If you want to know what it means to be 'left' now then just think back to why you became 'left' in the first place (whenever that was!) and providing you're not seeking nomination as a Labour MP or a job as a G2 columnist you should have the answer.
I give you:
Why I Became Left
It's not so easy as you might think, looking back to the time when you assumed certain attitudes. It sometimes feels like you were born with them, and other times you make false connections. For instance, I read Harry's description of how Thatcher inspired him to become an active socialist with a warm glow of recognition. Yeah, that's how it was for me, was my first thought, until I did the maths. When Thatcher won her first election I was 22 and my most active and intense political period was already behind me.
So where did the fervour come from? Where did the youthful certainties and arrogance come from that made me berate my old man for reading the Daily Express and led me to flirt with the SWP (or International Socialists as they were then)? How come, as an 18 year old did I choose to spend my time in smoky rooms discussing amendment 327a, sub section 3, and really, really caring who became secretary of my local branch of ASTMS?
And you know what? I really can't tell you. I can tell you about how my old man's admiration for Nye Bevan (despite the Express, my old man was a Labour voter) and Orwell and Sillitoe rubbed off on me, I can tell you how reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists reduced me to tears of rage, I can tell you about the English teacher (there's always a teacher) who taught me to use critical faculties on everything I read, especially newspapers. "Always bear in mind the motive" he'd say.
But these things only complemented what was always in my head anyway. For it was self evident that the world was wrong. It was wrong that millions starved in a world of plenty, it was wrong that most working people had jobs of mind numbing tedium at best, for which they had to be grateful, while the more fortunate, the more educated, had the luxury of job satisfaction and better wages to boot. It was wrong that 7% of the people owned 84% of the wealth.
And with these blindingly obvious facts always in my head, was the knowledge, gained from books and old Socialists, that it was the Labour Movement and the Unions that had actually effected any sort of change for the better, that any improvements in the lot of working people had been fought for tooth and nail and that the Conservatives represented a world of which I wanted to have no part. A world where working people knew their place, a world of selfishness and greed.
It might seem strange now, looking back. For this was, after all, the early to mid seventies. Social attitudes had changed immeasurably since the early days of Labour politics and the lot of "workers" was better than it had ever been. The Labour and Tory Governments seemed pretty interchangeable and the "Unions were running the bloody country." The country was shortly to embark on a course that would shift the centre ground of British Politics to the right, probably forever.
But throughout those years that followed, as the Thatcher Revolution trundled on, scattering the unemployed, the feeble, the weak, the poor onto the stony ground, as whole industries and communites died, I knew that I had chosen the right side of the fence to stand.
Well that was then. I'll look at now another time.