Writings

Something to believe in…

….or is it? Am I being too optimistic in my latest post– more of a note – in Public Finance? You tell me. But the Labour manifesto, as drafted by Ed Miliband, and much discussed, even derided, in recent weeks, seems to contain some very good things.

Now if only there had been more about housing…not to mention a promise to abolish Trident… a pledge to break down the crippling divisions within our school system…..a pledge to withdraw from Afghanistan….

2 Responses to Something to believe in…

  1. Middle watch dit 8 April 2010

    The succinct answer to your question “Am I being too optimistic?” is Yes in my somewhat less than humble opinion. As you may already know I’m not very good at being succinct so here’s another grumpy old git response.

    For some reason your column in a paper I’d never consciously recognised until today lit my blue touch paper and I feel compelled to say this just once – or rather type it just once. I’d be happy to articulate it more publicly, but don’t suppose the opinion of a wannabe photo journalist doubling up as a public servant to put food on the table has much to offer the world of “Private Finance”.

    It is my intention to put this into Cyd’s journal however along with your instigating article in the Private Finance to give it some perspective. These “Middle watch Dits”– a term from my time over 30 years ago in the submarine service are just unedited emptying of spleen and mind onto paper. I would write (often verse and nonsense) between the hours of midnight and 4AM (the Middle watch) whilst keeping an eye on the draught marks or the pressure gauges etc. Most of the work involved just being awake in case so I studied an O level in English Language via a correspondence course and wrote a column each 12-4 shift.

    Most of my middle watch prose was filed in the bin after the other watch keepers had read it but one welder who’d been working on our submarine in refit told me he’d kept a handful of them for ages – he’d latterly lost them all though.

    So this is also good practice for my literary skills – so critiques will be warmly received he said pretentiously. I guess I need to know if I should ever give up trying to write. I can’t ever do anything concise. Moderation is hard to find in our lives – it’s usually full on or nothing at all. As I write this at 03:55 am I am so busy with the 2010 project that I’m multi tasking here – writing to Cyd and of course Melissa at the same time.

    So – your article. The thing you wrote that had me ranting at the screen as though the BNP had just won some legal battle was the bit about the People’s Bank. “Modelled on the Post Office?” Have you seen what those bastards have done to the post office? Not just the watered/dumbed down postal service, where all the best bits have been sold off like the family silver but especially the remote rural sub post offices that have been the lifeline of villages and towns around the UK. This ruthless cutting of an essential public service indicates to me that most politicians of every political colour just can’t be trusted.

    I’ve been bombarded by literature from my local Lib Dem and Conservative hopefuls, but the only thing I’ve had from Glenda is an automated email response with the promise of probably another computer generated or duplicate letter sent to everyone and anyone who’s contacted her on some issue that they give a shit about.

    Still, I suppose if they’ve got cash then they can buy a few questions. I thought that was old news and then heard this week about the Dispatches sting. For a party that thankfully managed to change our old gun laws, they’re really very adept at shooting themselves in both feet.

    So now we can again pay cash for questions? That’s nice – I do a fair bit of letter writing for Amnesty, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, CAAT, the World Development Movement, Action Aid. All I need now is a private income to pay the bribes required to change the law. No wonder there are so many lawyers who turn to politics. Kerching – Thatch did it before Blair though.

    She set the benchmark and rules that he so obediently followed, particularly on things like the fiscal suicide of PFI. “Leaky school roof and no money to fix it?” We’ll fix it for free – just give us the school and pay us some rent in return.

    I fear that your optimism may have come from having the benefit of being a close witness to some of the best politics in this country meted out equally by your mother and father. I wrote some of this in my notepad on the bus on the way to see Beverly Knight at the Albert Hall – what a voice – what a talent! My contemporaneous notes read “The classroom and board of governors are every bit as political as the halls of bloody Westminster and I still have a greater faith in the former than I do in the latter”. I left it in because although it’s teaching you to suck eggs (AKA stating the bleeding obvious) I’m sure there will be people who read this in Cyd’s journal in the future who think that you are the daughter of just one great politician.

    Behind every successful man there’s always a bunch of name droppers who said they went to school with him. Jeremy Hardy (I think) – Radio 4 about 20 years ago. Still makes me laugh though.

    My paternal Aunt and her now 90 year old husband have a similar optimism about the party or maybe it’s just them being focussed on “anything but the Tories”. I remember them both shouting at the TV when Thatch came on – it was like a good pantomime to witness.

    Then we arrive at promises of “Greater social cohesion “. That will only happen (and already happens) when people see themselves as part of a community. Not the rich community, not the gay community, not the black, white, Indian, Islamic, Christian, Catholic, Irish, Disabled, Traveller, Eastern European, Middle Class and Middle East community – all terms I have read in the last 12 months to describe this or that community. Surely my community is made up of all of these wonderful human beings? Why would I wish to segregate myself from any of these citizens of our great but burning planet?

    Greater social cohesion is not possible whenever people feel left out, excluded or threatened. The way everything policy wise has to fit into a four year pattern, further messes up any chance of consistency and long term investment in the essential issues. To overcome some of our greatest problems from the economy to the environment – both inextricably linked of course – we need something significantly more robust and long term than anything on offer from any of the usual suspects. Maybe a revolution is called for but that’s not really practical.

