It was the aftermath of a shocking, devastating general election loss. The Labour party leader was standing down. Nobody knew exactly what would happen next.
It was May 2015 – and it hit me that I actually cared very much about what happened next: both in the Labour party and in the country. And it hit me that I couldn’t really complain about what happened next unless I got involved somehow.
So in June 2015, I joined the Labour party. Without any history of activism, volunteering or politics. Just a history of shouting at my computer screen.
It was that election result that finally made me take action, of course; but probably also, somewhere in the back of my mind, a favourite scene from one of my favourite films.
It’s in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News – a moment where super-smart, super-informed TV news producer Jane (Holly Hunter) chastises super-handsome, not-very-informed TV presenter Tom (William Hurt) for complaining about feeling out-of-depth in his new role as a news anchor. “I agree with you – you’re not qualified,” she tells him. “So get qualified… Stop whining and do something about it.”
Lines from films, books or songs stay with you because they resonate somehow. I realised that deep down, I wanted to be a Jane – but had actually been living my life as a Tom. So in June 2015, I decided to stop whining and do something about it.
And if, as I felt back then, you’re feeling upset at the general election result; if you have an opinion on why Labour lost so terribly, on why the Tories won so convincingly, on what’s happening in our country, on what you think should happen next in the Labour party; if your values align with Labour’s and, most of all, if you’re sick of shouting at your computer screen, then I urge you to join us.
You don’t have to agree with everything Labour has ever done or said, on every policy idea, with every member you’ve ever met or with every MP you’ve ever seen on TV. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Labour party member – and as I say, joining it was my first foray ever into politics – it’s that a political party is like a family.
A dysfunctional family, yes. But a family nonetheless. A family that rows and falls out, a family in which you feel more comfortable with some members than others, a family which can often drive you crazy… but a family that, when the chips are down, comes together. Because we recognise that, for all its faults, this family is important.
Join us because we need you. We need people, we need ideas, we need opinions – particularly, I’d argue, of those who have been on the outside watching in. Not least because, I believe, any party is at its best when it listens to all ideas, and recognises that nobody – no one person, no wing, no “faction” – has a monopoly on wisdom.