Monday, 30 June 2014

Dear Labour party: Time to engage in a fact based dialogue

Dear Labour party and Ed, it occurred to me a while ago while watching the news on Al Jazeera and Euro news in several languages, that we are not alone in facing a similar onslaught of far right lies and conservative trickle down theology that is held up by a barely believable but well financed media campaign that has pulled the wool over the eyes of even some of the smartest people I know, some of them even in the front benches of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition. Isn't it time we stopped "taking on board the concerns of the people" and started maybe putting out the case for the vision of the future under Labour?

I have no problem with reactionary politics if it means

1- We de-construct the myths from the truths in any public policy debate.

2- Show people the genuine consequences of some of the other parties policies if they are elected for the one popular policy or slogan they have.

3- Insure that who ever is being the straw man of the day is rescued before it becomes not only ok  but required ritual to demonize any one group of people regardless of class, level of wealth, ethnicity or religion.

4- Boldly strip the media bullies of the power to lie by not going for the bait. 

5- We stand by the principles that underpin the NHS, the welfare state and the Just Society so many other people are fighting deadly awful wars and revolutions to achieve. 

and lastly.

6- We finally make a move on creating that coalition with the electorate we used to have.  Only this time it's young women who are not their mothers and grandmothers, immigrants who are on the whole, hard working, educated and business minded and what about all those middle and upper class people you abandoned to the Lib Dems and the Tories. There are a lot more of those people than a hard core of former trade unionists or rabid common sense revolution far right nutters.

Here are a few things some people in the party seem to not know or pretend not to know.

Posh people vote and they are not all tories. If anything, educated, slightly better off and not blue collar still make an impact in the market place and the fair trade world of consumerism, do you honestly think they will bite you if you talk to them?

Religious people are not all right wing  swivel eyed loons. In fact most immigrants are a delightful combination of Catholic, Muslim or Sikh and do not believe in creationism, buggery of children or homophobia. As for your bog standard "English" religious person, and they are legion, they are also in the same mould as the immigrants.  All of these people, who by the way  support the separation of Church and state to some extent or other,  have in the past  and will again, vote Labour, the question is, how much recognition and respect will you give them?

About Immigrants. Immigrants are in the vast majority, not on benefits, many even if they wanted to, cannot qualify for at least three years. They are healthy, young, educated and multilingual, here to work and build businesses that pay taxes and contribute to the cost of all those English people on benefits moaning about immigrants on benefits. Nobody is living in £3 million houses for free with 20 children. It may not mean much to some, but to people of immigrant stock or recent arrivals, it's beyond insulting and has to stop. BTW, where do you think all those immigrants, old and new  go to for advice, spiritual  needs, food, meetings and parties? PUB? no, more like Churches, Mosques, small family run businesses, community halls and centres. Without these institutions many of us would not even have our cultures, basic liberties or dignity. We shop in small community grocers and we cook, we buy in bulk, our food is smelly and funny and sometimes it even becomes flavour of the week and yet despite all those vital and interesting contributions to the community, local economy and democracy, we have to fight still in 2014 to be treated as something more that just a colourful dance troupe on special days.

 What are British values? Well not to put too fine a point on it, Judeo Christian values that are best expressed by a combination of basic laws that protect the weak, the poor and the truth from oppression and tyranny. It is a system that has evolved to create a better distribution of wealth and tolerance of difference in culture and language where the basic laws that govern civil society need not bar or limit the free expression of people or peoples in a community. It is since 1948, a system that takes it as given that all people have a right to proper health care, education and upward mobility. Most if asked, are proud of the relatively recent tradition of accepting refugees and helping those who cannot help themselves.  These values have evolved and gotten better with every generation and with every wave of immigration. If we stand for inclusion, tolerance , justice and  equality, then I'm fine with British values.  But let's be careful where we go if we insist on blindly going along with IDS and Theresa May.

