George Osborne declaims the Labour leadership hopefuls as ‘Bennite’. Two months ago the Labour party ran a hugely negative campaign against a true progressive MP, Caroline Lucas, trying to discredit her by association with the struggling Green minority local government administration. Even Guardian columnist Rafael Behr refers to Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of left-wing politics as “retro-socialism”.
Well Osborne’s a prat who frankly wouldn’t know economics if it was bludgeoning him to death with an oversized gold-plated abacus. The last Labour/Tory-lite general election campaign was so wide of the mark in all the places it needed to hit home, it was like watching Ronny Rosenthal on ice-skates on a Tuesday night in Stoke. This slur of ‘retro-socialism’ though, or the constant media mentions of ‘hard-left’, or the deriding of parties like the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, or candidates like Corbyn, Lucas and Rabina Khan (defeated independent Tower Hamlets mayoral candidate) for their focus on inequality, their opposition to austerity, their highlighting of the slashing of public services and all of the social-stagnation and regression that follows for so many people in this country – it’s that downright contempt. That just really fucking irks me.
Why are there so many homeless, or people begging on our streets, to paraphrase Corbyn? Why are we spending billions of pounds maintaining a nuclear deterrent which we’ll never use when over a million people in the last year were in such dire straits that they had to apply for emergency food rations via a food bank? Why are we giving multi-million pound subsidies to supposedly privatised companies to run formerly public services, whilst not even ensuring that those who ride those railways and pay those exorbitant ticket prices are guaranteed to earn at least enough to allow them to afford the bloody things? Indeed, why do we have to pay benefits at all to people who have jobs? Why is our government attacking the disabled and sick by forcing them into work when they can’t, or sanctioning those on benefits as a spur to getting them off them, ready, able or not? When did this become a country that took pride in putting ‘poor’ people on TV to be gawped at and labelled as ‘the problem’, and when did we become a viewing public that revels in arguing over who was the most awful scrounging scumbag of the lot of them? Most importantly, when did we become a people who were so willing to accept that this is all just how it is and that’s the way it’ll stay, just like Rupert or some old fascist Lord says, to their Sunny Mail family, every single day?
Bollocks. I don’t like to swear in my writing generally, but it is. It’s bollocks. This is the democracy of universal fucking suffrage. This is a nation that created a welfare fucking state to look after its most vulnerable daughters and sons. This is the country – as we’ve heard so much about in the past week – that drew up the Magna Fucking Carta, eight hundred years ago! Why now, then, is it so very terrible to admit that you hate rampant inequality, or that you disagree with corporations and these so-called captains of industry taking their fill at the expense of the taxpayer, or for our councils to try to criminalise the homeless rather than seeking to explore the possible causes of their existence, or to want to build a more peaceful society built on social need, rather than corporate greed.
‘Shame, shame,’ people will shout. Yeah it is a bloody shame. It’s a damnable shame that the progress of the 20th century is being undone on the basis of a deep ideology designed to restore power to those who squandered it because they fucked it all up in the first 30 years of the last century and because to follow people swept in a post-war consensus that demanded so much better, for so many more. If more people like Corbyn, or Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon or even Bernie Sanders in the States, keep muscling their way into the conversation it can only serve to move the conversation more to this supposed left and to challenge this most dangerous set of ideas.
More than that, it is a time for people who sympathise and want to help when confronted with someone begging for money for a bed for the night and those forced to do the begging, or for those who object to paying a fortune for a rail ticket with both your pay and your taxes whilst getting nothing from it but a season ticket loan. It is now that those who did such a hard double take at the prat selling off RBS at a projected £13bn loss that they got severe whiplash, or for those queuing at the food bank wondering if perhaps they might not have been sanctioned so many times if the government hadn’t flogged the Queen’s head quite so cheaply, to get really, quite fucking angry. It’s right here and right now for everybody who doesn’t think it’s dirty or wrong to be seen standing up and saying that the gap between those who have and those who have not, is too extreme and too deep.
So that’s why I’ll be protesting in central London on Saturday, whether it’s retro to do so, whether that makes me a lefty-loony-hippy-champagne-Socialist, whether the media reports the damn thing or not: I don’t care, because these labels that are used to deride us, are only there to divide us. What should unite us is the feeling that we as a people, and this as our home, could and most definitely should, be so very much better than this.
That’s why I’ll be protesting. How about you?