Really at this point the Initiative was tiny, a handful of people, and had got some press partly because of its novelty, partly because it was already several years after the financial crisis of 2008 and people were looking around for any kind of alternative. I had already corresponded with one of the local councillors most associated with it, Nick Boscombe, and and had made it understood that I was coming down strictly on a voluntary and as-needed basis, they needed minimum wage manual labour and they also needed ideas and activism. I conceived of myself as an ideas man, after all I had my analysis but I wasn’t against carrying a few boxes around or folding a few sheets for the cause as required.
The tone of the emails I’d exchanged with Nick were terse and I had a sense that he was trying to put me off. I understood that they didn’t necessarily want anyone and everyone involved, people coming down from London with agenda or attitude. People had emerged over the past few years who were marginal, troubled characters, eccentrics, cranks, dogmatist, paranoid, deeply resentful. The hostile media and people in the political centre made a lot of capital out if it, but I saw it as both inevitable and curable: like so many others I too had been swirling round in isolation and despair at ever having the politics, the ethics, the world I believed in being represented, let alone become any kind of possibility, and those years of battling with depression, anxiety, futility pushed people down, made them attach meaning and try to find hope or some form of understanding in what was around, political sects or abstruse theorizing, conspiracy theory, hate cults, orgies of online condemnation, all the things that thrived in the absence of any hopeful, mobilized mass project. It’s hard to imagine looking back just how scattered, fragmentary, feverish, fragile those early days of the re-emergence of the Left were as we all came up from our respective underworlds blinking into the sunlight, we were disoriented, need time, some of us so distorted by the pressure of the depths we had sunk to that it would take more than the remainder of the life that was left to us to pull ourselves back into some kind of congruence with ourselves, others.
Have I been one of these? Has the time I needed to heal myself been greater than the life allotted to me? What if I had been granted just one more year, two, would that have brought me, well. Peace of mind? Peace of ?
Anyway. 7:30 arrived and I went up the stairs to conference room three in Lancaster Town Hall and met the people, embarked on the momentous project that for better or worse the next thirty years of my life would revolve around.