Monday, 4 May 2015

Small pre-Election rant

The 1997 General Election was held on 1 May, a sunny day. In the afternoon, my twin sons’ 6th birthday party in the garden, and then in the evening and long through the night a continuing euphoria as many of the adults stayed on and we watched, seat by seat, the landslide Labour victory, and indulged in the belief that our kids were going to be safe, more than safe, were going to part of the kind of society that we so wanted for them. Next day, the new dawn (bliss was it), Robin Cook’s ‘ethical dimension’ to foreign policy and much else.

My sons are now 24, graduated, in debt, live in London. Today, the Guardian reports that ‘first-time buyers need to earn £77,000 a year’ to get on the laughingly called ‘housing ladder’; another Guardian report today mentions the 900 migrants drowned in the past month while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, to get to the promised land of Europe.

On Thursday I vote. I don’t, honestly, yet know who for. I don’t even know whether I’m going to be voting on principle or for the best way I think my vote can count in the local circumstances. I haven’t watched any of the TV debates but I haven’t been immune to the reporting and I feel blistered by the echo-chamber gap between the vision speeches and the pettiness of the to-&-fro: who is responsible for the ‘deficit’ and who not, who is going to impose a ‘mansion tax’ and who not, who will freeze child benefits and who not, who is going to impose a ‘cap’ on immigration and who not, who is going going to hold a ‘referendum on Europe’ and who not, who said what to who and oh no they didn’t yes they did.

The above pic is a screen-grab of Aneurin Bevan – who not just got the NHS set up but seems to have suggested that housing should be nationalised. Food, clothing, shelter: not one of the vying parties, in one of the ten richest countries in the world, is guaranteeing these for all their citizens. They are mediating the pressure of a form of capitalism they’ve laid flat on their backs to. Rich world, poor world: arguments about immigration caps simply miss the point. Sort it.

I’m angry and confused, course I am. (See the downloadable pdf of Recessional on this CBe page, written in 2009, at a time when the financial meltdown offered a window for a rethinking of the whole structure and we just let it go by, go by.) Looking back to to that sunny day in 1997, looking now at where my children are, I feel shame. Not guilt, which is a different thing. I can’t feel bad all the time; today was good (weather, food, reading, one deeply funny incident); I (deeply privileged) cultivate my garden, and on Thursday will scrawl an X. But not in any much hope. The main feeling I have is waste: there is so much intelligence and kindness in this country, and they’re being failed.


billoo said...

Lovely post, Charles. I'm not quite sure why you thought Blair and co. would represent a new era but, khair...

Wonder if you've read D. Marquand's latest book? Makes for depressing reading. Was Larkin right after all: is that England gone?

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Charles

My wife and I both postal voted Labour because there is nothing more terrifying to us than the prospect of the Tories with an overall majority. I have a theory that one votes every bit as much to keep certain politicians out as to put others in.

Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish