Acts of Nature?

This weekend  I attended two festivals: Sustainable South Brent, in South Devon, and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, near Dorchester.    It was also the weekend when we heard policy presentations from the candidates who hope to become the new Tory Prime Minister.

The policy presentations offered the same dreary supposed alternatives that have been laid out before the electors in every election I can remember.   The majority of candidates proposed to cut taxes, to give people more money to spend.   Rishi Sunak proposed to maintain public spending to support the NHS and social services.    Almost nothing was said about the two all-consuming issues facing the world: the rising cost of living, particularly energy and food prices; and the imminence of disastrous climate change, which was also heralded on July 19th by the highest ever recorded UK nighttime temperature.   Today the temperature has reached 39 degrees before noon. 

For thirty years the dominant political ideology has been to respect the market as a natural phenomenon whose workings will ensure the best of all worlds.   Some of the Tory candidates presented themselves as believers in traditional conservative values of low taxation to encourage investment and economic progress.   What no-one said is that this neoliberal economic programme  has enriched and empowered corporations, their directors and their shareholders and impoverished the mass of people who work for them.  Inequality of wealth has increased exponentially over the last three decades.  Millions of people in the UK will have to juggle their income to decide whether they can feed themselves or heat their homes in the winter that will follow this ominous summer.   This social disaster is mentioned so often in political and media discourse that it  now seems an act of nature.  

Even Adam Smith feared the social effect of economic change.  His many writings – not only The Wealth of Nations but also The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Philosophical Essays, Lectures on Jurisprudence and many more – were addressed to an educated ruling class who, he hoped, would mitigate the ‘invisible hand of the market’.   But who can be heard today pointing out that energy corporations and others are using inflation as a cover for increased profiteering and share  buybacks rather than social investment?    The power of financial, social and media oligarchies also appears an act of nature. 

But acts of nature are themselves the consequence of human choice.  Global warming is the direct result of industrialism and industrial agriculture, the burning of fossil fuels and the production of meat.   The stall holders and performers at Sustainable South Brent were clear about the need for renewable energy and a move to plant-based food production.  South Devon Singers performed a concert of songs composed by their musical director David Haines including the haunting ‘Four Billion Years’, which laments the possible end of life on earth ‘through human apathy’. 

At Tolpuddle, the connection between social/economic change and averting disaster was made everywhere.  Speaker after speaker denounced the current impoverishment of the working population as the Tolpuddle Martyrs denounced the lowering of agricultural wages. 

It seems that the people know the priorities.  It’s going to be a long hot summer.

Open letter (2) to Thangam Debbonaire 

Terryl Bacon has written to Thangam following her Facebook post explaining her decision to resign from the shadow front bench.

Dear Thangam,

Thank you for your open letter explaining why you resigned and the unhappy circumstance in which you found yourself as regards Corbyn. I regret the unnecessary stress you have undergone. I respect the values you espouse and I sincerely hope your treatment will be fully successful.

I trust that the poor communications which created your stress were not aimed at you personally but were the result of lack of political nous and the almost inevitable crossed wires which happen far too easily in complex organisations. As a former chair of a large union branch, I understand that, with the best will in the world, mistakes are sometimes made which might feel personal to the recipient.

That said, I would like to address some of the comments you made in your letter.

Unless one is happy to say, “my party right or wrong” or “my leader right or wrong”, it is important to be critical as you have been. However, when I look at what the Labour Party did Not do during its long term in office which started with a large majority in the Commons: The PLP did Not repeal any of the Thatcherite anti-union legislation. The PLP did Not stop the privatisation of the railways or the selling off of other National assets. Although some good things were done with the NHS and with the schools, during the period to which you referred, the gap between the richest and the poorest in this country grew. Meanwhile, a war was started and continued which brought millions of pounds to Britain’s arms manufacturers and made millions of innocent people suffer terribly to this day.

One could characterise the difference between the PLP and the Tories over the last two decades as neo-liberal lite and neo-liberal heavy. This difference has done little to address the real life situation of the most marginalised in our society. Those who blame Corbyn for the disaffection of the working class show a lack of historical understanding. The PLP could have made a huge difference for the good of the people under Blair but instead it largely continued the iniquitous status quo. That is why I have not wanted to be in Labour since Blair.

The PLP which you champion continues to be a figleaf for anti-humanist policies. I, and many other people, were appalled when the majority of the PLP members voted last week to spend £30+ billion on Trident instead of on the NHS. And it is instead. I think austerity is largely a myth in service of the elite but clearly there is a finite budget as we live on a finite planet.

Until Corbyn’s voice was heard, I had despaired of politics. He is different. He does have an agenda which inspires hundreds of thousands of people; especially the young. Yes, Corbyn lacks social graces and he has been clumsy but he has remained calm and steadfast and, as his popularity shows, for those of us who do not want more of the same, Corbyn is definitely electable!

I certainly think he owes you an apology for what you experienced under his leadership and I shall write and tell him. As important as that is, his apology for Labour’s war mongering meant a lot to several million of us.

I know that you have been too unwell to attend Parliament and I regret that you were not allowed to do so via email. Surely, that should be changed? But I wonder if you would publish what you would have voted during your time in office had you been able to do so. I ask, because I have checked Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record over the years and I agree with him; most especially so when he has Not voted the neo-liberal party line.

I am keeping an open mind on the split within the PLP; but I am looking for an honest leader. One who respects people’s ability to think for themselves; not a cheer leader for the PLP establishment.

Yours sincerely,

Terryl Bacon