We haven’t come a long way, and don’t call me baby


Today I am going to talk to you about politics.

No no, don’t do that face! I know it’s not an easy sell, politics these days. The usual response to a discussion about politics is anger or extreme apathy, which doesn’t make for the greatest dinner party conversations.

I guess politics is in my blood. My grandparents were Red Clydesiders, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Clydeside) involved in revolutionary actions to improve workers’ rights and against the war. Their son, my uncle, was a pacifist and conscientious objector, facing prosecution and condemnation for his radical anti-war views.

The best I can manage in following in their glorious footsteps is standing as a ‘paper’ (aka ‘no-hope’) candidate. (Oh go on, I bet you can guess which party, give it a wild stab in the dark).

I have done other things, too; some more ludicrous than others. Writing letters for charities, wearing badges and patches, giving money, boycotting.

I have tried to avoid purchasing products based on an ever-changing list of black listed countries and corporations – and that is no mean feat, when you get to my age, to keep track of who is In and who is Out. Are we still boycotting Barclays, for example? (I still hiss when I walk past their front door.) Are the French Out for what they did to the Rainbow Warrior or is there some sort of Statute of Limitations for sinking peacefully protesting ships and killing activists?

Being a leftie is, frankly, complicated and exhausting. There’s probably an app for it – EazyPinko? – but I’d always forget to update that too. Mostly, I try to follow the advice of my mother – buy everything from the Co-op and hide the Coke bottles and Macdonalds toys when your LeftierThanThou friends come round.

I have been on any number of marches, for sure. I love a march to be honest. I am looking forward to Marching against Gove in March. I hope he drops by. Though I tend to slip off just before any actual rioting starts.

(Unlike my Red Clydesider grandma, who was arrested for helping to roll over a bus during the General Strike. Now I have this information on very good authority, not only from her sons but also from the official files, disclosed to me during an interview for positive vetting. But honestly, wouldn’t it have been just dandy if someone had told me this when she was alive?? Wouldn’t have minded hearing that anecdote from the mouth of that sweet white-haired old lady who taught me to crochet.)

So my political views are usually pretty deep-seated, and yours too probably, mostly set in childhood and fairly early childhood too. What I was told, and what I saw, as a child is cut through me like letters through a stick of rock. The Miners’ Strike. The Poll Tax. The way the industrial decline in the 1980s ripped apart communities in the North and Midlands, leaving absolute devastation in its wake.

And also what I was told, from the older generation. What my grandmother told me about the way workers used to be treated on Clydeside before they came together to protect themselves, their pay and conditions. Her anger, white hot and passionate, about the young men who were sent in their hundreds and thousands and eventually their millions, to be slaughtered in WW1; a loss to their families and to their communities that was not only personal and tragic but also political too, and should still resonate today as a terrible warning of what happens when the political elite stop caring about individual lives because those lives are expendable. What happens when the majority are silent and powerless.

And I guess that’s the main reason why it’s hard to get most people interested in politics  – we feel, many of us, powerless to change anything, especially on a national level. The expenses scandal didn’t help either, adding as it did to our collective prejudices of politicians as corrupt and greedy.

But it’s an illusion. We aren’t powerless at all. We are, individually and most of all collectively, powerful. When the buses run, whether the holes in the road get fixed, if that new playground gets built – this is our business and we can change it. Many things ARE out of our control, but not these things. We have money in our pockets and we can choose how to spend it and we have a vote.

In contrast to my grandmother, who got so angry about the consequences of her powerlessness that she got cross enough to roll a bus over, we have let the pervasive -and untrue – story of our own powerlessness roll us over and made us play dead.

I am not suggesting you all go out and roll over vehicles, or even that you give up your Starbucks with Hazelnut Meringue topping. Boycotts aren’t for everyone. But everyone can pass on what they believe, and why they believe it. Pass politics down the generations, so we don’t forget. It is less than a hundred years since all women and men who did not own property had no power in their government. My granny would be shocked we got so complacent, so quickly. Men and women fought and died for our right to vote, to join together and protest. Don’t let’s piss it away in a generation.

And – maybe – you could have a glance at those election leaflets that some poor beardy sweater-wearing type has schlepped up your madly long driveway to deliver, and see if you agree with them. Or not. Or what else you think they, or you, should do instead with your tax money.

Unless you’re thinking of voting UKIP. In which case take the advice of the 17 year old Junior Mayor of Newbury, delivered to a recent political meeting with all the passion of a young JFK: ‘Don’t vote UKIP. NEVER vote UKIP.’

Amen to that.

About number6

I am not a number, I am a free woman. More or less.
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15 Responses to We haven’t come a long way, and don’t call me baby

  1. Richard says:

    I think the problem of modern politics can be summed up in two words, maybe four at best. New Labour (Tony Blair). The labour party behaved so much like the other side that it’s now virtually impossible to distinguish the two in most lights. I had thought that perhaps the liberal democrats were different and offered a third way. But turned out that they’d forgo their principles and jump into bed with whoever best suited them to get a sniff of power as soon as the opportunity presented itself. which makes things tricky…

    I completely agree with you that we are no powerless and do need to do something. But national politics has become a bad joke that shows no signs of letting up. Where scoring points at PMQs becomes more laudible than actually dealing with the issues of the day. Thankfully things are a bit better in local politics but even there there’s insanity from time to time (our local bloke defecting from the tories to UKIP for example!)

    It doesn’t help when I find myself often agreeing with Mr Cameron and finding Mr Milliband hopelessly bumbling. The labour party seriously need to sort themselves out, couldn’t even chose the right brother to lead them!

    One one thing though I’m sure we can agree. Gove and Gideon are utter cunts who deserve nothing but contempt.

