, even if that means me being the Brian Sedgemore of Torbay ! Fundamentally though, in my time, it is Labour who have changed more than the other parties and it is Labour's policies and values that have changed more than my own !
There are many figures across the parties holding left-of -centre views I admire irrespective of party label, hence the introduction at the top of this blog. One thing that has sustained this left-leaning writer is the longevity of my antipathy to the values and policies of the Tories [and hatred of racist elements like the BNP].
Labels: communalism, Greens, Labour, Lib Dems, party choices