Saturday, 29 November 2014

Labour`s lack of respect

Labour had been haemorrhaging votes long before the misguided Thornberry tweet, arguably because the party`s policies revealed the lack of respect for the working people which Miliband suddenly deems so important. Policies designed to tinker rather than transform are demeaning in themselves, especially when opinion polls have made it glaringly obvious that the electorate strongly favours punishing bankers, re-nationalising railways and energy providers, and more progressive taxation.
     Why didn`t the awful situation in the New Era estate, where tenants look likely to be evicted if they fail to agree to a 25% rise in their rents, or the fact that thousands of families are being forced to live in "temporary accommodation", designed for single nurses or students, for five years or more, make Ed Miliband angry? What could show more disrespect than a promise from a potential prime minister that further rent rises will be capped, but nothing will be done to prevent private landlords continuing their massive profiteering, at the expense of the people already suffering the most because of coalition cuts? Even the establishment of an Ofsted-type rented property inspection unit would show some concern, as would the determination in government to concentrate on the provision of social housing.
      Was Labour`s ire aroused by Gove`s education reforms? Why not? As Education secretary, he decreased social mobility by removing modular assessment, coursework and resits, all designed by experts over many years to create a more level playing field, so vital in promoting equality of opportunity. In his opinion, students from working class backgrounds were doing so well in ever improving GCSE and A-level examination results, not because true abilities were being allowed to flourish, pupils were working harder, or even the fact that teaching had improved, but because exams were too easy. How many people, who had been so proud of their children`s achievements, felt abandoned when Labour`s response was tacit agreement? Such disrespect, but no anger from Labour!
     Gove even allowed, with next to no argument from Labour, "free" schools to be set up. They certainly weren`t free in the sense of costing nothing, as Gove diverted millions to his pet project, away from their intended destination, the state sector.The fact is these schools, planned by middle class parents, were designed to be educational havens, free from working class interference and, above all, free from children seen to be hindrances to learning and high achievement. Writers for the Sun newspaper might well have referred to them as "pleb-free". Was the Labour front-bench up in arms at such class--divisive reforms, was Miliband angrier than ever his colleagues had seen before? Even now, the privately-educated shadow education minister, Tristram Hunt, has voiced no plans to close these schools, and transfer their resources to the state sector, and even Gove`s outrageous examination reforms look likely to avoid repeal, should there ever be another Labour government. Isn`t it deeply insulting that a party claiming to be the party of the working people do nothing to prevent the so-called top universities recruiting the majority of their intake from private schools, when only 7% of children actually attend them? If it makes me angry, why doesn`t it have the same effect on politicians who say they want a fairer society?
     If Labour really was the party of the working people, which it likes us to believe, would not its representatives been present at the days of industrial action, taken by civil servants, teachers, nurses, midwives and all those other groups having their standard of living reduced so that the Tories can reward their friends in the City with tax cuts? Did rage reverberate around the corridors of Labour HQ when the Tories announced they would change voting laws making strike action almost impossible? No it didn`t! We can`t have Labour supporting the people against callous coalitions or greedy bosses, can we?  After all, what would Cameron say about  it at PMQs?
       Getting mad with a colleague over tweeting a photograph of a house decorated with English flags is, almost certainly, too little, too late; the fact that Labour`s anger was far from obvious when the coalition government was waging a class war, enforcing austerity and poverty on those least able to defend themselves whilst enriching the well-off, speaks volumes. Only now that the Labour leadership and their inept advisers finally realise that working people are deserting them in droves do they find the need to "show respect"; it will be a case of putting the bolt in the door of an empty stable unless policies receive immediate radicalisation.

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