Why I Joined The Labour Party.
Six months ago, I was borderline impartial. I’d inherited a natural distrust of the Conservatives from my parents, but I didn’t feel as though I could relate to any of the other mainstream parties either. UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, even Labour, it all washed over my head. Then came the general election.
Private Eye and Have I Got News For You were what introduced me to the murky world of British politics. I didn’t trust politicians, and I certainly didn’t like them either. By January I had decided that I would be a political journalist, following in the footsteps of people like Ian Hislop and Jeremy Paxman. I now know that journalism isn’t for me. I now also know that you can’t paint everyone with the same brush.
Fast forward to to April 2nd. My parents and I grabbed our mugs of tea and sat down on the sofa, ready for two hours of scaremongering and arguing. I remember laughing slightly when Ed Miliband’s name was read out. He’ll never be Prime Minister, I thought to myself, whilst also rather cruelly musing on how much he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit.
I felt rather confused by the end. I’d actually agreed with Ed Miliband. I come from a family of Labour supporters, but I’d never thought I’d find myself cheering him on. I wondered whether this was just a fluke, and so when the next election debate came along, I tuned in.
This time it was for definite. I couldn’t stand Nigel Farage, particularly after his jab at the audience, and indeed the BBC, Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon weren’t people I felt I could root for, and I didn’t like Natalie Bennett. Ed Miliband was the best leader on that stage. I was intrigued. Maybe this Labour Party lot aren’t that bad after all.
I did some research. Society had turned me against people like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but the more I read, the more I realised just how much Labour have done for the country. The NHS, the minimum wage, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Irish Assemblies, the Human Rights Act of 1998. They seemed to have done so much more than any other party. They stood for social justice, equality, fairness; three things I care about very strongly. And so that was that. Megan McGowan became a Labour supporter.
I couldn’t be more excited for the general election. I made myself a cup of tea and darted up to my bedroom to await the exit poll. I was eleven when the 2010 general election took place, and so I didn’t really remember it (all I can recall is my dad explaining to me what a hung parliament is). The 2015 general election was to be my first ever election. I sat in bed, mug in hand, eyes wide, eagerly awaiting news of Labour’s impending victory like the strange child that I am.
Then came those fateful words. “We’re saying that the Conservatives are the largest party”. Damn you, David Dimbleby. I set aside my initial surprise for a bit of optimism. They could still win this, I told myself. However as the night progressed, and results from around the country continued to pour in, I realised that I was beginning to say those words a little half-hardheartedly. I didn’t even want to sleep (which in reflection wasn’t very clever seeing as I had school the next day). I just could not understand it. For months people had been moaning about David Cameron. So why had they voted him in with a majority?
I remained grumpy for the entirety of May the 8th. I wasn’t even looking forward to Have I Got News For You, because I knew that, obviously, the victory of the Tories would be all they wanted to talk about. That and the fact that Labour had been defeated again. Ed Miliband’s resignation wasn’t a surprise to me, but it did make me sad. Over the course of the election campaign, I’d grown to love him somewhat. He was the best Prime Minister we never had. Miliband’s time as Labour leader was over, but I knew that wasn’t the end for the party. I knew there would be a leadership contest. I also knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
Up came the Labour Party website. And so, a week after seeing them lose to the Tories again, I joined as a full paying member. I felt proud. My sister had joined the Green Party only a few days before, and now I was joining a political party too. I felt special in a strange, conceited sort of way. I wasn’t just an average supporter who liked to rant and rave about how much I hate George Osborne, I was a member. An actual part of the Labour movement. I was keen to get involved as soon as possible.
Many people said that Labour had lost their way, that they no longer stood for anything. I disagreed. Maybe we were too narrow or too left-wing, but we never lost sight of the main goal. Through all their faults Labour will always have the same goal. A fair Britain. How they go about creating that fair Britain is another thing entirely.
It probably sounds cheesy, but the Labour Party are like a close-knit community. Their members are the very foundation of their movement. They rely on those members in a way that the Conservatives never will. When I went to a leadership election hustings in Birmingham, I felt at home. I was surrounded by people like me.
Now, two months on, my bond with the party is as strong as ever. Labour is something I feel very strongly about. It’s encouraged me to find my passions and fight for them. No matter who wins this leadership election, I will always be a Member of the Labour Party. I believe in our Party, as corny as that may sound. I believe that we can win the 2020 general election. And when we do, I’ll look back to that fateful day in May and think only one thing. Thank God I joined.