Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Why I vote Labour

Working-class people are more likely to vote Labour, posh people are more likely to vote Tory. The Lib Dems draw their support from people in the middle. Well, that's a very short-hand exposition of what political scientists (pah!) call 'party identification'.

There is a huge percentage of 'mavericks' in all classes, of course. However, I think the general pattern holds.

I grew up in a poor, white-collar family. My parents were from working-class families but grammar educated. My mum became a teacher; my dad a structural engineer (I'm still not sure what that is). I always thought of myself as working-class. My mum asked me, aged 13, what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said "middle class". I wonder if I'm there yet.

So, that's one reason I vote Labour! But then 'party identification' has been weakening for decades, people are 'dealigning'. Shocks, such as the Iraq war, can break affiliations. And we all know that Labour has been moving to the right and becoming more and more of a pro-business party.

I hated the war; I hate the drift to the right; I oppose the Labour Party leadership and establishment. But I am still voting Labour. Why?

A friend asks on Facebook:

If a new party started up tomorrow and said it were going to invade foreign countries, torture prisoners, set up detention centres for refugees, privatise the Underground, and give the banks billions, renew Trident, and bring in id cards, would you vote for them? Probably not...
No, probably not, but the whole point is that the Labour Party isn't being set up tomorrow, and it wasn't set up yesterday, but a hundred years ago. For a hundred years, the Labour Party has, totally inadequately, but it has, represented the working class in politics. You don't easily find a replacement for that.

My friend goes on to say:

...but now you find out that they're funded by trade unions, so that's alright then?
I believe in trade unions having a voice in politics. I don't agree with Nick Clegg in state funding for parties. I do believe in capping expenditure in elections, so that richer people and groups cannot just buy votes by out-advertising their opponents (the largesse of Lord Ashcroft disbursed in the direction of the Hendon voter in the last few weeks has been truly humbling - but if he paid tax on all his earnings, we could decide how to spend it, and it wouldn't be on cheesy Tory leaflets). But I do believe in trade unions funding a political party.

What's wrong with British politics now, from my point of view, is that the trade unions that fund the Labour Party do not call the tune. Unite holding Gordon Brown to ransom? If only! Unions represent the interests of thousands, sometimes tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people. It adds to democracy if they can fund a body to represent them politically.

When I say 'trade unions', of course, my interest is with the ordinary members, not the overpaid bureaucrats at the top. So that's another fight to wage: democratise the unions!

I'll go and vote for Andrew Dismore tomorrow (not a personal but a political vote) against ghastly Matthew Offord (personal and political). Then I'm going over to Hayes and Harlington to knock my guts out campaigning for John McDonnell, just the sort of Labour MP we need more of.

And, of course, in the council elections, I will be following the good advice of David Young and voting Labour, to help save the sheltered housing wardens in Barnet, and puncture the easyCouncil balloon.

Not that you asked. See you on the other side...

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