Analogies are melodramatic. That’s what makes them powerful. Outside of poetic language, real people die of being really homeless. It’s a shame and a constant anxiety to all of us that we’ve allowed bad government to continue for so long that in some areas, the homeless are as numerous about the streets as rubbish sacks are during a bin-strike. (See the power of analogy there? In some places, they are being treated in much the same way.)
Left out of the party?
But leaving your political party because you’ve realised it’s hopelessly corrupt, or being kicked out for being too socialist, or too feminist, or whatever it was in your case certainly doesn’t stop you working with your local Acorn or Unite Community or whatever groups are out there trying to prevent real homelessness, or your local Street Teams who are trying to look after the genuinely homeless. Before you know where you are, you’ll be part of a lively and enlivening team, doing politics.
That, really, is the soul and centre of the thing. It is no longer political parties who are doing the actual politics. Since the #DemandBetter and #EnoughIsEnough campaigns got going, and Mick Lynch, the latest truth-teller who won’t play the interview game by the establishment’s rules started getting on the telly, people have been saying that the trade unions are now the real opposition.
It’s what they’re for. I’m glad they’ve rediscovered their role. Some unions though, aren’t that brilliant on women’s issues, or on anti-racism or helping the unemployed and the destitute but, if those are your issues and your union isn’t much help, there will probably be local activist groups you can join – if not – well, we’re the most connected generation ever. Might as well make use of social media (it may be your last chance. The billionaires are well on their way to neutering it all) – use your social media ‘friends’. Make contact, start the group you want to be a member of.
But what about the election? We need to get rid of the Tories!
Of course we do – believe me, the people who have made Labour what it is now are going to be thoroughly miserable come the election, when they find out that knowing the Tories are criminals does not make people love a mendacious Labour Party but yes, we will vote for them, if they are the best option on a bad ballot paper. In some places, there will be other candidates who can beat the Tories but probably, realistically (and we have to be realistic) not many.
But I can’t vote for that dreadful candidate.
Yes you can, if you have truly understood how bad the current Tory “team” are. Let’s have some less powerful criminals in government. We’ll stand more chance of pushing them where we want them to go. Here’s what I’m going to do: my local Labour Candidate — let’s call her Parachute Patty — is probably going to get my vote in the next election. If that’s what happens, I will place my X, I will then go home and write a blog, and write a letter to the paper, explaining how disgusted I am that voting for her was my best option, and detailing what she needs to do to become a genuinely useful politician, and I will be campaigning locally for others to do the same, because politicians really do quail when faced with enough organized dissent. We can change them.
Let us hope a new alternative arrives before the next election, but I know that’s not likely — and I’m not that worried about it.
The election is not the be-all and end-all.
If we learned anything from the Corbyn era, from BLM, from the rebirth of the women’s movement, it is that real politics is something you do in between and around elections. You don’t have to be a party member – in fact, in these vitriolic times, party members are extremely hampered in their political efforts. I know what I’m talking about. I was a Labour Party branch officer during the 2017 election, and a party activist during the 2019 one. Every single step of the way, we were not doing this and not saying that because the party wouldn’t allow it. Independent activists have far more elbow room.
So don’t say you’re politically homeless. Choose your battles, find your political comrades, and get to work. It’s enlivening, it’s useful and there is no question that it makes a difference. Why on earth would Labour be kicking out all its lefty activists, why would the Green Party be kicking out feminists, why would the Tories be staging constant sackings and sabotages, if it wasn’t that they all know they can’t stand up to any significant level of organized dissent?
They are vulnerable because they are mistreating people. It is their weakness, and we must not underestimate that weakness. Right-wingers who treat homeless people like rubbish that needs clearing off the streets, who treat the victims of war and climate change like cargo to be bunged on planes and sent elsewhere; so-called socialists and environmentalists who treat inconvenient black activists and mouthy women as a PR problem to be quietly side-lined — they know their guilt. Even if they are in denial, they feel the insecurity born of a buried awareness that they are making enemies.
By contrast, you need have no fear. You aren’t trying to conform to a slightly dodgy party line. You aren’t hiding a mass of sins in order to win an election. You aren’t standing on the rotten floor of a discredited ideology, trying to support yourself with blind faith. You can challenge them, and win. This thing you’re calling ‘political homelessness’ is your new home and soon, you will find it’s a great place to be. I’ll be taking my politics to FiLiA very soon – see you there?
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