The political is personal

This is a blog about choices, decisions, futures. I expect Thursday to be the last general election I will experience if it goes full term to 2022. I am not intending to be melodramatic here. I did not expect to be here now so another five years would be greedy though nice! I have become excited by the prospect of real change having spent by working life living through Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and the one they call May. I shall as always settle down to watch the results unfold and tell myself I must get to bed, then stay a little longer, maybe just maybe with a glimmer of light from the incoming results. I have always been a glass half full person.

I apologise that this blog focuses on politics if it’s not for you please pass by. I do not apologise for sharing news about the election through social media even if one or two have suggested I have bombarded you. Leaving aside the fact that you can walk on the other side and not read a single post if you so choose, I have been active because it’s only through such media that a more unfiltered voice can be presented about the election. Images abound in people’s minds about Corbyn in particular. Distorted, fanciful and downright unfair which bring shame to a serious debate but these attacks ultimately have failed. Now some four weeks on many big figures and many ordinary voters have changed their minds including labour stalwarts like John Prescott and Alan Johnson, even Polly Toynbee has admitted she was wrong about Corbyn. Why is this happening? The election process and the relentless and excellent campaigning of Corbyn and his team has created a more nuanced version of this man and a persuasive case that the U.K. needs his brand of politics within the UK and certainly negotiating Brexit, needs an experienced team and Keir Starmer, a top lawyer, will lead that team. And that is in part the success of social media, offering a different voice, enabling authentic voices to be heard.

It’s emerged because you have someone who maintains his calm in spite of rude and crude questioning; who answers honestly and calmly every question put to him; who patiently bats back the many smears which have no substance other than a resonance created by repetition and who oozes integrity in his speeches and interaction with the public. I have become angry about his treatment and I am sorry about that but fairness and integrity is at the heart of my own beliefs. Disagreement is fine that’s the lifeblood of political debate but that is not what has happened over the last few weeks. I have just tried to present the changing fortunes of the labour party and watched with admiration as he refuses to abuse others, sticks to political debate, shares the detail of the many policy commitments, travels the country talking to people, delivers a costed manifesto and now i am seeing it working. 

The May campaign in stark contrast, even if you follow the Tory dogma, has been evasive and ultimately disastrous. Even this week May started campaigning when speaking on the London Bridge tragedy trying to use terrorism to boost her flagging campaign. It was wrong in principle to take such an openly campaigning stance in what should have been a simple condemnation as the other leaders did. Shameful. But the cat is out of the bag. May can not hide from the simple fact that her criticism of UK’s response to terrorism is, ironically but undoubtedly, a criticism of herself. She has held this brief for the past 7 years, six of them as Home Secretary. But how ironic when she tries to persuade us that Corbyn could not be trusted on counter terrorism when her own influence has been abject, weak and flawed. We will make June the end of May.

I feel that this election has been something which has been bubbling in me for too many years now. I have seen my chosen career area, the probation service, become one of the many victims of a neo-liberal consensus from Thatcher to May. In brief, what I have seen is the dismantling of a good performing public service by privatisation, cuts and deprofessionalisation. And for probation you could substitute teachers, nurses, doctors, social care providers to name just a few in a relentless and merciless attack on public welfare services decimated by the politics of austerity. This means that at the end of my forty year career I look back and am angry that this has happened under my watch. I sometimes reflect on whether my work over 40 years has been a complete waste of time. 
I see a generation without hope, where populist nationalist policies engineered the Brexit outcome, where a so-called first world country has food banks, takes benefits away from those with disabilities, creates a dementia tax, forgets promises on taxes made just 2 years ago, underfunds the police and security services which stretches their capacity to perform their duties whilst defending the rich from modest tax rises suggested by Labour. And u-turns at will as if this is acceptable behaviour, even Maggie did not do this. This is all presented with an arrogance which does not bother with explanation or with costing a manifesto but relies on the myth that the Tories manage the economy better so we just should trust that. Well we know that is not the case, 130 economists told us this week, even if it ever was so. 

But, it’s not just about the policies of the Tories which I disagree but it’s the tone of their campaign which demeans politics, demeans working people, demeans all these struggling to find their way in society. They continue to perform as if still in the playgrounds of their public schools using kindergarten language to avoid real debate – coalition of chaos, magic money tree, strong and stable and the ideology of mythology – IRA connections, anti-nuclear sentiments, and the gleeful bullying when a minor mistake is noted e.g. Abbott’s gaffe. In debate, although as we have seen May has not taken part in any debates at all, their default style is to criticise the opposition by ridicule, by implication and sometimes just by distortion and lies. This lack of honesty and unwillingness to engage has been depressing. You have not seen this from Corbyn and this is why his stature has grown.

