Wandering back

Well, things have been quiet round here for a while, haven’t they? Where has this hedgehog been wandering since January?

Well, the first thing to point out is that I am no longer a member of the Labour party. Last September’s financial crisis knocked the stuffing out of me, and left me with very little interest in getting involved in Labour politics. Not because I thought Labour were uniquely blameworthy, but because I was so distracted by what was happening that it became something of a watershed. “Joining the Labour party” belonged too firmly to “before all that happened”.

Since then I’ve been drifting around the place. Was briefly diverted by Philip Blond’s “Red Tory” essay in Prospect, but was repelled by Blond’s anti-liberalism.

This in turn sent me in the direction of something approaching “classical liberalism”, reading John Stuart Mill and even Friedrich Hayek. Somewhere in the midst of this I cancelled my direct debit to Labour.

I might even have found myself flirting with the idea of voting (whisper it) Conservative, mainly out of a desire to give Labour a smacking and ideally see Gordon Brown chucked out of office. Actually, now you mention it, I think I might even have (gulp) voted for the buggers in the Euro elections. Look, I was young and confused…

But as Adrian Mitchell wrote, when push comes to shove:

I’d rather be a stag at bay
Daubed in colours brown and gory,
Or any creature any day
Than be a bloody Tory

Leading me to the realisation that, however fed up I might be with the current government, and despite having voted Conservative as a protest on a couple of occasions in the past, I really can’t bring myself to vote in an actual Tory government.

So where does that leave me? Well, in terms of fundamental principles, my position remains as described in this post on my main blog last year. A dynamic between Psalm 146:3’s scepticism of political power and Proverbs 31:8,9’s call to exercise power in favour of the “poor and needy”.

But in terms of practical politics, on the most basic level I’m left needing someone to vote for next year. Plus I’m not one of nature’s uncommitted floaters. Over the past few days I’ve been interested in the Cooperative party. I find cooperative principles and mutualism naturally attractive (as in my support for open-source software – it seems the Coop party use Debian for their website!).

Plus, the Coop party’s long alliance with Labour means it avoids the “pure, but impotent” situation of supporting some minor fringe party, while providing some distance and “plausible deniability” from the worst instincts of the Labour party itself. This may turn out, on closer inspection, to be a false understanding on my part. But the Coop party’s new manifesto is released tomorrow, so I hope to check them out in more detail then.

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9 thoughts on “Wandering back”

  1. Is it terribly unfair of me to point out that: (a) the Co-op never stand candidates on a ticket separate from Labour; and (b) the highest-ranking Labour and Co-operative government minister is the Rt. Hon. Ed Balls? Balls is about as far removed from self-help and self-responsibility for parents as it is possible to be.

    (I agree with you that co-operative values and principles are good for society; I just think that a classically liberal polity is the best environment for them. Surprise, surprise…)

  2. Phil: the Ed Balls thing is a worry, yes.

    As for the Labour affiliation: in a way that’s part of the point. In a slightly unformed, un-thought-through way, I see the Coops as a way of supporting the best of Labour while distancing myself from the worst of it.

    The alternative really is the path of purity-but-impotence (the quotation in my post coming from Nye Bevan’s assessment of the Independent Labour Party’s refusal to reaffiliate to Labour). When it comes to actual, practical politics, there’s a need to “sin boldly” from time to time.

    I may, or may not, post some thoughts on where I am regarding classical liberalism versus what you might loosely call “cooperative socialism”. But the bottom line for me is whether cooperative socialism really does live up to its claim to provide a means of promoting “self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity” without coercion or centralisation.

  3. Okay, I see. I guess it would be like an old Trot saying they supported the Militant tendency, not Labour. Or a palaeo-colonialist saying they supported the Monday Club but not the Tories. (Inflammatory, moi? :-p )

    Anyway, if you decide to post those thoughts I’ll happily read them. I’m intrigued as to how co-operative socialism deals with people who don’t want to co-operate. “Our gulag is run entirely for the benefit of the inmates, who receive an annual divvy of the gulag’s revenues in the form of time off from their back-breaking labour.” 😉

  4. Um… not exactly. Though I suspect it’s a means for me to deal with the cognitive dissonance that would be involved in voting Labour next year (a purely symbolic act in a Tory/Lib Dem constituency – almost a vote of thanks for the good things they’ve done, having never actually voted for them).

    As for what cooperative socialism is about in practice: the Coop party issues its new manifesto tomorrow, so I’ll be taking a look at that to see what it looks like. I’d be interested in your thoughts on it, too, if you have the spare time/inclination. I’m pretty sure that “voluntary gulags” will not feature highly…

  5. i’m in Canada and looking at a(nother) vote way too soon… do you have a Libertarian party? i like the idea of less government – i can do good way more efficiently (time, funds etc) than the federal government – if they’d just let me keep more than 50%…

  6. Mamazee: I’m based in the UK so don’t know about the Canadian situation. We have a very small Libertarian Party in the UK, but I don’t think it has any significant backing at the moment. I’m not sure that Britain is particularly fertile soil for libertarianism – we’re a frustratingly illiberal nation in many ways (and I say that as someone who would emphatically not describe himself as a libertarian).

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