Originally this piece was called, ‘Who the fuck do I vote for??!!!’ but I changed it to protect my public image for the three people on Earth who still think I’m genteel. I don’t overuse punctuation though. Promise. (Apart from brackets.)
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been a card carrying Labour member for my entire life. I was a member back when I was about 16 when my father enrolled me in a complete misunderstanding about where his control over my political beliefs ended. To be fair, he has not done this since he switched his allegiance from Labour to Lib Dem to Labour to UKIP. I think he was a Tory once. So I have had a little more Labour consistency than some, even when I haven’t always had the card in my wallet. I did, in 1997, go out campaigning on behalf of Ivor Caplin who won Hove for Labour, bringing about the awesome Paxman line to a squirming Conservative, ‘If you can’t keep Hove, then what can you keep?’ I did that. Me.
So I’m really, really sorry about Blair.
'No! It wasn't me! It was that dastardly Pip! (Picture EPA)
I strayed since then, wandering into Lib Dem areas when Clegg was shooting up like a glowing flower of liberal glory in 2010.
'I'm not sure how I got here, really, but I'm pretty sure it's Pip's fault...' (Image PA)
I’m really sorry about that too.
But, in general, I’m Labour. I joined Labour again in 2015 in the week following the general election. I wanted to have a say in who led my party and who would stand up in parliament and argue for the people I care about. I wanted someone who would fight for the nurses, the teachers, the sick, the disabled, the poor. I wanted some belief in a party that is strong enough to give a shit about the people who need it most.
Initially, I was fairly unfocused, even though I knew I wanted a say. I looked at the candidates finding them all a little bit bland, a little bit too prepared to trot out trite catchphrases and have the bog-standard politician’s response to every event; ‘I will fight for the working person!’ ‘I believe in trust!’ ‘I want a country full of hot air because there are Words which are Words That I Think People Want to Hear and I should say them!’ And the one that has been making my flesh crawl for the past five years; ‘I’m shocked and appalled!’ No you’re not. If you were, it might be possible for you to have an actual, human emotion or at least dig deep in your thesaurus for a couple of different words. I’ve heard that phrase three times in the past month.
Then, out of the darkness, came a wonderful light…
'Look at me, thinking about higher things!' (picture, Telegraph)
Oh yes! Corbyn! Oh the absolute joy of finding someone who thinks and feels exactly what I think and feel.
I once told my children that if you want to have an MP who agrees with you 100%, then you have to stand yourself.
Corbyn hits my ideology at about 95%.
There was no question in my mind that I would vote for Corbyn. I put the X in that particular box because I wanted to. Not for kicks, not for fun and not because I wanted to screw everyone. I wanted to. He won. And in some ways, I’m sorry about that.
I spent the first couple of weeks making the excuse that he was just settling in. Just getting his feet under the table, as it were. That accounted for his quietness.
The ‘real questions from real people’ strategy was interesting and based on excellent ideals. There was suddenly a hotline to parliament rather than the old fashioned way of getting off your arse, going to your constituency clinic, explaining your point to your MP and allowing that MP to try to get that question into Prime Ministers Question Time. In practice though, it kind of made Corbyn seem as though he was hiding behind ‘Carol, from High Wickham’. He liked her question. But don’t think her question might be his question.
He needed to straighten his suit. I don’t give a rat’s arse about anyone’s clothing from Prada to Primark. I have no right to judge given that I show up to work in jeans every day because I honestly believe that doing my job well is a higher priority than wearing formal clothes while doing it. But I’m not standing up in parliament while doing it. If I were, I don’t think I’d allow my choice of clothing to score higher in people’s minds than what I was saying.
He didn’t sing the National Anthem. I do think it’s better that he didn’t do something didn’t believe in just for the look of things. I agree with that sentiment 100%. Or maybe just 95%
I also think there is a sort of rudeness to it. Making a point, fine. Making a point that’s going to deliberately upset people in the context of a moving and solemn event is not fine. My atheist friends managed to choke out an ‘amen’ at my wedding, and even join in with hymns about Gd, even though they clearly don’t amen. My wedding simply wasn’t the right place to make that point. Even if they didn’t speak it, they didn’t use it as a photo op to demonstrate their non-amen qualities. So hurrah not saying something he didn’t believe and instead, bowing his head respectfully, but not-hurrah for using the Battle of Britain memorial to push that image home.
That memorial happened because of the collective belief that the magnitude of what happened in two world wars leaves a hole that never goes away. We don’t want to forget these people, who said the amen, who polished their shoes, who saluted senior officers, and who did it not necessarily because it spoke to their core beliefs but because they valued and loved this country which does, I have to point out, have a monarchy. Whether we want it to or not, it does have one, and it was a part of what these people were doing when they polished their shoes and went out to die. We don’t just want to remember what they did but who they are; we want to speak for them because they can’t. Just mime the national anthem when you’re standing on their graves, then talk about republicanism or atheism loudly in the appropriate place.
Or maybe don’t. Maybe you know that stance would cost you the support of an awful lot of people. So maybe stay silent.
The silence pissed me off a lot. One of the reasons I know that I could never be a politician is that I know you have to make a lot of noise. You can’t do it quietly. (The other reason is that I’m God-damned lazy, and, y’know, the brackets thing.)
Be noisy. Be angry. Be aggressive. Attack when you need to attack. There’s no point having all these beliefs and making all these choices if you’re not being loud while doing it.
You can’t have a leader who won’t shout back. I know it’s the old sort of politics, and I know there’s no need to stoop to their level, but there actually kind of is. You can’t talk softly and carry a big stick if you’re not carrying the big stick. Sometimes you have to shout.
And then the silence that’s really offensive; if someone accuses a member of your team of bullying, then you respond to it pretty fucking quickly, and you do so clearly and visibly. You can’t say, ‘there’s no place for bullying…’ when you are making a space for bullying by appearing to do nothing at all. That’s not a deterrent in school, in work or in a political party. Investigate, determine and resolve, do it quickly, and make sure everybody knows you’re doing it.
So there I am. I can still see that Jeremy Corbyn believes in all the liberal and socialist things that I believe in, but I can also see that he’s not a great leader. He can’t manage people and situations well. But then… I’m not sure Owen Smith can either. He’s already pissing me off, and he’s been on my radar for less than three weeks. His major selling point is that he’s Not Corbyn. The understanding is that he’ll gather all the Not Corbyn votes. That’s precisely why they haven’t split the Not Corbyn votes between a number of candidates. But I don’t want to give mine away so easily.
'Can I have a beige background? I think beige is nice. My whole house is beige.' (Picture, Getty)
We seem to have returned to the bland. We have returned to the, ‘I’m a feminist!’ because ‘That’s what feminists want me to say!’ and ‘I hope they don’t notice that Corbyn’s shadow cabinet has a greater proportion of women than there has ever been!’
We have returned to the, ‘I’m a socialist too! Honest!’ He wants to ‘Fight for the workers!’ We’ve returned to ‘Shocked!’ and fucking ‘Appalled!’
This is what 'shocked and appalled looks like. You might as well post it on Twitter.
But on the other side, we’ve still got the, ‘Speak softly and try to work out what a big stick might look like.’
I just want to shake them all up and yell at them to say what they fucking believe rather than what their campaign managers want them to look like they believe. I want to yell at them to shout it from the bloody rooftops rather than just feel it in their hearts.
I don’t feel pulled towards either camp and there isn’t a third camp to pull towards. I am frustrated.
I need someone to vote for. Someone to give the party and country I love to.
I know that I really can’t complain. I know that I don’t want to stand either. I know I can’t handle the pressure.
(I also use too many brackets.)