First published on LabourList, 4 December 2009

It’s been a good week for Gordon. The best for a while. He’s managed to hit the media with a smile, and a convincing one at that.

Does this mean the Labour Party can still show itself to be the party of the people, for the people; is there life on the dark side of The Sun?

Yes, there is.

Keith Rupert Murdoch’s Sun will always be there doing its best, its worst and the rest to slow the left from helping this country to be all it can be. But Gordon just has to get his vision and stick it where The Sun don’t shine. And not just Gordon, all of us.

We can all sit around crying bloody Murdoch…or we can think about what we’re fighting for, organise and get our message out.

Thinking about what we’re fighting for can’t just be about keeping the Conservatives out, or stopping the hollow man Cameron floating into office in a puff of thin PR smoke. It has to be about more than that.

I was at a Young Fabian event recently where Stella Creasey, Stephen Twigg, Rachel Reeves and Chris Ostrowski spoke for an hour of the importance of remembering what we’re fighting for, of setting out a vision of the future and not just relying on our record.

The Chair Steve Richards then flipped a coin by asking “What is it the Labour party is fighting for in the next election?” Heads; each candidate says something which inspires hope. Heads; everybody wins. Tails; bad answers, or worse, no answers. Tails; everybody loses.

What followed was a painful silence. Tails. A silence so long even the Chair got uncomfortable and had to second guess himself. “Perhaps that’s an unfair question”, one PPC interrupted him, thankfully, and came out with “A fairer economy for Britain”. Not bad. Another jumped in with “Which is certainly not something the Conservatives would create…” and within five seconds the panel were Tory bashing… again.

This isn’t good enough. Each of us must know – in a sentence – what we’re fighting for in the next general election. So we can tell our friends, our neighbours, our communities. So it can drive us we’ve nothing left to give. So it can inspire the leadership when they’re out of ideas. Because whilst the Conservatives, their hollow man and their “pinprick” policies bask in The Sun, it’s our job to ignore the pricks, get out in the rain and get on with it.

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Originally published on OpenLeft.co.uk, 1 September 2009

What is it about your political beliefs that put you on the Left rather than the Right?

We have to look our children and ask ourselves: ‘Who we want these children to be? – Do we want them to be our teachers and doctors, police officers and service men and women, colleagues and neighbours – or do we want them to be our anti-social, desperate and criminal?

I’m on the left because I refuse to perpetuate the myth of the self-made man. Most of these children will achieve remarkable things, but not one of them will be ’self-made’. We make them. We make them with the safety we provide, or lack there of, our education, or lack there of, our love, or lack there of.

What do you consider made you Left wing?

Seeing my mother receive help when she needed it most. I stay left wing for the opportunities I want my children, and all our children, to grow up with.

How would you describe the sort of society you want Britain to be?

Where the many long and winding paths we choose to walk in life are not so dark, dangerous and full of cracks. Where how far we get depends on our willingness to walk, not luck. Where those who deserve a head start are given it, where no person treads on another’s toes, nor unfairly rides another’s back. Where we are picked up, not walked on, when we fall.

What one or two changes would make the biggest difference to bringing that about?

A loving family, a caring community, a rich education. These are the first steps along the path for every child. Too many stumble here and far two few ever catch up. We need an education revolution. This means better funding and giving more to schools with students who need more help. This means better, more accessible day care, co-curricular activity such as arts or sports available to every student, more community outreach, more vocational education and apprenticeship opportunities, less discriminatory higher education opportunities. This means more authentic pedagogy in the classrooms, where students develop in-depth understandings, are challenged to think for themselves and, most importantly, never wonder “when am I ever going to use this?”

Secondly, we need to bring the high flyers back down to earth, so we bring the everyday worker out of the mud. Those at the top must pay their fair share, in recognition that is the many who make the few wealthy. This means paying a wage, to all people, that is decent and livable and fair. This means giving better paternity and maternity leave, so that mothers and fathers can enjoy that precious gift of new life. This means understanding that every worker is a wife or footballer or gardener, and ensuring they are not pressured out of precious time so they can pursue their passions.

What most makes you angry about the way Britain is now?

Feeling helpless makes me angry.

I met a man on the tube recently, he spoke of Broken Britain. I asked if he voted, he said he lived somewhere where his vote didn’t matter. Perhaps that was true, perhaps it wasn’t, either way, when there are so many people who think they go unheard and feel helpless and small, something has failed them.

We need a system where votes are counted and voices are heard.

Which person, event, era or movement from the past should we look to for inspiration now?

A lot of people are quoting Franklin Roosevelt, but his words out of context mean little. When Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1936 he was returned to office. Why? Not because the depression had ended, not because the people weren’t unemployed, not because all the problems had found solutions. He was returned to office because people saw his vision; they knew the action he was taking, and most importantly they were willing to weather the storm because they trusted that they were sailing to calmer seas.


Originally published on LabourList, Aug 31 2009

On the front page of Thursday’s Evening Standard, and inside Fridays’s Daily Mail, Boris Johnson was again on his high horse badmouthing much needed changes.

Lord Turner, chief of the Financial Services Authority called for the big spenders to pay their dues. He suggested a levy on more frivolous financial transactions, a curb in excessive pay (and bonuses) and the need to refocus banks on people, not profit.

Boris claimed this was in danger of killing the golden goose. The Mayor is clueless to the fact that the goose stopped laying golden eggs long ago and has recently been shitting everywhere.

As the dust settles around the city I hope even the most zealous of bankers realises we need some serious changes. To make right what went so wrong we need new ideas, new minds, new passion, a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Boris’ goose just won’t do.

Central to Lord Turner’s plan is a Tobin tax. Named after US economist James Tobin, who suggested placing a small duty on international currency transactions, basically using cash from high finance to help those at their lowest.

But Boris isn’t happy. I wonder what’s going on beneath the blond hair, behind the smile. None of the Londoners I meet day in day out can see the golden egg he speaks of. I overheard a man on the bus say the big banks have dished out far more golden showers than golden eggs.

Boris is a funny man, I’ll give him that, but the joke’s gone on long enough.