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.