As for White Voters, let's draw a line under that term and call a spade a spade..... White means English/Scot/Irish/Welsh, everybody else is something else. Some of us are excitable Slavs, emotional Latins or Mediteranians and equally mysterious Nordic types. We have as many different and varied ways of  interacting with others or ourselves as there are ethnic groups and regional traditions. If you think you can appeal to every so called WHITE PERSON with a uniform campaign strategy, media message and direct contact, then you are doomed to miss out on vast swathes of the electorate. Not everybody drinks down the pub or shops at the Morrison's. There is so much happening out there away from the tired old spots; Parks, Churches, Mosques, YMCAs, allotments and schools, these are all the other natural collection points for people that don't spend all their time at the pub or at home watching telly.

About the White Voters. How come so many are so afraid? Well the further away you are from the more multi ethnic city centres the more likely you are to be a bigot. The less education you have, the more likely you are to be a bigot. The poorer you are the more likely you are to be lured in by the far right fantasies about immigrants, poor people, the unemployed and the sick. So what to do with them? Firstly some of them will never change and there is no point in trying to dissuade them. Secondly, the rest of them, if given a better laid out situation with the truth in plain sight, will at the very least be less openly bigoted or even .... come around and see reason.

I am mystified at the continued belief among some that we can somehow win the next election with only the unlikely combination of worried "working class" white voters, atheists, ageing feminists and disillusioned 40 and 50 something year old Guardian readers.

When the likes of the Tory front benches and the increasingly shrill right wing media, including the BBC now, put up straw man after straw man and the media and gullible public lap it up like mother's milk, it's time we as a party made a decision to stop being so bloody cautious and understanding. 

The fact is that with hardly any declared policy and a less than stellar performance from the leadership, we are in a position to win a majority government. Imagine if we showed some spine and spirit,  I'm giddy with the idea of waking up the electorate. We sit on the cusp of a major rebellion among the most destitute and the least powerful, we ignore the middle class that is slipping into the same trap and still despite saying next to nothing, have a shot at power. Now if we also tried to lure back all those people being temped by the Greens on the intellectual left, the toff left, and the grumpy old Hippie left, instead of apologising to the UKIP/Tory hordes, the narrative in UK politics would be different.

Do we not stand for something good? Is not the Labour party about rising above the easy the trite and the safe? When principles are as easily abandoned as yesterdays dirty pants then they are not principles. When it wasn't popular or easy, Labour promoted the NHS, social equality, immigration, environmental policy and Europe.  Even now we can high jack the agenda by turning it on its head and making it about the big multi nationals that don't pay taxes, protecting the migrant workers from exploitation, rebuilding the trust and the foundations of the NHS, creating new long lasting jobs for well educated young people who have hope not despair. I'm still waiting for the rumble to be heard over the din of the Number 10 orchestrated pro Murdoch press.

From now on in, the conversation with the electorate and the press, if with nobody else, needs to be in the tone of a Government in waiting. Labour need to discredit the lies and defend the legacy it took decades to build. People are not as stupid as they sometimes let on. An informed electorate will be less likely to fall for the lies peddled by the red tops and now sadly the BBC. We need to grow a spine, strip the lies away and deal with the actual problems head on. It won't make the party friends with everybody, but why would you want that? You want a solid mass of voters to support a properly thought out platform that can be carried out over the life of a Parliament or even two.

What about the European question? I cannot speak for others but I believe in Europe, I believe in a union that is keeping us free from a major war and the sort of chaos that sucked the world into a frenzy of  racism, ethnic cleansing and intolerance that lead to the ovens of Auschwitz.  NEVER AGAIN. The EU is not perfect but the alternative is far worse. Political and economic union is hardly the end of the world and has despite a few hick ups created a zone where we are frankly better off than we were before the EU. A massive level playing field will never be a bad thing and even now benefits the UK more than harms it. And in case people are missing this particular bit of news, were it not the active involvement of the EU right now, Putin would not have backed down and we would be knee deep in a Central European war with all that goes with it.... refugees on a scale not seen since 1945, escalations and massive destruction and the disruption of the gas supply from Russia, followed by the inevitable reconstruction decade where we rebuild everything that got burned bombed and levelled to the stone age. To me, Europe is not an academic question nor is it just about a few miserable regulations.

So in short, please Eds, both of them and all the others, please start acting like the next Government.  We have a year, let's not waste the time.

Ed Miliband's recently released text from the Sunday Times. It's a start, but we need more.

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