Susan Dalgety: Sorry Jeremy, I'm not quitting Labour

There have been two absolute constants in my adult life. My overdraft (thanks RBS) and my Labour Party membership card.

Tuesday, 10th April 2018, 7:00 am
Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

I was convinced I would go to my grave with both. There is definitely no earthly prospect, barring a EuroMillions win, that I will pay off my ­overdraft before I die, but I am now not so sure that my party card is for life.

The accidental leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the motley crew of Stalinists, Marxists, anti-semites, assorted oddballs and very angry old men and their (ex) girlfriends that now control the party, means it is no longer the serious political force it once was, and should be now.

Little wonder there are plans by an ex-Labour donor to set up a new ­centrist party.

Corbyn’s new Labour is not the same party that gave us the National Health Service, devolution, equal pay legislation and the minimum wage.

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Corbyn’s new Labour is not a party of Europe, or a democratic socialist movement, focused on achieving ­economic and social justice.

It is most definitely not a broad church open to all, as the Labour Party was once, before JC.

Corbyn’s new Labour believes that the United States of America is the mortal enemy (yes, even when Obama was in charge), that the European Union is a conspiracy to keep the workers as slaves, and, shamefully, it sometimes turns a blind eye to the Holocaust deniers in its midst.

Instead of coherent policies for the uncertainties of a post-Brexit world, Corbyn’s new Labour offers the ­voters macho fighting talk: we’ll smash the system they scream, instead of explaining how they will build a better Britain.

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Only those who swear allegiance to St Jeremy are deemed worthy of a holding a party card. We non-believers are class traitors. Tory scum. And the worst insult of all – Blairites.

Here in Scotland, Richard Leonard, leader of Scottish Labour, argues, not very convincingly at times, that he is his own man.

Cammy Day, Labour’s chief on Edinburgh City Council focuses on local issues, while Ian Murray, Labour’s MP for Edinburgh South and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale fight a lonely battle against Brexit.

But it seems they are all helpless in the face of the footsoldiers of Momentum and Unite.

There is no room in Corbyn’s new Labour for people who believe in winning the hearts and minds of the voters instead of crushing the opposition.

Maybe it is a generational thing. Perhaps young people really do want a Stalinist revolution they can Instagram, instead of Sure Start centres and properly funded social care.

Perhaps it is time that the “old” people who built the party that won three elections in a row, from 1997, handed it over to the millennials in their Converse and Corbyn t-shirts.

Or maybe it’s not. Jeremy Corbyn is 69 next month and his left-hand man John McDonnell is 66. Hardly the Snapchat generation.

Perhaps this new Labour Party is just full of angry folk, of all ages, who like a fight. “Who cares?”, I hear you all mutter, as you turn the page. “Politicians are all as bad as each other, it doesn’t matter who is in power.”

Except it does. Remember Margaret Thatcher?

In the grand scheme of things my personal dilemma, which I wrestle with every day, is of no great interest to anyone but a few of my close friends.

I no longer go to party meetings, in part because I am terrified I would have a stroke while arguing with a Corbynista. Or worse.

My activism, which once ­overwhelmed my life, is now confined to Facebook and Twitter. No one will care if I tear up my party card. But if we all abandon the party of Barbara Castle and Gordon Brown to the likes of Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, who will rebuild the Labour Party once the hipster hooligans have destroyed it and moved on to the next big thing?

Perhaps the Labour Party really is for life.