Politics and Economics

Bring on the Next One

I’m feeling nostalgic! And it’s not just the pops and hisses of vinyl as one of my old cherished albums enjoys a spin once again. There is something satisfying about the ritual of getting a disk out of the sleeve, placing it carefully on the turntable lifting the arm into place and settling back to enjoy the music. The contemporary option of a few clicks that will let you hear anything that you want on Spotify just isn’t the same. Now it seems to me, that another of my youthful rituals may have been revived.

 

When I was younger, quite a bit younger in fact, I had number of jobs that saw me experience an variety of different workplaces. I have worked in factories, offices and shops; I have been employed, self-employed and, at times unemployed. Whilst I was a student, for example, I worked on the track at Vauxhall Motors making body shells for the infamous Vauxhall Chevette; after my studies I managed overseas aid projects for the British Council, for the last 20 years I have been a self-employed builder.

 

From age 18, I was a member of the Labour Party and a Trades Unionist. In my various workplaces that was always a common thread. As an active trades unionist, I was always busy with politics and never more so than in the run up to a general election. Then, I, and others, would be mobilised, we would be talking to our colleagues on the shop floor, holding meetings and reminding people of the need to vote Labour. There would, of course be dissent, there would be debate and there would also be apathy but, by and large, there was, at least, engagement with the process. We would also invite speakers along to talk to our members and anyone else who was interested. Indeed, when I was chair of NUPE at the University of London, we had none other than Jeremy Corbyn along on a number occasions. Thatcher’s destruction of the Trades Union Movement, aided and abetted, of course by Kinnock, Blair et al, put paid to most of that. From the early eighties until very recently, in my experience, talk of politics in the workplace has been almost conspicuous by its absence. I have to admit that, from the advent of Kinnock, I too lost interest and let my membership and with it my political activism lapse somewhat.

 

This latest election campaign has been a revelation to me. I have for the first time really engaged with social media. The debate on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is lively and it is simply wonderful to see new online outlets like The Canary, Open Democracy and even the seemingly tireless one-man band that is Another Angry Voice presenting us with a real alternative to the billionaire owned mainstream media, not to mention the Tory supporting BBC. And all of this seems to have worked, it has been instrumental in motivating, yes, certainly the youth, but even old baby boomers like me into action. It was so heartening, for the first time in decades to see friends and family of all ages debating politics and posting and sharing articles exposing the nasty and lying Tory media for what it is. I thank god political debate is alive and well and I can look forward to the long absent ritual of discussion and argument even if it is on a keyboard rather than the factory floor. Technology isn’t all bad.  Perhaps, at last, the www is fulfilling the purpose that it’s founders hoped for.  Fingers crossed the next election campaign is not too far over the horizon.

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Corbyn

I am old enough to remember when the Labour Party was the party of the workers. I, back then, was a NUPE branch secretary and, it so happens, Jeremy Corbyn was our organiser. Unfortunately, those days have most certainly gone and union membership has plummeted but Jeremy has changed little.

I am ashamed to say that my generation became the most selfish and greediest generation in history. We have sold off the public utilities, the building societies and social housing; we have pushed the price of property out of the reach of the next generation, and so, we rent it to them and make ourselves, wealthier in both cash and assets in the process. We also want to give less of our wealth to the needy; basic income tax rates have halved in my lifetime. Furthermore, we have amassed both personal and national debts at levels which would have been inconceivable to my parents generation. On the back of all of this avarice, the Labour Party has slewed to the right and has adopted the tailored suited, media savvy posturing that has been dictated by right wing press. Fail to look the part or to measure up to the media model and you are right royally ridiculed.

When Jeremy Corbyn, the complete antithesis of that model, stood for the leadership, I, like most, assumed he had little chance of winning. I was delighted to be proven wrong and more delighted that it was the younger generation that secured his victory. The young know that we need change, we need to pull this country back from the neo-liberalist agenda that my generation, aided by New Labour, has been instumental in pushing forward. It may be an uphill struggle, we may be facing a hostile media but that should not mean that we give up. Don’t take hope away from the new, young left by sliding back towards the right and leaving them disenfranchised once more just in order to appease the media bosses. It may take a while, Rome, as they say, was not built in a day but what we must do is to persevere. We have to make it clear that we are not going anywhere and not only that but also that we are a growing voice calling for a more compassionate, kinder and tolerant politic. We have to stop the rich enriching themselves even more at the cost of the less well off.

It was notable that, in what I witnessed, of the little media coverage that Jeremy was afforded over the referendum, he talked almost exclusively about jobs and workers rights and conditions. That is exactly where the labour party should be. Let the parasitic marketeers and currency traders look out for themselves. The Labour Party was and can be again the party of the workers and those who don’t think it can or don’t want to be part of it should just go. The rest of us need to keep shouting the message loud and clear that there is an alternative and more will join us.

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Electability

I had a meal with some friends last night. The discussion, of course covered the EU, brexit, and Boris. But when the topic eventually arrived at Corbyn, almost in unison, the cry was “he has to go!” Why? Because “he is unelectable”. This, of course, is the message now being broadcast far and wide by the media. Odd, as it may seem, on the very day following such a momentous vote, when most people, even those who voted leave, were concerned with the what, the when and the wherefore of the United Kingdom detatching itself from the EU, the British media, almost as one voice, were rounding on Jeremy Corbyn. It may indeed have seemed a little odd shift of focus but it is not altogether surprising because it had also become apparent that there was an early election in the offing and there is always the potential that we could witness yet another surprise result.

So the media behaved exactly as we would expect, attacking the Labour Party because, post Blair, it has had the impertinence to move leftwards, away from the dominant political ideology of neoliberalism. The acceptable political spectrum is now very narrow. Step outside of it and you will be belittled, castigated and ridiculed. The consequence of the media onslaught, peppered coincidentally with the phrases “he has to go” and “he is unelectable”, is that there becomes a correlation in people’s minds between the name Corbyn and those phrases. Even those on the left blurt it out, almost unthinkingly. I would suggest that, if Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable, that is the reason why and it has little or nothing to do with personality, charisma or even policy.

We have witnessed a surge of support, particularly among younger voters, for the left as personified by Corbyn and that is something that should be celebrated. The youth of today, faced with a world of unemployment, austerity, growing inequality and environmental destruction, are saying “enough”. It seems that they may be less corrupted by the media because they are very adept at sharing ideas outwith the traditional means controlled by media moguls. So, this is not the time for shifting the Labour Party to the right until the media deem it acceptable. Even if the arguments have not yet been won, the left of Labour Party need to carry on until they are, they need to stand their ground, hold on to their principles, because it is principles that matter not, power at any cost. If Labour are unelectable this time around, they need to work hard to make sure that they are next time and, of course, more and more of the younger generation are becoming eligible to vote day on day on day; Labour must not alienate them.

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