I’ve recently joined a trade union. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would do, nor was it something I thought I’d ever need to do, but I’m working in the British public sector and am facing redundancy. The new catchword it seems is ‘restructuring’, which of course means restructuring in favour of one ideology at the expense of another – business comes first and staff development counts for nothing at all. Instead of training and developing staff to be able to do what you need, the new British management ethic is just to get rid and replace. I’m not going to take it lying down, although there’s no doubt my boss and the institution I work for will get away with it.
It’s symptomatic of the direction in which this society is being led politically – ridding ourselves of job protections, attacking the rights of people living with disabilities and other nonsense, instead of blaming the banking individuals who have instead been allowed to get away with crashing the economy without any comeback, and who are still allowed to dodge paying their fair share of taxation, when people who need our social safety net are routinely denied it (often being compelled to work for nothing at all). Got that? Good. What comes next is a great speech by outgoing General Secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber:
You can’t pick winners. Tell that to Bradley, Jessica or Mo, all supported by targeted funding.
Markets always trump planning, they say. Well look at the Olympic Park, the result of years of careful planning and public investment.
Private is always better than public, they argue. Not true, as we saw all too clearly when it came to Olympic security.
Those summer weeks were a time when we really were all in it together. Not because we were told to be. But because we wanted to be. Athletes, workers, volunteers, spectators, residents, communities – all pulling together.
He’s referring of course to the London Olympics and Paralympics, which have now come to a close, and he’s right in the conclusions he’s drawn from them. There’s a prevailing set of attitudes in the UK which the Tories exploited in the 80’s and are just (with our complicit right wing media) getting away with exploiting now. There are myths about mass numbers of work shy, that greed is good, the super rich are the wealth creators, and that there are benefits cheats lurking around every street corner. Yet London 2012 disproved most of this nonsense, with people from every walk of life cheerfully working together for the greater good without a murmur and (in my experience of them) displaying resolutely good humour.
Now drawing these lessons into politics is a difficult, and possibly an impossible thing. Because people chose to behave the way they did over the last 6 weeks they and most others would be enormously resistant to politicians reaching for quick conclusions. George Eaton’s article goes on to suggest that Ed Miliband follows Bill Clinton’s lead at the recent Democratic National Convention, in trying to paint the Tories as ‘everyone for themselves’ at the cost of ‘we’re all in this together’, but I can’t help but wonder if that could succeed in trumping entrenched attitudes and the British public’s lazy reliance on victim-based myths. The Labour Party of course has its own victims – ‘failed’ asylum seekers, protesters, students, sex ‘offenders’ and others (any plans for social housing, Ed?), which would make a sudden swing to piety look pretty false.
What we need is much more. If Miliband is to be supported he’ll have to break entirely from his New Labour past, eschewing UK Border Agency extremism for a programme of social housing construction, reining in police extremism once more, regaining comfort in the right to protest and re-enabling access to higher education, whilst undoing the recent Tory attempt to destroy the NHS. If he’s really eager to make anything change, and win power in his own right, he’ll have to turn his back on Blair, be prepared to stand up to these so-called ‘wealth creators’ with their ‘restructuring’ crap and ‘business case’ bullshit, and acknowledge how national wealth is generated. It’s enabling people who want us really ‘all to be in this together’ simply to get on with doing so, rather than face constant attack by the super privileged work shy. That would be the greatest legacy anyone could put together from the hugely positive summer that’s just come to a close.