Oh how the arguments have raged within the Labour Party for over a year now.
Last summer I vocalised my support for Jeremy Corbyn round an enormous dinner table, with rather high stools, in the middle of Wallonia, Belgium. I had been drawn on the topic, evidently, as I do not discuss politics at the dinner table, if I can help it.
The argument raged across the empty plates and dirty cutlery and quietly people slipped away from the table. I don’t blame them; my support for Corbyn has always come with caveats, the primary one being until there is someone better. Better how, I could not quite articulate last summer, other than to say that I had worked in his constituency in the 1990s and I recall some of his positions in those days made me uneasy.
Now, after nearly a full year, I do have a clearer picture of what better might entail. The ability to get the PLP functioning might be a place to start. Another might be to get off the back foot with the media all the damn time. Or to find more than the inner circle (McDonnell & Abbott) to get on message in the media – this last point leads me to the first and second points again which rather go to somewhat illustrate the problem of the last year.
However all this does not automatically translate into a vote for Mr Owen Smith. In fact, I look at those good people, who probably know far more than I, who support him and urge others to do the same, and wonder why they think we can turn the clock back a year and pick up where we left off, which was basically a thumping by UKIP that let the Tories in.
Labour is, to my mind, too far down the road now in terms of the division over a shift to the left. The cracks cannot be papered over with Owen Smith, or indeed anyone better than Corbyn. We are on the road we are on, and, rather like Brexit, we must make the best of it. As things stand, no-one who knows anything thinks that Labour are likely to win a general election in 2020 or anytime before that point with Corbyn in charge. Funnily enough, I never thought that he would last summer either – what I thought back then was that something interesting was going on: a recalibration of the party, something I wanted to see.
So those who know more than me, gnash their teeth about getting into power to turn back the Tory tide, and I look at that argument and think it’s a right one. Then I look at the Party I am a member of and think – really? If Labour cannot move left a little without eating itself from the tail up, it does not bode well for being a party of government any time soon. Britain, England particularly, is a conservative country with a small c. Socialism is a risky business as far as the electorate are concerned.
The best hope for Labour is that the Lib Dems resurge somewhat and that a left of centre alliance can be formed with the Greens and the SNP, but I don’t even see that, not really. It’s almost like the country like to be purged on a regular and prolonged basis by the Tories. Perhaps it’s ingrained in the class system, perhaps it’s an epigenetic inheritance from Puritan times. Who knows.
I haven’t voted in the Labour leadership election yet. Maybe I won’t. I can’t vote for Smith because he wants to openly learn on the job and I may not be able to vote for Corbyn because he is somewhat worse than I thought. Maybe next summer (when the leadership election has become the annual summer event) someone who really is a bit better than Corbyn will come along.
Turns out the woman on the walk in my last post is 98.
The deliberate walking is just that, although I am told that her hearing and sight are failing.
On a good day she can get not just to the top of the track, but to the top of the hill where the road runs out.
As it will for us all one day.
In my head, this is going to be an excellent blog post in the style of the excellent BBC programme What Do Artists Do All Day, or somesuch title that I have misremembered.
In reality, and because I have become blog rusty of late, it will probably turn into a mish of this and a mash of that sprinkled with the other, following no cohesive train of thought and (like a bad poem) there will be no change by the end in you, the reader. This post will likely be littered with long, poorly formed sentences and stuttering syntax and it will be a labour of love if you get to the end of it. Having said that, I will try to avoid such style screamers as my father sent me yesterday (bracketed content my own): Jenny (the dog) got a stick stuck in her throat and Annie (the granddaughter) started studying her driving theory…
What I wanted to say when I began writing this blog in my head about 10 minutes ago was that I spend so much of my life on the edge of panic that I am now officially fed up with it. By the time I had fired up the old blog on the laptop, I had forgotten that thought about having courage in the face of fear and remembered another thought I had today – when, at 46 years and 10 months old, I realised I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up. (I suppose it will have to be at 47 now).
I think the two thoughts are linked. And I think that they are linked a bit like this.
I am in Wales. I am in Wales with two children (my own) and the dog (who does not exactly belong to anyone but himself, but still). This, you understand, is tantamount to me being Wales on my own. The reason is that although I am with others, I am on my own with the responsibility of the others. Now, why this responsibility should rest on my shoulders more heavily when I am in Wales than it seems to when I am at home in Essex, I don’t know. But, it does. Perhaps because at home there is at least one other adult around some of the time. Now I may know that the bulk of what I do at home for the dog and the children is identical to what I am doing in Wales for them, but at least in Essex there is the promise of back-up, should it be needed.