    Wheeling Blair back to prop up the party recently also seemed like that handgun had gone off in the direction of the foot again. He used to talk of his legacy and being judged by history. Yet for most of his reign he wasn’t even in the Labour party. That New Lab bollocks was just Thatch in another handbag. Yes mate you were shit and lied to us about Iraq, talked of modernisation when you meant cuts – why use five syllables when one will do? Maybe he charges per syllable in his speeches eh? I don’t really see anything with his name on it that I would want to celebrate.

    Part of his shameful efforts to rewrite the English Language included the reclassification of the word “Socialism” into a swearword prohibited from press releases and anything with the party logo on it. Just as bad were those who blindly followed him along this deviation in the hope of a decent seat in the house. Socialism is what every decent person I know believes in. They often don’t call it that though and not because Blair banned it.

    They are the people who sponsor children via Action Aid, or bequeath some of their inheritance to Amnesty or who do things for the plethora of charities around the globe. It is after all, donating ones relative wealth to someone else who needs it more than they do. That and altruism generally run through every one of the worlds religions. The difference between charity donations and socialism is of course that one is entirely voluntary. If your parents brought you up right and to respect people’s differences and help out where you could, we wouldn’t need governments to make any rules at all as we’d all look after each other wouldn’t we?

    I’d like to live on that utopian planet too, but without society – yes Thatch SOCIETY and socialism we really are all doomed. Back to that revolution….

    On the grounds that most people can’t get a baby sitter and would rather tut loudly when they are dissatisfied, we’re left a long way from the revolution in hearts and minds that will be required to get it on the agenda. With an electorate that has lost the will to live through another four years of anyone’s dodgy politics, I really don’t envy any of them vying for our votes. Most commonly apathy seems to prevail. I’m anticipating a really crap turn out, despite all the advertising.

    Maybe that will be the wake up call for the majority of politicians if there was a mass abstention, but I suspect as long as one party gets past the post, the victors wont care as much that only 10% of those eligible to vote got out of bed that day. I have no pride or joy in feeling so cynical about everything that comes out of Westminster, but that scepticism has been repeatedly earned by my life experiences (and from reading Private Eye).

    I once saw a badge in New York that said simply Nothing political is correct and I now get it!

    So where was I – oh yes – “Shared interest and self interest can co-exist” In that one short sentence he’s made a business case for justifying partnerships with companies on the basis that it satisfies his own self interest. Kerching. No changes there then. Are you saying this is something new from any party?

    Under Thatch, the public still felt sufficiently empowered to get off their backsides and have the odd poll tax riot. Despite my pacifism, I’m actually sorry I missed all that, purely from an opportunist’s perspective – what a great photo opportunity (just in case anyone thought I believed I was perfect). I couldn’t make that particular event as I was in my fifth year working as a public servant – the riot didn’t quite reach Willesden.

    There was a passion for some good angry song writing too that seems to have been dumbed down in favour of the pop idol and other five minute wonders. I’m not blaming New Labour for X factor by the way – not even I could stretch to that, but where’s the young modern day equivalents of The Clash or Billy Bragg? I don’t want to be angry all the bloody time, but it still seems to be my job.

    The various posters advertising the national contenders for the election are full of the usual claptrap too. I remember one of the Tory slogans a few years ago read “How hard is it to clean a hospital?” My response at that time was “How would you bloody know?” It’s that PFI nonsense again that the Ghost Premier so willingly adopted as his own. Painfully it also reminded me of a relative who died after contracting MRSA at Hillingdon Hospital.

    The same hospital where my diabetes was diagnosed and where I have received first rate treatment for the past 21 years whilst the staff there struggle to move between the goal posts moving as fast as an escalator.

    And that’s just the thing – for every success story there’s a why are we doing this or a how the hell didn’t we see that coming and it all gets very tiring. I’d love it if starting on Monday everybody did just one thing and then tried to keep it up for the rest of their lives. That one thing? Their job. Their job as a parent, as a teacher as a politician as a labourer as a carer and as a friend is to do the right thing and make a difference. We all have that job to do. I’m trying to do my bit and I know you are too.

    The critique request was a joke by the way – as flattering as it would be to receive one, middle watch dits are never submitted for formal scrutiny – they are a bit like Derek and Clive in that they are as it falls out of my brain – even where contemporaneous notes have been plonked in there, it’s pretty much ad verbatim. Increasingly I have to write as I’m so bad at remembering things. Cyd’s journal has been a godsend for that.

    My prose normally picks apart perceived problems (try saying that with a mouthful of peanuts) and offers something akin to a solution. On this occasion I remain unsure of what that solution might be in the current climate however. In a few weeks I’ll be exercising my right to vote and yet I still find myself asking what will make a difference? Maybe it is time for that revolution after all. Can we do it via email, facebook or twitter but without any real bloodshed though?

    What we need most is some debate and some spine and some expense claiming MP’s with Hilary’s impeccable record (our own Sarah Teacher in Brent East was another one of the good guys). There are others of every political colour (BNP/NF not included so far) who are decent human beings with a passion for rights balanced with responsibilities – I’ve written a whole bloody paper on that one. My disappointment is that the good guys of government are really so very few and far between.

    Here’s to the revolution Sister Melissa – thank you for waiting.

    End: 04:24 8 April 2010

    • Glad you put this up Tim. To be honest, I delayed reading it, not because I mind about the criticism but because I am divided in myself about the record of the Labour government, the current Labour Party manifesto and what they promise for the future. So, for the moment, will let your passionate Midwatch piece stand as the representation of what an awful lot of people think ( not a lot of awful people, something else entirely!) and salute your mid night passion.

Leave a Reply to Tim Hoy Cancel reply