One of my favourite movies is Broadcast News – and one of its many, many beautifully written, witty exchanges that has always stuck with me is the one above. Super-smart, super-informed TV news producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) schooling not-as-smart, super-handsome TV news anchor Tom Grunick (William Hurt). I think I’ve always remembered it because deep in my heart, I want to be Jane Craig – but somewhere even deeper in my heart, I have a terrible fear that I’m Tom Grunick (without the super-handsomeness). It resonates because my inner Tom fears that my inner Jane is right.
It’s a scene that came back to me recently in the run-up to the election. Like most people, I read news stories and political commentaries, and occasionally shake my head and sigh at the computer screen (in the absence of a TV). But, like Tom, how informed, how prepared, how qualified am I, really, about the issues I care about, about the things that make me shake my head at my computer screen? And more importantly: what do I do about them? Apart from sharing links and writing satirical pieces – the latter of which had a very powerful impact on the final election result, clearly – very little. My ‘taking part in the political process’ has, in practical terms, consisted of voting in elections. And that’s it.
But there was something about this election that galvanised me. It may have galvanised me at the very last minute – but it did galvanise me. Many polices of the Tory-led coalition – and the policies the Conservatives were proposing if they won – are things which I am opposed to. Austerity, and the ideology of austerity – which effectively punishes the most vulnerable in our society for something which they didn’t bring upon themselves – is something I am very strongly opposed to. Not only did I firmly not want the Conservatives to win – I firmly wanted Labour to win. And the closer the election got, the more important this became for me.
So while I have always sat left of centre (politically, not literally – it’s not some weird tic I have when choosing concert seats), I have never aligned myself fully and properly with a party. Until now.
Now, I have realised that, while Julie Andrews preaches an awful lot of wisdom when she sings I Have Confidence – including “everything will turn out fine” and “A captain, with seven children? What’s so fearsome about that?!” – she was incorrect in telling us (or rather, herself) that “strength doesn’t lie in numbers”. Because I think strength does lie in numbers.
And that’s why I’ve joined the Labour party. Because I want to be part of a collective body trying to achieve something that I believe in (or at least largely believe in: I don’t assume that I will agree with every Labour decision or policy, but I don’t think that’s a reason to not be part of it. I think that’s simply accepting how movements like this work). I want to take part in Labour party discussions and – most importantly, given my inaction thus far – actions. I want to be involved in how Labour takes that action and how it communicates its message. I want to be out there listening and speaking to people and taking steps to try and improve their lives (which may also be something I do through volunteering, not just through the Labour party). And I want to have a say in who should lead the party through all this – although at the moment, I admit that my thoughts have been largely limited to ‘Anyone, as long as they’re not younger than me’.
I want to be involved. I want to take action. I want to ‘stop whining, and do something about it’.
I want to be a Jane, not a Tom*.
*Spoiler alert: he turns out to be a bad guy