Big P, little p

I love politics – I love the cut and thrust of argument and I enjoy reading different views of the same events (even while I thump my forehead in despair at the wooden-headedness of some of the commenters). But I can see that in the UK we are getting nowhere fast with the current system and our understanding of it: we are at the same time ridiculously tribal and consensual: there are huge tracts of thought that nobody argues about anymore, such as the need for austerity or the welfare bill. Whether you’re left or right both are considered, respectively, necessary and too high.

The press tells us that nobody is interested anymore, and the voting figures tend to be used to support that view (although the majority still turn out to the polling booth). I can understand that sentiment, but I sincerely believe that if we don’t vote, we get exactly the politics we deserve: mealy-mouthed suits doing what they’ve always done and basically screwing anyone who doesn’t have a load of money (and no prospect of gaining any). Just look at the current shower – self-serving kleptocracy to a man. But then I would say that, they’re not ‘my team’.

The more I look at the way things are, the more I think that there is a lot more to do than ‘sell’ our version of politics, instead we need to re-frame the discussion – instead of saying what we’ll do if we win, we should be asking people to tell us what they need, what they think is fair and then we should respond to that by working with them to generate policies.

If you think that this sounds a bit airy-fairy – nice idea but what about practicalities – I can assure you it will work. Why, because the Tories did it five or so years ago and it performed a bit of a miracle. They re-drew the world financial down-term as a Labour failure, distanced themselves from any involvement in it and then gave us the solution – Austerity – and the way to achieve it – Cuts – and without so much as a “we are the party of leadership” they squeaked into power and here we are now.

And what are the Labour party doing? Accepting the story of the economic failure, accepting the need for Austerity and more or less accepting that it’s the majority of the countries poorest that will pay for it. They have failed to rebut the view that it’s immigrants that are to blame, they have done nothing to dispute the stigmatisation of those on ‘benefits’ and in consequence they too look set fair to squeak a win at best (and maybe swing the biggest party in a coalition at worst). They have fallen for the Tory story just like everyone else seems to have done.

But Labour could change; their politicians do stand for something different, the MP’s themselves do not tend to come from the same private school, Oxbridge background and I’ve no doubt that they mean well. But unless they show a bit more muscle, the poor of the UK will get ever poorer, the squeezed middle will begin to suffocate and the cities outside London will look tattier, less loved and grimmer. Prospects for young people will suffer and anyone old, sick or vulnerable should make alternative arrangements.

How many times have your heard someone say that they’re not interested in politics? Yeah, a lot. That’s because Politics has become something different from real life. Politics is about white men shouting at each other about abstruse points of policy or economics across a crowded room – and your team hardly ever win anyway.

Big P Politics should always be less important than talking about schools, hospitals, work, money, parks, libraries, childcare, wars, nuclear bombs and justice – but if you put all of that together and get involved, it’s suddenly big P Politics you’re talking about. And if you think that David Cameron is a tosser or that Miliband bloke is weird – who says that you can’t do politics better than them? But you can’t win the match if you don’t put on your boots and join the ‘game’.

If you support social justice, equality (between races, sexes, creeds, classes, able and less able) if you want a healthier economy that works for the majority (and not just the presidents of banks, hedge fund managers and their lap dogs in the Tory party) and if you want the world to be looked after better, you need to tell a different story, design a different narrative, re-frame the current arguments and things can change. Today it might be just you and your mates, but tomorrow it’ll be their mates too and after that? Who know’s – it’s your political future to make.


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