Can Labour rediscover empathy, tolerance and kindness?

The day after the night before and I find myself reflecting on whether to rejoin the party I first joined in 1997 and have been a sad but vehement opponent of since 2016.

But what would it take? And why would I rejoin a Labour Party that is in such disarray? 

When I left Labour I did so, not because of any specific policy disagreement, but because I felt the party’s values and behaviours had moved dramatically away from the party I joined. I still remember sitting at a hustings and watching as a heavily pregnant woman was heckled and sworn at for daring to disagree with the momentum mob. 

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s values and behaviours that I come back to now. Three words keep running through my head. Empathy. Tolerance. Kindness. 

Empathy with those communities who have turned against it. Empathy with those who Labour has hurt so badly in recent years, starting with the Jewish community. Empathy with those who need Labour to be in power the most. You can’t learn politics just from textbooks or through the rote learning of Marx. And existing in a social media bubble isn’t going to cut it either. Labour must listen to those people who feel it has deserted them. It must walk in their shoes so it can understand why so many people feel so betrayed. Most importantly it must act now to start to rebuild trust. Starting with kicking out every single anti-Semite. 

I often remember back to my student politics days in NUS, spending hours and hours listening to speeches of people who were so sure they were right, they not only didn’t bother to try and convince those who disagreed with them, they were openly antagonistic towards them. This is the Labour Party of today. Dissent within the party not tolerated, those who disagree with the leadership hunted down, hounded out. And it’s the same with the public, who are too stupid, too selfish, too Tory to understand that only Corbyn can save them. Tolerance, even celebration, of difference must become the new normal for Labour. Labour is successful when it is a broad church. A party where both Corbyn and Blair can call home. A place of passionate disagreement. But of respect too. And of pragmatism and compromise. 

And finally kindness. I can’t understand how a party that exists to stand up for the most vulnerable in society, a party that gives voice to the voiceless, has become so unkind. It’s all very well talking about mass-nationalisation, increasing taxes on the wealthy, investing in public services etc but politics is about people. It saddens me to say, but the Labour Party has become the nasty party. Small-minded, chippy, unkind, intolerant. The people saw that and turned-away. Until it returns to being that kind, outward-looking, caring party the public will continue to distrust them on the big-stuff. One is directly linked to the other. 

And this is what I’ll be reflecting on in the coming days. Can Labour return to being a party of tolerance, empathy and kindness? Can I and others like me help to influence that? If so, then we have a duty to return and support those already there and fighting for change. 

Leaving Labour

Today, after much thought and with great sadness I tendered my resignation of the Labour Party.

Dear Ian,

It is with great regret that I have decided to tender my resignation of the Labour Party.

I have long held the values of the Labour Party as my own. A strong community; rewarding hard work and endeavour; the notion of people contributing in the good times and being looked after in the bad. Perhaps most of all, a belief in social justice and the sense of fairness. I would add to these a belief in internationalism – that those in Aleppo or Sana’a are as much a part of our community as those in Aylesbury or Sunderland.

Over the last 14months I have watched as the party has moved away from many of these values. The hard work of successful people in business sneered at. Tolerance and fairness replaced with violence, threats and discrimination. Internationalism trumped by protectionism. At the same time Labour seems to have given up any desire to govern, content instead to be a constant, if inconsistent, voice of opposition. Happier sniping from the sidelines than taking on the hard work of building a fairer, more equal society.

Britain is facing some of its greatest challenges – A sluggish and unequal economy. An education system that fails our young. An NHS bursting at the seams. A pensions time-bomb. A housing crisis. All of which exacerbated by the uncertainly of Brexit.

The Conservatives have no answer to any of these challenges. Their economic policy lays in tatters. Their vision for the future of education is to look back to the unfair selective system of the past. They have a health secretary at war with junior doctors. Pensions and housing barely get a mention. And there is currently no strategy for Brexit that will not tear both the country and the Conservative party in two.

An increasingly disenfranchised and distrustful population is crying out for change. Craving a party and a leader with a positive vision for the future.

The sad reality is Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are unable and unwilling to provide this vision.

I have been asked by people I care about and respect to stay and help fight back against those who are destroying the party. And for all those who do I have nothing but admiration. However, the truth is, should there be an election in the coming months, I am not confident I would be able to vote Labour. A vote for Labour would be an endorsement for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and political philosophy. A leadership and philosophy I believe would take the country in a wrong and dangerous direction. With this in mind it is simply untenable to remain a member.

