Tag Archive | Labour

Turkey Day – or how a load of trussed-up turkeys voted for Christmas

I’ve tried to avoid politics on this blog, despite being intensely occupied with the state of my country, but today I can’t keep silent. Today I am ashamed to be British, and like many I’m casting about wondering where I might find an exit. The people of Britain have been thoroughly stitched-up, whether they are Scottish, English, Welsh, or from Northern Ireland. Mostly though, it is the English – and I am English – who are the turkeys here.

There are those on the left who are trying to introduce cheer by reminding us of 1992, and how we got through the next five years to end up with Tony Blair’s Pyrrhic victory in 1997. I well remember feeling much the same in 1992 as I do today. I recall telling someone off who had voted Tory and him being astonished that I was so passionate about it. To him it was not of much importance. To me it felt, as today, like the end of the world. Only I can’t be cheered by remembering that because this time it is worse. This time too many policies that can’t be easily reversed are bringing about a dramatic decline in the NHS, in the welfare state, and in the treatment of disabled and jobless people. Not to mention what TTIP, fracking, or scrapping the Human Rights Act will do. Back in 1992 the country still had plenty of heart. Today’s result suggests a lot of English voters have developed such cold hearts that I fear we will never warm them up again.

Although only twenty-four percent of the British population actually voted Conservative, another twelve percent voted for even more hardline and cruel right-wing UKIP. What happened to compassion? Has Mrs Thatcher’s famous phrase ‘there is no such thing as society’ finally taken root in the English consciousness?

We will all pay a price, and those who voted Tory, the turkeys, will not be exempt from the ensuing pain. No one will be able to escape the upcoming cuts. Britain will be a travesty of a country with poor services, police who don’t attend burglaries, a shortage of everything from doctors and nurses to paramedics and teachers, a threadbare so-called ‘safety net’ for people who fall on hard times, with all the time a gang of hecklers on the sidelines, jabbing their fingers at the unfortunate and telling them it’s their own fault.

But any of the turkeys who voted yesterday for the mother of all Christmases could get ill, could become disabled, could lose their jobs. Any of them. So when the turds hit your fan, turkeys, don’t bother gobbling, because it will be too late.

Happy Turkey Day. Gobble gobble.

Advertisements

Who Will Save the Open University?

The Open University, like the NHS and the BBC, is a British national treasure. It was created to help those who had either been let down by traditional education or who had been unable to take advantage of it for reasons of poverty and disability among others. It has survived, thrived and been supported and subsidised by British governments ever since. It is not, and cannot be, compared with a ‘bricks and mortar’ university; it is a very different entity.

And yet…here we are, about to witness its destruction at the hands of the Con-Dem coalition. They have apparently decided that the OU can indeed be treated in exactly the same way as a normal university, and just like Oxford and Cambridge, the OU is to be expected to raise the majority of its income from student fees. To the horror of present (and presumably, prospective) students, the fees are to rise by 350% from 2012 for new students, and from 2017 for current students. Students who have been struggling to pay the standard £700 for a 60 point course (the average amount of points most students study in a year) will be expected to pay £2,500. (These fees only apply to England, but English students make up the bulk of the OU student body.)

Much has been made of the fact that many OU students have started out with the intention of obtaining a degree and have become ‘students for life’, or are just ‘hobbyists’ who do a course here and there, but surely education for whatever reason is a good thing? Let’s not forget that the OU’s courses are available as an option to anyone in the UK, and that the word ‘Open’ means just that. No previous academic qualifications are necessary. It is not a true competitor to ‘bricks and mortar’ universities and should never have been treated as such. The OU as a subsidised resource is clearly of huge value to the country. This value, and its unique status, have been underestimated in the cost-cutting round.

So who will save the OU? Even in these straitened times some things are worthy of preservation for both present and future generations. I can see no way that the OU will survive after 2017 when everyone will be expected to pay the new fees. Of course there will be some who can afford them, but student numbers will collapse, and as they do so the infrastructure of the university will follow. Will the OU become just another distance learning college? Will it be forced to ‘raise the bar’ and insist on entry qualifications? Whatever happens it will not be the Open University that has changed my life and those of millions of others. I urge all politicians to think again. Do not underestimate what the loss of the OU in its present form will mean to Britain. Where is the Labour Party on this matter? Why are the Lib Dems apparently complicit with the Tories in effectively removing a decent education at an affordable price from those who are most in need of it?

Are there no politicians left who care enough about anything? Where are the convictions that brought about the OU in the first place? Wake up, Labour and LibDems, and fight for the OU, before it’s too late!

Labour’s legacy

Virtually every day I read some Tory MP blaming the Labour Party for every single ill that is now afflicting Britain and in particular, of course, the debt burden. They use dramatic terms that imply that Labour left the country ‘bankrupt’ on a mere whim, without any thought for the consequences. It all makes for good sound bites and seems to be playing well to the gallery, but anyone with any sense knows that had the Conservatives been in power for the past thirteen years the banking crisis would still have happened and they too would have bailed out the banks. The difference between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party on those matters is minor; their policies would have been virtually identical and the Tories would have been as wrong-footed as Gordon Brown when the disaster occurred.

The Conservatives are trying to get across a tough package of spending cuts that no one is going to like. It is in their interests to attempt to shift all the blame to Labour, but I can’t help grinding my teeth every time I hear it, and I can’t help feeling that at some point this strategy is going to lose its momentum. Labour did its best to keep the country going and avoid a depression and that policy probably has cost the country more money than the Tories would have spent, but the Conservative Party needs to beware of going too far in its present cuts, which are not only being implemented to ‘get us out of the mess Labour has left us with’ but also because they are ideologically a part of the Tory ethos.

Labour’s legacy was a country pulling out of recession. Let’s hope the Tories do not catapult us back into one.

Election

As I write there is still no certainty about who will form the next government of the UK, but I fear it will be the Conservatives with conditional Lib Dem support. As a lifelong ‘pink’ socialist living in a Tory stronghold I’ve always voted tactically for the Lib Dems – under Tony Blair it became something other than tactical. This time, however, I voted Labour.

My first vote was cast in 1979 in what was a tragic election for this country. With Thatcher in charge for eighteen years Britain was altered beyond belief. During the days of Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot, I longed and longed for Labour to get into power and every election was a terrible disappointment. It was a Pyrrhic victory when Blair at last succeeded as in order to do so he accepted many Tory policies and abandoned left-wing ideas dear to my heart such as renationalising the railways.

I was heartily glad to see the back of Blair and see Gordon Brown, who was once a socialist, take power. I feel that he hasn’t been able to cast off a lot of the baggage left behind by his problems with Blair and that he has never been able to do what he really wanted to do as Prime Minister. I also think he gets a very bad press simply for not being Mr Smiley Nice Guy. We had Mr Smiley Nice Guy for years and look where he got us!

I want Gordon Brown to stay PM, but if the only way to keep a Labour/Lib Dem government is to see him resign and Miliband take charge then it would be a price worth paying I suppose. Nevertheless, I feel very sad that Gordon Brown has never been allowed to have his day as PM and has been dogged by the financial crisis (not entirely of his making, despite the endless bad press).

My hope is that if the Tories and Lib Dems form a government they will immediately carry out the one policy that I am totally in agreement with and cancel the ridiculous ID cards scheme, shortly after which the Lib Dems will jump ship and a new election will be called. Labour will by then be newly socialist and run by someone who is not an identikit ex-public schoolboy and a British electorate which will have seen the true face of the Conservatives at work will then sweep Labour back into power. Well, we can all dream, can’t we?