Why I’ve Left The Labour Party

Michael Wilson chronicles a personal, and ultimately painful, political journey

In many ways, it’s like leaving your partner. After a long time of faith and love, there is physical pain as you have the first twinges of doubt. After a while, you realise your old love really has changed, and you consider the possibility that they’re lying to you, or they’ve abandoned you. Similarly, my relationship with Labour was strong, and then faded to nothing, just like a failed romance.

I joined Labour at 16, when I first started to take an interest in student politics. I first voted on my 18th birthday, and proudly supported Labour candidates for elections, local and national. I involved myself in the Party, going from local youth & student officer to Chair of a local constituency branch.

From President of a Labour student branch to sitting on the executive committee of Scottish Labour Students. From being a candidate, to being a Councillor. I committed to the Labour vision. To fairness, equality, diversity, and change. To a country where anyone could get a good education and work alongside anyone else, no matter what background. Over the course of 4 years, I campaigned for prominent Labour candidates, stood and won an election myself, and promoted Labour to all my friends. In short, I was a poster boy.

I started to lose faith at the beginning of 2013, even though I’d become dubious with Ed’s leadership victory over David. I’ve been incredibly disappointed and angry, over and over, by Labour’s failure to even attempt to grab the initiative, especially in basic economic arguments.

Why did we fail so incredibly to make the blatantly obvious case that Austerity is not working, but is destroying lives and plunging more and more of the poorest in our society into outright poverty? Why could we not muster the courage to provide a feasible alternative?

Our own Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, actually came out in favour of the welfare policies of the Coalition. Why have Labour not attacked the Conservative half of the Coalition on their economic focus to obliterate the benefits system in the most acerbic manner possible?

We know the answer to this question: backbone (or lack thereof). Labour are scared to take a position on anything for the fear that some mythical voter with a fear of tax and a hatred of “skivers”, “soft” parties “fence-sitters”, and to whom they want to appeal, will decide they don’t like Labour’s position. This is sheer cowardice.

Why has Labour failed to come up with a cohesive and radical manifesto, rather than waiting for the Tories to fail, and then, when they do, eschewing any sort of initiative, but simply cowering in fear?

Osborne has ruined the economy. He has flat-lined it with ill though out austerity, with an approach similar to running a bulldozer through a city to avoid traffic. Why does Labour not take the opportunity to hammer home this and the constant U-turns? Why does it allow Brown’s name to be sullied, when Labour knows the financial crisis was not due to his stewardship, but actually due to a worldwide economic credit fiasco presided over by bankers? It has consistently failed to engage in radical economic thinking, for fear of ceding further ground to the Tories. Every single act of the party is political positioning, rather than actual conviction in ideals.

Why, when the economy is struggling, does Labour not attack the appalling elitism of the government, and make a cohesive and effective case for a bold and radical-left economic package? Where is Labour’s backbone?

In March, after the scandalous subversion of democracy that was the Falkirk debacle, Labour simply backed down after the two witnesses suspiciously withdrew their statements, in what reeks of an example of Union bullying which harks back to the days before Thatcher imposed secret balloting, to stop this kind of thing happening.

The Unions may have founded the Labour Party, but they have been growing consistently undemocratic. The members are forced to follow the whims of bosses who care more about lining their own pockets and advancing their own political careers, than what is best for the worker on the ground being paid minimum wage. McCluskey and his colleagues have a contempt for the working class that not even the Tories muster: Ed Miliband lets them walk all over him.


As for Miliband himself, I really tried to believe in him. Even after the Budget, after Syria, after the debacle of his TUC speech, I still held a glimmer of hope that he could lead the Party I love to victory, and become this country’s next Prime Minister. But that hope just faded into an alternate universe with his latest reshuffle, and bad decisions coming out of Conference.

Then came the policies for which I had been waiting a long time. I was surprised: all the policies, from the energy price freeze to the housing pledge, are fundamentally solid ideas, and the spark of hope re-appeared. But it’s been crushed by Miliband’s failure to do anything to flesh out and develop these ideas further. The energy price freeze could work, but only if a substantial progressive profit cap was initiated before 2015, to stop companies just hiking their fees before the freeze. This is simple stuff: Labour failed.

