Councillor Sam Stopp: why I had to leave the Labour Party

Councillor Sam Stopp: why I had to leave the Labour Party

It was on the train to London that I finally accepted the truth: I had to leave the Labour Party. The party I had fallen in love with many years ago in Putney. The party my grandfathers had voted for after the War. The party I had been elected for, had campaigned for, had sweated for. The party I had told myself I would stick with no matter how long the road, no matter the cost to me.

But there was I, on the way into London town for a lunch-time meeting, travelling from my new home in Hampshire. The sun was streaming through the dirty window. Spring, it seemed, had finally arrived, and I had in mind that timeless Orwell line: “England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past…having the power to change beyond all recognition and yet remain the same.”

I put down my copy of Ed Husain’s book on radicalisation and thought to myself: why am I putting myself through this? Why have I spent the best years of my life in a party lately influenced at every level by pseudo-intellectuals, feudal socialists, hyper-liberals, Putin sympathisers, antisemites, Islamists, and emboldened fools who hate this country with a putrid passion? Why me? Why any of us?

And the answer, after nearly three years of lying to myself, was that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had been through all the stages of grief: denial at how existential was the threat Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader posed to the real Labour Party’s continuing existence; anger as his leadership and his supporters ripped apart the fabric of a once-great party; bargaining when I penned an insipid letter of apology to Corbyn (for which I will never forgive myself) after Labour lost again in 2017; depression when I realised that the upshot of this was that the Labour Party would now fly ever closer to the sun; and acceptance, at last, that there was nothing anyone inside the Labour Party could do to change it.

I had seen, too, in local government in London, some of the most worrying behaviours I had ever encountered in a “professional” environment. There is so much darkness to reveal, and in time, reveal it I will. But believe me when I say this, because I’ve seen it in its true naked ugliness: this is a party rotten to its core, whose backroom power-brokers will stop at nothing to change this country to suit their own devious ends. Be sure, their sins will find them out.

There are still many good people in the London Labour Party. Their decency is not diminished by their continued membership of an organisation that has betrayed them. They are far stronger than me. But they will continue to walk away, when they finally realise, as I now have, that the lights have gone out.

In two weeks’ time, I will no longer be a London Labour councillor. To serve in the very small way I did was the greatest honour of my life. It’s time now to get my life back and maybe one day, in the fullness of time, I will enter the fray again. But for now, the sun that burst through the train window a week ago, remains. A new dawn has broken, has it not?

Sam Stopp is standing down as a Labour councillor in Brent. His previous pieces for On London can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

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