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What’s a “Decent” to do?

This is a guest post by Ben

We have very recently experienced the worst progressive defeat in any election for almost 40 years. A loss of over 300 Labour Councillors, when 200 was thought to have been a cataclysmic result. Boris Johnson is Mayor of London, replacing an, admittedly dreadful, Labour candidate. But a Labour candidate, nonetheless.

We are about to lose the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

It seems almost certain that we are to lose the next general election by a landslide to a party run by the historically privileged elite of this nation.

The party is on the verge of disintegrating as a serious force in the country. Just as the Tories did from 1993 onwards.

When I first found Harry’s Place, in the summer of 2004, I was a Stopper. I know we don’t talk about that kind of thing a lot these days. I had gone back to Jersey (where my family live) because I had suffered a recurrence of ME, or what the Americans call CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That matters little.

I was not a Stopper in the “We are all Hezbollah” sense, but I was a Stopper in that I had a very strong sense of the wrongness of the Iraq War. I had watched the first bombardments of Baghdad in the early hours of that morning in March 2003 and had been terribly upset.

If you feel the above is smuckish, then you won’t like the rest. Cynicism is a dreadful thing.

When I first found Harry’s Place in 2004, the Labour Party was the dominant force in British politics, with a majority of 167 seats. The party had, three years previously, won that majority. And that was a mere 12 seats short of the 179 seat majority the party had won in 1997. The Conservative Party was dead. Vanquished. Destroyed as a substantial political force.

And thus we had rejoiced, for those seven years. And we did not think we would say goodbye to the world we thought we lived in.

I went to Oxford in 1999, and my first experience of political activism that year (my first ever in terms of UK party politics, in fact) was us winning a by-election for the County Council in West Ward against the Liberals, whose seat it has been previously. My first personal taste of victory. The stew produced by a candidate’s wife has never tasted so sweet (although it never is that good, is it?). A time when we had followed up our destruction of the Conservative Party nationally in 1997 by our result in 2001 (a great period of time for which I had spent in Reading West fighting for the victorious Martin Salter). And we utterly crushed the Liberal Democrat and Green coalition on Oxford City Council in 2002 – a part in which I played by running a good friend’s victorious committee room against the Liberal incumbent (well, it mattered then – and actually it does to this day if you’re in the know and you care about services for the working class of Oxford – so give me a break from the smarmy comments).

And thus we had rejoiced, for those seven years. And we did not think we would say goodbye to the world we thought we lived in.

And so I came across Harry’s Place, after three years at Oxford and a couple in London, just after I’d returned to Jersey.

And, as a result of reading Harry’s Place, I came to an understanding that there were enemies to the left as well as the right. And an understanding that the left could be wrong too. A revelation, to a certain extent, though I would not wish to overstate it. I had always considered Trots weird and wrong. But I increasingly came to an understanding that the Far Left and the Hard Left and even parts of the Soft Left were a threat to the values that I wanted to promote.

Because so many of them opposed the democratic self-determination of the Iraqi and Afghan people, the former of whom I had seen with their purple fingers. The flowering of trades unions. The sheer belief that a better world existed outwith the Stalinist miasma. And it became sickening for me to think of the very fact that I had given my personhood to a vile and reactionary counter-revolutionary demonstration in central London, which I would forever be tarred with. The utter scum who would forever call my name in favour of the defence of the latest popular anti-western dictatorship. Well, not in my name, to coin a phrase.

And then I moved back to London. And later that year I went to campaign for Oona King against that most vile and demagogic opponent of hers. Because her seat was the nearest marginal to where I lived in central London. And I did that day after day for weeks on end. Because I hated him. And because she was a good and proper example of what our party should be for.

And so it was very easy to attack those on the left for the idiocies they promoted. Because they were utterly wrong. Their disgusting communalism. Their horrific defence of the most reactionary elements of Islamist thought. Their pathetic peacnick hippy shit. Their attacks upon our demonstrably relevant nuclear deterrent. Their opposition – with no hyperbole – to our very way of life, and to the way of life we wanted others to be able to enjoy.

And it was easy to do, precisely because we were so triumphant. We were riding high. And, I want you to believe this, I think it was right, whatever happens. I still believe it.

And thus we had rejoiced, for those seven years. And we did not think we would say goodbye to the world we thought we lived in.

Of course, by the time we lost more than 60 seats in 2005, it was actually eight years. And we lost Oona. I have heard it said that that she was not a very good MP. I can’t comment. But I do know that she, and we, fought that campaign with valour and dedication against the forces of reaction that confronted us. And I am damn proud of what we did.

If you search back through the archives in this site, you will see the desperate trials and tribulations we faced against those who had no respect for the democratic norms of our society. And you will see why a police officer was placed on every polling station, and why the roads were blocked off around the Labour Bethnal Green and Bow election night “party” (it hardly was) by police vans because, I was told by officers, the police feared reprisal violence from Respect. And, in the final analysis, look up “Les Dobrovolski” on Google. It was a horrific and very dark imitation of what one would normally expect from a campaign in this country.

So to today.

We have very recently experienced the worst progressive defeat in any election for almost 40 years, and it seems almost certain that we are to lose the next general election, by a landslide, to a party run by the historically privileged elite of this nation.

Why do I talk about “we” in all of that?

Why does it matter? Who cares?

The reason I became a “Decent” in the first place is because of the values that made me Labour to start with. I didn’t become a Eustonite, or a liberal-internationalist, or whatever we’re meant to be called these days, in a vacuum.

I took that view, and I allowed it into my most intimate moral sense

not because I wasn’t of the Left

but because I was.

We are about to let go of the finest government with the best anti-poverty track record in history. I could insult you by giving you a list of achievements. But I think you’re tired of that.

So instead, I’m just asking you to think about it. Just think about it, is all.

What *is* it that makes you a “Decent”?

Of course, if you didn’t want to do any thinking, you would be entitled to simply say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in. And that would be perfectly proper.

But some of us will fight. And fight hard. And for the very reasons that made us “Decents” in the first place. I invite you to join us. We were never popular in the first place, were we? You know what the website is.