It’s not party time yet

The Hastings Demands a Pay Rise rally on the seafront

I had mixed feelings at the thought of going to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak during the May weekend. I was a committed, unconflicted Labour Party officer in 2017 and was delighted to be working for the election of a Labour Party that intended to answer to the nation’s most urgent needs.

We were battling to restore the NHS, to solve the housing crisis and to bring our increasingly costly and disastrously inefficient public services back into democratic public ownership. Nor was Corbyn’s Labour Party afraid to tackle the biggest issues of all – war, climate emergency, and the refugee crisis those twin evils have created.

But now I have left the Labour Party, and like many people have more or less rejected the idea that party politics under our current system can save us. I worried that Corbyn, who has a huge following that will heed his direction, would make the wrong call. If he calls, “the many” will follow.

A sampler of the crowds that gather where Corbyn speaks

Should we be trying to reclaim and redesign the parties we have, or throw our weight behind a new one, or reject party politics altogether and demand a completely new, fairer representation system? Again, like many people, I am still not sure, and if we make the wrong decision, we’ll be stuck with the Tories (red ones or blue ones) for even longer.

Solidarity, not party-perplexity

I need not have worried. As I was reminded in a political debate recently, “solidarity” need not mean a group of people who agree on absolutely every detail. Everyone might have their ideas about what might happen next, but “Solidarity” means people coming together for shared values – such as the people’s right to a National Health Service; such as functional, affordable services, provided by the government, so that they’re for the people, not for profit; such as a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work; and decent housing, education and transport, and universal respect for human rights. The speakers at Saturday’s rally, Corbyn included, were unanimous in support of those things and there was no mention whatsoever of this or that party as the answer to everything.

There were one or two calls for a general strike, but nothing about which party to opt for. I believe that right now, that’s the right call.

Don’t get behind a party, get behind a cause

All the speeches at the rally were well received by the enthusiastic audience, most of whom had arrived at the hall after taking part in the trade union march along the seafront, headed by a banner reading ‘Hastings Demands a Pay Rise’.

Bella Fashola (RMT) spoke about the increasing threat to cleanliness, health and safety on the railways caused by the outsourcing and casualisation of so many railway staff, and the resultant lack of training and continuity.

Debbie Davies (PCS) said that the latest pay offer the government has made to civil servants would leave many workers in Hastings below the National Living Wage. She said all the unions need to come together in a demand for a decent wage, pension justice and job security.

Rossana Leal of the Hastings Refugee Project spoke of her distress at visiting one of the asylum seeker “hotels” in Hastings, and discovering the way the residents were being treated. Rossana herself came to the UK as a refugee, when her family were fleeing the horrendous Pinochet regime, and she said she’d never expected to see the UK, the country that rescued her, disregarding human rights and treating people so badly.

Antonia Berelson (RCN) spoke passionately about the degradation of the NHS, reminding the audience that Hastings is Robert Tressell’s Mugsborough and here we are, all these years down the line, mistreating workers in all the ways Tressell described in his book about workers in pre-war Britain.

Jenny Sutton (NEU) discussed the problem of unfunded pay offers. She said that teachers, nurses and others were rejecting such offers because if the government simply says you can have a certain amount of money, then does not provide it, then the workers by accepting it would in effect be accepting further cuts to our schools and hospitals, which are already in crisis.

They, and other local campaigners were followed by Jeremy Corbyn, who underlined what everyone had been saying. We do not need to – in fact we must not – tolerate unhelpful political parties. We need to come together for the sake of all the things that everyone needs. The demands listed on the leaflets that were handed out, from Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project, are about public ownership, housing, the NHS and refugees.

 We could all nit-pick on the wording or the suggested methods of dealing with those issues, or point to additional things that we consider important but they are, at base, the issues that affect all our lives. Let’s all get behind the causes that matter most to us, and work with others who are going in the same direction. Support the strikes, speak up for (and in) your union, join in campaigns on the issues that matter to you. It will be up to the political parties and candidates to keep up with us, if they want our votes.

Hastings Demands a Pay Rise
Hastings’ former Labour candidate Peter Chowney (a socialist) and Jeremy Corbyn amongst those leading the ‘Hastings Demands a Pay Rise’ Workers’ Day rally

 It’s not party-time — yet

Above all, please don’t waste energy agonizing over whether this or that party will be the answer. Unless you’re one of the people actually founding and building a new party, give it time. Under our current (blatantly unfair) electoral system, we’re in danger of splitting the vote and keeping the Tories in forever if we all rush off to different party banners so, keep schtum on party preferences, and let’s see if any one alternative gets head-and-shoulders above the failed ones come election time. If and when one does, we’ll get out there and cheer for them. If there’s no clear leading alternative, then we need to keep pushing the candidates who do stand a chance, to force them in the direction of what people actually need.


Dear Reader,

Times are hard, and so the articles on this site are freely available but if you are able to support my work by making a donation, I am very grateful.

Click here to donate




One response to “It’s not party time yet”

  1. The problem with how we do democracy in this country goes beyond how fair our voting system is (not particularly) so enabling more players to participate in the game means nothing when the game itself has been rigged to give undue influence to those who bankroll it and can afford the battalions of lobbyists and lawyers required to mould legislation and fund those parties whose views are deemed credible by the capitalist owned propaganda outlets of the media. The same patrons who can provide post-political sinecures for former politicians and careers for ex-civil servants. How can we expect our politicians to work for us when such blandishments are dangled under their noses?

    Elections are also a costly business and needing to make themselves heard above the low level rumble of public discourse means spending big. Spending on that scale means that there is a constant war for funds taking place behind the scenes which is one which the capitalist class can exert the greatest leverage. The many can through masses of small donations partly compensate for the influence of the patronage machine as proven during Corbyn’s tenure as Labour Leader but in the end the essential competitive nature that is the strength of democracy is what makes it open to corruption.

    How to address this is the greatest conundrum facing us as a society. We can try state funding of parties but then you need a formula for allocating funds that doesn’t discriminate against smaller unproven competitors and so further entrench the status quo. We need a means of paying our politicians enough that candidates from poorer backgrounds can afford to take X number of years out of their lives (depending on how many terms they get elected/re-elected for) without harming their finances and yet not enough that making money becomes *the* incentive for entering public life in the first place. Similar bars on SPADs and civil servants have proven equally ineffectual as Starmer’s appointment of Johnson investigator Sue Grey to a Labour Party post demonstrates. The revolving door between regulator and regulated, between lobbyist and parliamentarian is, after political funding and media ownership by plutocrats, the most effective guarantor the establishment have of maintaining their continued domination and the perpetuation of massive inequality.

    On the issue of proportional representation I believe this has the virtue of making votes count outside the much targeted ‘swing seats’ at General Elections but would also have a considerable negative impact on parties’ finances as they would need to boost income quite considerably to remain competitive across all seats rather than being focused on a few and this would again disproportionately impact smaller and/or newer parties. The end of FPTP would likely mean the break up of the forced coalitions that constitute Labour and the Conservatives liberating internal factions to become parties in their own right (or far right in the case of the Tories).

    The proliferation of parties raises the cost of entry and the need to promote themselves in a fractured environment. This works to the advantage of capital who can play their game of divide and rule to influence the outcome of ensuing coalition negotiations. Furthermore, with manifestos become nothing more than wish lists to be bargained away the role of party members in setting policies will be further sacrificed to the gain of the elected representatives actually engaged in those coalition talks, making those talks less about the will of the people than who gets which seats around the Cabinet table, further alienating the British people from “their democracy”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: