Three o’clock today was the deadline for signing up as a Labour Party member or registered or affiliated supporter to take part in the leadership election, after it was extended because the website crashed. Although I am a centrist Labour sympathiser, I am not a member or registered or affiliated supporter. Two weeks ago David asked me why not, and I apologise for taking so long to reply, but here goes.
I was an active Labour Party member for a long time, helping to defend Peter Shore against deselection twice in Bethnal Green. I was then an inactive member for a long time, until Andrew Marr, as editor of The Independent, said that he didn’t think that, as a leader-writer on the newspaper, I should be a member of a political party. I didn’t agree with him, but did as he asked and ended my membership.
A year or so later, Marr was sacked as editor and I rejoined the party, only to find that its admin was so lax that, as far as it was concerned, I had never left.
But then I decided that Marr had been right and so, I think in about 2000, I left again.
I have no problem with journalists being members of political parties, or even with leader-writers on non-aligned newspapers. But I felt awkward either saying that I was a Labour member or refusing to answer the question.
When I had a column in The Independent on Sunday in 2004, my opinions were openly expressed, but I didn’t want to rejoin, and not just because I was now also writing leading articles for the Sunday newspaper. It felt right for me not to have an explicit party loyalty.
Although my vote is private, I did say in 2010 that I thought David Cameron would be a better prime minister than Gordon Brown and I said in 2015 that he would be a better prime minister than Ed Miliband, and, although I am disappointed by the cut in tax credits for the working poor, I stand by that.
So I don’t have a vote in the Labour leadership election. Being an affiliated supporter, which I could be free of charge as a member of the Fabian Society, or a registered one (£3), is I think the same in principle as being a member (even in America I think I would be a registered independent). Although if I did have a vote it would be cast in the opposite order to the result indicated by YouGov.
Incidentally, the party missed a trick setting the fee for registered supporters as low as £3. It could have been £5 or £10 and Labour could have raised thousands more.
“Avoid becoming a workaholic by only doing jobs which contain no workahol.”