For the first time in five years, I will be voting for Labour in an election. The last time I did so was actually when I lived in London as a postgraduate student and voted for Sadiq Khan for Mayor — it feels like a different decade, because it really was a different decade, a different era, a different life.
The Corbyn years left me bitter — an unconscionable verkrappt clique (some might call it the “post-left”) seized control of Brtiain’s centre-left party, led by one of the the dullest men who ever lived (yet still somehow the most unbelievably morally compromised), and by 2017 I could not bear to put my mark beside the red rose. The assorted idiocies; the weaknesses; the virtue-signalling; the failure on anti-semitism (which was totally self-imposed and completely avoidable); the confused foreign policy (or lack thereof); failing first to stop Leave, followed by the total acquiescence to a hard-as-nails Brexit, then by a bemusing multi-layered intra-party conflict, and ultimately ending in a bizarre “have-it-any-which-way-yer-like” approach, with the party leader, supposedly one of the greatest politcal minds of our time, professing “neutrality” in the matter (a horrible abandonment for someone who was allegedly so “principled”); effectively providing cover for Russia when it attacked our country; inaccessible and cumbersome manifestos; the utter inability to square being “for the many” with the fact that the great many simply didn’t like any or much of it…it all added up into an assemblage of awfulness.
However, since the Corbynocracy’s demise, and the rise of the Starmer Administration, my mood has shifted, and I have been able to come to a means of defending my prospective votes, at least to myself if not to others, namely:
- In spite of the various problems I have had with Starmer’s leadership — of which I have been fairly open about — he is still so much the better leader than either his predecessor or his current main opponent, the World-King. Note that I say better, not less bad or less worse. This is not lesser-evilism of any kind. He is ideologically closer to me in person, I agree or sympathise with many of his stated policies and goals (regardless of what ever disagreements I might have mentioned, strong or mild), his professional background gives me confidence, and, most of all, I believe that he is a pragmatist who knows he needs to win elections in order to achieve power to get actual things done— not to prance around on a moralisitc bender and lose anyway, nor to win power simply for the sake of doing so. His claims to patriotism might entirely be window dressing, but in strategic terms it shows a desire to actually align Labour’s vision with the popular will. By voting Labour I am not “voting for Starmer” — I am voting to show my approval of his leadership, and to hopefully have the resultant numbers slap down the foolish challengers, from the remaining Corbynite surrogates (bizarrely still advocating for a dead leadership) to the “Northumbrian nationalists” (to me they’re so terrible I can barely even type their moniker…urgf).
- I must show my disaproval of the current government, even in such an indirect manner. In November 2019, before the start of the pandemic, the NHS was operating at it worst level in years — surely these dysfunctions contributed to many needless deaths. For all the successes of the vaccination programme (thank Christ), in every other respect the government’s handling of the disaster has been a disaster. The open corruption goes on and on and on. On the world stage, our glorious post-Brexit “Global Brtiain” has been made to look incompetent and foolish while we are still beaten by the EU (who would have thought that the world’s largest trading bloc of nations would get the lead on trade deals while a single medium-sized nation-state would hit a series of mountainous speed bumps?). Our threats to Beijing over its genocide of the Uighers, its cyber-stalking, and its South Seas imperialism ring hollow. The rise in both violent and property crime has been a catastrophe, and can be linked directly to the long-term effects of austerity imposed by successive Tory governments. This regime needs a collective poke in the eye, and I will be more than happy to add my thumb to it.
- I do not believe in not voting. It is a dereliction of civic duty not to exercise that right which so many literally fought and died for, from Peterloo to Omaha Beach. The right to vote most importantly is right there, within easy reach, waiting for one to use and to have an effect in our shared reality. So, one must exercise it, responsibly and with good reason.
Voting Labour in my constituency means putting up with a lot of the weaknesses of Manchester Labour and its assorted minions in the local councils. It means putting up with Andy Burnham’s failure (and self-serving admittance) to end homelessness, even though it was “one of [his] top Mayoral priorities”. (Personally, I never liked his calculated showboating over the Covid restrictions either.) It means putting up with the weird numbers Burnham put in his election pledge. It means putting up with the fact that Greater Manchester Police were put in special measures under Burnham’s tenure. It means putting up with Andy Burnham.
But this is all part of the trade-offs of voting in a liberal democracy. There are no perfect candidates, no perfect parties, no perfect manifestos. And no other candidates or parties appeal to me enough to take a different course (some of them in the Manchester Mayoral vote I am convinced are actually insane).
This is as good as it gets — but don’t fret. “As good as it gets” is not too bad at all…it’s good. And that’s enough.