I had a letter this morning from a constituent who wants to know how in all honesty I can remain a Labour councillor whilst this Government is pursuing a war in Iraq that I am so clearly and fundamentally opposed to. I have written back to her explaining why I can, but I thought I would copy some of my thoughts on the subject here.
If I, or anyone else of a left persuasion didn't stand, does anyone for one second imagine that Labour would leave the seat uncontested? Or do you think they would find some bright-eyed New Labour Blairite (or old fashioned and old right-Labourite, for that matter) to stand in my stead. Would that move the forces of progress one-inch further forward, or persuade Blair, who would be delighted if we left, to call an immediate halt to hostilities and bring the troops home.
I cannot stop the war in Iraq, bring peace to the Middle East, stop the genocide in Darfur... or even be much more than a voice in the wilderness about privatisation in Sandwell. But I can help the two refugees who came to my surgery two weeks ago, give support to the residents group fighting the mobile phone companies who want to put even more masts in their back garden, help the old chap who is waging a one-man war against the post office, try to get rehousing for the single woman with four kids under 6 years of age(!) and living in a third floor flat without a lift, and on, and on and on. I know Tory and Lib Dem councillors would also do their best at this sort of thing too, but I happen to think I can also do a good job.
I have respect (ouch) for comrades who have left the Party, or never even joined it, and are now in RESPECT, but at the moment I know, and so do 99% of them, that they cannot win seats, and therefore influence things in the way that I wish to do so. I once worked with a chap who joined Nupe, even though virtually the entire workforce were in Nalgo, because he said, "Nupe were more left-wing". I respected his principled stand, but when it came down to arguing with management, stopping redundancies etc. his principles stood for precisely nowt! So, those of us on the Labour left will have to continue shouting from the sidelines, winning the odd vote and hoping to exert some influence whilst acting as the conscience of the Party, those comrades who are shouting but didn't even want to come to the match, will have to keep on prodding us and acting as ours.
I suspect she won't be happy with my response, but if she wants to join in and disrupt the BNP leafletting in my Ward this Saturday... she's more than welcome.