Does Labour deserve our vote?
The Generation Xer
Politically speaking I am with Lord Byron, who said in 1814, “I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments”. As an anarchist my ideal government would be barely noticeable and restrict itself to practical stuff like running trains and traffic lights. It would not tell us what to do.
But the anarchist is in the tragic position of having no one to vote for because, being anti-government, anarchists do not stand for parliament.
The flip side is that anarchists are in the enviable position of voting any way we want. We can abstain as a protest against the system. Or we can vote Green or Tory or Labour. Over the last 30 years I’ve done all of those.
Right now, though, it’s got to be Labour.
It’s simple morality. Tories are all about unrestrained individuality and Labour is about looking after the weaker ones. Tories are also more prone to corruption and cronyism, simply because they’re the party of greed and award each other massive contracts and peerages. In the Tory view, wealth is a sign of merit and hard work, whereas in reality it’s often a sign of a criminal temperament and a psychopathic disregard for morals and other people in general. The Tories are also slaves to Silicon Valley and their horrific exploitative
moneymaking scams like Uber and AirBnB. And let’s not forget that the Tories let the Irish starve in the potato famine of 1845-8.
Tories are all about unrestrained individuality and Labour is about looking after the weaker ones
Labour is the more sophisticated party. The choice for thinking people. After all, the most culturally diverse and intelligent population in the country – those living in London – just voted for a Labour mayor. (Yes, I’m aware Boris got voted in as mayor a few years ago, but that man has weird magic powers I’m at a loss to comprehend.) In general London is left-leaning because it’s liberal, all-embracing, cosmopolitan and right ahead on social issues.
The problem is that Labour looks wet and pathetic compared to the Tories. People like Boris’s good cheer, self-assurance and apparent courage. “He’s got a pair,” they say. Irrationally, in my view, they also admire his libertinism. He has something of the “merry monarch” Charles II, who was such a relief after the Leninist Cromwell, reopening theatres, living with courtesans and generally having fun. In the same way, people loved the rakish eighteenth century MP John Wilkes, for whom the word “liberty” had many meanings. A London drayman was quoted as saying admiringly, “He’s free from cock to wig.”
I’m still hopeful Labour can lighten its mood, embrace fun, shed its remaining Puritanism and grow a pair.
Tom Hodgkinson is editor of “The Idler” magazine
Hailing from Huntingdonshire, which had the biggest Tory majority in the country, I naturally voted Labour once I came of age, not wishing to prolong the upper-class entrenched privilege that characterised the area where I grew up.
As a child of the 1940s, I was a grateful beneficiary of the newly-created welfare state, and also Labour’s implementation of the 1944 Education Act, which gave working-class children like me the chance of a higher education, completely free, up to and including university. Labour seemed the way to go, with its emphasis on equality, championing the underdog, nationalising essential industries and building a million homes after the war, 80 per cent of which were council houses.
In all sorts of ways, Labour improved life for the working classes in the immediate post-war years.
Labour also spearheaded, or brought in, the Race Relations and Equal Pay Acts of the 1960s and 70s which, as a strong feminist, of course I supported.
When I later became a Fleet Street journalist the influence of Labour was still keenly felt. My newspaper then operated what was known as a closed shop, which meant you had to belong to a union. This, at the time, meant high wages for all as the print and journalism unions wielded enormous power and were able to hold newspaper proprietors to ransom.
We’re back to the days when big bosses can get away with unpaid internships, zero-hours contracts and terrible working conditions
True, the unions overreached themselves by insisting that traditional means of production in many industries continued long after they were outdated. This meant they had to reform which, mainly, they failed to do, and trade unions lost their hold everywhere.
The upshot of this is that we’re back to the bad old days when big bosses can get away with unpaid internships, zero-hours contracts and terrible working conditions. Plus, no social housing has been built for years.
All this happened while Labour stood by and did nothing. How, in recent times, have they been fighting for workers’ rights?
They offered no effective counter to Brexit deals and have provided no dissenting voice to any of the restrictions, lockdowns and job losses imposed since Covid. Instead, they have spinelessly gone along with the Government. What is the point of an opposition, I wonder, if it doesn’t oppose?
The Conservatives’ decisive victory at Hartlepool underlines just what even a former Labour stronghold thinks of the party it had championed since 1974.
When Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997, his party was known as New Labour. Since leaving office, he has strayed so far from his socialist ideals as to become a multi-millionaire.
We now need a New New Labour with a coherent policy. Until then, I am voting Conservative.
Liz Hodgkinson is a journalist (and Tom’s mother)