Hope lies in the proles

22 05 2015

A fortnight ago I had a fantastic Thursday evening. The irritating Tory advertising boards of north Wales ate my dust on the road to the Super Furry Animals.

Everything about that Manchester evening was fantastic, the Albert Hall’s scuffed glamour, the stained glass windows, the support act, the sound, the slowly descending dusk, the SFA, the woolly hat I bought, the mental trip back to 1997, absolutely everything.

The world felt like a hopeful place as we walked back to the car park on Oxford Road, the fact the gig took place across the road from the site of the Peterloo massacre wasn’t even an omen.

I got home at about twenty to one and turned on the television for a hopeful taste of a hung parliament.

Labour had already won three seats. Hip hip hooray!

I wondered how many Labour MPs there would be.

BBC Wales’ presenter wasn’t saying much, or I wasn’t listening, so I swapped to BBC 2.

Dimbleby was excitedly telling us about an exciting exit poll.

The exciting exit poll indicated that the Tories were due for a majority.

I listened in hope for another 5 minutes but the words melted together.

After hearing the phrase exit poll for the twelfth time I went to bed thoroughly disenchanted and exceedingly worried.

Six hours later I awoke with a deep sense of foreboding.

I went downstairs and turned on the TV.

Dimbleby was correct.

The pundits were very excited about a historic turn of events.

I was completely devastated.

It got worse.

The area of north Wales that I call home was completely blue on the BBC’s computerised hexagonal map.

I checked teletext.

Chris Ruane had lost his seat to a GP standing for the NHS privatising Tories. A GP STANDING FOR THE NHS PRIVATISNG TORIES.

I checked the internet; Ruane had lost his seat by 237 votes.

I was sickened to the bottom of the pit of my stomach.

The bleak mid spring election fueled a progression in my state of mind. Friday’s mental rollercoaster went as follows; shock > depression > disenchantment > numbness.

It wasn’t just the general result that got to me it was the completely sickening result in my constituency. The Labour AM Ann Jones penned this tribute to our lost MP.

My tribute to my friend and comrade, Chris Ruane.

I have been humbled and honoured to work with Chris Ruane for the past three decades. I remember with fondness the night he was elected as the MP in 1997, when I was his election agent. Over the following years, Chris’ dedication to his constituents has been unwavering. As a local councillor and then as Member of Parliament, Chris has made such an enormous contribution to improving and strengthening our communities. He has made a significant impact on a national and a local level.

He has been a passionate advocate for those most in need of a champion. He has worked with real vigour to see investment in our towns, and his legacy is littered with achievements. We have worked together as colleagues to save local services, bring prosperity and regeneration to the local area, and to bring change on a national level.

All that know him will know how warm, funny and kind Chris has always been, no matter what. I am proud of the dignified way he has dealt with the results of the election. It is a testament to his outstanding character and incredible strength. Our communities will be worse off for losing this dedicated public servant and champion of the our local area. I also send my thoughts to Chris’ staff who have worked tirelessly and now enter a uncertain period of their lives.

I thank Chris Ruane for his incredible service to our local area and to public life. For the past eighteen years, Chris has never forgotten his Rhyl roots. From Rhydwen Drive to Westminster, Chris’ politics have been shaped by his background and he has never been afraid to fight for what is right. Whatever he decides to do from here, he will have my full support.

The election results are deeply troubling. The new majority Conservative government’s ideological obsession with shrinking the state and making pernicious welfare cuts will mean the next five years will be harder than the last. Vicious cuts to the Welsh block grant will put many of the public services we cherish at risk.

I will continue to stand up for fairness, decency and social justice as the local Labour Assembly Member. As Chris will tell you, it is the highest privilege you can have to represent your constituents and I pledge to everyone right across the Vale of Clwyd that I will continue the work we have done to date and stand up for our communities as we enter a period which for many will be an enormous struggle. While we have suffered a setback, the struggle for equality, liberty and fairness goes on.

I once had the displeasure of a twitter debate with a Tory politician from our area. I would say that he was something else but that wouldn’t mean very much, I suspect that most Tories are “something else”. Despite the clear effect of austerity measures upon Welsh Assembly’s budget Labour AMs were to blame for every problem in Wales, especially the NHS and effect of Westminster budget cuts. He breezily added that the austerity measures in Westminster were absolutely necessary however due to Labour’s well-known profligacy. This brand of logical punitive pessimism now covered the north Wales coast like mildew.

When I was younger Rhyl was a mini-Blackpool, in 2015 the resort is unloved by both casual observer and snooty north Walian. The fun fair closed in 2007 and local government budget cuts forced the Sun Centre to close last year. At least half of the once gaudy promenade is now a mould grey mixture of apartment buildings and spare ground.

