Magazine article The Spectator

A Floating, Maybe Drowning Voter

Magazine article The Spectator

A Floating, Maybe Drowning Voter

Article excerpt

A floating, maybe drowning voter So Now WHO DO WE VOTE FOR? by John Harris Faber, £7.99,pp. 160, ISBN 0571224229

John Harris, the mop-topped commentator from Manchester, better known as a music journalist (and a very fine one) than a political correspondent, is in a pickle. Having voted Labour his entire adult life, he now finds himself horrified by the New Labour project, and by Blair and Blairism in particular, and wonders whether it isn't time to swear allegiance to another party. In Harris's childhood home 'the Labour Party was like Church', and that morning in 1985 when, as a 15-year-old, he came down to breakfast to find a Labour party membership form next to his cereal bowl it was the 'equivalent of Confirmation'. In So Now Who Do We Vote For?, this once loyal altar boy to Labourism weighs up the pros and cons of excommunicating himself and seeking solace elsewhere.

I have never voted Labour (or Tory or Lib Dem, in case you're curious) and have no loyalty to any of today's sorry excuses for political parties, but even I felt a pang of sympathy with Harris's predicament. He is clearly a creature of politics, who believes passionately in equality and opportunity, yet now his once beloved Labour gives us 'war in Iraq, top-up fees, Blair in bed with Bush, private companies buying into schools and hospitals'. And it must be galling for those who were signed-up members of the Labour Party (even if that membership, like Harris's, was short-lived and involved little more than 'dutifully delivering election leaflets' and attending constituency party meetings with his dad) now to watch it departy itself, if such a word exists. Labour is no longer a party in any meaningful sense, but a collection of ambitious individuals and cliques. As Harris notes, the gap between the grass roots and what passes for the party today was perfectly captured by the mass protests against the Iraq war in February 2003, when One got the sense of a worrying schism between Westminster politics and the opinion of the people our MPs claim to represent'.

My sympathy soon ran out, however. Harris is like the spurned, perhaps even battered, lover who keeps going back for more. …

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