Call me a cynic if you wish, but try as I might I could not keep one overwhelming feeling out of my mind as my holiday began to draw to a close and I faced the seemingly inevitable return to commenting on the UK, its politics, economy and taxes (as if I ever stopped). It is the feeling of near certainty that sometime soon (which may just be measured in years but will In some cases definitely represent a period of months) that up to 300,000 people are going to feel pretty disappointed with their engagement with the UK political process.
Why do I say this? Because, much as I’d like to say otherwise, I know three things are going to happen soon.
First their hero's UK summer tour is going to come to an end and next summer he secretly fancies a holiday. Gigs are going to be in short supply soon.
Second, there is the nightmare second album scenario to face: having played every variation on 'an email from Jo in Southend' during the last parliamentary session what’s the new season going to bring?
But third, and most importantly, the reality of bottom up politics is going to hit home in a number of ways.
In the first instance that will be the result of the rapid realisation that what is on offer at present is nothing like as radical as the new social movement is demanding. In fact, it's not just pretty tame, it feels remarkably like 'back to what we had in New Labour days'.
And then there will be awareness that trying to do anything to change this will mean giving up every Tuesday evening to meetings, and every other Thursday as well to the resolution drafting sub-committee you daftly agreed to serve on, plus Sundays at last once a month for a local general assembly where your carefully clause construction is torn apart by those who never bothered arriving on Thursday’s although they always said they would.
After which the decimated motion, that now looks nothing like the sentiment you were so sure everyone had apparently agreed upon in advance, is sent to regional conference, to which you must give up a weekend every three months, after which it, along with fourteen other broadly similar mashed-up motions is passed to a composite committee, none of whose members you have heard of and you aren’t to sure about because no-one can be quite sure who nominated them, who then send it to annual conference, where the process is restarted and the only bit left that you can recognise at the end of the day is the statement that ‘Conference agrees’ and the fact that the clauses are still in numerical order. Worse, the debate at Conference is then guillotined because the first morning session over-ran and so discussion is reduced to just 30 minutes after which conference does indeed agree, but to refer it back for further consideration. In the meantime the leadership feels free to say what it wants, and has to, because the world cannot wait for the report back to take place.
Yes I know this sounds horribly cynical but this is the real world of bottom up politics, which Labour has actually had in something like this form for decades. And it’s been dull, alienated all but the very willing, and decimated membership over a long period.
And I have heard nothing that says how this is going to change, or if it will at all. After all, how can national policy ever emerge from local parties without something like this happening, with continual rounds of compromise, negotiation, hair splitting and hours of frustration all being inevitable? I think someone had better be able to answer that question pretty quickly or 300,000 is very soon going yo be something considerably smaller.
That then creates the real possibility of even more intense mass disillusionment in no time at all. Avoiding seems to me to be pretty key. But can anyone really explain how that is going to be prevented? Because I am really keen to know. The success of a whole social movement on the left is dependent upon someone having an answer and on this occasion I really do not have one to offer.