Pubs have closed, night clubs have literally gone, the high street has lost many familiar names and scary levels of urban deprivation scar parts of this once vibrant place. Like all unprofitable towns Rhyl is the end product of Thatcherite logic.

Most north Walians have experienced this alarming decline. When I write “this alarming decline” I don’t mean the abstract concept that people like Toby Young write about in newspaper articles, I mean real heartbreaking decline.

Not only has our constituency lost a decent MP we’re now represented by the party that views its residents with utter contempt. The implication of the voters’ choice was quite disturbing.

Over the following weekend bubbling anger replaced numbness. The Tories had hoodwinked voters with seductive negativity. I know it’s easy to say this but it doesn’t make it any less true. The people that voted for the Tories are responsible for the Tory victory, they allowed themselves to be hoodwinked.

In the post-election demoralisation some commentators told us that we’re not really allowed to blame ordinary everyday hardworking working people for the nasty party’s victory. They give us plenty of other reasons;

Ordinary everyday hardworking working people naturally dislike immigrants,

Cultural Marxists had negatively labelled the ordinary everyday hardworking working people that hate immigrants without good reason,

Labour lacked a credible leader,

Labour were too right wing,

Labour were too left wing,

Labour forgot their roots,

Labour took their core vote for granted,

Labour’s voters didn’t turn out,

The Scots created a negative atmosphere with their quest for revolution,

The media created the wrong atmosphere,

The ordinary everyday hardworking working people are entitled to their ordinary everyday hardworking working people opinions,

Blah,

Blah,

Blah,

Blah.

None of these cast iron explanations explains why so many people decided to place a cross in the Tory box.

The people that voted for the Tories are to blame for the simple reason that they voted for them. We know what we’ll get with the Tories because their negative view of human nature has conditioned them to peddle pessimism. Their pessimism was even stronger this time. The Tory voters knew what they were voting for.

They were able to deal with the media coverage. They knew what the Tories had done and what they hoped to do. They knew the Tories don’t want to regulate the market economy or end non-dom status or punish bankers, they knew the Tories are going to target vulnerable people on benefits, they knew the Tories want to force people into jobs with zero hour contracts, ahem “flexible working arrangements”, they knew the Tories want to privatise the NHS. They knew they were voting for the Tories’ putrid ideas. They knew they were voting for selfish pessimism. They chose potential tax cuts above everything else. They were able to weigh things up, make a reasoned choice and they still chose the Tories’ putrid ideas. Knowing that you live amongst such brazen selfishness is more than depressing.

If we look further afield than north Wales it looks even worse, vast swathes of disaffected Labour die hards are said have become UKIP voters. They featured one of these characters – a sandwich shop owner from the north west England – on the first post election Wednesday edition of Newsnight. She justified her switch by talking about immigration, other etceteras and the occasion her Labour candidate looked at the UKIP sign in her sandwich shop and walked off quickly. The owner was miffed that the candidate hadn’t come in to her shop to try and personally convince her about Labour or something.

These people not only think they have the divine right to publically express their idiotic prejudices they think their prejudices should be taken seriously. Until these people realise they’re completely wrong in their choice of concerns they deserve nothing but derision. I don’t care if this sounds harsh, these people think about the problems caused by capitalism and see answers in a party led an ex-merchant banker, they worry about our society’s complex issues and find answers in the words of incoherent populists.

By missing the point so spectacularly these people let the real politicians off the hook by allowing the wrong points to gain traction. Knowing that you live amongst Tory faced people is one thing, suspecting that you not very far from these unreal people is quite something else.

I refuse to understand how Labour’s so-called failed approach can be used as a justification for choosing a party that’s almost the polar opposite of core Labour values. If you can switch from values of the left to the right so easily why were you a true Labour supporter in the first place? It’s simple, if you want a humane society it is wrong to dislike people you’ve never met simply because they’re foreign or non-white. I imagine that these people wouldn’t like complete strangers abusing them for no reason in particular.

The report asked how Labour could win back these people but why would Labour, or any progressive party, need supporters that are vehemently against immigrants? These people should be ashamed of themselves, our society needs solidarity not scapegoats.

Parties should attract people with their values rather than the drift net of gimmicky policies. If people took the time to meet the people involved with their local parties they would find that the local members generall shared the values of the party they joined. People moan about identikit parties but if parties bend towards the ever changing whims of the electorate they will all look the same, even more than they already do.

