Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Old Labour, Nu Labour, Nu Trendies

From a political point of view my family only went one way, Labour. There were very good reasons for that and history played no small part. The family lived in a large town, which had grown up around mining, a harbour and chemicals. An old place with strong links into the steam revolution and heritage steeped in strong community ties.

My Great-Grandfather on the male side of the family was a miner, a dangerous job without a doubt. The mine owner owned the town including all the shops. For reasons lost in history my Great Grandfather decided to try to organise the men to form or join a union. The result of course was that he lost his job and was black listed by all the employers in the area. To get by and provide for his family he sold vegetables from a cart in summer and wood in the winter. He got by and the family survived.

My Grandfather was a member of the local Labour Party when things changed after WW2. He became a Labour town and county councillor and went on to sit on various committees of which Housing was his preference.

People were always coming up to him or coming to his house to ask for his help with some council issue. I’m not aware of him ever turning anyone away although there must have been times when he felt like it. In turn my Dad was also a member of the Labour Party for all of his adult life. He helped out with canvassing, running fund raising events and supported the candidates as best he could.

These three men were proud to be known as socialists and of being Labour Party members. They had simple aims, which were based in trying to improve the lot of the workingman and to try to ensure that each generation had a better quality of life than the one before. Towards the end of my Dads life it became more difficult for him to support Labour as they changed to become Nu-Labour. He still defended them and believed the working mans vote could only go to Labour but he knew the writing was on the wall. The need to be elected at almost any cost regardless of political manifestos was replacing the need to serve the communities which candidates were elected to do in the first place.

My own views had changed over the years also. I felt that in Scotland at least, the Labour Party thought it was their country and it would remain that way forever. I felt that they weren’t trying as hard as they should have been to deliver the best for the Scottish people.

Then there was the Poll Tax incident. One morning I was accosted by a chap with a clipboard, he stuck it in front of me and asked me to sign, what was, an anti Poll tax petition. I declined. As I walked away he shouted after me “You must be doing alright” in an accusatory manner.

At that moment my support for Labour died. For all the problems with the Poll Tax I liked, and still do to this day, that everyone in the community paid something no matter how small it was. Sure there were many issues not least the scale of charge per person depending on wealth which seemed rather unfair to those with less and perhaps more generous to those who had more. At that point in my life I’d worked hard to build a decent life and provide for my family. I’d done so by working long hours and creating a viable business from nothing and it provided jobs in the local area, I paid good salaries and looked after my employees who were for the most part loyal and honest. I was just an ordinary man doing his best. I wasn’t trying to be better than anyone, have more money or more or better things than anyone, I was just living my life as I saw fit without exploiting my fellow man. I was doing well and I was playing my part in the local economy, paying taxes being a positive contributor. How dare anyone accuse me of “doing well” when I believed that doing well in a fair way and improving you and your families lot was a fundamental human aim.

My Dad liked a debate he believed that everyone’s opinion was important and that their individual views should be protected and encouraged as would be his. In the past few years, and more so recently, I wonder what my Grandfather and my Dad would make of the way things have become. I honestly doubt that they would recognise some Labour voters, activists and MPs as being socialists or even being true to Labour core aims such as they were.

Most of all though, I wonder how they would have reacted to the lecturing, meddling and sneering which seems to be such a popular part of politics. In my Grandfather and my Fathers day they took personal responsibility seriously but they also felt that they had earned the right to self-determination. The constant whining daily messages from the government based on the views of un-elected do-gooder activists would have been instantly dismissed as propaganda and pretty poor propaganda at that.

For some reason, which escapes me, left leaning politics has become fashionable. Obviously not trendy enough for them to actually get out there and do anything meaningful and worthy to improve peoples lives. No it’s more of an ethereal understanding that people need to be saved from themselves and regularly prodded in the direction depicted by the trendy left as being the correct place to be. These people also seem particularly good at saying one thing and doing another. It’s not their fault however, it’s just they have such important lives and such an important message to deliver that they have to make the best use of time which means they don’t have time to follow their own dictates.

No time for five a day. An extra wee drink to help them sleep. And a jet to save time rather than a train, which is slow and full of those, well those “people”.

If we voters get what we deserve, and it looks very, very, very likely that we do, we will have a lot of pain ahead of us. The trendy lefties will of course have moved on by then to some other cause, which will restrict our lives even further.

Contributed by Petem


Oldrightie said...

Petem, no decent person can want advantage at the expense of others. Socialism loses the plot when decency and fairness, as ideology, is replaced with chip on the shoulder politics of envy.
As an "Oldrightie" I want to see a socialism based on reality and compassion. I want to see hard work rewarded, slothfulness, ignorance and the trade union mantra of champagne belligerence ridiculed. All walks of life has its decent as well as its grotesque. Human frailty and nastiness is not confined to socio/economic groups. My favourite film is "The Shooting Party" in which my political leanings are well demonstrated by the approaching universality of slaughter approaching without favour.

JRB said...

petem - Thank you for a wonderful post.
How much your background reflects my own. You have brought from the recesses of my mind, fond memories of lively debates round the kitchen table with grandfather, father, a few friends and we kids (yes, we kids were allowed and welcomed to get involved). Mother was always there making sure the conversations never got too heated and supplying endless rounds of tea and sandwiches.

Both my grandfather and father were staunch socialists. Their politics born out of a common life-changing experience – war. Each had gone through hell for king and country, and each had returned home to what they hoped to be a land fit for heroes. That was not to be. All the long years they had been fighting, the rich had got richer and the poor had got poorer. Society had to change.

