I resign from the Labour Party

The likes of Andy Burnham, Hazel Blears, Mary Honeyball and Luke Akehurst are now representative of the Labour Party. They have at least given me a clear mind in recent days, and for that, I suppose, I should be grateful.

I have been a Labour member since I was 16, in a steeltown. I can just about accept that student union hacks with no proper job experience can spend their time undercutting unions and selling public administration to their mates, because something could arise that may be better.

I can also accept that some immigrants, because of a misplaced desire to avoid the appearance of racism, are more 'acceptable' to the Left than others, so my own family's Irish Catholicism can be something to be sneered at by the ranks of Labour activists.

I can accept that there may be a fiscal case for not taxing the super rich with capital gains, but not for truckling to them or sucking up to the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

I can accept that there might be reasons why marriage, abortion, and religion may all get some people motivated and the destruction of institutions via a common line on these points could get 'radicals' going.

I can accept that anyone I know involved in Labour representation might well be a timid narcissist brave only in their own promotion.

But these are the final straws. Locking people up for six weeks? Wheelie bin fines? Crooks and halfwits elected on 19% of the vote or thereabouts in local government surveilling everyone like a bad 70s Kojak episode, descending on mothers whose children litter whilst throwing money at death cults and punishing anyone who pays taxes, owns a car, raises a family or goes to church?

Government without law is a band of robbers and brigands. Taking away the protection of the law for temporary emergency is wrong. Allying ourselves with people who want to lock religious nutters and people who look like them up without a proper charge, and exploiting the victims of terrorism to defend it, is wrong.

Ignoring the people of every country whose partnership we are meant to laud when they vote against a bad treaty and then proceeding anyway is wrong.

Push off. I've had enough. I resign.


Merseymike said…
I resigned a long while ago. Because of Iraq, mainly.

And I agree with you about the 42 days issue.

However, and here lies the rub: on almost everything else, we would have an entirely different world-view. For example, I think Mary Honeyball does not go far enough - Catholicism is culturally conservative so should have no place in a liberal and progressive party, in my view. It is constantly being excused simply because it is religionism - whereas delusional beliefs in imaginary friends should have no place in governance. In the private sphere, fine. France have it right there.

Labour have he3ld together a varying range of diverse opinions. As have the Conservatives. Im countries with different electoral systems, this would not have been the case.

The outcome of this tends to be parties remaining strong and dominant and then collapsing very quickly to be replaced by the other party who become strong and dominant.

I don't think its a very good way of running things. A party system which placed us in the same party was not logical. I would imagine, like me, you have no obvious other party to join.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Mike, thank you for your post.

When I was at mass this morning surrounded by people from all over the world, listening to a sermon about catholic social teaching on work, praying for social justice and human rights with many many others, I was in fact much more progressive than most of Britain's 'liberal' establishment.

I have no delusional belief in imaginary friends; I have a belief that human beings, no matter how flawed and ridiculous we are sometimes, can evolve social ways to maintain our communities.

Religion, in the face of totalitarian and extreme capitalist regimes, has also proved a resilient way of upholding the special dignity of the individual. Religion also has ways of holding families together and maintaining the self-respect of individuals that are essential for a decent society.

But, as free men (I hope of reason) we can disagree on that.

I suspect that we probably agree on electoral systems. I would like to see a system that allows members of the public to hold specific idividuals to account and which makes it very difficult for party organisations to just appoint people to lists. So the alternative vote or an open STV system (which I am not sure would work in a big country) are very attractive, in the abstract.

I think London should have the same legislative independence as Scotland. It's bigger, richer, and more diverse, and moreover England will never get the chance for self-government or cultural self-confidence with the weight of a majority foreign metropolis, which I love, on it.

You're right. There is no obvious party for us. I wonder how democracy will evolve in the twenty first century, however. No one elects the culure in which democracy sits, of strong local society and institutions; no one elects juries, or courts, that often maintain rights much better than parliaments; in fact, only 22% or so of the people who could vote elected the present government. No one elcts policies.

So, let's just see if there aren't campaigns and foundations that can lead us where we want our society to go.

Good luck with everything. I appreciate your courtesy in commenting, and thanks again. I was in Labour for almost twenty years, and it feels odd not to be.
Martin Meenagh said…
Mike, I think I may have misunderstood your point. We can disagree on religion. What I think you were talking about is the separation of church and state within a democracy, and you were referring to French models.

