Voting Labour in 2010

April 30, 2010

That’s it done. I voted Labour, again, tribally; just as I have in every election in which I’ve been entitled to vote. It’s not that there’s nowhere else for my vote to go, simply that I wouldn’t want to put a cross against any other party.

I don’t believe the white working class has been ignored these last 13 years, just like I don’t believe the Tories have changed.

I have not and never will do anti-politics, whether it’s the Lib-Dems’ overtures that they’re different from the other two, Nick Griffin’s more justifiable claim that his lot are different from all the others, or, indeed, Martin Bells priggish and sanctimonious notion that if only people of goodwill and integrity (for which read – ‘none of the others’) could come together, then things would be just fine.

This election has been both a source of depression and a wellspring of hope and my vote reflects both the clarity and confusion that abounds.

The downside has been the X-Factor coverage of leaders and the invisibility of women other than their wives, the primacy of process over policy and the compression of what policy there is, to fit a narrow band of unquestioned assumptions.

Who could imagine from our politics that the majority of people in the UK are female; that half the world’s population has to get by on less than $2 a day; that the price we’re due to pay for shoring up the system we have is the destruction of our welfare state, or that the homeland of the world’s mightiest empire ever, is based on racial incarceration. And please don’t get me on to the depletion of natural resources, oil dependency and global warming.

And the irony in this is that, this time, the word chosen to be rendered as meaningless as modern is ‘change’.

The upside is the real prospect of proportional representation, a genuine shake-up of the way politics is done in the UK and the scope that the failure of the Cameron Conservatives will offer for the march of Rupert Murdoch to be stopped.

British people are looking for greater change than has been held out by any of our politicians; not just PR, a right to recall MPs, transparency over their expenses or a ban on their outside employment. They want people in Parliament they can connect with and trust – a politics of selflessness over self-interest where they can look up to representatives who don’t share their views rather than harbour contempt for many of those who do.

People recognise that the institutions and practices that comprise our government are redundant. They belong to earlier times and past timidity about changing them is one reason for our current mess.

Also contributing has been the many-tentacled Murdoch media empire. He called the 2008 US presidential election wrong, let’s make him wrong again in 2010.

Let’s scotch once and for all the outlandish claims that it’s ‘The Sun wot won it’, end the monopoly ownership of the UK’s press and TV, protect the proper purpose of our public broadcasting for good and prevent the malign Fox News’ mixture of fiction and fear from taking root here. Let’s restore to politicians of all stripes the confidence that is eroded by the closing off of true debate by our present mass media.

So why not vote tactically to ensure a Conservative defeat?

Nothing would delight the Murdochs more, those clinging to first-past-the-post, those resisting serious change who would prefer to carry on as now, than the demise of the Labour Party; it’s reduction to a rump in both parliamentary seats and the popular vote.

For all its frequent paucity of ambition, the limiting economism of its union founders, its trimming and betrayals, The Labour Party, born of mutual self-improvement as much as imperial privilege, remains.

It is the closest we’ve ever got in the UK to a mass party capable of transforming a vision of a truly different and better world into reality.

It’s in my blood because my own life opportunities, from the home of my childhood to being taught to read and think have been the reality of its past political vision.

Now is not the time to chuck it in the skip, but to restore its vitality.

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Penny Reduced

April 19, 2010

Sam Cooke didn’t know much about history but it never held him back from putting his feelings to music. Likewise, I don’t know much about George Orwell, but I’m pretty certain that the left’s original and only Blair would spin in his grave at some of the handiwork of one particular nominee shortlisted for his eponymous prize for blogging.

Laurie Penny of Penny Red, the blogger I refer to, after attending the Orwell Prize short listing event wrote this, :-

“So last night, two hundred well-dressed members of the British literary and political eschelons gathered in the Thomson Reuters building in Canary Wharf to watch three nice white chaps in identical suits jostle for the most recalcitrant position on immigration.”

“eschelons”? smeschelons!

Wrong spelling, wrong meaning and wrong usage.

Perhaps I’m picky but then so was Orwell. He had some particular things to say about language and politics and strong views about the connection between clarity and thought in both. Unlike Ms Penny, George Orwell wrote without the benefit of an Oxbridge education, though, again like Sam Cooke with his school subjects, it never held him back.

An error or two are forgivable no doubt, but what about this?

Laurie Penny in her blog on the recent televised debate between party leaders:-

“…the remaining 86 minutes of airtime were a pageant of empty rhetoric, with all three leaders struggling to give least offence to centre-right swing voters in “Middle England.”

Clearly, she doesn’t approve. And what’s more:-

“And Clegg’s repeated imprecation that politicians must not “let the young offenders of today become the hardened criminals of tomorrow” rang terrifyingly hollow for a generation who have had to downsize their dreams and want nothing more than the chance to hold down a job in a world that isn’t entirely on fire.”

Down with Clegg then eh Laurie?

Yet, up she pops in the New Statesman with:-

“But Nick Clegg risked and gained the most, setting the bar for a return of studied rhetoric and oratory to the British political arena.
Clegg understood this instinctually. Aristotelian formations were embedded into his populist dialectic, and Clegg also used those favourite constructions of neo-Sorkinite American progressive oratory, the tricolon and the repeated refrain, answering one question with no less than five imprecations not to let “the youngsters of today become the hardened criminals of tomorrow.”

Form over content, content over form? One wonders.

One wonders also what Orwell, who deprecated the tendency for political language “to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness”, would make of neo-Sorkinite progressive oratory. As for studied, empty rhetoric…hmmmm.

To be fair to Laurie, she modestly admits in her blog:-

“I’ve been muddlesomely practicing making political writing into an art with this blog, but it’s quite to (sic) shock to discover that I may have been objectively getting it right, at my age.”

I can quite see why she was shocked at her nomination; the judges must have taken leave of their senses.

Nonetheless, I do think that Orwell would have considered muddlesomely as an apt, clear and accurate term, cannily descriptive, even at her age, of this authors writing and political thinking.

What more apposite term could adequately cover a self-proclaimed socialist who intends to vote Lib-Dem and has taken a job with the communist Morning Star? Apart, that is, from confused.

With her background, values and standards I foresee glittering prizes ahead, including, very possibly, a safe Tory seat in Parliament.