I wish you the very best of luck in the future.

Kind regards

Boris Pomroy

Brentford & Isleworth CLP.

Excerpt from Tom Watson’s final speech of Deputy Leadership Campaign 

I’ll come out from the start and admit that I (proudly) gave Stella Creasy my first preference for deputy leader of the Labour Party, though Tom got my second preference. 

After what has been a long, long campaign for all of us, most of all the candidates, Tom returned to his Black Country home for his final speech of the campaign. It is well worth a read. 

The stand out section for me was on Labour’s 13years in power, which I’ve copied below. 

We made some mistakes in government. But does that mean the entire 13 years of Labour government is a source of shame to me? No, it certainly doesn’t.

We built new schools and hospitals on an unprecedented scale, hugely boosting the pay of the nurses, doctors and teachers who make them run. We were environmentally visionary, we led the world on development, introduced a minimum wage – which even the Attlee government fought shy of, transformed the lives of poorer pensioners with the pensions credit; introduced civil partnerships, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Human Rights Act, paid holidays, maternity leave, paternity leave, union recognition rights, rights for temporary and agency workers, legislation against gangmasters, sure start centres, cutting NHS waiting lists,
etc etc etc. And the longest uninterrupted period of economic growth in memory. 
We utterly transformed our country after 18 years of Tory cynicism. We gave hope and security and self-respect back to millions of our people. We made our great country decent again. And then we spent the last five years apologising for it 

A timely reminder of how much the Labour Party can achieve – but only if they are power… 

I used to love politics. What went wrong?

I used to love politics. I mean really love it. The cut and thrust of debate, the incredulity I felt when someone didn’t agree with my particular point of view, the battle of ideas. Oh the ideas! That was at the heart of it. Even when I was a teenager and, to be completely frank, some of the ideas my friends and I debated were both awful and probably quite offensive, it didn’t matter. We relished the conversation, we learnt from it and it inspired us all to a greater or lesser extent towards our future lives and achievements.

We were lucky. We grew up at a time of big ideas in politics. I was born 14 months before Margaret Thatcher was appointed Prime Minister. I remember the miners strike being called-off on my 7th birthday in 1985. In my first general election as a voter Tony Blair won in a landslide. It was a time when politics mattered – big issues being debated by towering figures – Heseltine, Williams, Benn, Healey, Owen, Major. Well OK, maybe not Major, but you get my drift.

What do today’s young people think of politics I wonder? If the 56% of 18-24 year olds who chose not to vote in 2010 are anything to go by – not much. And who can blame them?

We live in extraordinary times.

We are consuming resources faster than our planet can replenish them, whether it be energy or food, at the same time our choices mean we are slowly (but certainly) heating up our planet with potentially ruinous consequences.

Our National Health Service is creaking at the seams, unable to cope with the numbers of patients or the complexity of their conditions, whilst at the same time consuming ever more of GDP.

We have an education system that was designed for a different era, an era where conformity and facts ruled and competition for jobs came from amongst your classmates, not from a globally mobile labour force.

People are living longer, but still retiring broadly at the same age. What is more, they are having fewer children to support them.

The world is experiencing the highest levels of wealth inequality in human history. The richest 80 people on the planet have the same combined wealth as the bottom 3.5billion; by 2016 it is estimated the richest 1% will hold more wealth than the other 99%.

Oh, and we are still working our way through the most significant financial crisis of modern times.

Historically these kind of challenges would have thrown up leaders who could inspire and engage the public, working with them to generate the big ideas required to meet the challenges we face. But what do we have instead?

The environment and food security almost non-existent on the political agenda, as if only something to be discussed during the economic good-times.

A fight over the Health Service on who will cut the least, battles over a few thousand nurses and doctors, but no attempt to even begin the much more challenging and needed debate of what our future health service might look like and, crucially, how we will pay for it.

Squabbling over what books our children should or shouldn’t read, micro-managing teachers and ladening with debt those young people who want to better themselves (and society) through higher education whilst making no attempt to imagine the education system of the future – one that understands that children are individualss and puts creativity and the ability to find, process and apply knowledge above that of rote-learning and the repetition of facts.