Up to a point, laicite--so long as the state is minimal and does not seek to control the way people argue or go about their business beyond the ordinary precautions against criminality--is something we could agree upon.
Merseymike said…
I will have to disagree with you about religion - but then I did used to be a religionist, and perhaps my distaste is the enthusiasm of the convert.

I think the difficulty comes when religion wishes to impose its will upon those who don't agree with it in a way which prevents them from making their own choices. If one follows a religion, then it is quite reasonable for a religion to demand certain things as a condition. But if one doesn't, then it simply isn't. So, for example, I do not believe in religious opt-outs, at all, outside the very clear boundaries of the religion itself. Churches should not be able to discriminate in the provision of public services or employment of positions which are advertised openly - anything other than priests, essentially. But I do believe that they should be able to speak as they wish unless it clearly causes incitement to hatred - such as the examples of Islamic clerics.

Generally, though, if the catholic church thinks it, I think the opposite - the areas where it is progressive, I tend to the right. I don't believe in overseas aid at all, for example, I think its a total waste of money, and that what is needed is to reduce the population above all else which is totally out of hand. Yes, I know that souinds harsh, but I think its the truth. China realised and did what has pribably saved their country and given it a chance for a prosperous future.
I also think religion should play no part in state education. Whereas I am in favour of voluntary euthanasia, abortion, gay rights, freedom of cultural expression and secular governance.

I don't feel that I would particularly want to exist in a catholic style 'social community', which would be repressive and illiberal from my point of view.

Party list systems are always a bit of a problem, but as long as there is a combination of both those and directly elected people, it can work quite well - Germany being an example. I think, for example, that someone like Mary Honeyball is more likely to say what she thinks because she doesn't haver to crawl to constituency based interest groups.

Not living in London, I certainly feel strongly that the provincial regions in this country lose out by not having formal regional structures which exist in just about every other country in Europe. English government would simply lead to south-east dominance and I think it would soon become very unpopular in the north. But regional assemblies would work well.

Another 'must' for my politics is support for the EU.

I think that the large parties represent fewer and fewer. I certainly spend my time working for things I believe in and I am not convinced that any party truly does that - they all cow-tow to religion, for a start!. Thats why I found Mary Honeyball's article such a breath of fresh air because she said what I had been thinking - that there should be no place for the attitudes of people like Kelly simply because they can be excused on the grounds of religion. In the church, yes - in a secular social democratic party, no.

I wonder if we could find anything we agreed on?
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Mike
It's late, and I just got in from a middle temple thing. I think we could probably agree that religion shouldn't coerce anyone. I increasingly think that the whole issue of state involvement in education has been something of a disaster. I learned more from public libraries, though I had a good catholic school too.

On secular grounds, we wouldn't agree, I think, on euthanasia or abortion. Oddly enough, we would probably agree on civil unions. Marriages are religious ceremonies, which should be confined to churches; but if the state recognises partnerships, with tax benefits, between citizens, it should recognise the partnerships of all citizens.

As for gay rights, what are these? The right to human dignity and to be treated as an adult and a citizen regardless of your legal sexual practices is sacrosanct. I'm not gay, so maybe I don't understand gay identity. The hetero side of me says, very firmly, I won't define people by what they do in bed, and anyway, popes and the church very clearly say that to hate or behave hatefully to gay people is a very serious sin. yet I have eyes, and ears, and can see and hear the many gay people telling me that there is a real gay sensibility and a gay 'culture' not defined by resistance to the bigotry of others. I remain to be convinced, but the surest guarantee of respect is the rule of freedom under law. Maybe that is what is meant by rights.

I can't agree about population healthy societies have more children. Europe is having fewer. This will lead to demographic crisis and to real economic problems if not reversed. Where there is no future, no one has any reason to invest in it or to work for it. That surely is one of the lessons of history.

We may agree about government run foreign aid, but not about the provision of basic hospitals and schools by NGOs and churches. In areas of Africa and Asia where churches provide services, the AIDS epidemic that affects all our fellow humans like the black death affected europeans is being quarantined and suppressed. The figures are straightforward.

Regionalism may be ideal, but the English regions are uneven, and people seem not to want it.

As for the replication of the likes of Akehurst, Honeyball, and a myriad others by list systems--no. The surest guarantee against those people soaking up public funds, taxing and spending and coercing, whilst being bigots, is popular election.

As for the 'attitudes of people like Kelly'; they are not attitudes. They are imperfectly held beliefs of imperfect beings. No ideal rule could accomodate them, or deny them, so a little less clarity-- a necessary veil or hypocrisy--may be a civilised virtue.