I know for a fact that father did not vote for ‘new labour’. To him they were but tory wolves in socialist clothing.

For grandfather and father, theirs was a socialism of the heart, intent on the betterment of their fellow man – not, as we find now, a socialism of the mind intent on the betterment of ones self.

Elby the Beserk said...

Very good. You articulate the reasons why this bleeding heart default middle class liberal voted Labour from his first vote in 1970 until Iraq; at that point I realised to my horror that rather than electing the Labour Party again, in 1997, we had invited a Fifth Column into the country that was antithetical in oh so many ways to what we are and stand for. The socialism of the working man has been replaced by the perverse socialism of the Cultural Marxists. How long we will have to pay the priced for them, I do not know, but - to put it bluntly - I curse them, for all of time.

Demetrius said...

Then and now. Once Labour represented the labouring classes across the UK. Now it represents London, finance, the media and attached foreign money men. Not the same at all.

Edward Spalton said...

What an interesting post. Coming from a family which appears to have been Tory since the days of Good Queen Anne ( mostly tenant farmers, small tradesmen and the like) , I appreciate the weight of tradition which can be a help as moral ballast or become a sheer dead weight,

I am sure that there are many Tories (or small c conservatives) who feel just the same about the Conservative party. The parties have ceased to be real mass movements, grounded in any real constituency of opinion and interest. They have become mere vehicles to get politicians elected - political "brands" in fact with no substance behind the brand image.

I heard one of Labour's bright young men refer to what he called "dog whistle issues" which would always appeal to Labour voters. I thought that showed what he thought of his party's supporters.

The Conservatives do exactly the same. Michael Portillo had an attempt at it as Defence Minister when,effectively, he said "Nobody messes with Britain or I'll set the SAS on them". A disgusting performance which raised a cheer at the time - much as a few appeals to class warfare from John Prescott did more recently with Labour party audiences.

With something over 70% of policy and legislation coming from Brussels, the main parties are like a sort of ghastly, hellish parody of the Holy Trinity - "Three persons of one substance" . All they can say is "We are nicer and we'll do it better than the others". The same goes for all other parties in favour of subjection to the EU. BTW I'm not in any party at the moment.

The political process is rather like a pub with three or more beer pumps but only one barrel in the cellar. The only thing that is different is the presentation and the label on the pump.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a good post - I especially could not understand the opposition to the Poll Tax; it just seemed so much fairer in principle.

The landscape has changed considerably in Britain - no massive industries anymore, shipbuilding, coal mining, steel - and so the traditional union/Labour base is no longer there.

What we have is a tier of politicians, who have all gone through university, with no visible difference between them - I honestly believe that the party they choose is decided on by the toss of a coin - there really doesn't seem to be any deep political conviction in any of them.

petem130 said...

As you say good and bad with all things. We are all products if our experiences which dies shape our views. Compassion, reality and decency. That would do fine Old Roghtie.

petem130 said...

Thanks JRB I appreciate your comments. Very similar history and probably familiar to many people around Scotland and the UK as a whole.

petem130 said...

Elby, I really like your 'cultural marxist' descriptor. Thanks very much.

petem130 said...

Totally agree Demetrius. Thanks

petem130 said...

Edward. Our political opponents may well have become our allies as we all recognise the need to be free of the EU colleagues and their non-democratic tendency. Who'd have thunk it...

petem130 said...

BJ. Yes. I was reading an article just the other day which said politicians tend to a politics and economics degree which provides them with knowledge if neither. Not a great starting point to govern.

Unknown said...

A really good post petem130. I come across a number of people who say they have to vote Labour as their Father & Grandfather would turn in their graves if they voted otherwise. My reply fits in with your post, "They are probably turning in their graves anyway as the Labour Party they supported and voted for is nothing like the Nu-labour we have today."
My follow is usually is "At your age why is a long dead parent still deciding what you think? Can't you think for yourself?" As other posters have said to many people do not.
Edward Spalton's comment hit's the nail on the head "The political process is rather like a pub with three or more beer pumps but only one barrel in the cellar. The only thing that is different is the presentation and the label on the pump" That is so true for these EU supporting parties.

Edward Spalton said...

Peter Adams,
Thank you for your kind remark. I can give two first class examples of unthinking party loyalty from my own experience.

At the time of the 1975 referendum on what we (and the government) wrongly called "the Common Market", my father said
"I don't like this European business. It doesn't smell right". The he added "But that man Wedgewood Benn's against it, so there must be some good in it".

Then in the mid Nineties, I was canvassing for UKIP in a by-election in Hemsworth in the Yorkshire coalfield.

After some thankless days, I doorstepped an old lady who actually agreed with me. She hadn't received our leaflets but thought just the same.
"May we count on your vote?" I asked.
"No duck, I'm Labour".

When I started to explain that she would be voting for all the things she didn't like about the EU, she just put her hands over her ears!

subrosa said...

Peter Adams has introduced the elephant in the room mentioning the EU and I can't help but agree with him.

Petem, until the EU is brought to the top political table, then nothing will change. The Scots seem to have such little interest in it for some reason and I can't understand why - yet.

petem130 said...

Peter Adams. Thanks for your comments. Old habits die hard indeed.

petem130 said...

Looks like the top of the political table just took a huge step forward. Perhaps there will be no EU as such to discuss? Timely comment Subrosa.

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