I am canny hacked off with the Labour Party.
This isn’t a general “oh you’ve got a silly policy there” or “you‘ve elected a total muppet to lead your party” grumble – as I type we’ve not heard the leadership election result yet. No, this, this time it’s personal. They’ve not let me have a vote I’ve signed up and paid for, but haven’t even had the good grace to ban me. I’ve just not heard a thing.
So, I’ve always been a left-leaning floating voter but last month I decided to join the Labour Party as a supporter, mainly in order to have a say in who they were going to elect as the new leader. Why supporter and not a full member? Well, I’m rather skint so a one-off payment of £3 was more realistic than monthly payments, and it also gave me a chance to back out of being associated with the party if they started buggering about again and doing things I don’t agree with. What persuaded me to dabble in party politics, as opposed to the usual shouting at my TV screen, was the feeling that if I voted in this, along with others, we could elect a party leader who’d make a genuine difference.
Yup – I’m a Corbynite. (Or perhaps a wannabe, because I’ve not been allowed to vote.) Briefly, I prefer his economics and leftie politics, though like all politicians he’s certainly not perfect. I think he would be a much better opposition to the Conservative government than the other austerity-lite, bland candidates.
That’s my motivation but it’s slightly beside the point. The story: I joined by text just before the closing date (procrastination is my strong point) and followed up with a phone call in which the nice man in the call centre checked my identity was kosher on the electoral roll and we had a nice chat about how the last election had got a lot of people more engaged in politics. I then sat back and waited. 1st September rolled around – by when most people should have received their online ballots – and I hadn’t received anything, so I tried phoning both the membership queries number and the general contact number on the website. One automatically hung up on me and the other didn’t work.
I kept phoning on and off, to no reply, sent an email through the website on the 1st, and tried the ballot reissue form as the website suggested on the 5th. No replies other than the automatic “we are handling your enquiry” one. Finally an email came through on the 8th, a generic one to all supporters reminding them to vote and that another ballot would be sent by Wednesday if they hadn’t. I’d been checking junk email folders like fury and added Labour to my safe sender list. So I’m obviously on a system somewhere, but still the magic ballot did not appear. How rude of it. In a last-ditch attempt to sort out something, I tried both the Labour numbers – an automated message – tried calling the electoral services – nothing they can do – and tweeted various related parties. Even my MP has an email of my narked-ness now, though I’m aware there’s nowt he can do so late in the day.
Too long; didn’t read? Basically, I signed up, tried desperately to chase my ballot but haven’t received it. They still took the £3 supporter fee, though.
I don’t even have the definite answer of being banned. An email saying that would have been something, instead of this silence, and then I could have comforted myself thinking at least I’m as undesirable to the New Labour folk as the great comedian Mark Steel. Though I don’t think I’ve reason to be banned; I’ve never joined any political party, and hell, I even voted Labour at my first and only general election. Maybe the purging high-ups don’t like Morris Dancers or members of Amnesty International.
Perhaps I’ve just fallen through the cracks in the system somewhere. Admin errors happen, that’s fine, but it’s galling that I’ve been really trying to get in touch and met a brick wall at every turn. Where’s the party’s manners?
I’m not arrogant enough to assume my vote would swing a tight contest. But, dammit, I paid for it and it’s mine. Whatever your political persuasion, you can’t argue with that. If a political party can’t organise a political contest, then what the hell would it be like trying to organise anything else? This whole leadership contest has shown not only incompetence (in my case), but also a very childish, if not patronising, side within the party. So a bloke who you nominated but don’t really like is proving popular, and you made it possible for more of the public to join but they’re voting for the guy you don’t like? Tough. You made the rules, now you have to cope with them. Shouldn’t you be happy that more of the public are actually inspired, interested in politics, and interested in supporting your party? (Even if there is a minority of conniving right-wingers who think they’re being clever by trying to join and skew the result. They’re childish too). Your obsession with winning elections seems to be so blinkered that you ignore the fact that a man with popular support could actually win you an election. Are you more interested in keeping yourselves in power within the party than listening to the electorate?
So get it right, Labour: I’m a genuinely politically engaged person who was interested in being a supporter. Maybe I will support you again, depending on what happens under the new leadership (whoever takes it on). But for now, you’ve thoroughly disillusioned me. You no longer have my support. Give me my £3 back.