Here there is no back-up. And that is why I think I am nearly always on the edge of panic, and not just as a parent. In work, there is support, and a listening ear, but at the end of the day the buck stops with me. In my writing: the same. I have a special academic project I am doing this summer too: once again there is no back-up. I am panicked by the life I have got, even though I get up and do the damn thing every damn day.
This damn day (otherwise known as today : Wednesday) I was driving back from market day in a town in Mid-Wales. The children had not enjoyed it (although they had insisted on going). The dog had not much enjoyed it either. During the expedition, deep into shuffling summer crowds, I had felt the responsibility for everyone’s general wellbeing and demeanour weighing heavily on my shoulders. Vegan child refused food and drink at the appointed times, wore her scowl like a tattoo, and refused to remove her duffel coat and scarf. The younger one who is more sensitive to other people’s moods took her sister’s temper too much into account for her own good and went without small pleasures along the way herself to keep the peace. For my part, I bit my tongue, a lot.
On the way back the children fell asleep in the car and I took an unscheduled turn left, off the main road. The road was narrow, steep and winding. Before long I was almost in the clouds. This made me feel panicky too. One part of my mind throws out various disaster scenarios: breakdowns, crashes and getting lost. The other part says, ‘bad things happen and you cope.’ It’s true, I do. Only yesterday I melted the washing up bowl of the holiday let, and today I confessed my sins and said I would replace it. Bad things happen; I deal with them. The dog gets a stick stuck in her throat and a granddaughter studies for her driving test. Life goes on, and so do we. It’s what we do. It’s what I do.
I have therefore decided that doing does not need to cause me all the angst it does. I do it, it’s fine. Sometimes I do it: it’s not fine, I fix it. Doing should not worry me. I’ve been doing doing for nearly 47 years and it’s time to trust myself a little and say: you have this.
- Writing: I do it
- Parenting: I do that too
- Teaching: tick
- Managing people: doing that as well
- Dog-owning: it’s not pretty sometimes but I’ve been doing that for 21 years and 3 dogs’ lifetimes
- Travelling: yes I’ve done that and bad things have happened on occasion but what the heck
I do these things, they don’t do me. I choose to do them. Why worry then?
The thing that should worry me, and does, is the thing I want to be. As it turns out, it’s a poet. I want to be a poet, and that is the truth of the matter. Yes I’ve had a few poems find some good homes in the past, but I couldn’t describe myself as a poet.
Time to ditch the panic and be a poet, for reals perhaps.
Or maybe you can’t be a poet without the panic?
I stayed in Manhattan once.
I should have ordered a Manhattan and listened to this track.
Instead I had a Vodka Martini and went to a jazz club in Bleecker Street, probably in that order.
Many, many months have passed by since then. Now, I would never be so conceptually unintact.
Since Brexit there’s been a lot of vitriol flying around. I’ve kept out of it, but I’ve certainly given it a lot of thought.
Part of my puzzlement has been that, according to the media, many people voting for Brexit were of the older variety – by which I take to mean not my generation. In truth, I am approaching 50, and my generation were the vainglorious crew who took us to the precipice and pushed us off the edge in the first place, so there’s small comfort in that thought.
So let’s be clear, demographically at least. The young (under 30s) if they bothered to vote were more likely to vote remain. The old (the baby boomers, post 60 year olds) were more likely to vote leave. There will, of course, be many, many exceptions to these broad statements and I am personally related to a few.
What I have been puzzling over is that some of those voting to leave must surely have been those who may very well have voted us in to the Common Market, in 1972. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away… or they simply changed their minds after a 44 year experiment. Chin chin.
Until I took a bus trip. And I heard old people talking to each other about such things. Their words threw a bedraggled doily over the tabletop of the referendum – of course we want our children to have a better world than we did they said… But the truth was the table itself was built of bitter wood. Cerebrally these people wanted the younger generation to have the world as their oyster, but emotionally they begrudged it. They begrudged it to their flesh and blood, and they begrudged it to anyone who had not earned it. Our parents had no help they cried. Why should they?
Young people: you have been robbed. Some of the contingent that makes up your grandparents and great-grandparents (unknown) have voted because they suffered, and many of them don’t see why the rest of us shouldn’t too.
They avow that they do not want the young to have it all on a plate. So that’s what that was about people. Now we know.
Edited to add: I can accept that those who voted to join a common market in the 1970s felt that by now they had got more (and less) that they had bargained for. I can accept that they wanted to rectify their perceived error. What I find harder is the general fuck you too from people who won’t be so affected (determined by income and life expectancy) by the very real consequences.
