Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Voting with a conscience

I am voting Labour in the European parliamentary elections tomorrow, because I know that the party is standing some excellent candidates who will make great MEPs for London. And I am casting a Labour vote because it is a vote against the BNP and UKIP - which alone is reason enough to vote.

I'm voting Labour with some difficulty however. It's not because I don't agree with the values of the party - I've been a member for so long that cancelling my membership would be like divorcing a member of my family - but the party in government, in its present form has stopped inspiring me. I haven't done any campaigning for the party in months - but then again I haven't felt like defending the record of politicians in general - let alone Labour politicians.

Like the rest of the British public, I'm furious with MPs who have abused the expenses system. A lot of it isn't a massive surprise to me - I used to work in an MP's Parliamentary office and many people I know who work in politics would have been witness to some of these extravagant claims - Labour and Tory alike. But it's the arrogance and the inability to recognise where serious changes need to be made which really makes me angry.

At times like this, we need real leadership - and in this situation, our Prime Minister hasn't led, but followed, and cautiously suggested half-hearted attempts at reforming the expenses system. When our entire constitutional settlement is in question, Gordon Brown hasn't met the political challenges posed by other MPs and the public at large - at a time when we should be going back to the drawing board and sketching out ideas for real changes in the way we do politics. Much as though I admire his command of economic policy and leadership during a time of global recession, there is a distinct lack of communication over what's going on in the PM's head. Does he have any answers to the current crisis of democracy? Or is he happy to struggle on with a big question mark over how MPs should reconnect with their constituents who are spitting feathers over ludicrous and excessive claims? I don't know, and I'm not prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Guardian's editorial had it spot on today - and when the most credible Labour-supporting newspaper of the chattering classes starts to seriously question Gordon Brown's authority. Good luck to the rebels who are, as I speak, attempting to gather enough support to challenge the leadership. I hope we can have a General Election soon because if Labour is proud of its record (and I think it really should be) then it won't be frightened of a test at the polls.

I don't know whether the party can turn itself around in the next year, the next five years, or the next ten years in its quest to become credible with the electorate again. It will need someone articulate, open to new ideas, probably much younger, and less tainted by the battles of the past to succeed. But - and my boyfriend will probably disagree with me on this one - I do believe in voting according to the values you are brought up with and for me, that's about the belief in collective action and the idea that we can achieve more in unity than we achieve alone.

Vote Labour tomorrow if you genuinely believe that Britain should be represented by a broadly progressive force in Europe - but don't feel that by voting Labour tomorrow that you're voting for the current incumbent of No. 10 Downing Street.

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