CROYDON COMMENTARY: After 40 years of campaigning only for one political party, this month PAUL AINSCOUGH, pictured left, couldn’t bring himself to vote Labour. Here, he explains why
For me and for countless others, supporting a political party is like supporting a football team. It’s for life.
So, there it was: Liverpool FC and the Labour Party. I expected victory after victory on the pitch and in Parliament.
My first election was in 1979 and I was inducted into the ranks by working-class, middle-aged men that checked that I was dressed for the occasion. They wore suits and ties, and I made sure that I polished my shoes. I learnt how to open and close a gate. Fold a leaflet properly, be polite and get off the doorstep. Most importantly, how to get the right message across.
It was a momentous day when I was allowed to canvass on my own. I was convinced we were going to win the General Election. We did not. I had canvassed a solidly Labour area with a keen sense of community. I was blissfully unaware of the Thatcher revolution about to unfold.
I was undeterred: socialism is a struggle. When Labour members left to join the SDP, I stood by Bill Shankly’s maxim that “If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win”, and I told them so.
Embarrassingly, years later at a friend’s wedding an ex-SDP member spotted me and shouted across the room wanting to know if he had my permission to be back in the Labour Party. I did not tell him to go away, or even words to that effect. Just like myself, he just wanted to get rid of the Tories. I said he’d let down Roy Hattersley and the Tories are still in power. I knew that would hurt.
We all soldiered on. I have supported Labour in every election between 1979 to 2019.
That’s 40 years campaigning, for some Labour leaders with more enthusiasm than for others: “Labour is always better than the Tories and only Labour can remove the Tories”.
Local Labour politicians in Croydon stretched this slogan to the point of incredulity.
After years of being politically restricted because of my work, seven years ago I became more active again and I got to understand the dynamics of Croydon Labour. It was not a happy experience. The more I saw, the more I felt we had lost our way.
By this year, I had become so disillusioned and embarrassed that I decided not to stand, not even as a paper candidate
How could I explain this to my younger self or worst still, Bill Shankly? For old time’s sake I did give limited support to a few Labour candidates during the recent local elections. However, when it came to the ballot box, I voted Green for the first time. I was not alone.
To people that do not belong to a political tribe, it can be difficult to explain this. Politicians do “cross the floor” to the other side. From what I have seen, it never appears to be a happy event. I have met a few obvious opportunists. For others it has been a difficult path to take and made after much soul searching.
Famously, it was Bill Shankly who said that football is not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that.
But politics is about life and death.
We have a climate emergency, we are emerging from a pandemic, and, I believe, we are burdened with a government and opposition at Westminster that are incapable of grasping the enormity of the tasks ahead.
For this reason, I would say to my younger self in my own defence: fight the good fight. It is not the party label that matters – it is the principles and outcomes that count.
- Paul Ainscough has been a Labour councillor, parliamentary candidate and stood as a candidate in the 2018 Croydon local elections
Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to offer their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. To submit an article for publication, just email us at email@example.com, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period