In an interesting post about political party loyalties, Notes From a Small Bedroom writes about people having a sort of tribal loyalty to their political party. I certainly feel that way about Labour. Not to Blair, nor to his hand-picked Cabinet, but to the Party. It is the only political party with organic links to the organised working class in the trade union movement. As someone who has spent his life in industrial relations and trade unions, those are my roots. The analogy you make with football teams is a good one. Some people do switch from Manchester United, to Chelsea, to Liverpool, to whatever team is winning. Those who support one team, and are wedded to that team through history, family, culture and tradition, don’t do that and they have contempt for the ‘glory hunters’ who do.
In that sense, most political activists I would guess are attached to their party by tradition, through their families, their background, their culture… their class! I know it probably doesn’t make sense to those that don’t have those ties, in the same way the average non-football supporter doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about.
In supporting your party in this way there is, of course, always the danger of blind loyalty, my party right or wrong. Or as Notes From a Small Bedroom puts it, the “essentially bizarre idea that you can campaign against bad policies, but should still support the party proposing them, because your party winning outweighs all other considerations.” Personally, I don’t feel that way. I have no difficulty criticising a Labour Government if I think it is doing something wrong, and I have done so over a number of years. I opposed Wilson on support for LBJ in Vietnam, Callaghan for the Commonwealth Immigration Act (the forerunner of much of the pernicious immigration legislation we have suffered since) and the Blair Government for over reliance on Tory economic policy, particularly the PFI which seems the economics of the madhouse, Iraq and ID cards. Needless to say I opposed Thatcher a bloody site more over virtually every breath she took.
However, I have to weigh those feelings against the good I think a Labour Government has done. I won’t list them here, it will just sound like another Gordon Brown promo. Some people say, well, you are all to blame because your Party, left or right, still allows Blair to get away with it. Well, that brings to mind the old joke about Thatcher. I blame the police. There’s two on the front door of No. 10, and two on the back door, and still she gets out! Getting rid of a party Leader who has won three consecutive general Elections is not like clicking your fingers and saying ‘go’. It is virtually impossible, but I think the reason he’s going voluntarily is that he knows he has pushed it too far… much too far in my humble opinion.
Anyway, the problem, which doesn’t seem to be being addressed by POWER is that of Prime Ministerial patronage. The power, passed down from the Monarch to the Prime Minister which allows the PM to choose the Executive, appoint the judiciary and clergy and Lords. By giving complete control to the Prime Minister the appointment of the Cabinet, Ministers, Junior Ministers and the Whips as well as other important Select Committee appointments, the Prime Minister virtually controls the ruling party… and thereby, the House of Commons. We need democracy, not an elected Monarch, whichever team of fans wins the day.