Why I’m left wing – it’s about the children


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.


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