Ed Miliband desperately needs to change Labour image away from being a bunch of middle-class lawyers, barely different from the Conservatives, and back to being the party of the workers[Image: Reuters].
Ed Miliband is talking the talk, but can he walk the walk?
It seems there may even be a rumour that a senior member of Labour’s health team is about to defect to UKIP.
Here’s Miliband’s problem:
Emily Thornberry, also known as Lady Nugee, now-former shadow attorney general, born in north Surrey to a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College London and a teacher. Barrister. Has spoken on the need for more affordable housing – but her husband, Sir Christopher Nugee QC, had bought ex-social housing stock for over half a million pounds and receives rental income from the property. She’s clearly the wife of a millionaire and her only contact with the working class is professional. What does she know about how working people live?
Let’s look at Labour’s health team:
Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, attended Watford Grammar School for Girls and Queens’ College, Cambridge. Has worked for two charities and a thinktank before becoming a SPAD (special advisor) to two cabinet ministers. What does she know about working people?
Luciana Berger, shadow minister for public health, educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, a private school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, the University of Birmingham, ICADE in Madrid and Birkbeck, University of London. Worked for management consultancy Accenture advising FTSE 100 companies including Barclays and BP, as well as the London Stock Exchange, Accenture’s Government Strategy Unit supporting government departments including the Treasury, and became Government and Parliamentary Manager for the National Health Service Confederation. Director of Labour Friends of Israel from 2007-2010. Labour was accused of ‘parachuting’ her in as a candidate for Liverpool Waverley in the 2010 elections. What does she know about working people?
And Labour is likely to ‘parachute’ even more “preferred” candidates into seats that become vacant between now and the election, it seems.
Will any of these “preferred” candidates have had a real job? Are there any ex-factory workers among them? Manual workers of any kind?
Dennis Skinner used to be a miner. His recent ousting from Labour’s National Executive Committee was met with outcry across the party.
Aneurin Bevan also used to be a miner. He went on to become the architect of the National Health Service that the Coalition government is busily breaking up and handing over to Conservative Party donor companies.
If Labour was really the party of working people, it would offer voters the chance to choose working people as their MPs. Instead we see an unending flow of lawyers, advisers and thinktank staffers who’ve never done an honest day’s work in their lives – while working people are sidelined.
That’s the dilemma facing Ed Miliband.
Where are the working people in the party of the workers?
Caught with his trousers down: Herr Flick from ‘Allo Allo’ – possibly the last secret policeman to be revealed in quite such an embarrassing way.
So now not only are our students facing the prospect of a life in debt, paying off the cost of their education (thanks, Liberal Democrats!) but they know they can expect the police to be spying on them in case they do anything radical, student-ish and treasonous like joining UK Uncut and occupying a shop to publicise the corporate tax avoidance our Tory-led government encourages.
Rather than investigate and solve crimes, it seems the police are embracing their traditional role (under Conservative governments) as political weapons – targeting suspected dissenters against their right-wing government’s policies, trying to undermine their efforts and aiming to apprehend key figures.
They are behaving like secret police, in fact. Allow this to go much further and we will have our own Gestapo, here in Britain. Before anyone starts invoking Godwin’s Law, just take a look at the evidence; it is a justifiable comparison.
According to The Guardian, police have been caught trying to spy on the political activities of students at Cambridge University. It had to be Cambridge; Oxford is traditionally the ‘Tory’ University.
The officer concerned tried to get an activist to rat on other students in protest groups in return for money, but the student turned the tables on him by wearing a hidden camera to record a meeting and expose the facts.
The policeman, identified by the false name ‘Peter Smith’, “wanted the activist to name students who were going on protests, list the vehicles they travelled in to demonstrations, and identify leaders of protests. He also asked the activist to search Facebook for the latest information about protests that were being planned.
“The other proposed targets of the surveillance include UK Uncut, the campaign against tax avoidance and government cuts, Unite Against Fascism and environmentalists” – because we all know how dangerous environmentalists are!
