I read an email today from Iain McNicol, General Secretary of The Labour Party. He wrote:
Sam,The questionnaire that followed gave me no opportunity to challenge the basic premise that I still support Labour. It was the kind of assumption-loaded questionnaire that I used to help my students re-write before I left teaching.
It's brilliant to have you on our team — and we're relying on supporters like you to help us win the next election.
But I was talking with Ed the other day, and I realised I couldn't answer all his questions about who you are and why you're fighting to beat the Tories with us.
Ed wants that to change. You're one of hundreds of thousands of Labour members and supporters, and we want to know how you feel about our party, our politics, and our country.
So, our first question for you: How would you complete the sentence below?
"I vote because..."
I completed it though. I can imagine the research assistant trying to harvest the precious data and trying to make something of it that would help the good cause.
Out of respect for Iain McNicol and the eager researcher I also replied to the email to explain the problem that I now have with Labour. This is what I wrote:
So sorry. No donation and no vote.IainHaving had to put up with Blair for so long, and seeing nothing clear or definitive to follow I feel betrayed and politically homeless.
Show me, emphatically and dramatically, that Labour has environmental issues at its heart and I might consider coming back.Given that our democratic and economic future is now beyond salvation I feel that all I can do is express my alarm at the environmental disasters that corporations are inflicting on us by voting Green.I have completed your survey, but I do not intend to vote Labour at the forthcoming European Election. The policies and leadership currently offered by Labour seem pretty similar to those promoted by Edward Heath's Conservatives in the early 1970s. Why would I vote for that?
I see no challenge whatsoever to undemocratic control of our affairs by large corporations and banks. Policies on education and welfare are pale versions of Thatcher and you have given up on the NHS. Why would I vote for you?
I was pleased to get a reply to that email today. I was less pleased to read it. It seems to be an automated reply with a quote from my questionnaire pasted clumsily into the body of a predetermined message. If anyone did read my email, they didn't tell the robot what I was actually saying. This is what "Iain McNicol" had sent to me by a minion with a database:
Sam —If anyone reading this knows someone near the top of the Labour Party please tell them that sorting out what Labour is for and what its elected Government might try to do I would be inclined to listen. "Fighting the Tories" is a pale echo from another era, a hollow yelp of nothing at all in the face of a betrayed political dream. Paying money for stupid email shots and automated thinking is not my idea of serious politics.
We really appreciate you taking our survey.
We've already taken a look at some of your responses — and one in particular struck us.
You told us that the thought of another five years of Tory government made you feel "distraught".
I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to win the election next May.
One thing you can do is make a donation now, so we can run the strongest campaign possible. It takes less than two minutes, and we will use every penny you give us to fight the Tories.
You told us in your survey that if things carry on as they are, you think life in Britain will get worse in the next 30 years.
If we work together now, we have a chance to make it better.