Two big decisions for the New Year: I have decided to leave the Labour Party and join the Green Party. I'm also winding up East Belfast Diary.
I have been involved with the Labour Party on and off throughout my adult life, including four years as a local councillor. Since moving to Northern Ireland, thirteen years ago, I have spent around eight years in either the Irish or British Labour Parties helping to campaign for Labour to be allowed to stand for election here. But the flags protests last month have finally made me realise that there is absolutely no point in being in a party that doesn't have any political power.
It’s no secret that I've felt sympathetic towards Green policies for some time. And I have become increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations about Labour and elections. It seems pretty clear to me that senior Labour figures are having none of it and that the party in England remains tied to the SDLP. I gather the NEC will make a decision later this month, however I've got to the point where I no longer want to be a member of a party that is so reluctant to have me as a member and clearly considers me to be a nuisance rather than an asset.
Labour in London doesn't understand the need for new politics in Northern Ireland. They continue to support a divided political system based on sharing out power between two ‘communities’, which has been a necessary stage but the time is overdue for change. Much of what I’ve written on East Belfast Diary over the past few years has been about decoupling sectarian and political identities so that Northern Ireland politics can begin to be based on different views on economic and social policies rather than on tribal allegiance. It’s time for me to join a party that is a full part of this new approach. Stephen Agnew’s speech as part of the Assembly debate on the flags protests set out what politics in Northern Ireland could look like so much more convincingly than Ed Miliband has been able to do with his fixation on being an ‘honest broker’.
The move is also an opportunity to pull the plug on East Belfast Diary. Although I do write about other things, the blog has been closely connected to Labour politics so it doesn't feel right to continue. I may start a new blog at some point in the future, but for now, it’s time to sign off.