Today in activist world I was thrilled to be invited to a meeting tomorrow of Cambridge Left Unity, a group of people exploring a new political party.
I think that is good news. It looks union-supported, which could be good (although unions have their own issues). In some ways I hope it would not be a re-hash of Labour because of the stink of Blair and the fundamental slavery to the banks. But in some ways I hope it is an incarnation of the ideals of Labour. In part I hope this because people here do not change political party easily. It's not like America where many people I know have voted for different parties in different election. Here, it's like every element of your identity - it is kind of handed to you at birth. You are Labour. You are a Conservative.
One thing we know about all the political parties that have sway right now is that a core element of the identity of the leadership is upper class. Your socio-economic identity is important too. The network and consensus of Eton and Oxbridge cannot be overlooked. The government is made up of people who really have very little idea of the responsibilities of managing day to day life in the working class or middle class. The government is made up of people who like most Americans believe that if you are poor, you just weren't trying very hard. The government is all made up of people who believe that every corporation is entitled to a share of the profits. This is their reality more than any compassion or mercy. The prisons are workhouses that line rich men's pockets. The buses run without schedules or maps, because that increases the profit to the CEO. The Justice Ministry budget is cut by one-third between 2010 and 2015. One third. To me that is the worst statistic of them all. Without access to the courts, people have no access to the rule of law, and if people don't have access to the rule of law, they cannot challenge state decisions (imprisonment, deportation). The state has no accountability. That any government would commission a nuclear submarine at the cost of two billion dollars in favor of shaving the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT is simpy unbelievable.
And the Parliament itself is strangely powerless as well - although we did have that wonderful moment with the Syria vote. They are all colluding in these cuts.
I am thinking back to the hearings prior to the Leveson inquiry, when the MPs asked only safe questions to save the media empire and the police too much embarrassment (pure theatre). I am thinking about the arms industry, which fuels the UK's biggest export. I am thinking about the inability of government to force utilities into efficiency and against greed. I am thinking back to the multiple instances of police and Home Office misconduct and cover-ups and possibly murders and how somehow, the MPs do not raise their voice. The Home Office does nothing to restrain the police, the police are governed by the IPCC which is an advocate for the police rather than a neutral judge. To me, reform of these fascist tendencies (no more apparent than in Occupy) it would be a welcome element of a new party platform.
Any new party would have to go in eyes wide open to the possibility that things are controlled by corporations much more than we have even considered.
Even the metrics are way, way off. We don't even know how bad it is. The Economist ran an article about the amazing vanishing crime rate in the UK. It was basically accusing the government of obscuring true statistics. And when Osborne says the Tories will run a budget surplus by 2020, hot damn, people, he is only saying that because he is confident he can completely manipulate the statistics.
I don't think anyone truly interested in ending austerity has much use for the mainstream media, but the information I get that is not from the mainstream media is that a lot of people in this country are hungry and in need. Ending hunger within Britain could be a unifying factor.
You will need a unifying factor. You could harness the spirit of revolution. The middle class needs to thrive and survive. I can say that it is actually pretty exhilarating to stand up for what you believe in.
Any new party would have to inspire people to change the habits of a lifetime in their party affiliation. But it could be done. I am from Occupy. I believe in the 99%. I think that it doesn't even need to be a Left party, it can be the 99%, a centrist party. Because the structural problems are as simple as the rule of law and the fundaments of fair taxation, and I think the 99% in Britain agree with the rule of law and fair taxation. But considering how things have been going the last twenty years,I am not sure that any clear heir of Labour can even begin to bring in the outsider reform-minded strategy that would be the only hope.
One big hit piece of legislation, like making all banks non-profit, or legislating utility profit margins, or funding the courts (this is a big one), or reforming property taxes, or adopting a Green trade policy could very quickly generate a legitimate boost to the economy.
The more any new party tries to move away from the fundaments, the more trouble they are going to have. The central idea, the inspiring wave, the beautiful dream is that the people rise up and take back their own power, that the sacred ground of Runnymede is not forgotten. And while my generation has been greedy and myopic about their power and their rights, it is not too late. It is not too late for us to do right by our children. But we would have to ask our friends and families to get out of their ancient identities, to reach out across the ghettos.
I don't think Left Unity needs to put on any of the ridiculous garments of the previous parties. Reform the NHS, reform Ofsted, reform the FSA. That is noise, not signal. Those are diversions, and petty, destructive diversions at that. What parliament has done to the good people serving the ill and vulnerable is atrocious: consultants and fire sales. What parliament has done selling off a national security service that the Crown should provide its people in good times and in bad (Royal Mail) is atrocious. The taxes that the wealthy pay are atrocious. The taxes that corporations pay are atrocious. People have to opt for a better world and a lower profit margin. The people have to make them.
And as always I think that people should be invited under a new party umbrella how I saw the 99%. all inclusive. Believing in the rising tide of the human spirit, fighting for the rule of law and mercy on the most vulnerable - that could be a left thing. But it is also a spiritual thing, it is also a core of people's political and nonpolitical idenity. Some would say that it is almost their religion. Justice and mercy are virtues. This is about being a good human being. It is about being an excellent human being, actually.
There are many of these excellent human beings on this island. Many. But in my experience they are too much in the box of their identity to be able to roll up their sleeves and work with the other 99%. Oh, I'm a socialist, I'm in a union, I'm with UK Uncut, I believe in direct action, I believe in punching the shit out of the EDL - we are all in our ghettoes. My Occupy Cambridge ghetto on Facebook I will attest is the loneliest ghetto of them all.
I hope the "unity" in Left Unity means that it will like Occupy inspire people to see that we are all massively the same in what we want and deserve from a just Government. Maybe I will see if my babysitter can come.