And then, of course, the bedroom tax, or spare room subsidy. My disgust was not with the policy to repeal the measure, which I utterly oppose as preying on the poorest in society,  itself, but with the overwhelming hypocrisy with which Labour made it. Miliband himself voted for it back in 2007.

And the shameless hypocrisy does not end there. Labour, time and time again, takes a stand against tax avoiders. It blames the Conservatives for letting them get away with it. But, earlier this year, John Mills handed over £1.65 million worth of shares in JML, over to Labour, in a form that deliberately avoids any form of tax, fair or otherwise.

Finally, the internal structure of Labour is entirely desolate and corrupt. Its culture has decayed to such a large extent that it no longer has the social capital necessary to function within itself.

So many aren’t really interested in politics any more, but rather in their own careers and ambitions. All those with a position, especially in the mass toe-the-line outfit that is Labour Students, have a little rung on the ladder of power. They talk to each other like managers and executives, corporate suits, instead of like activists, campaigners and academics. We members of the Labour party seldom express opinions, and can’t be bothered to argue with each other any more.

Labour will probably win the next election, and if I wanted a career in it, I’d be stupid to do what I’m doing. But I was never in Labour for the career, or the prestige. I was in Labour because I believe in something greater than myself. I believed in collectivism. I believed that, by working together, we could achieve much more together than we ever could alone. I believed in freedom, equality, diversity, and liberty. I believed in change.

Labour no longer does. And that is why I’m leaving the Labour Party. I’m ending the relationship, handing back my keys, and shutting the door on what were some of the best, yet some of the worst, memories in my life. I’ll never forget my first campaigning day. Red badge glinting in the sun, red coat flapping in the wind, a smile on my face as I reached out to people to spread the Labour vision, which was also my vision.

I’ll go on spreading that vision, but I’ll do it without Labour. Thanks for the memories, but goodnight, and goodbye.


    • Since apologies if your comment has been deleted; we would not do that unless it contained libellous material.

      If this is the comment your refer to, it has not been deleted.

      “Utter bollocks. The CPS methodology was laughably flawed. Apparently where a think-tank is cited is evidence of whether it is left or right wing. So the Guardian citing Think Tank A as being brilliant and citing Think Tank A is rubbish both count as evidence that Think Tank A is left wing.

      Ignoring that CPS are a bunch of Tory hacks with no academic standing, you have failed to mention the proper academic research which shows that the BBC overwhelmingly cites Tory, anti-Europe and pro-business sources, the exact opposite of the BS claims of right-wing idiots. http://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-how-biased-is-the-bbc-17028

      Until you can write a proper article objectively evaluating both sets of evidence when drawing a conclusion you simply deserve to be laughed at. Rather like the CPS.”

  1. The Tory’s are using the deficit as a cover to remove the State and cut welfare to the bone, because they dont believe in either and they are getting away with it due to a compliant BBC media.

  2. I used to be a Labour activist but I threw away my membership card, and my local party broke up when Blair took Labour to the right and embraced Thatcher’s free market from 1997.

  3. “And then, of course, the bedroom tax, or spare room subsidy … Miliband himself voted for it back
    in 2007.”

    Er, how so? Bedroom tax only came in this April and was a coalition policy, 2007 Labour was in government, no bedroom tax.

  4. I am old enough to have been around through the last 35 years in and around politics and have gone from being reasonably left wing to in the middle ground and depending on the issue slightly right wing. But is any of this relevant today. You nor any party cannot live in the past because the electorate moves position, left right , middle and on occasions all over the place and completely contrary over as short as a 3/4 year period. Is Ed Milliband the greatest thing since sliced bread, no, but I have seen so much damage done by the Tories over the years and now this disgusting coalition, if Labour does not win the next election and we have more of the same austerity and damage done to our country and ordinary working men and women, young and old, it will not take 1 parliament to repair it but probably 2. Yep, no one goes on marches anymore and the stop the war 1/2 million march changed nothing, not then, not now. Post office gone, food banks springing up all over the country. Young and old having to choose between heating or food More and more struggling, even previously well off middle class is seeing disposable incomes going down and down. Is this the time to jump ship, and yes it does not always steer in the direction I would like. No, definitely not, poor judgement and to go to the Lib Dems who are appeasers to the Tories and what and they will almost certainly lose half their small group of MPs at the next election. Good luck to you and you both deserve it.

