Marc Dauncey interviewed a returning Labour Party member in South Wales THESE are tumultuous times for the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn’s dramatic win and a huge influx of activists. Nowhere is that more evident than at the grassroots, local level – constituency and branch meetings. But how are these new activists finding the experience? We interviewed a new member and Corbyn supporter from South Wales to find out more.
So, first tell me about your background in the labour movement?
I joined the Electrical Trades Union at the age of 16 years as an apprentice in 1959 and remained in this union for 30 years. I took an active part in union issues at shop-floor level, taking part in strikes over piecework, and low pay.
Another influence in my views on socialism came about in the late 1960s with the advent of the hippy movement. I started reading underground magazines which were full of writings by Marxist and revolutionary thinkers. I listened avidly to folk singers such as Ewan McColl and blues singers who sang about the hardship of life.
What were the factors that eventually ended your support for Labour?
When Tony Blair went along with President Bush and America’s plan to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.
You rejoined after the leadership election?
Yes. With Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell leading the party I finally felt that these were politicians I could trust to reverse the direction Labour had taken over the last few decades.
My Labour MP who was parachuted in during the Blair years has always been pretty supine. I wanted to be in a better position to deselect him with the support of other new members. That suddenly seemed viable.
After rejoining how easy was it to get involved?
Initially I was inundated with calls and emails from various factions, but there was no welcome from the local CLP. I had to find out about times and dates via my daughter who knows a local councillor.
The constituency has 70 new members but none were contacted. We weren’t given any idea how the branches and the CLP interrelated and generally were left to try and work it out. We were also surprised to learn that there was no use of social media and no agenda available for meetings. I suspect there IS an agenda – but not one that they are willing to share.
When you attended, how did things pan out?
The first thing we were told was that we would not be allowed to vote on anything. The people who run it have done so for decades and are associated with New Labour. The meeting degenerated into a shouting match, with the MP sat there saying nothing. It’s not tenable for Labour to win over half a million new members and supporters but then refuse to give them a voice.
What advice would you give to others in a similar situation?
I think the only way things will change is if CLP members get the right to vote on party issues – maybe by turning the CLP meeting into what is known as an All Members Meeting. Change needs to come from the top, but McDonnell told me the days of the party leadership dictating these things are over – unfortunately we are still stuck with the Blairite rump.
What are your thoughts about the future of the party?
I feel quite optimistic about the support from young people and returning supporters. We are also much more savvy with social media, something the old guard struggle with. Ultimately they will realise we aren’t going away… these problems will be overcome when that finally dawns on them.