Here at Vox Political, it feels as though we have come full circle. One of the events that sparked the creation of this blog was the police ‘kettling’ of students demonstrating against the rise in tuition fees, back in 2010. It was a sign that the UK had regressed to the bad old days of the Thatcher government, when police were used (famously) to intimidate, annihilate and subjugate picketing miners.
Back then, BBC news footage was doctored to make it seem the miners had been the aggressors; fortunately times have changed and now, with everyone capable of filming evidence with their mobile phones, it is much harder for such open demonstrations of political repression to go unremarked.
This would be bad enough if it was a single incident, taken in isolation – but it isn’t. It is part of a much wider attack on the citizens of this country by institutions whose leaders should know better.
The UK is now in the process of removing the rights it has taken nearly a thousand years for its citizens to win.
It is a country that abuses the sick and disabled.
And it is a country where free speech will soon be unheard-of; where the police – rather than investigate crimes – proactively target political dissenters, spying on anyone they suspect of disagreeing with the government and looking for ways to silence them.
It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn, the protesters did NOT become violent. No – they did a conga, while chanting, “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead”.
Why on earth does Boris Johnson think it’s necessary to put the fear of violence into our heads, just because people are coming to London to demonstrate in favour of common sense?
The London Mayor said hundreds of Metropolitan police officers would be “kitted up” and ready to be deployed rapidly, in case of outbreaks of disorder.
The trouble with that, of course, is that he has made everybody involved – protesters and police – paranoid that unpleasantness of some kind will happen, and that it will be the other side that starts it!
How utterly ridiculous. By all means, keep your political tools (the police) ready, Boris, but keep them in the background. Otherwise, you’re the one inciting trouble.
If only he was able to step back and look at the situation dispassionately. Consider what the protests are about:
The main event is a demonstration against the current lionisation of Margaret Thatcher that has already cost the taxpayer nearly £2 million in expenses payments for MPs who were recalled to Parliament during their Easter recess for no good reason, when tributes could have been paid to the Blue Baroness upon MPs’ scheduled return, on Monday. Add to that a further £10 million for a state-funded funeral with military honours that a huge proportion of the population believes is undeserved – especially when the late champion of privatisation had more than enough cash in her estate to pay for as much pomp and ceremony as she could ever have wanted – and anyone can see there is a valid justification for the event.
Attendees will include former miners, and members of mining communities that were devastated by the Thatcher government’s decision to force a confrontation with the unions – the real reason the pits were closed in the mid-1980s. They will be joined by travellers – whose kind were attacked by police, in their role as a political tool of the Thatcher government rather than as guardians of lawful behaviour, most notably in the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. Students whose grants were transformed into loans during her period of office will also be represented, along with those who are politically opposed to her policies and their legacy.
History tells us that violence involving those groups has always been instigated by those arrayed against them – the forces of the government; remember, the BBC was forced into a (grudging) apology after it was proved that footage of a police charge had been doctored to make it seem the miners had attacked first, when in fact the police provoked the unpleasantness.
So let’s hope that nothing of the kind happens today – either at the main event, the UKUncut demo against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap, or the Taxpayers Against Poverty march.
But if it does, let’s all take a good hard look at whoever kicks it off – particularly their voting history. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone causing trouble today will have a prediliction for supporting the Conservative Party.
In fact she’ll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government’s priorities have become.
Can anyone imagine the kind of row we would have seen this week if Labour had blocked the recall of Parliament to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher?
Did David Cameron really believe that the demise of his beloved ex-leader was a national emergency? Of course not. This was merely a chance to scrounge some more money off the taxpayer.
He turned the Blue Baroness into a cash cow.
According to the Daily Mirror, every MP returning to Westminster to take part in the debate could claim expenses totalling £3,750 each.
So, if all 650 MPs turned up, the cost to you and me would have been £2,437,500 – for a debate that could have happened next week, at no extra cost.