    • I don’t really get how you’re in the middle ground of politics if Tory is a dirty word to you, you find the coalition disgusting, the Lib Dems are appeasers in your book and you think anything but a Labour win in 2015 will mean damage done to our country?

  5. Interesting that you left Labour partly over left wing complaints (not enough anti austerity arguments, not anti welfare reform enough) and partly over right wing complaints (the trade unions walking all over Miliband, the reshuffle where the right of the party lost out). Most critics are coming from one angle or the other but you’re coming at Labour from both. All the same, credit to you for leaving and going against the tide to join the Lib Dems.

    Just to pick you up on one point, everyone knows it was a world financial crisis but that doesn’t change the fact that Labour and Brown especially are responsible for the position Britain’s finances were in when it hit and it wasn’t a good one. Maybe you’re still too used to defending the Labour party?

      • Any credibility your article has is utterly and totally destroyed by you joining the Lib Dems.

        You moan about Liam Byrne’s pro-austerity line, then moan about the Cabinet reshuffle that demotes him. And then join a party who implemented austerity.

        Let’s be honest here. You see a more prosperous career in the Lib Dems, don’t you?

        • He sees a more prosperous career in the 3rd/4th largest (depends how you measure) party that hasn’t governed alone for nearly a century than he does with one of the two biggest that’s currently highest in the polls?
          Mind explaining how that’s logical.

          • I don’t understand what you are getting at. Do prosperous careers only exist in the Labour and Conservative parties? Has Caroline Lucas not had a prosperous career because she earned her seat in Parliament under the banner of the Green Party? Has Nigel Farage not been prosperous in leading a party that is, depending on how you measure, the 3rd/4th largest party?
            Again, I don’t understand your approach. I’m not averring that he wants to become Prime Minister. Or do you believe that prosperous careers only exist in larger organisations? If someone was a flight attendant at British Airways but felt they had more chance of progression at Jet2 Arilines, would it be foolhardy of them to move? No. Not at all. I don’t mean to be vexacious, but I find it peculiar that I am being asked to explain the logic of my previous post by an enquiry that appears void of logic itself.

          • You can have a prosperous career in a one plane airline, it still doesn’t change the fact that there are more opportunities with British Airways.
            The Lib Dems are a smaller party that probably hold as many positions right now as they’re going to for a long time. There’ll be less opportunities with them than with Labour and it looks like he left roles in the Labour party without some niche Lib Dem career waiting for him, that’s pretty simple logic you seem to be missing.

      • you talk about labour agreeing with the welfare cuts but so did the LibDems ,what are they doing about people losing there homes through the bedroom tax what are the LibDems doing for the sick and disabled being found fit to work when they are clearly not 13000 people dead after being found fit to work what have the LibDems had to say about that what about the unemployed who are sanctions for such stupid reasons as going for an interview instead of going to a dwp appointment i could go on and on, but what is the point you MPs sit in your offices making stupid policies but have no idea of what is happening in the real world .i bet a good many of the labour party are glad to see the back of you because you obviously had no gumption or you would of stood up and spoke out for the people you are so concerned about matter of a fact you have made such an impact i have never even heard of you until some one put this up on face book cant see you being more recognised joining the LibDems on there sinking ship

  6. I can empathise with all of this. I joined the Tories at 16 and resigned in 2010 for the mirror image reasons. But what I don’t understand is how you could stomach the Blair years when labour completely betrayed itself, selling its soul for votes, but then resign when you have a leader who is at least a bit more left wing than Blair who frankly was a Tory?

      • There are plenty of good reasons for not being able to stand Tony Blair. I don’t think him taking Labour to the right was one of them though, definitely wouldn’t call making the party social democrat rather than socialist Labour selling its soul.


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