Ok, here’s the thing. I going to admit it, not only am I a raving feminist, but I’m a socialist too. And the shit that is happening in the world is really pissing me off.
I’m a councillor in a small British town. And it’s not a good time to be involved in local politics in the north of this country. The government talks big about localism but realistically what they want is tame parish councils populated by ladies in big hats and stalwarts of the local Rotary club, giving out grants to the WI for their annual harvest fayre or deciding whether to opt for petunias or marigolds in the summer beds.
In the real world, it’s your local government – the council in one of its many formats, that more or less provides all the stuff you use most days: your kids school (if it’s not been turned into an academy), your roads, libraries, waste collection, children’s centres, parks, leisure centres and pools, domiciliary care for your gran, the cemetery when you pop off and the grass cutting around your plot. Local health initiatives have been added to the mix too – the council is now taking on public health as well as everything else it does. And do you fucking appreciate it? No you don’t. You barely turn out to vote at local elections (around 35% if there’s not a general election at the same time) you almost certainly don’t know who your local councillor is, and you whine continuously about being asked to pay a paltry grand for all the services you and your family take in a year. Oh poor you. If you had to pay school fees alone, you’d be out of pocket to ten times that amount. But you take it all for granted.
Eric (bastard) Pickles is keen to put his hand up for a good proportion of the cuts the Tories want to institute (at school I bet he was the plump kid everyone hated who always had his hand in the air – “pick me, pick me”). As a result some local authorities have had their discretionary spend cut by over half. That’s the stuff that covers the nice things (the stuff like looking after vulnerable people is still covered by statutory regulation…so far), this means that the stuff you like but take for granted has 50% less money to spend on books, yoga classes, repairs to play equipment, and mowing the lawn around your grave. But you going on flirting with the idea of voting Tory in 2015 because you think they’re good with the economy and they say that they’ve turned things around. If you believe that, frankly you’ll believe anything and you thoroughly deserve the wreckage you’re wishing on your country if they get back in power. Because my friend, you will not be looked after by Cameron, Osborne, Gove and all the other bastards.
They have been busy extracting money from the Social Security budget (i.e. the safety net that you paid in to via National Insurance) and feeding it to their rich friends by selling off public assets to private companies. They are digging under the foundations of the NHS (and then putting on a tragic face when the health care you’re getting starts to crumble), they always want to look after the City, but your home town is under threat from cuts that effect anything from flood defences to sports provision.
Grouse moors apparently get protected by public money, but your local park will end up mothballed or, with the changes they instituted to planning law, it may well end up as a private housing estate. Meanwhile if you live in a council house you are the victim of new laws that are so badly drafted that it will almost certainly cause the government to spend more money than they needed to (and the spare room tax is simple cruelty) and they are now considering how to restrict social housing to the very lowest of the low while encouraging rapacious private landlords with public money backed schemes. If you lost your job, couldn’t pay your mortgage and ended up homeless, where do think you’d live? In one of the local council housing estates with a room each for all your kids? Nope, you’d end up with some private rental, on a rolling contract. So if your landlord finds a better buyer for his property and that buyer doesn’t want your rental income…you’re toast.
Lies are common currency with this government: how can you tell they’re not telling the truth? Because their lips are moving. You’re told that ‘welfare’ is a problem we can’t afford while all the while multi-nationals avoid paying tax with HMRC enabling them. We have to tighten our belts – while bankers give themselves bigger and bigger bonuses. They told you that we’re all in it together, but virtually everyone on the cabinet is a millionaire and doesn’t give a stuff about rising bills because they’re certainly not worried about the price of pasta or whether they can heat their houses this winter.
In the meanwhile you’ve swallowed, hook line and sinker the stories (peddled by the Tory press) about how those politicians are all greedy swindlers and you have decided not to vote. Well, you’re a fucking idiot, because the people that run this country bank on your inability to see the wood for the trees, they rely on your cosy belief that you’ll be ok and that politics is something that’s ‘out there’ and nothing to do with you. If you decided to vote for the Labour party (as rubbish as they can be, they are the only party with your interests in mind: Tories look after their own, and Liberals have no spine, morals or convictions) – you could make a difference. While the Labour party was in power did you worry all the time about your finances they way you do now? Did you wonder where all these rough sleepers had suddenly come from, did you fret about how your kids would pay of their university fees and get a mortgage. Did you wonder why your local facilities seem to be shutting down one by one while your council tax still goes up?
You need to wake up and smell the bullshit you’re being fed by a government that’s so cynical it will use xenophobia to distract you from the real problems you’re facing.
We’re only 60 years from a war that eventually put a stop to the activities of a country that had decided to stigmatise, marginalise and ultimately kill people who it described as the enemy within. Hitler and his government used bogus arguments about the economic plots and plans of the Jews to justify his cruelty, and the right wing governments across Europe (including our own) are doing the same thing all over again. Do you think that the world is more civilised than it was half a century ago? Take a long look around and you’ll see the various conflicts and crises that amply demonstrate that we are no better as a species than we were in the 1930’s. We need to step back from the precipice that we are standing on: your enemy isn’t the Polish family down the road, the poor people that you are learning to see as the “underclass” or the Roma that are ‘flooding’ into the country. Your enemy is the monied classes of your country, the multinationals that hold your industries to ransom, the right wing politicians that only look after their own.
And remember, always that “ye are many, they are few”.