I cut up my Labour Party membership card in 1998 when it was clear that the shiny new Blair version of Labour had betrayed the interests of the voters. How conned we all were, those of us who gave Blair the power to inflict on Britain scars which may never heal.
I should have remembered: betrayal is in Labour’s DNA. The trouble is, Labour is often in the DNA of its voters.
I have a good Labour pedigree. My railwayman great-grandfather joined the party when the General Strike of 1926 called as a protest against starvation wages was broken for a lark by the Bright Young Things. A month later, he had to go cap in hand to the town hall to beg for an ambulance to take his wife to die in hospital: she had advanced stomach cancer, a horrific death to face in a tiny flat, with three children to witness it.
A smirking official told him there would be no ambulance: railwaymen had supported the strike, so he could learn what it was not to have transport. My great-grandmother asked my grandfather, then aged seventeen, to play for her on their old upright piano as she died, to cover the sound of the younger children weeping. Granddad told me “That was the day I became a Socialist, so nobody would have to beg for help again.”
Later, he married my grandmother, eldest of six children – there had been fourteen, but eight died in infancy, being ‘navigator’s’ children, moving from place to place in grim conditions while their father dug railways. He died soon after returning from the trenches of France, and the family, then living in Gateshead, were left penniless – the boys sent to follow the coal carts, picking up falling coals for heating, the younger girls sent to the fish-monger at closing time to ask for fish-heads for their main meal of broth.
My grandmother, aged thirteen, her only luggage a clean pair of knickers and a Bible, was sent down to London in service, pledged to send her wages home. She’d wanted to be a teacher, and after she died we found a poem to sacrificed ambition in her neat child’s script, tucked into the spine of the Bible: If you can’t be a tree on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley, but be the best little shrub by the side of the rill. Her brothers joined her in London later, as ‘hunger marchers’, and stayed – not because the streets were paved with gold, but because their boots had worn out.
For the ‘ground troops’ it wasn’t about being levelled – it was about surviving to rise. Meetings chaired by idealistic upper-class women would end with singing The Red Flag, but many realistic young ‘brothers’ sang their own version, which ended with the line ‘…the working class can kiss my arse, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last. ‘
They thought the battle was won, with the formation of the welfare state: babies wouldn’t go hungry, clever girls would study not skivvy, kids wouldn’t watch their mother die because of a pen-pusher’s spite. They were proud of practical achievements such as the council houses built so that another generation wouldn’t wonder what happened to the promise of a land fit for heroes. Granddad was given one and I was delivered by my grandmother there, fifteen years later, and grew up thinking this was a brave new world. Only when Granddad died did we discover that being foreman brought the punishment of taxes so high that despite being frugal, there was barely enough money to bury him.
My Dad worked for his Union, but grew uneasy. Discussions were rarely about welfare and wages – more often about the dictatorship of the proletariat. The son and grandson of soldiers, his patriotism was suspect. Twice he was ‘advised’ to find another job, because Red Mole wasn’t his choice of reading.
Strikes were called over ridiculous issues: someone had used the wrong broom, or ‘jeopardised solidarity’ by finishing a job during tea-break. Voting was public, and before the show of hands, unknown men would file to the back of the room to silently observe proceedings and see who the ‘scabs’ were. Dad hung on out of stubborn faith that unions were needed to avoid horrors such as a skilled copper-smith he knew who had all the fingers of his right hand sliced off in a machine without a safety guard and was dismissed with £40 ‘compensation’ – but he felt they’d lost their way.
In 1976, he called a strike at Heathrow Airport when Esso insisted only one man refuel aircraft, instead of the two needed to ensure no lethal contamination which could bring an aircraft down. He was an eloquent man, my Dad, and Esso backed down – but union radicals were angry it had been settled quickly, without chaos.
After that, Dad didn’t renew his membership, but quietly went to work, read a book in his lunch-breaks and lived for retirement. And for those who wonder, it wasn’t Thatcher who killed the unions – it was the secret ballot.
Educational Normalisation was another betrayal of early hopes. Kids who passed the Eleven Plus were filtered into ailing Comprehensives, because what Socialist could support the aspirations of bright working-class children who might become questioning individuals instead of trusting comrades whistling on their way to lectures on Marxist doctrine?
As one of those Enemies of the People I recall the following classroom exchange.