This is a defining election of our time. For the first time in three decades we are presented with a real choice. We can continue with the latest variant of a neo-liberal austerity-driven and low tax haven for the rich which will make the poor poorer and bring our infrastructure into meltdown or try and re-assert and find a social democratic society, which is present in many European countries, and which the labour manifesto actively promotes with many well-shaped policies. That choice means it is worth casting your vote. As Chomsky has said neo-liberalism is ‘undermining mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support and popular engagement in determining policy…..It’s so-called “freedom,” is “freedom” which means a subordination to the decisions of concentrated, unaccountable, private power. That’s what it means. The institutions of governance—or other kinds of association that could allow people to participate in decision making—those are systematically weakened’

So for me this election allows me a choice to go down a different economic direction, gives me hope that the socialism I have always believed in can begin to happen in the UK. It’s still a social democratic manifesto this is not a hard left agenda, another myth. There are things which I would disagree with but I think Corbyn will work with a team which will build some great new politicians in government. It’s a Bennite agenda, and it’s a start of finding ways of enabling more people to survive, then to take part, and eventually to prosper. It’s about hope and it’s about the many. I make no apologies about wanting a fairer society imbued with social justice, human rights, equality of opportunity, educational possibilities and worker’s rights. I have supported all these values throughout my life. I know if we can hold our nerve and give this hopeful agenda a chance we can approach terrorism, poverty, Brexit with the sort of togetherness we have seen in Manchester and London. Young people must mobilise to vote and the grey vote will not let labour down. I am 65 but will vote for labour and if they get in I might just rejoin the party having had to leave after the dishonesty of Blair and Iraq became clear.

Please vote. Please vote for labour but if that is a bridge too far vote against the Tories. Vote Green but do not forget the utter contempt for democracy demonstrated by May and her elitist crowd. She said ‘enough is enough’ and it surely is, let’s make June the end of May.

Thanks for getting to the end and here are my photos of the week.

Cudworth Hall

7 thoughts on “The political is personal

  1. Excellent Paul – I wholeheartedly agree and relate very much to your analysis. There is something so heartwarming and humble about the Corbyn campaign, as you say we have endured Right wing government since Thatcher and her delight at ‘deindustrialisation’ and there hasn’t been any change. Blair was a disgrace to the Labour party – and he began the process of infiltrating the party with Right wing MPs. But as you highlight it is not just the Social Democratic policies of fairness and inclusivity that give us so much encouragement, it is the manner and way Labour are setting out their stall and acting with integrity. It resonates with the human spirit, it inspires us to engage at a more mature, reasonable and rationale level, rather than stoop to jibes, spin, intimidation and soundbites. It has in some ways, helped expose the ‘darkness’ of Paxman’s bullying, of May’s relentless attempts at character assassination, the manipulative games played in BBC Question Time. It’s as if we are suddenly able to enjoy crisp fresh air, after having been stuck indoors in a stuffy room for years.

    I think given this unexpected wonderful resurrection of the Labour Party (that tried to shaft Corbyn by staging a leadership coup not so long ago), the stagnant responses from some Tory friends or friends of friends has more sharply than before, often stood out as shallow un-evidenced ideological beliefs. But thank goodness for unregulated social media (although Facebook has engineered some underhand selective adverts and removed ‘Share’ from some posts), because the Truth has been able to be disseminated. If we were left to rely on newspapers and TV we’d have left with a very unbalanced diet largely made up of Right wing propaganda.

    The power of the Big Corporations and the grip and control they have of the media and so many Labour, Tory & LD politicians, will be a very serious challenge should Corby get elected, but like you say, this is an amazing and important opportunity (or a last chance opportunity for Britain – I am seriously afraid of the future in the UK if May gets elected), so everyone should go for it, vote Labour (or engage in anti-Tory tactical voting) and hope for the best. I have no doubt in Corbyn integrity and sincerity – his track record back up all we see today, but he’ll face fierce opposition from members in his party, opposition, Corporations, media etc. But this is ironically, a time when people can be proud of Britain again for the right reasons, this is a time when Britain can move away from neo-liberal Empire capitalism and become a more social democratic, fairer more caring society.

    Very well said Paul – but I think it’s incorrect to embrace any ideas that your career and work in the Probation Service have been a waste of time. Yes welfare services have been restructured into punitive and controlling services or dismantled altogether, but you resisted that, fought it and trained and educated new recruits to grapple with the tensions and never let go of the need to advise, assist and befriend!

    I will be spending Friday midday onwards watch the results come through live – but for now the message must be VOTE, and get everyone you know to VOTE. This is in my view the most significant election in my lifetime.

    Cheers Paul


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I am also desperate for a new wave of Social Democratic change to sweep through Britain – and at the same time seriously scared by the seen and unseen agenda of the Tories – I woryy they could turn the UK into a fascist state.

      By the way I should have said earlier -love your reflective free flowing thoughts and writing. You capture and write so well. When will your book be published?


  2. Paul, even if Labour doesn’t win I’d urge you to rejoin the Labour Party. Canvassing over the past few weeks with fellow members has been both enjoyable and has given me a great sense of solidarity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Let’s see what happens and what Corbyn might do if not elected. I have been influenced by my local MP who has conducted her campaign with no mention of her leader. Deeply uncomfortable with that.


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