To join or not to join…



We at Taking Soundings have been debating the merits of joining the Labour Party as a supporter (for £3, or for free if you are part of an affiliated union) in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming leadership elections.

If you think it is a good idea, you can become a Labour Supporter for £3 here: until 10th August.

You can have your say by debating the pros and cons in the comments section below…

11 thoughts on “To join or not to join…

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    July 20, 2015 at 3:37pm

    I’d be interested in some clarity on why the debate is focussed only on Corbyn — unless you’ve suddenly become a bunch of Tories taking the Sun seriously about wrecking Labour by voting him in? Surely Labour has one or two other candidates people might join the party in order to vote for?

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    July 20, 2015 at 3:42pm

    Apart from Corbyn, the rest are rightwing to the point of it being impossible to vote for Labour let alone more actively support it, if/when one of them becomes leader.

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    james thompson

    July 20, 2015 at 3:44pm

    Good question – my answer (which is not necessarily that of others involved in Taking Soundings) is that the other candidates represent ‘more of the same’ and as such are a massive turn-off for me and for most people. That said, the Labour party had a big influx of members before Corbyn even put his hat in the ring, so that is evidence that there are at least some people who were prepared to join the pre-Corbyn, post-Milliband, post-new Labour party.
    I just wasn’t one of them (not even close).

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    July 20, 2015 at 3:52pm

    I’m quite bemused that Corbyn, a doughty campaigner and thoroughly decent guy no doubt but with something of the rent-a-Trot about his predictable views on most issues, has suddenly become the great white hope of the left. I guess the election set back has made us all desperate for a ‘fightback’ but I remain to be convinced his style of left wing politics has the answers to the complex situation we live in, the alliances we need to make, and above all the strategy and vision to deal with the kind of post capitalist world that Paul Mason outlines in his latest book. There is a further issue. As a (sometimes reluctant) Labour party member who gave his all to the recent election campaign, I welcome new members and supporters – but there’s something sightly distasteful about the thought of a return to entrysim as a tactic. I only joined Labour once I felt convinced that sort of thing had been banished to the past – and am unsure I could stay in if I felt we were being used as a vehicle for other people’s agendas, rather than a genuine attempts create a consistent, thoughtful, open and campaigning politics.

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    james thompson

    July 20, 2015 at 4:02pm

    ‘Open politics’? The Labour Party? Are you sure?
    If the Iraq war is not a prime example of the Labour Party being used as a vehicle for other people’s agendas then I really don’t know what is.
    This is the Labour Party returning to its (actually very popular) roots. If you don’t like ‘Labour – the early years’ then perhaps you’re not going to like Jeremy as leader (getting slightly ahead of myself there – he’s not leader yet).
    As for the challenges set out by Mason – is Jeremy Corbyn a step in the right direction or the wrong direction? (genuine question – not rhetorical) And how do you think he compares to the others in this regard?

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      July 20, 2015 at 6:57pm

      Being in the Labour party sometimes feels like I am personally responsible for everything bad about modern society 🙂 I’m kind of getting used to the insults – apparently I’m a closet Tory, a betrayer of true socialist values, in fact sometimes I wonder why I even bother. Except that I also know some really lovely caring and inspiring people, many of whom are working hard to make their councils function despite the cuts, opposing attacks on working class people in their communities etc. If I’m honest I don’t think that anyone standing really represents ‘the right direction’. But having had some long and deep conversations with a lot of voters (and non-voters) on the doorstep recently I just don’t get the sense that Corbyn’s politics is somehow going to offer the hope and direction they are looking for – that he is the missing link that will win back defecting working-class voters as well as the narrative and vision we need to offer to current Tory voters who might be persuaded to move to the left. I may be wrong of course and in some ways I wish I was, but my hunch is that after possibly an immediate bounce we will see a big drop in the opinion polls. I don’t think that Corbyn is a return to the ‘roots’ of Labour either. I may be too jaundiced by my past but I do worry it could be more like the bad old days of the 1980s and Militant, London Labour briefing and assorted left sectarians. Why didn’t the anti-austerity Greens make a big break through (3m votes is not bad but hardly the SNP in Scotland which is a very different place and set of circumstances to England), or various Socialist/TU/ anti-cuts groups that have stood in elections over the years? I suppose the argument is that if a big beast like the LP is shouting anti-austerity etc this will provide the backdrop for local campaigning etc and there is a serious case that we need to focus on the ‘core’ vote as that is where we have most seriously bled support, but I’m just not convinced Corbyn is the person to do this or that his politics is up to the job of re-imagining the future. I wish I had easy answers but I’m not sure there are at the moment.

