Kevin Maguire writes about the decline in Labour’s membership in Scotland and suggests that:
Labour has fewer than 300 (members) in 15 seats with Westminster MPs. Militant Tendency entryists could easily take over constituencies now without a struggle and if the trade unions ever get their act together and persuade levy payers to become full members, they’d soon change the Parliamentary Party.
Ah, Kevin, your naivety is touching. You really think that the Labour leadership give a twopenny toss about the poor sods that turn up to Constituency Party meetings? The envelope stuffers, leaflet deliverers, door knockers in the wind and the rain…. the poor bloody infantry. Of course they don’t.
De-selecting a sitting MP now is almost as difficult as it was in the 1970′s, and don’t bother thinking about policy making. Even if you successfully moved a resolution through your constituency party meeting it would be highly unlikely to make it on to the Conference floor unless it gushed with buttock clenching praise of our glorious leaderships’ endeavors or had been neutered or butchered beyond recognition by a sub-committee of the conference arrangements committee. Heaven forbid, we don’t want Party Conferences discussing contentious issues…. not with the tv cameras rolling, eh? Like the crowd at a Premier League football match covered by Sky, the delegates are extras who’ve been soft enough to pay for the privilege of getting a walk on part in the movie.
Why would a trade union want to persuade their activists (already hard to come by for their own needs) to become individual members in order to be able to spend a cold night in a room full of equally sad people, just so that they can get a report from their MP about the latest farcical developments in the pantomime in Westminster?
Even the most barking Trot now realises that his life’s ambition to go ‘undercover’ and gain control of the Constituency Party Executive Committee was a futile waste of time. The Constituency Party is, like the Branch meeting before it, nearly as dead as Python’s parrot. No more. Yes, the body is still there, but it ain’t breathing. It is bereft of life, it has run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!
Worst still, I fear. It is irrelevant.
On the day of the 1997 General Election I was helping out on a polling station in nearby Stourbridge. It was a fine, sunny day (things could only get better, remember) and I got to chatting to a dear, crusty old lady, well in to her 80′s who was wearing her blue rosette with pride and taking numbers for the Tories. Her stories of the rotting decay in the Tory Party in the 1990′s was music to my ears. No politics to speak of, no connection to Westminster, council seats had all but disappeared (taking the ‘activists’ and their spouses with them) and a handful of those that remained going through the motions…. politics by numbers.
Well, we are not that bad yet (at least, not in Sandwell, where the Tories appear to have given up the ghost, and the Liberal Democrats are in the process of leaving the building) but there is a whiff of it in the air. No, Kevin, we cannot wait for the trade unions or trots to mobilise their invisible armies. If Labour does not re-engage with its membership, its core membership which according to Maguire is what we have left in some areas, I fear it will be too late. I get no sense from talking to people around here that they are any more enthused with Tory ideas and values than they were 11 years ago, but in terms of national politics, at least, I get the feeling they don’t like ours much either.
All of this will seem a bit disloyal as we all plunge into work to try to win council seats, and I’m sure it won’t earn me any plaudits amongst some comrades who don’t think we should hang our dirty linen out to dry. But it has got to be said. If we don’t do what Harman promised (or should I say nicked from Jon Cruddas) and reinvigorate and engage with our membership and prove that they are the lifeblood of the Party, not the millionaires with big wallets and shopping lists to match, we will become that dead parrot.