This week a report revealed that EE is the UKs worst communications provider. It comes top of the list for customer complaints and rates abominably for customer service. I was reading this whilst on hold to said provider for the umpteenth time in a week that has been hijacked by EE’s excruciating incompetence. The time and income I’ve lost at the hands of EE’s ineptitude, compounded by a culture of contempt for customers (no apologies, no call backs, no interest) I’ll never get back. What’s worse, I still have no internet access and no indication of when or if it’s likely to be restored in the foreseeable.
Apologies therefore for the delay in this posting, which I’m submitting from an internet café, slightly high on caffeine (they don’t do decaf here).
“What’s a Miliband?” shouted my seven year old. “What’s the context?” I shouted back down the stairs as I multi-tasked (cleaning the toilet whilst fairy cakes burn in the oven). “Miliband’s in peril!” He was reading from the headline of a weekly news magazine. “That’s a long and tragic story” I said. I discarded the marigolds, took Tony Benn’s diaries off the book shelf and began reading it aloud to my child as he tried not to crack his teeth on my cake.
One week after the election, and I remain locked in a state that fluxes between delusional disbelief and catatonic anxiety. Like a lot of people in this country, I’m aggrieved. At the Tories, who have and will continue to annihilate human and worker’s rights, and for destroying the dignity of the most vulnerable in our society. I’m angry at the Lib Dems for selling their souls to the lowest bidder. Five years ago an all male Lib Dem contingent sat around a table and traded party principles in their personal pursuit of power. All five men emerged with top jobs and ministerial cars. For their moment in the limelight, the party and the public paid dear (e.g. the Health & Social Care Act couldn’t have succeeded without their complicity). All five of the Lib Dem architects of that stitch up five years ago got kicked out last Friday. Nick Clegg described the electorate’s response as “unkind”. One word that conveyed so utterly the bubble of oblivion and disconnect he had come to inhabit. My deepest anger though is reserved for Labour.
In theory, Labour is the party for whom I should (but don't) feel the most affinity. In practice, as documented forensically in the aforementioned Tony Benn’s diaries, it has gradually abandoned and betrayed its founding principles. Under Tony Blair, so great was the lurch to the right that the moniker “New Conservatives” would have been far more accurate than that of New Labour. Margaret Thatcher apparently cited Tony Blair as one of her greatest legacies. That left a situation vacant in the political arena for a worker’s party that speaks to and for those hit hardest by austerity. The Greens and the SNP (in Scotlland) provided a refreshing, progressive alternative to austerity whilst UKIP went after “the man in the street” vote. Had Labour not allowed itself to be engulfed in an identity crisis and had instead the confidence to assert a bold alternative to austerity, the election outcome could have been very different.
Five years ago I blamed Labour stalwart Jon Cruddas (MP for Dagenham) for his party’s defeat. I was absolutely convinced he was the key to Labour’s salvation. He came second to Harriett Harman in the deputy leadership election but he won the hearts and minds of the public. I tried my best to convince him to stand for the last Labour leadership against the New Labour contestants, to no avail.
A member of the shadow cabinet and a key Labour strategist, who better to vent my spleen to at last Friday’s results, than Jon. I sent him an “I told you so” email. In my defence, I had been up all night filing election results to an overseas news outlet.
“Had you listened to me 5 years ago and stood against Miliband”, I pontificated, “all this misery could have been avoided”. I told him the party had shot itself in the foot with Brown, then Miliband. The time had been right for the party to go back to its roots after Blair. There was a situation vacant for a worker's party, a party for ordinary people. Jon Cruddas ticked (& still does) all the boxes. He’s likeable, lacking in grating affectations, a voice and background that people can relate to. Yet, to my fury, he didn’t stand.
After 5 years of austerity, the Labour party could have decimated the Tories. The tough talk about tax evasion, energy companies and non doms was too little too late. Hedging bets and trying to be all things to all people means Labour has no meaning, no purpose, no soul and therefore, no relevance.
I am forlorn at Labour’s apparent inability to learn from mistakes. The only viable option for survival is to be the champion of workers, the poor and marginalised, as well as everyone else, from across all classes, who believes in equality of opportunity and fair distribution of wealth and power. Without fairness and justice, social order and economic stability will crumble. That is in no-one’s interest. Labour should be a party driven by principle and passionate, convicted leadership, as opposed to a "safe", albeit lacklustre, disconnected, pair of hands.
I’m not going to divulge Jon’s response to my email. On Monday, he resigned his post in the shadow cabinet in order to carry out a review of the party’s direction. No better man or woman for the job.
Until the Labour party is prepared to live up to its name and founding principles, it, as well as democracy and society, are doomed.