The substantial growth in membership of the Labour Party and even more significant number of people who have signed up as associate members in the last few days is no renaissance as far as political parties are concerned. Labour have messed up on a number of levels. The idea of allowing people with an interest in the party to express their views on a candidate is not new nor is it a bad thing. It is clearly radical to hold an open primary on a national scale for a party leader but it does not depend on those from outside the party being authentic in their support of Labour. However to treat these voters in the same way as party members when it comes to the final decision clearly makes no sense and it is here that Labour have made a fundamental blunder. To allow someone like Mark Steel to be rejected from this process and to allow Tim Loughton MP to brag about being rejected is clearly damaging to the Party. I have opinions on all sorts of matters that don’t impact my life or work, but if I had to make a decision on an issue that was going to change something dear to me, I would think a great deal harder, and weigh up things much more carefully. A friend on facebook started a debate yesterday on whether Jeremy Corbyn is a help or hindrance to the party. One of the most strident voices in support of Jeremy was an idealistic American who unlike some of the other contributors will not be impacted directly by the outcome.
It is clear that in terms of the next General election, that Jeremy brings a different set of challenges when compared to the other candidates. However many like me believe that Labour will not win in 2020 and probably not in 2025 for reasons outside of their control in any event. At the age of 66, Jeremy will be 70 at the next election and about to turn 71 (his birthday is at the end of May) and that would make him the oldest Prime Minister ever, narrowly beating Henry Temple by 230 days and Henry Campbell Bannerman by a year and 250 days. Even Michal Foot who Jeremy is often compared with would have been 30 days short of his 70th Birthday had he won in 1983. However it is clear that even if Jeremy wins this contest, and assuming Labour MPs do not follow through with their plan to de-seat him, that well before his 70th Birthday, he will step down to allow a younger person to take on the Tories in 2020. He has been as surprised as everyone else that he is the front runner, and although he will clearly change the Party, he knows he is incapable of running as PM, but that is over 4 years away. Four years are a long time in Politics. In any case by then the Conservatives will have ensured that they are the only party that can win outright by rigging the geography of constituencies and reduction of MP numbers to their advantage. That is how Political Parties operate when they are in power, and that is why we need a new system which takes such decisions out of the hands of the Parties which stand to benefit or suffer from them. By 2020 the SNP vote will be much lower than it was in May, and perhaps the other side of a referendum on Europe so too will the UKIP vote. However unless we radically change the way we vote across England, a Conservative majority in the Commons seems inevitable in the next 2 elections at least. Even with the recent upturn in Labour membership which will probably diminish over the next year or so, and recent increases for Greens and Lib Dems the numbers of Party members will remain much less than any of the other bars on the graph above. Just as Jeremy Corbyn allows a form of Liberal Socialism to emerge that has been dormant for some time, so the Tories, freed from their Lib Dem shield will continue to show their true colours as a Party that does not help those that they believe should help themselves and for whom a bit of pain and distress will be an incentive, whilst rewarding and encouraging the already successful and wealth producers. The environment will only be protected where it is an asset that makes a positive contribution to the lives who the Party wishes to help, localism will only be made relevant to those who support the ideals of the Party.
This leaves space for those of us who do not support any party to find ways of engaging in political change in a society that certainly needs an alternative narrative to that being offered by either of the two largest parties. In 2012 I stood as an Independent in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. It was not an easy process, but as the votes came in I went from fearing I would lose my £5,000 deposit (a sum set by the Tories) to coming within 1% of second place. For the sake of less than 2000 votes, It would have been my second preference votes that would have decided the outcome and I had thousands more than the winning candidate. The Tories had no concerns about the Labour vote, they simply wanted to ensure I did not come second. Although some of the PCCs have shown themselves to be unsuited to the job, most of the 30% Independent PCCs have been very good advocates for their local communities. If that sort of result was seen in a General Election we would have nearly 200 Independent MPs, able to bring the concerns of local people into Parliament without first going through a filter of what is good for the Party and able to prevent any one party from dominating society like the Tories do today!