Just had a quick glimpse of the current state of the Labour Party at a local event to elect the parliamentary candidate for this constituency (see previous post for background). According to the right-wing media (and the US of course), the word ‘socialist’ has become an insult. Is Battleaxe a socialist? Whatever. I can’t face watching the current agonising writhings of the Tories. Liz Truss as Prime Minister – oh get out of here! Johnson boasts about ‘Mission accomplished’ and swans off for his summer booze-fest at Chequers, at our expense, to the cheers of the assembled Tory MPs who had just, a few days before, sacked him for lying, corruption and incompetence. Then we’ve had record-breaking heat which might – but only might – have opened a few more eyes to the reality of climate change. But, breathe, relax, I’ve been to Great Dixter again… see soothing photos below.
I am not getting into definitions of socialism – see this Wikipedia article. It’s all a bit complicated. Is Battleaxe a socialist? In a watered-down social democrat-ish sort of way. (Talking of water, never mind what happened about Clause 4, re-nationalise those ghastly water companies now). I am currently a Labour Party member, and to attend the above event you had to show your membership card. I have a stock of several – I’ve been in and out of that party so many times. Iraq, Corbyn, Corbyn again… I only first joined in the early 80s, in Birmingham. To be honest, back then I was a newly single mother, and Labour had by far the best social events. Talk about champagne socialists – we even had an opera group. But less of that frivolous talk, died in the wool Labour supporters will be shocked.
So, back to the event. It was organised by Labour South East, much to the fury of our local party. To make matters worse, they got in a mix-up about the venue, which put lots of us in a bad mood to start with, and then one of the three nominees (the only bloke) had Covid, so we only had two to choose from. Above all, I had vowed to vote for the candidate who looked, and sounded, most electable, so it was annoying not to see all three of them. It was very well attended. I encountered lots of people I knew including various poet and writing friends, but there were also old geezers with too few teeth, grey straggly pony-tails, and I Love Jeremy t shirts, angry young blokes with horn-rimmed specs, even angrier large women in shapeless frocks etc etc. Now look, don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that there would be far more members at a typical Tory party gathering who, in their strange Tory way, would be considerably odder than this lot, and would have far more objectionable political views. Gatherings of members of all political parties are probably a bit weird.
However, we had to sit through periods of barracking when blokes leapt up and demanded that the process should be stopped, it was undemocratic, Stalinist, candidates had been imposed on us etc etc. More barracking ensued when the Chair announced that only four questions had been chosen (By Labour central) and those, and only those, would be put to the candidates. However, I couldn’t help but be a bit pleased that one of the four questions was one I had submitted:
‘In this constituency, there is a substantial rural/village population who traditionally vote Tory. To win the seat, you will have to win over some of these people. What will you/Labour offer these voters to make them change their minds?’
I wanted to hear them say how they would win over Tories – which they will have to do – but unfortunately neither answered particularly well, just went on about ‘unearthing hidden pockets of Labour support’. Where from? The asparagus beds of the Winchelsea well-to-do? The potato patches of the rural deprived?
To cut a long story short, I voted for Helena Dollimore, who looked and sounded knowledgable, assured and professional. She is already running an excellent promotional campaign. Talking of looking and sounding the part, I was chatting to Michael Foster, our one-time, and only-ever, Labour MP. Even on a boiling hot morning, he had a proper jacket on… As a well-established and respected local solicitor, he must have presented a totally reassuring persona to even the most fervent local Tories. He also told me that the local Labour Party had missed out a vital step in the process of putting forward their local nominees, so in some sense had brought their troubles on themselves…. sorry, I didn’t understand the details.
Trouble is with Labour, far too many seem to be obsessed with putting purity of dogma before the vital necessity to win power. The Tories also have silly dogma shibboleths (like their obsessions with Churchill and Thatcher) and evil splitty fights, but when it comes to it, they all knuckle down and support the party. What’s more, they can attract other nasties into their fold, like UKIP and the Brexit Party. Labour folk won’t, don’t and can’t. If I read one more Twitter post publicly denouncing Keir Starmer I’ll go mad. The poor man may not be perfect but he has enough to do fending off the right-wing media, without constant attacks from his own side. The current Tory collapse is a godsend for Labour, but what is the betting they/we manage to waste it? It’s a worry.
So, yes, it was/is hot. Very hot. The gardeners at Great Dixter were telling us (this time I went with a group of WI folks) how worried they were about the heat and the lack of rain. They have to water constantly, but still some things are dying. The yellow, dry expanses of what were wild flower meadows are a genuine fire risk. It would only take a careless visitor to drop a glass bottle where it could catch the sun. But still, the gardens looked lovely. I really like the way they leave dead remnants to show off the living plants… and the tropical garden was thriving. Here are a few photos to finish up with.