I wrote this post a year ago. Nothing much has changed. As with the EU, I have always seen that Jeremy Corbyn has his faults. Like the EU, last year when it was time to vote, he was better than the alternative.
Unfortunately it seems that Angela Eagle has an even bigger fault: that of self-delusion. She thinks she can lead the party out of troubled times; she can’t even answer a question in a tv studio properly at the current moment.
Yes, Corbyn gives me the creeps sometimes, probably because he is actually fuming inside, as he makes a huge outward effort to appear quite reasonable, but emotionally incongruent as he is, I can’t ever forgive the PLP for letting the country down at this critical juncture.
I am well aware that the rebels in the PLP are positioning themselves for a general election, one they hope to win. What Labour think they would do about Brexit beats me; they can’t even get behind JC for a year without pressing the self-destruct button.
And as for Angela Eagle’s future chances – if she wasn’t so deluded she would understand that she’s unlikely to keep her seat at a general election – let alone lead the Labour Party any time soon.
As I see it.
My fingers have been hovering over the keyboard for nearly a week about this post because I don’t quite know what to make of it all. Last night I remembered the Isaac Asimov quote – that writing was thinking through his fingers – so here goes. Not quite sure what will come out…
- Moving left is not going backwards. It’s moving left.
- Moving left does not mean that the centre is completely abandoned
- Actually, all this moving anywhere stuff is completely bogus (backwards, left and centre) because no-one is moving anywhere. It’s like a heated argument over a map between a party of broke ass backpackers before they leave the hostel after a heavy night. Direction is meaningless unless you put one foot in front of another first.
- Jeremy Corbyn is probably appealing to people because he is moving, at least somewhere. The rest of the…
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#Whingers #Whiners #TantrumThrowers
This is how the Marchers for Europe were described by the ‘critics’ quoted on the BBC website yesterday. I don’t mind that especially. It’s an inaccurate characterisation, of course, but most of everything to with Brexiting was inaccurate too, so no point expecting a leopard to change its spots.
Yesterday I saw no whinging, or tantrums. I saw (for the most part) an apolitical, peaceful diverse group of individuals coming together with good humour. I saw people stepping away from their devices, to stand together in technicoloured 3D reality and simply say
‘We Love EU’
Loving a union of diverse peoples is not to say we are uncritical of some of the political aspects of the union – who could not look on in abhorrent horror at the treatment of refugees and migrants around the Mediterranean over the last year? Who could not flinch at the treatment that the Greeks have experienced as the Germans turned the screws on austerity? Who could not wonder at the gravy train that people like Nigel Farage have lined their pockets with over the years, even as he uncoupled the carriages?
No, a desire for the values of unity is most certainly not a rubber stamp on anything that those who are appointed to govern decide to do.
Yesterday was an opportunity to express the values of unity in a positive way. Yesterday was a chance to be with people who were not prepared to overlook the incipient xenophobia (if not racism) of the Leave campaign. Yesterday was a place to go and be accepted – it was a time to demonstrate that we have more in common than what divides us.
I have two quotes I reach for, often:
We cannot step into the same river twice – Heraclitus
Every wall is a door – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I did not march for a new referendum (Heraclitus). I did not march to turn the clock back. I marched because I expect those people who are elected to represent the people in our democracy (because, despite the referendum we do not live in a direct democracy) to listen to the views of those who elected them going forward (Emerson).
That many of our elected representatives are too busy saving their own skins, or promoting their own careers is a disgraceful consequence of the referendum. This will pass. When the feasability of untangling the UK from hundreds and hundreds of EU laws made over decades (up to 20% of the civil service’s workload for up to 4 years at a cost of billions according to some reckonings) kicks in, so will a reality check – across all sides of the house.
The next general election will feature, I predict, an even angrier electorate than that which delivered the ‘unpredictable’ Brexit result. This anger will be predicated on everything that made the electorate angry enough to believe Farage/Johson/Gove’s pack of lies plus more austerity, a depressed economy, just as many immigrants as ever before, and a recalcitrant EU governing body.
The UK will find itself to be a collector’s live butterfly, twisting on a pin of its own making. The countries that make up our Disunited Kingdom strung over barbed wire fences like dead, short-sighted moles as a warning to others busy digging their own holes across Europe.
I will regret this. I imagine so will those I marched with yesterday. In our minds we tried to save the Brexiteers from themselves, but it is too late.
Like it or no, post-referendum, we are finally all (Scots, Northern Irish, Welsh, Gibraltarians, English) in it together, now.