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An Ex-Party Member Writes

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People who follow me elsewhere will have gathered that, after a lifetime of eschewing political parties in favour of specific campaigns (nuclear disarmament in my youth, electoral reform in more recent years), I joined the Labour Party last year.

The path for me, like so many, was Jeremy Corbyn being a candidate for Labour leader. Here was a man who spoke about the sort of politics I believed in, the sort that the party had drifted away from under Blair's New Labour as they scurried to the centre to become Tory lite. So I signed up as a "supporter" for £3 so I could vote for him. If I'm honest I didn't think he'd win, but a strong vote for him might be a shot across the bows for whoever did.

But he did win so, having been in a very small way responsible, I felt honour bound to sign up properly and for the last year I have been a card carrying member of the Labour Party.

Since then I've watched with increasing annoyance how the party machine, rather than accepting their new leader who was democratically elected by the membership, has done everything it could to undermine him, assisted by the media who pretty universally seem to either dislike him or not understand him. In particular the actions of MPs in the PLP have appalled me.

Meanwhile the Tories continue to grind the poor and disabled into the ground and underfund the NHS with their austerity programme while the main opposition party wastes time fighting with itself.

Which brings us up to date and I was being asked to vote on leader again. For some reason I really don't understand Angela Eagle stood down early on (it's a PR election so two candidates against Corbyn shouldn't have been a problem) so I was left choosing between Corbyn or Owen Smith.

The only encouraging thing was that Smith is now peddling what is essentially Corbyn lite, we've moved that far to the left. As a result I'd more or less decided to bite the bullet and vote for Smith rather than Corbyn as, although I fear the party will split whoever is elected, I thought a Smith victory might result in a more coherent and hence credible PLP.

But meanwhile the party by its actions in purging members, both new and old, often on the most spurious grounds has appalled me. I also feared that as a Labour Party supporter (in the old sense of the word) who at the last General Election was, like many others, pointing out on social media that the Green Party appeared to be closer to a proper socialist party than Labour (re-nationalisation of railways for example) I could well join those being purged. This isn't an empty worry: I know of at least person who appears to have been purged for precisely this reason.

The result of all of this is that I was left in the situation where I was fearful of expressing my views either publicly on Twitter or within the party on our local constituency party facebook group for fear of being purged from the party.

The more I thought about this the more I came to the conclusion that, if that's the case, then this wasn't the sort of party I wanted to be a member of.

So I'm off, I'm not going to vote for either candidate and I'm not going to renew my membership. I'm sure old party hands will say "good riddance" but if that's the best you can come up with then you're only confirming my reasons for going.

And good luck, you're going to need it whoever wins the election.

Tags: national politics Written 18/09/16

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