Sunday afternoon and I’ve just kicked the kids off the Mac…told them they need some physical activity so they’re doing press-ups in front of the telly…
First a thanks for your responses. Some of these are heartfelt and others defiant. They all mean lot to me but I was struck by this from Margaret.
Is that the grudge and grievance Grahamski that leaves me unrepresented over here in Falkirk? Where the Labour Party not only make the policies , they audit them too,so democracy Labour Party style. The Labour Party who parachutes people in to the area to represent the electorate , not because they have a vision for Falkirk but because of who they know, whose lack of leadership has allowed their party political problems to ‘ spill over ‘ into one of the areas biggest employers ? If wanting democracy to work for everyone not just the cronies in the area really is grudge and grievance politics well I’m aiming for something better than what your party has, is and will ever offer. Do you want me to start about your Party’s performance re fracking in Airth or what about the schools in the areas capacity , the list could go on except you call it grudge and grievance , the rest of us call it democracy . Your Party’s petty , narrow little minded ness is multiplied all over Scotland .What is wrong with people wanting something better, relevant to their lives and maybe even democratic , something those who have had it in their gift to implement over the last 50 years but decided the minority Labour Party was more important than all the people of Scotland . Tell me Grahamski if we vote no , name me one thing you and your friends in the Coalition ( democracy in action,except no one voted for a coalition ) will do to improve the lives of all of us living here- one thing? Then tell me one thing (that’s a fact not a myth I’m after),that will make all the people in Scotland’s lives worse off ?
So, thanks to Grahamski for winding up a passionate response and doing his bit for the Yes cause. I knew he would be good news – a kind of James Kelly of the blogosphere.
But I found myself agreeing with Margaret, although I’m not up to speed on the local detail in Falkirk. But isn’t that message about Labour in power a common thread throughout our post-war history. I have voted Labour at different times depending on where I was living and what the election was about so, although I’ve always been pro independence, I have previously responded to what I felt was the right message from Labour.
I think my doubts took root when devolution was prominent in the 70’s and many Labour folk were trying to decide what came first for them – Scotland or improving social conditions across Britain. I didn’t see them as mutually exclusive but many in Labour and especially the Left, saw devolution as a distraction from the real cause. I respected that but always doubted that Labour really was prepared to focus on wages, housing, employment support and local environment to improve life for the millions on Britain’s low employment housing estates.
I even had a bitter exchange with Robin Cook at a news conference which led to him storming out in front of the Press saying he’d had enough. Sorry, Robin. I was young and angry rather than old and angry.I fully accept that much the Blair Government did improved lives for many, a point confirmed by recent in-depth academic analysis, with the caveat that any party in power for 13 years is bound to bring about improvements through natural progress. But I salute them where Labour succeeded.
I rather feel though that I was right back then to doubt that Labour’s declared objectives would be matched by reforming zeal. Just think of the massive parliamentary majorities they racked up when all Britain lay before them and they could have delivered virtually anything they wanted unhindered – except by the City of London of course, which seemed to be more powerful than Her Majesty’s Opposition during the Blair Years.When we were told then, as we are today, that supporting our own country’s home rule means we are deserting the poor and vulnerable of Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, I bridle.Surely the people who abandoned the poor and vulnerable were the Blair-Brown Labour Government which had the political control and the economic muscle to transform their lives but which lacked the will to do so.
I look at our post-industrial towns and city-edge areas and wonder where the visible signs of improvement are to be found. There is a pall of poverty hanging over many of these places; grubby streets, boarded-up premises, lack of light and vibrant activity, devoid of the normal human bustle of healthy, relaxed humans. I see shelpit, mildly feral youth, faces baring the mark of ill-health in poor quality clothing, uncared-for surroundings which reek of depression.
My God, I sound like Cochrane in the Telegraph complaining about municipal socialism…
But those observations, regarded by Labour themselves as a cliché of the middle classes and insulting to Scottish working people, are a cliché simply because they are true. I try to put aside any prejudices I may have and look through the eyes of a visitor and it isn’t a pretty site.
I see we are now being guided by Margaret Curran to believe those folk – she mentioned Easterhouse in her constituency – have not been helped by devolution and hints maybe we should think again. Yes, let’s gives back powers to the people who know best in Whitehall who are currently humiliating her constituents by heaping the blame for austerity on to them. Let’s trust in a system that allows the super rich to prosper to an obscene degree while at the other end of the scale, household incomes fall. The gap between Haves and Have-nots grew wider than ever while Labour ruled.
She is also shifting the blame for the miserable state of life for thousands of our fellow Scots on to the devolved government now that her own party – and Margaret herself as a minister – is out of office.
Does that mean that the previous 300 years can neatly be written off as well and therefore played little or no part in the deprivation we live with in parts of Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire and Glasgow? Is it Holyrood’s fault that men in poorer parts of our biggest city die in their fifties?
Turning lives around is a long and arduous task and, apart from time and money, it demands iron political will. Does it look like Labour have it? Or does it look, as Margaret, my email contributor, says, that people whose heart is in the right place, end up compromised by their own party system and defeated by the spending priorities of a leadership with eyes elsewhere. The downtrodden have the lowest expectation so Labour’s poor response is regarded as good enough in areas with a dismal voting turnout.
Do you detect anger at social injustice from Scottish Labour? Who stands out as a campaigner for those on low incomes? Who among the backbenchers has made a name as an outspoken champion risking the wrath of the leadership? Let’s be honest. The nearest thing to a social justice campaigner in a Unionist Party is Iain Duncan Smith.
How else do you explain the decision to resists minimum pricing of alcohol? It is simply recorded fact that it destroys minds, health and families and over time is a key driver of deprivation. Even if there wasn’t scientific evidence that it worked, why on earth would you oppose when you don’t have your own alternative solution? Blindingly obvious answer: You don’t care about people’s lives. You care about your party and your career.
Of course, if you can be sure the party approves first and you won’t blight your own progress, then you can speak up for families afflicted by drink but the trick is to be get your priorities in order first.
If the system won’t change things, you change the system…at least that’s what I think we’re doing in the independence movement so that we harness the nation’s desire for good housing, health and happiness for all. But the Scottish Government message is a very general one rather than a specific anti-poverty initiative.
I think this should be regarded as a national emergency and the first priority of Independence Government One.
For too long we have accepted that many of our fellow Scots live lives the rest of us would regard as intolerable and because it’s too difficult and there is no leadership we look away. We regard the inhabitants of such places as not like us, undeserving, beyond redemption. But they are us. They are not the government’s problem, they are ours and there should be an end and no return to the way in which Labour MPs have used the needy as a political voting base while failing to put their jobs on the line in the interests of transforming their lives.
Rather, in urban parts of our country, they themselves seem to have benefitted with comfortable careers and, I notice, a seemless move on retirement and pension into the patronage factory of the Lords.
The time will come though, independence or not, when the SNP will be judged on how it has treated the needy. Under a devolved system they can rightly claim to lack all the levers like welfare but the trick surely is to be seen in communities refusing to take No for an answer when the questions are asked. Are they generating at street level an unmistakable sense of determination to change lives? I’m not sure.
Maybe the strategists think anti-poverty is a message best kept under the radar for fear of putting off the mortgage-mongers in the commuter bungalow belt. I don’t agree. There is no higher calling for a society than ending poverty – or trying – and it is a policy area which nationalists should own. No one else will.