Meanwhile, whilst working families struggle and the poor are increasingly demonised by politicians from all sides, doing anything that might impact on older people has become a political bete-noire. Pensions are triple-locked, the winter fuel-allowance and free-travel are given to all (tax-free) regardless of need.

Despite all the evidence that says inequality is bad, not just for the poorest in society but for everyone (if you haven’t already, the Spirit Level is a must read book), any attempt to redistribute that wealth, whether a mansion tax or any other form of wealth tax is derided as both communist and just too difficult. At the same time, any call for businesses to pay a living wage is immediately rejected as anti-business – as if somehow it should no-longer be a business’s responsibility to pay their workers enough to do simple things like heat their home or put food on their table. Instead the responsibility falls on other tax-payers who are, in effect, handing a multi-billion pound subsidy to businesses every year.

Despite all this, I will trudge to my local church come election day, put a cross next to the name of my local labour candidate, and post it in the ballot box. But I’ll do it because I have always voted and my parents have always voted – it is a sense of duty that I can’t quite shake rather than any enthusiasm for the agenda of any of the major parties. For those that say I could vote for another party, why would I? I live in a straight two-way marginal and, all things being equal, I’d rather Labour than Tory.

Our political system is fundamentally broken (as are many of our individual representatives) and currently there is little hope of it being fixed.

In most industries there are disrupters, start-ups and fringe businesses that challenge the business models of their larger competitors and ultimately shift the way business is done. Think of what Aldi and Lidl have done to the big-4 supermarkets, what the iPod did for the way we listen to music (and, in turn, how services like Spotify are reinventing it again), or what services like Twitter and Facebook have done for the way we consume news and other media.

Disrupters exist in politics too, The Green Party, The People’s Assembly, even UKIP (if that is the kind of thing you like) are all trying to disrupt the way we approach and do politics. The problem is the price of entry is just too high, even those who do make progress in the short-term tend to fall-back over time. Look at the SDP in the 1980’s and I am sure the same will happen with UKIP post 2015. This leaves us with a straight choice between the Tories and Labour and an inevitable focus on a few thousand voters in a few dozen swing-seats and with it a drive to the centre, small c conservatism and the status quo.

Until there is a fundamental overhaul of the political system, an end to first-past-the-post, an embracing of more direct and local democracy and a change in how politics is delivered (more equality, less pantomime performances for example), this is how it will continue. Year after year, election after election fewer and fewer will bother to trudge those few steps to the polling-station, preferring to stay away and make a silent protest of non-engagement.

And until politicians understand this who can blame those who choose to stay away?

#100HappyDays – Day 25: Look at the Sky



I took this photo earlier looking up from just outside my front door. Clear blue sky! It has been a glorious day in London – more of a spring day than a winter one. As a result everyone I’ve met has been just a little more cheerful. I saw strangers on The Strand making eye contact, even allowing a small smile to appear on their faces!

Thank you sun and blue skies for making London a happier place.


#100HappyDays – Day24: Neighbours

This weekend has been taken up almost exclusively by spending time with different neighbours.

On Saturday afternoon we hosted a 6 nations get together for 20 (10 of which were under 6), before dumping the kids with babysitters and joining the rest of the adults for an amazing meal at Quantus. (Which is a gorgeous little restaurant on Devonshire Road in Chiswick, def. worth a try.)

Then today, after a quiet morning, we went for lunch at the house of the parents of one of Josh’s school-mates – again, there were about 20 of us there, over half of whom were children. It was the kind of relaxed, informal carnage you learn to enjoy as a parent, and topped off with a trip to the park. (See photo below).

Finally, we were booked in for afternoon tea at another set of neighbours, just across the road. A chilled and lovely way to finish off the weekend.

When we first moved to Chiswick we hoped it would become a long-term home – and that’s exactly what it’s proved to be. We are incredibly lucky to have made such a huge number of friends, some of which I already count as amongst our closest, and I look forward to many more weekends like this in the future.


#100HappyDays – Day21: My MBA buddies

Apologies for not writing last night – at least one of the people in the photo below led me astray.

Last day of our Latest MBA module here in Loughborough, and I wanted to dedicate my happy day to all the new friends I’ve met as a result of being a part of this amazing course. They are smart, empathetic, funny, kind – everything you’d want from class-mates. I’m not sure I’d be able to do it without them, and I know it wouldn’t be even half as enjoyable.

Thanks everyone.