Was it a bribe, to get more Members to turn up? If so, it didn’t work very well. Sure, the government benches were packed with Tories, climbing over themselves to orate on how great Nanny was – but the Opposition benches were conspicuously empty. It seems 150 Labour MPs had better things to do.
We should all be grateful for that – it took the bill down to £1,875,000.
Should Labour have opposed the recall? The speaker, John Bercow, was reportedly – let’s say – less than enthusiastic about the matter, especially the way it was conducted: The request came in a telephone call from a mid-ranking 10 Downing Street staff member, rather than in writing, according to The Guardian. The Speaker had to remind the Prime Minister that he must follow protocol and it was only then that Cameron formalised his request in writing.
(Cameron seems to have a problem with following the rules. The first time he got up in Parliament as the Prime Minister, he appeared to forget that he must address his comments to the Speaker and put many of them directly to some of the Members opposite – until a few sharp comments from Mr Bercow put him back in his place.)
Bercow then sought a reaction from the Opposition, and it seems the decision not to oppose it was political, in order not to cause a row in which they were bound to be vilified for failing to show due respect.
Given the facts that street parties broke out in several major British cities on the day she died, while ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ appeared at number 10 in the midweek charts, it seems unlikely that any Parliamentary party needs to lower itself in that way. The British people have spoken.
So Mr Miliband trotted out a speech about how the Blue Baroness was a woman of strong convictions who held to her ideals (even if he didn’t agree with them) or some such.
Then he sat down and listened, for hours, to the other speeches, including this from Glenda Jackson:
“We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism, was in fact a virtue. Greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker… they were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over the next week, of the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the Establishment that was destroyed. What we actually saw – the word that has been circling around with stars around it, is that she created an ‘aspirational’ society. It ‘aspired’ for ‘things’… One of the former Prime Ministers, who himself had been elevated to the House of Lords, spoke about selling off the family silver, and people knowing under those years the price of everything and the value of nothing. What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basic, spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side.”
And this, from David Anderson:
“She came to power promising to bring harmony where there was discord. In the mining communities up and down the country, she brought the opposite. She believed we were no longer any use to the nation because we were deemed to be uneconomic… because we insisted on running safe coal mines in this country. One of the great disgraces of this country today is we import over 50 million tonnes of coal a year from countries where men are killed, literally in the thousands, and we closed our industry that was the safest, the most technologically-advanced, in the world.
“The other area where the so-called economic justification falls down was the failure of Margaret Thatcher and her government to take into account the social cost… where no alternative employment was put forward for those people who were losing their jobs – and particularly for their children. The village where I lived had seen coal mining for almost two centuries. In a matter of months after closure, we were gripped by a wave of petty crime, burglary, car crime – mostly related to drugs. We have never recovered from it.
“We’ve seen the reaction of people whose frustration is heartfelt because they’ve lost their sense of place in society; they’ve been made to feel worthless; they’ve been cast aside like a pair of worn-out pit boots. They’ve seen their community fall apart. They’ve seen their children’s opportunities disappear. And they’ve not been listened to.
“Mrs Thatcher’s lack of empathy, her intransigence, her failure to see the other side, her refusal to even look at the other side, has left them bitter, and resentful, and hitting out in a way that is uncharacteristic of the miners in our community. Her accusation that the “enemy within” was in the mining areas of this country still rankles people. I wasn’t the “enemy within”… All we wanted was the right to work. We didn’t just want it for ourselves; we wanted it for our kids, and that was taken away.”
David Cameron wanted to pay his MPs huge amounts of money to come back and spend seven and a half hours – and remember, Winston Churchill only got 45 minutes after his death – singing the praises of the Blue Baroness – to the high heavens. He got what he wanted, and it is fair to say his Party members enjoyed telling their little stories.
But the contributions of Labour members like Glenda Jackson and David Anderson are the ones that will be remembered.
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