Comment: Why I am keeping faith with Labour
I joined the Labour party in 1999 at the age of 16 with the desire to make my own small contribution to building a better Britain.
I’ve always felt that having strong beliefs and values and being courageous in expressing them is a crucial part of playing a role in society.
Some people choose religion and God, but for me, an atheist, the choice was politics and the Labour party.
I was seduced by New Labour’s idealism, its optimism and its apparent desire to make Britain a better and fairer place.
As someone born in the 1980s, my early attraction to the Labour Party was partly down to my rejection of the cruelty of Thatcherism which caused a great deal of misery to those most vulnerable in society.
Possibly the most telling statistic about the Thatcherism is that in 1979, when she came to power, 14% children fell below the poverty line; by 1996 this figure had risen to 34%.
In particular, Thatcherism generated a climate of hostility and animosity towards the gay community.
She seized on the homophobic atmosphere generated by the right-wing press and introduced Section 28, which has undoubtedly left its mark on a generation of gay men and women who were school children throughout the 1980s.
I am proud to say that Labour’s record on gay rights is somewhat better. It was a Labour government, under Harold Wilson, who first made homosexuality legal in the late 1960s and under Tony Blair we have had equalisation of the age of consent, civil partnerships and more recently equal rights for the provision of goods and services.
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Perhaps the gay rights agenda is New Labour’s biggest achievement so far.
They have bulldozed reform after reform through Parliament to the horror of the Daily Mail and the Tories.
This has changed the mood across Britain for the better and homophobia is now widely seen as wrong. As Tony Benn once said: “It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”
It has recently become passé to use the word ‘socialist’ within the Labour Party, but I am proud to buck the trend and class myself as a ‘democratic socialist’.
While I accept that capitalism is now inevitable, we must strive to make society fairer and more equal. To me that is what being in the Labour Party is all about: campaigning to create a better society.
Alex Bryce is a researcher for a Labour MP.