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Thursday, March 15, 2007 

This is a dead parrot.

In those all too rare moments of optimism, I have like tygerland, who has just rejoined, thought about becoming a member of the Labour party. It's partly out of the naive belief that somehow my thoughts and my voice could help in some way to turn around the direction that New Labour has headed in, and also more recently out of the desire to make sure that the left-wing alternatives to Brown get as much support as possible, even if I don't particularly want either Meacher or McDonnell to lead the party, just to show how much grassroots support there is for a more radical government program, much like the one which tygerland sets out.

It's only later, or rather within minutes, that the much more familiar disillusion sets it. It'd be nice to think that Brown will be a more inclusive leader to Blair, someone prepared to listen to the activists and supporters on the ground rather than do exactly the opposite of what the vast majority of them would do, but all the evidence suggests that he'll be just as much as a control freak as Blair, if not more. Secondly, Brown has made more than apparent that he's not prepared to back down an inch on security and foreign policy matters. He supports an extension to the 28-days without charge detention limit for "terrorist suspects"; he supports the retention of Trident; he failed to stand up to Blair over Iraq; and he's showed no sign of being about to end Blair's Faustian pact with the Murdoch media.

Of course, it can be argued that ending the alliance with the Downing Street Echo would be tantamount to political suicide, that putting off a decision on renewing Trident would allow the Tories to take the initiative over security and claim that Labour is putting the security of the nation at risk, however ludicrous such a position would be, and that if he had opposed Blair over Iraq then he would have been sacked, but these are the exact sort of issues where decisions taken from on high have left the grassroots feeling angry, betrayed and disenfranchised.

The problem with Labour though is not just any longer with the leaders. It's with the whole package of policies which are currently being pursued. Take yesterday's announcement from the Home Office which outlines proposals given to it from a review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Ignore the gimmicky decision to put short-term jails in the local branch of Tesco, and instead focus on the vast expansion of the power to take DNA and fingerprints from anyone who so much as farts out of turn. From wanting to be tough on crime and the causes of crime, the current solution to all our problems seems to be to take everyone's biometric information and put it on every database the government can put out to tender. This is a huge change in the very nature of the relationship between citizen and state - if you manage to avoid being forced to get an ID card, then they'll get your fingerprints through catching you dropping litter, not cleaning up after a dog or not wearing a seatbelt. Those over 10 who commit non-recordable offences would also no longer be immune from having their fingerprints and DNA taken. From a database that was originally meant to be used only to help solve serious crimes, we've come to the point where it's now the largest in the world.

It's obvious to everyone what the police and some politicians want. They want the database to have everyone's data on it, but they can't come out and say that they want children to have their fingerprints taken at a certain age just in case they ever commit a crime. It would spark outrage, probably even in the Downing Street Echo. Instead, they're going about creating it by stealth, coming up with ever more weak excuses for taking personal information. Also worth noting is how plans originally mooted as being used to question "terrorist suspects" after they've been charged are now suggested to be used universally.

This is I think what makes most people so increasingly queasy about political parties in general, not just Labour. It's that you simply can't trust them, and that even if you did, they sure as hell don't trust you. Some have suggested that they're going to vote for the Tories at the next election simply because they've promised to scrap ID cards. After however much Labour has or is going to spend on the scheme, even if the Tories got in, I just can't imagine them ripping the whole thing apart.

Simply put, after 9 years of Labour government, putting up with numerous lies and so many unforgivable policies, to believe that re/joining the party now will make any genuine difference is laughable. The only way I can see relations between the political parties and the general public being repaired is for proportional representation to be introduced, forcing them to listen. Otherwise, I think we're headed for another generation of minority conservative government, whether through New New Labour or the Tories themselves, with ever reducing electoral turnout.

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What makes you think proportional representation makes a political party more responsive to the electorate? It certainly hasn't worked that way in Scotland where there is no real link between the 'list' MSPs and the electorate; the only people that matter in such elections are the few people within each Party who vote for the order that a candidate occupies in that party's list.

I think the success of the Scottish Socialist Party (at least until they imploded) and Greens, which have to an extent shaken up politics north of the border, who wouldn't have got any representation otherwise is one of the reasons why it has worked.
Labour has also been forced further left in both Scotland and Wales in ways I don't think they would have been if it weren't both for devolution and PR.

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