To return to the issue at hand. By the end of the first post-election weekend a sense of doom added a serrated edge to my now simmering anger. Our eloquent democracy had spoken and we all had to live with it. It was just a shame that our brief taste of democracy coincided with people’s poisonous thoughts about their fellow human beings. There were alternatives to the Tory frame of mind but outside Scotland the alternatives weren’t as popular as they should have been.

We have become passive spectators awaiting the horrors to come.

As we moved towards another weekend my thoughts remained a potent cocktail of doom and anger. I tried to look on the bright side but the pounding hangover provided flashbacks of the articles that appeared within hours of the exciting exit polls.

The Daily Telegraph published an article that had this title “Do we want better health care, or do we want to keep the NHS?and posed this question;

What does it matter if someone makes a profit out of health care?

Within hours of the Tory victory this appeared on the Independent.

DWP releases document on cuts to disabled work access scheme hours after election result.

Two days after the election this appeared in the Telegraph.

Finally, nothing is holding David Cameron back. So what will he do?

This was the Daily Mail’s front page the day after the election.

P1460259

You know it’s going to be bad when that “newspaper” twists the knife by revelling in their victory. Forget “bad”, things were actually going to become worse.

There are few things more stomach churning than the craven two faced piety of the self-proclaimed civilised right. Tory gloaters saw the typical reaction of the immature left in the vandalised war memorials, protesting anarchists and excrement covered windows of the first post-election weekend, “Did we act like that in 2005? they asked. Two days before their pious questions the gloaters voted for a party that applies a tax to poor people if they have an extra bedroom and  orders dead people to attend benefit assessments.

The atmosphere created by the self-interested is corrosive to everything. It protects the strongest and the richest, makes everyone subservient to the market economy as if it’s a natural state of affairs and turns people against each other.

Labour, our supposed side in the election, is forced to conform so they cannot be the party they should be, even though there’s a desperate need for them to be the party they should be. The minds of potential Labour leaders are lost in the market driven electoral maelstrom, they want their party to become even “more business friendly” while other Labour figures want their party to remove the last vestiges of their raison d’etre.

Amazingly some on the “left” think that we have tolerate prejudice because we have to understand them  and just have to live with they world they help to create. Bollocks to that, we should show their concern the contempt they deserve, we should demand better from our fellow citizens.

Whether or not Labour is impotent is immaterial people still voted Tory – a spoiled vote is still a vote – and there absolutely no excuse for viewing the world with Tory eyes;

“Since the crash, British politics has been one epic act of misdirection. Lay off those bankers who shoved the country into penury! Just focus on stripping disabled people of their benefits. Never mind the millionaire bosses squeezing your pay! Spit instead at the minimum-wage migrant cleaners apparently making us poorer. So ingrained is the ritual that when a minister strides into view urging the need for “a grown-up debate”, we brace ourselves for another round of Blame the Victim. The only question is who gets sacrificed next: some ethnic minority, this family on low pay, that middle-aged dad who can’t get a job.

Here is how political misdirection works in real time. Yesterday, Unite’s Len McCluskey came under a barrage of criticism for suggesting that Labour live up to its name and support “ordinary working people”. Evil paymaster! Meanwhile, on the front page of this paper, digger firm JCB called on David Cameron to prepare to take Britain out of the EU – and this was just a company having its say.”

A day after the election the prime minister stood proudly at the VE Day commemorations. 70 years ago Britons lived in a  virtually destitute bomb damaged country and yet they made a more hopeful choice at their election, in the less trying conditions of 2015 people voted for naked self-interest, and people say that we live in a civilised country.

For better or worse Britain is my home, the place I’ve lived all my life, the place where the people I care about live but Britain didn’t feel home in the week after the election. I was surrounded by selfish bastards, how could I look my fellow citizens in the face? They will have voted Tory. Britain, my septic island home, was now poised on the precipice of despair in the Valley of Our Souls. Hope was a foreign country in a galaxy far, far away.

I hope most of this post has come across like a bitter rant because at the moment I’m rather bitter, as someone said in work last week, I hope these Tories don’t moan about the NHS in five years time.

Just over a week from my last visit to Manchester I went back. Two slabs of hope bookended a period of almost shattering despair. After about 30 minutes in central Manchester the week of existential purgatory was over. Manchester’s vibrancy perked me up, all was not lost. The Socialist Worker stall was full of angered hope, FC United’s ground pointed to the success of another way. I didn’t need to wallow in thoughts of spiritual loss, life was still there! 2020 is a long way off but there was hope.

Hope lies in the proles, but you need to do better, much better. Get your arses in gear for fuck’s sake.

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One response

10 06 2015
Ben Philliskirk

Hear, hear. Though by the time of the next election there’ll be little point voting Labour either. At least you could vote for Plaid Cymru there, we’ll have to hope for a massive Green surge!

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