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    james thompson

    July 20, 2015 at 5:04pm

    I received this in response to the mailing about this:
    “I am 70 years old have supported the Labour party all my life and been a member. However there now seems no point in the Labour Party. Since Blair Its just another version of the Tory Party I hope it dies with me soon. A socialist “

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    July 21, 2015 at 12:14am

    Is it possible to be a step in the right direction, yet still not the right man for the job on offer? There are things Corbyn says that make me think there’s hope for Labour after all…and then other things he says that make me lose hope that the Labour party will ever be relevant again. So, he’s not my great white hope (and does our great hope still have to be white?) and I’m not sure I’d like to see him as head of the party, but I would be very happy to see the party get some serious leftward distance from where it is at the moment. So really, I don’t know. The other candidates are also a turn-off for me (I can at least say I genuinely like my Labour MP, so wouldn’t vote any other way, but can’t say the same for what’s on offer for leadership). Even more of a turn-off is hearing them all blither on about how they need to move further right to recapture their lost votes. They seem completely unable to imagine that they might have lost because they were already too far right, too far from their roots, and a whole lot of Labour supporters voted SNP or UKIP because they couldn’t stomach that anymore, and couldn’t bear to vote Tory or LibDem. I think the debate I’d really like to see is what kind of Labour party do we really want? What I hear from the grassroots is go left, what the Usual Suspects are saying is that they think the public wants them to go right. Are they wrong or are they hearing something we’re not? To me, the biggest mistake Miliband made was *not* standing up for the good things Labour did do (Iraq and PPI contracts notwithstanding), not making a decent case for what has been lost of general social welfare under the Tories (libraries, recreation facilities, funding for community groups, the arts, charities which provide essential social services, etc), not making a case for decency with regard to the involuntarily unemployed (including ill and disabled in that number), not making it very very clear how the Tories had immediately broken their promise of no top-down re-organisation of the NHS, but instead have reorganised it in a manner that has bled it absolutely dry of funding, morale and personnel and so cannot be trusted to hold to any other promise they might make, etc etc so forth. The material was there, but they refused to use it. That’s the part I really don’t understand.

    Upon which note, I may have just talked myself into Corbyn as a good idea. At least he’ll do what an opposition party is meant to do – OPPOSE. And with such a slim majority and by-elections soon to come, if he’s able to get some coherent counter-arguments out there, maybe that’s the best thing Labour could do over the next three or four years.

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    July 21, 2015 at 8:26am

    As a member of the SWP I will not be joining Labour to vote for Corbyn for various reasons, perhaps similar to those outlined by the 70 year old socialist above – not because I don’t want to see him win – I do – he is a very principled socialist and a tireless campaigner and activist – but because I think the long term strategic task for the left is building a socialist alternative to the Labour Party and I don’t think it helps those of us trying to build such an alternative (for example through TUSC etc) – to tell people to join the Labour Party as supporters (perhaps this echoes with some of the comments above about the problems of ‘entryist’ style politics). More critically, don’t the lessons of the current failure of Syriza in Greece speak to us about the limitations of a parliamentary road to socialism style strategy ala Corbyn? Do you think the ruling class would just sit back and let a Corbyn-led Labour Party just carry out progressive reformist measures / redistributing wealth etc? Surely we need to be building organisations that are not electoralist machines first and foremost like the Labour Party but primarily orientated around supporting working class struggles and the wider movement against austerity? Don’t we also need to contextualise Corbyn’s campaign historically and think about some of the lessons of the times in the history of the Labour Party over the past 100 years when the Left have been much, much stronger than they are today and how, even when in the ascendency, they ultimately failed?

    Anyway, those interested in discussing these questions further might be interested in – and are more than welcome to come to – a meeting on ‘Can Jeremy Corbyn reclaim the Labour Party?’ on Thursday 30 July at 7pm at the Swarthmore Educational Centre in Leeds organised by Leeds SWP – cheers.

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    james thompson

    July 21, 2015 at 8:41am

    Wow Fiona – it is so rare to see someone change their opinion in an online comments section. Good for you!
    One thing we need to realise (and this is empirically verifiable) is that only 2% of those that voted in the last election had swapped from Labour to Conservative. We also know that the people most likely to be turned off voting altogether are ex-Labour voters, and there are absolutely loads of them. Therefore, it would be a BIG MISTAKE to woo the Tory vote. One, it won’t work. Two, it would turn off too many others. Three, unless we propose just lying to the electorate, we would be in no position to undo the damage of the last 5 (and by then 10) years.

    Please don’t be put off by talk of the ‘median voter’, or at least be highly critical of anything said about this mythical character. The ‘centre ground’ has shifted so wildly over the past couple of decades that to suppose it is the tiny bit of space currently between Milliband’s Labour and Cameron’s Tories is plain silly.

    Focus, issue by issue, on what you would like the next government to do, compare that with what the candidates are saying, and make your decision on that basis and leave tactics behind.

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    Franco Bianchini

    July 21, 2015 at 12:45pm

    I would have preferred a more neutral wording of the question, perhaps something like: “We at Taking Soundings have been debating the merits of joining the Labour Party as a supporter (for £3, or for free if you are part of an affiliated union) in order to vote in the upcoming leadership elections”, but I realise that it wouldn’t have stimulated the discussion in the same way.
    There isn’t an agreed position in favour of Jeremy Corbyn among the Taking Soundings organising group. Indeed one of the good things about Taking Soundings is that we haven’t an agreed position/official line on anything. I haven’t decided who to vote for, but well done to Corbyn for being the only candidate for the leadership (and the deputy leadership, I think?) to vote against the Welfare Bill. There has been a lot of communication from the candidates, but much of it has been content-free and uninspiring (satirised by Sophie Heawood in The Guardian Weekend a few days ago:

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