“What page are you on, Mandy?”
“Page 47, sir.”
“No, you’re on page 11, like Steven.” (Steven was a special-needs boy who ate glue and banged his head on the desk.) “Shut your book till everyone’s caught up.”
At a ‘careers interview’ I requested leaflets about going to university and was given an application form for work at a Y-Fronts factory. The top of the hill was still off-limits.
The Labour Party is still opposed to Grammar Schools, while party Tzars like Diane Abbott privately educate their offspring. They brand the policy of nurturing bright kids as “populist”, forgetting that the definition of Populism is ‘support for the concerns of ordinary people’.
But there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about wilful ignorance. Corbynistas overlook the fact that, by over-taxing, they will drive out employers, investors, builders, supporters of charitable, cultural and humanitarian efforts, leaving nobody to pay for the carrots Labour dangle before people they see as donkeys, few net tax-payers to finance the NHS or the certain spiralling unemployment.
Here’s the brutal truth, Brothers and Sisters: life isn’t a Billy Bragg concert. Under a rule of law, you don’t own what doesn’t belong to you. Only those not up Shit Creek either can, or care to, offer anyone a paddle. Why not do your utmost to join them in that enlightened position, rather than destroying them, out of spite?
Labour policies actually ensure only the mega rich survive, smothering small ambitions at birth in the name of the Common Good. The so-called ‘garden tax,’ which affects basically any land not covered in concrete, guarantees that only those like Corbyn (born in a manor house, living off an heiress wife) aren’t ruined by tripling costs of Council Tax, food prices, manufactured goods, leisure – all of which depend on ownership of land.
This will leave hard-won little homes repossessed, to be snapped up and gentrified – perhaps by the rich Arabs who, through organisations such as Caabu, support the hard-left’s control of the media.
But all this is small-fry compared to the betrayal of literally thousands of children by Labour councils willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable to the vilest abuse – gang rape, torture, threats, being doused in petrol while other attackers flick lighters, the resulting pregnancies (to at least one child of twelve years old) abortions, disease – the little victims accused of ‘hate crime’ for describing their attackers.
If anything exposes the contempt in which the Labour party now holds its traditional demographic, it is this. I think of Labour faithfuls like my family and I know they’d agree: to defend the party in the wake of such unspeakable evil because seventy years ago they formed the NHS is to emulate those who supported Nazis because they got the trains running on time. Anything which reeks so foully should be buried, not voted for.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sick of being told that cuts to everything except an MP’s income must be made. I find T. May about as inspiring as a balloon animal – a woman with the air of a depressed heron, tainted by association with disingenuous Europhile Cameron.
Her decision to call an election rather than concentrate on a bold and cheering post-Brexit settlement was arrogant stupidity, gambling our security for an extra two years in office in the belief that nobody in their right mind would vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
Under normal circumstances she’d have been right – but these are not normal circumstances. Our civilisation is under direct invasion, a large proportion of the population actively will our downfall, too many people are suffering like whipped dogs and dangerously in need of a saviour. She took a gamble which better leaders have lost, and which risks unleashing chaos.
Polls show that 73% of those old enough to remember the destructiveness of pre-Thatcher Old Labour, and the horrors of the IRA campaign with which Corbyn is irredeemably associated, would never vote for him, not because we are smug and comfortable – our age-group haven’t had it so bad in living memory – but because it would be an act of national suicide.
There is a vacancy for the kind of fierce, tigerish compassion which will both defend and cherish. We know the unhinged Comrade Corbyn and his weird Junta of superannuated faux-revolutionaries is not the answer, but the young don’t share our memories. We see Catweazle – they see Merlin.
But their wizard has an agenda in which their hopeful notions of universal love will be burned like paper. Like all hard-left he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a still-toxic relic of an ideology which should have remained in the past, along with the religious absolutism he supports, which we mistakenly thought consigned to history.
Comrade Corbyn has waited a long time for power: he’ll hit the ground running, and in cheering for him the young know not what they do.
To ideologues we are all just useful idiots, livestock in a real-life ‘Animal Farm’. So don’t conflate “compassion” with Labour’s ideology of class and race warfare, the politics of envy designed to distract from corruption they’d prefer you not to think about.
Every party has its unique failings, and power always corrupts – but when it comes to betrayal of ideals, Labour have cornered the market.