A Socialist Comes off the Fence
Anna Southern's resignation letter from the Labour Party
Dear Sir Keir
I joined the Labour Party full of enthusiasm in 2017. A manifesto full of excellent progressive policies inspired me. Since then I have been a CLP Women’s Officer and I am currently a Branch Treasurer, at least until I send this resignation letter. It has been an honour to carry out those roles and I am grateful to the members who elected me to those positions. For the past few years, the Labour Party could count on my activism, rain or shine. Now, unfortunately, it can’t even count on my vote. It will need to win it back.
As a socialist I am no longer comfortable being a member of the Labour Party. This statement is probably music to your ears (not the Jeremy Corbyn song). If I had wanted to join a Union Flag-waving party of patriotism, ‘family values’ and security, I would have joined the Tories or UKIP. I don’t want to stand up for British interests, I want to stand up for humanity. I want to work for internationalism, equality, and peace. I want to tax the rich, nationalise public services, eradicate poverty and homelessness, scrap tuition fees, make childcare free and start to tackle the climate emergency. Not fight the Tories for a handful of bigots (socially conservative voters, if we’re being charitable). I fear Labour comrades will soon be drinking their ‘Oh so British’1 tea from “Controls on Immigration” mugs again; frankly I’d rather die of thirst.
I have gritted my teeth (when not gnashing them in frustration) and tried to give this New Management Labour Party a chance. However, the disillusion has built to such a crescendo that I can’t do it anymore. I could take hours to list all of my grievances, including the internal sabotage shown in the 'Leaked Report'; the abandonment of progressive policies; the lack of new policies; the inconsistent and factional attitude taken on the issue of anti-Semitism; the failure to take any responsibility for the disastrous Brexit policy in 2019. And on and on.
But it’s the whole shift in what we stand for that’s done for me. A shift away from a party for the many, back to grey-suited politics for the few. Chasing electability by harking back to the halcyon Blair or Miliband days. There is now the opportunity to be bold, to fight for big societal changes, to improve people’s lives. Instead, you - Sir Keir - are looking approvingly at the Ed Stone, or down at your shoes, or at the figures from your focus groups. Anywhere but towards a socialist future. Your Shadow Ministers are writing in 'The Sun', to their and the Party’s absolute shame.
The shiny new, blandly competent image you’re selling is worlds away from that enthusiasm captured in 2017; the huge rallies attended by ordinary people excited by politics, excited by the prospect of a better life for everyone. Excited by an allotment-tending socialist without a shiny respectable image. If you want to be ‘electable’, why not try to recapture that enthusiasm? Don’t you think that “Oh Sir Keir Starmer” has a nice ring to it? If you carry on like this, I reckon Rishi Sunak is going to thrash you in the next election.
We came so close in 2017, imagine what we could do if everyone was working towards a victory for the many? The contrast with the current “we support the government” stance is stark. Imagine being a party for working class people, the party of organised labour, and supporting this despicable, incompetent, murderous government. Throwing the education unions under the bus during a pandemic in order to look acceptable to the ‘acceptability deciders’ in the media. Putting lives at risk by doing this. I cannot imagine behaving like this. This is a very different thing to the inspiring, hope-fuelled thing I signed up for and I don’t like this other, grey, managerialist thing. I’m out.
To the comrades that say, “Stay and fight, they want the left to leave”, I say this: I can sympathise, and I wish you all the luck in the world. I’m cheering you on from the outside and I hope you can exert some influence. But in my opinion, we’ve fucked it. We were too soft when we were in charge and now we’re screwed. I know it’s hard when you’ve devoted a lot of your energy and enthusiasm to something to say, “I’m done”. I know it’s hard to leave socialist comrades who are still in the Party. I just don’t see a way forward for us in Labour. Perhaps I’m just not tough enough, sorry Tony Benn.
I remain committed to fighting for working class people and building a better society. I’ll be getting more involved in the various important social movements, particularly the ongoing fight against racism and fascism. I hope to be fighting alongside you, whether you’re in or out of the Labour Party. I’ll still be here, in the struggle, but I’ll wave the Union Flag for no one; I’ll court the Britain First vote for no one. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation.
I was tempted to stay a member out of spite, but it’s a waste of good spite. There are plenty of more deserving recipients. Keep your Union Flag, Sir Keir, and I’ll take the red one.
In beige-tinged disappointment,
1 Not at all British
Until very recently, Anna Southern was an active member of Labour Berlin. She remains politically active in Berlin