Hope you don't mind my short note. You took the trouble to write to me, so I am doing you the courtesy of responding. It's a shame the political system can't accomodate us both.
Merseymike said…
Not at all!

Just to respond on a single point. With regard to gay culture and identity, I think that all identities are to a large extent socially constructed, and given reality, I don't think that the presence of bigotry is likely to disappear, so whether that identity would continue to exist in its absence is something which cannot be measured.

From a personal position, it is an important part of my identity, and that isn't something which is easy to quantify - but it is certainly there. Sometimes, things exist because people experience them and state them. Under other circumstances, where there are not the concepts, not the words, they cannot exist in the same way. But there is a certain intangible reality about being gay which is, indeed, as 'gay sensibility'

As a sociologist, though - I would certainly say that all identity is socially constructed.

Read my book! It looks at some of these issues - details on my blog.


PS Sustainable living will mean that the world will be forced to adopt European population patterns...expect one-child policies everywhere, no matter what religionists argue!
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Mike

I think sustainable living will be forced upon us by peak oil, which is a much more solidly-based idea than carbon-related global warming. The allotments and farms that will be vital to the future won't be powered by oil, or oil-based fertilisers. Supermarkets won't deliver over milllions of miles of journey times when the oil is only available at prohibitive prices. Allotments, which should be built sustainably into every new housebuild, so long as it isn't on a flood plain or brownfield, won't dig themselves. People left without service jobs to waste their time are not going to avoid sex. We are going to need children and large families again, and the limits will be natural and not state ones. Societies that do not have children die, or become distorted.

What are the tens of millions of young chinese men and othres in the developing world who have no hope, ever, of being married, having kids or living the full life meant to do? Establish polyandry? Invade Australia? Even the Italians, all those lovely women, are suffering childlessness on a destructive scale at the minute. My problem with restricting population are the consequences of the question, 'who'? The poor? Africans? Everyone? What about unplanned pregnancies? Do we think that we can sterlise or abort our way out of resource crisis, or poison women with contraceptives on an industrial scale? Not all women can easily take the pill.

The basic problem is the combination of untrammelled capitalism, the end of cheap oil, the food crisis and the rise of huge numbers of hopeless, angry young men outside our fortresses as all but the populations of australia and north america and Ireland shrink and age within the walls. There is no quick solution.

I take your point about identity. I'm intrigued by how much psychologists now suggest identity and personality are given by physiology, neurochemistry and genetics. I do not wish to accept their conclusions, and want to uphold the idea of a social and economic construction of identity, but I wonder given some of the research.

Good luck with the book sales! Your site certainly seems interesting, and I wish you well.
Steve Hayes said…
No, of course religion shouldn't coerce anyone. If they want 28-day detention, 42-day detention, 90-day detention, 180-day detention, or indefinite detention without trial, religion should not stand in their way.
Martin Meenagh said…
Standing in the way of something isn't coercive. Quietly resisting isn't coercing. Holding to and trying to persuade others to a view of truth and humanity that says to power, 'this is wrong' and to its servants 'don't do this' with quiet force isn't coercive. I'm not willing to tell others what to believe, but I would want them to remove themselves from time and space and understand the spiritual logic which for me reaches its height in catholicism. Since we are such flawed beings, and the church is a human institution, it will inevitably be flawed and we will only know the shadow of god.
So we shouldn't coerce. Is your opinion different steve?
Merseymike said…
People will have to learn to adjust, Martin. Its that or not surviving - and that's why I believe that Catholicism and other pro-excessive breeding religions will need to be actively suppressed. Or they will realise their foolishness, and change their view.

Told you we had fundamentally different approaches to the world....oh, and if all the people who were actually gay stopped forming relationships with the opposite sex under duress and social pre3ssure, that would be a start....
Martin Meenagh said…
Oh, I'm not sure if many of us will escape whats coming unscathed Mike. I get quite gloomy about the future at times. And we do have fundamentally different approaches to the world. Still, I respect your opinion, and agree with your last point.

Yet I wouldn't want to live in a world where 'excessive breeding' was 'suppressed'. It would not be worth upholding, because there would be no point to such a world, and anyway, such policies would be impossible.

If that is the culture of death the west now amounts to, we may as well pack it in and leave it to the cultists and fascists, or wait for those who value their life and reason to reemerge and save us.

Still, you've got to smile haven't you? chin up.

good luck.

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