Daran Hill responds to a controversial story about a potential Labour party member.
The Young People’s Poet Laureate for Wales has gained some considerable attention today, but not for any poetry she has written or recited. She has alleged unfair conduct by a Labour Party she considers “feeble” for not allowing her to vote in its leadership election, .
Sophie McKeand is clearly distraught at being rejected as a genuine voter in the Labour leadership election. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-37221578
Read it for yourself. Experience the throb of an increased heart beat. Feel the natural sympathy swell in your bosom. Sense the indignation flooding your spleen.
Then stop and think. Because despite the intrinsic bias in the way this situation has been reported, there are a series of serious points that make the actions of Sophie McKeand wrong.
Firstly, and most damningly, she misled on her application. There is a box which clearly asks applicants for registered supporter status to indicate they do not support the aims of other political parties. She lied in her answer to that question. The tweet she made about the Green Party proved that as does the defence she has now presented, drawing on her support for Plaid too.
She also indicates she was allowed to vote in last year’s Labour leadership election and that should be some sort of justification for allowing her to vote this time. It isn’t. She lied last year too and it’s only now that Labour is cleaning up some of the mess that its registered supporter system has created. (I could write several essays on the short comings of that system, but that’s for another day.)
At the heart of the issue is the following statement made by McKeand: “If I want to vote Plaid one year I will, if I want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn I can. I want to reflect my socialist agenda. I want to see proper socialism so I’ll vote for a variety of parties – but always on the left. These things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”
And do you know what? In a democracy she can do all these things. In the polling station. I know she can because I do it too. I am openly and proudly politically promiscuous. But I am not a liar. And I do not complete application forms to any political party indicating that I will abide by its rules and support it.
Because the crux of the matter is that Labour – like any other party – needs to enforce a discipline which asks its members to actually support it. If you can’t do that, don’t become a member. It’s as simple as that for Labour, and it’s as simple as that for any other political party too.
The fact that McKeand is now presenting herself as an abused martyr is nauseating. She is nothing of the sort. She is a person who temporarily gained entry to a political party by misleading and wanted to persist in that half truth to vote for a preferred candidate. She has now been found out. And booted out.
Of course, she is not alone in having her membership refused, either by Labour or other parties. What marks this case out is the press attention. But, if she were not Young People’s Laureate in Wales, this story would have had no coverage. Without that title, she is just another person who has not been entirely truthful on an application form.