  2. number6 says:

    I think that Cameron showed he was a man of (some) principles with his position on gay marriage. Kudos for that.
    I think one of the key issues with national politics is how wildly unattractive it is to most people of ability, intelligence and talent. As a nation we have the politicians that we wished for – they have to be squeaky clean, or good at hiding the evidence. No room for dissenters or anyone with any kind of ‘interesting’ past or who have ever said anything mildly controversial. It is part of the middling blandness of the post-New-Labour world I guess. But look at the way John O’Farrell, a satirical writer whose actual job it is to make jokes, is pilloried for a very mild comment about Thatcher. God knows what the bloggers would make of some of the things I have said about Thatcher over the years, and every other potential Labour candidate of my generation too.

  3. Macleod. says:

    You speak with respect and fondness of your Grandmother’s white hot anger over the millions of lives lost in the Great War, that she would be shocked at our apparent complacency yet you support the party whose government under Blair lied to Parliament, repeated the folly and dragged us into the Gulf War. It’s not as though it was generations ago and the world has moved on. The perpetrators are still around, influencing Labour policies today.The geopolitical aftershock of the UK’s involvement will continue to resonate around the globe and your children will know of it their entire lives.

  4. number6 says:

    Yes, this is true. But I am not my grandmother, and she is not me. We live in different worlds with different priorities. And I may not support all the actions of the party that I believe will do the most good for the things I believe in, and make the most difference. I am not ashamed of that compromise; that’s politics.
    By the way, my grandmother was also a royalist/monarchist and believed that the Windsors were to be praised and supported for their role in holding the nation together through much of the difficult parts of the twentieth century. She wasn’t a Labour member or supporter; she was a communist, which I have never been. She was a radical, and I am a liberal. But beliefs don’t always fall neatly along party lines. Pragmatics and power come into it.

    • Macleod. says:

      I understand the obvious timeline difference between you and your grandmother and how the conditions of the day drive thinking and behaviours. I can’t agree however that your support of Labour is just pragmatic compromise. That might be palatable were it merely a difference of opinion over a few policies. What Blair’s New Labour perpetrated upon Britain however was a monstrous act of cynical political opportunism that dismantled and abandoned the function of Cabinet office and replaced it with a cabal of rogues (many unelected), that held no respect for Parliament or due process. It made me ashamed to be British.

      Its leaders (I use the term loosely) deliberately lied to Parliament using doctored data from an outdated thesis to justify going to war, then lied about it again during the Chilcot enquiry. I could have punched Alastair Campbell as he sobbed crocodile tears over the ‘upsetting’ things some journalists had written about him.

      I truly understand your grandmother’s anger. It makes me so incredibly angry when I think of these soldiers and thousands on innocents killed in Iraq to salve some egotistical political ambition. Yet the perpetrators are living the life instead of serving life. Be assured, these people are still there; practising their Machiavellian ways and undermining all that Britain’s democracy holds dear.

      Just in case you’re wondering, I’ve never voted Conservative in my life.

  5. Richard says:

    The thing about the post falklands conflicts was that they would have taken place regardless of which party was in office and we would have joined in anyway (after America asked us nicely). Unless we elected the greens that is. They probably wouldn’t have but then again we’d probably be facing financial meltdown so our options to assist in a west v east struggle over oil woud probably have been fairly limited at the time. I’m not sure if a labour government would have gone to the aid of the falkland islanders though. Much has been written on this so go and do your own research if you’re interested.

  6. Richard says:

    Not forgetting the fight against poppies^h^h^h^h^h^h^hterror obviously.

  7. Ruth says:

    Hmm. Politics. Been there. Done that. Not got the t-shirt (and would have burned it if I had) (well, recycled, not burned, obviously, burning would’ve been seriously un-environmentally sound).

    (By which I mean: worked for an MP for 4 years, which destroyed all interest in politics, lost what little faith I had in politics or politicians. Of any type or colour. Sad, but true.)


    (Not that I didn’t enjoy your blog, as always.)

  8. Richard says:

    Big business runs the country in my view, not any of the poltical parties. Either that or possibly a small anonymous wise on man in a remote hut who men in serious suits visit every so often to ask for the answers to the countries problems. Cameron etc. are just the equivalent of Zaphod Beeblebrox.

  9. Lulastic says:

    Wow, what a stirring read, thank you for penning some of the reasons against complacency and apathy. You are exactly right, that it is a perceived sense of powerlessness that is the biggest enemy of justice and fairness.

  10. Thomas Cheney says:

    That great philosopher Douglas Adams summed it all up rather well I think, well twice actually, in his seminal work: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    “The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
    To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
    To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
    ? Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

    Good blog though…

  11. Douglas Adams summed it all up rather well I think, well, he did it twice actually, in his seminal work: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    “The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
    To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
    To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
    ? Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

    Good read Lane…

  12. Sorry all, this ended up here twice after it all going hooey on my iPad the first time. Must be ‘cos it’s late here and my fingers are tired.

  13. Pingback: Sharing the Blog Love | dorkymum

  14. Just found this post via Dorkymum’s ‘youyouyou’ list. Glad I did.

    Has really made me think about how political I am…or not. I’m quite intentional with my own actions – practicing what I preach and all that. But often shy away from being very actively political – I vote, and occasional send a campaign letter to an MP but don’t go much further. Politics wasn’t a topic of conversation in our housing as I grew up – my parents would even tell me who they voted for! For quite a long time I thought this was a good thing – I was left to form my own opinions, which I have. But in hind sight it would have been nice to talk about politics a bit more! Your post has made me more determined than ever to make sure my children know about the powers they have to change things, through their vote, their personal actions, and their spending habits. Is 10 months to young for a first March!

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