I have a softer spot for the Labour Party than most on the Right. This is mainly because, through an expansionist welfare state, they were very helpful to my family throughout my upbringing.
I grew up in a single parent family, in the Kent/South East London overlap, with a younger brother and an older sister, and was on free school meals at school (I hope this is helpful for those in political circles who have misguided preconceptions about me or my background).
I mention this very quickly not to invoke any kind of unwanted sympathy, but to illustrate that the Labour Party actually did do good things for single mothers and dependent children. In an age of a one-party state, we prefer to forget any remnants of Labour’s successes.
In the days when my siblings and I were growing up (and I suspect the same is true today), single parents were better off financially if they did not seek work.
Jobseekers allowance simply did not compensate for the pressure that unemployment benefit alleviated. Housing and child allowances were larger and those affected were not forced into work once their children had reached the age of 3.
Recipients of benefit payments ought not to be demonised for this very reason. More often than not, they are pursuing a course of action that best fits the predicament that they have found themselves in.
In the case of my family, my father abandoned me when I was a baby, and I do not have any contact with him today. That is all I am comfortable revealing about my personal life, but it should help readers to understand why I am forced to sympathise with Labour more strongly than others on my side of the political spectrum (remember that I’m not referring to the Tories).
In general, I am supportive of a strong welfare state and oppose cuts to disability benefits. I think welfare should never out-compete the lure of work, but ought to be substantive enough to provide those who fall down the ladder with a sturdy rung from which to rebuild their lives.
The most fundamental reason for supporting a strong welfare state is to assist in the stimulation of production. I believe that a government hoping to create more jobs should present the poorest with a higher disposable income. It is at least a better use of public money than funding a bloated, nationalised health service.
My relatively low hostility towards the Labour Party thus has its roots in my own, subjective (past) circumstances. It is therefore saddening to me that it is not stronger.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not yearning to become a member and would not do so if somebody more competent, like Yvette Cooper, was leading the party. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that I pity Her Majesty’s opposition.
I just feel that, especially during a period of landmark political change, Labour’s lack of bite and inability to provide the government with adequate opposition or scrutiny has had a harmful effect on the country’s Brexit debate.
To blame Jeremy Corbyn, too, seems a little too easy. His party’s problems, vast and not easily solved, most definitely stretch far wider than his critics are willing to acknowelege.
He isn’t to blame for lingering anti-Semitism (which I believe to be problematic but slightly overblown), he isn’t to blame for Tony Blair’s damaging legacy, and nor is he to blame for staunch internal divides over the result of Britain’s EU referendum.
It is true that his leadership has been slapdash. He resembles a small child who has just taken his first leap into the deep end of a swimming pool, only to find that it is difficult to navigate without armbands or a float.
He must also learn to take swift and decisive action against figures like Ken Livingstone, who I think has spent far too long in the political sphere and may well be showing signs of senility. I long for the day that both he and Lord Heseltine bow out from party politics.
Investigations are a step in the right direction, but the problem of prominent Labour figures making unpleasant or silly comments is so fully embedded within the party that they may well be futile.
And so we have a chronic credibility problem. It is worth noting that the Left all over Europe is experiencing unprecedented difficulty, but not all hope has been lost. The recent Dutch and Austrian elections show that leftist liberals still have places that they can call home.
If Labour is to regain its lost momentum, or at least pretend to be an electoral threat, it will need a new leader and to cease ignoring its voter base, particularly in the north of England and in Scotland, where the SNP’s legitimacy is beginning to wane.
I don’t hold out much hope. Not even our withdrawal from the European Union could breathe life into them.