It was to the latter that I turned my attention last Friday, when I found myself at the Irish Club in Leamington to hear Tom Watson MP give a rallying cry to Labour activists in the constituency. I confess I felt something of a fraud, because by no stretch could I be described or even describe myself, as an ‘activist’. Lately, especially lately, my contributions to the political debate have been merely despairing rants about the decline of real democracy on a national and particularly local level, and the failure of our elected representatives to address the issues which actually concern us.
But that was before I met Tom Watson.
Arriving early, I was able to meet him personally and discuss politics and football and the state of the nation with him individually for a few moments. And my conclusion is that if every voter were able to have this kind of one-to-one conversation with the man, Labour would win by a landslide.
This was confirmed when he spoke formally to an audience which had grown to about a hundred people. He told us that “so many public institutions were failing on a huge scale”, and that the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS was only one example of the way in which the government was systematically destroying the country.
Nevertheless, he was “optimistic about the 7th May”, because he believed in the empowering state, citing not only the NHS (“the jewel in the crown”) but also Labour achievements such as the Open University and the CEGB.
Of course, he was speaking primarily (though not exclusively) to Labour supporters, and the questioning was largely concerned with potential “rebuttals” of arguments from Greens and Tories. As for the leadership, he told us he had “a huge belief in Miliband” which surprised me because he went so much further than a conventional expression of loyalty, but which was reinforced when, the following day, I was discussing the talk with a director of a major PLC who had worked with Miliband during the last government. He also expressed his admiration for the man.
I am still not sure. Although I agree that the Tories want to turn the election into “a referendum on the last government”, although I accept that Ed has been the target of an unpleasant press campaign to discredit him, I have several ideological differences with him and the current Labour leadership.
But they are insignificant compared with my major ideological differences with the Cameron-Clegg coalition, the Ant and Dec of party politics.
Which is why I have now joined the Labour Party – yes, again – and why I intend to become an ‘activist’ in the next 90-odd days.
As we say in St Quentin la Poterie, “Soyons combatif! Soyons optimiste!”
Today from the everysmith vault: For the second day running, the 35 minutes of Shadows in the Night. Bizarrely beautiful.