the m john harrison blog

Category: defend the postwar settlement

christmas card to the labour party

My parents & grandparents lived in fear. They lived in fear of illnesses we don’t even remember. They lived in fear of illness despite the NHS because they had lived without the NHS. My parents and grandparents lived in fear of losing their livelihoods. They lived in fear of old age, even after pensions came in, because they remembered the time before state pensions. My parents and grandparents lived with fear all their lives, either inside the social and economic systems David Cameron is bringing back daily, or in the memory of living inside the social systems David Cameron is bringing back daily. I don’t want to end my life the way it began, in constant anxiety and fear. That’s why I won’t vote Labour in 2015. I won’t vote Labour because they are afraid not to agree with the Tories. I won’t vote Labour because they are no longer strong enough to represent people who are afraid. I won’t vote labour because they are the dishonest rump of the party that fought to change the lives of people who had to live in fear. I do not take the argument that Because Things Are Different Now A New Kind of Labour Party Is Necessary, and that therefore everything I have said here is “old fashioned class war”. The Tories are bringing all those old fashioned things back and the Labour Party is already behind the ball. By not acknowledging the Tory project–the businessman’s revenge for the New Deal, massive social re-engineering based on fear–Labour has committed suicide not just on its own behalf but on behalf of the people it had a duty to represent. Things aren’t different now. They were different for a while, between 1945 and the mid 1980s, because we had a strong Labour Party, a real Labour Party, but now they are back the way they were. I won’t vote for a party that blinkers itself in the light of that.

get out for a walk

while you still can.

“National Parks are extensive tracts of country that are protected by law for future generations because of their natural beauty and for the opportunities they offer for open air recreation.” –YouGov
Stop the Tories using a false housing crisis to break the National Parks Act.

happy birthday…

…to the National Parks.

How much longer will we be able to rely on them as public breathing space?

ceremony & pathology of the blessed angel of our country

“Sometimes as it blows across the Great Brown Waste in summer, the wind will uncover a bit of petrified wood. Mammy Vooley’s head had the shape and the shiny grey look of wood like that. It was provided with one good eye, as if at one time it had grown round a glass marble streaked with milky blue. She bobbed it stiffly right and left to the crowds: who stood to watch her approach; knelt as she passed; and stood up again behind her. Her bearers grunted patiently under the weigh of the pole that bore her up. As they brought her slowly closer it could be seen that her dress–so curved between her bony, strangely-articulated knees that dead leaves, lumps of plaster and crusts of wholemeal bread had gathered in her lap–was russet-orange; and that she wore askew on the top of her head a hank of faded purple hair, wispy and fine like a very old woman’s. Mammy Vooley, celebrating with black banners and young women chanting; Mammy Vooley, Queen of Uroconium, Moderator of the city; as silent as a log of wood.” [The Luck in the Head, 1982, from Viriconium, also in audio download.]

chilly again

I inherited one of those liquid crystal thermometer cards British Gas distributes to pensioners. It’s installed near the desk. At the moment it doesn’t even say, “You are at risk of dying of hypothermia, you silly old fool! Put on more clothes! Turn up the heating you can’t afford! Eat some of that good high-calorific horse meat!” It is registering below that. In fact it is registering below the scale. The room is so cold that the pensioner thermometer can’t even patronise me. If I was a proper old person I’d be in the shit now. I’d have to spend two hours convincing the emergency services to come out (not including the means test); then, having failed, get myself into a taxi anyway & go die of neglect on a trolley in a packed annex somewhere off the Reformed National Health Service, while volunteer health workers struggled through their workload towards me. I’m glad not to have the bother of that, obviously: but I’ve already defaulted to a cup of tea, my Rab heavyweight fleece, Smartwool socks & a pair of dayglo orange duvet slippers from Spain; & suddenly I feel a bit privileged to be able to turn up the heating.


a world apart

Pere Lebrun, comparing styles of direct action in Egypt & the UK, notes: “Meanwhile in the UK, protesters up and down the country are preparing to be politely kettled…” Easy to see which of these populations has the most to gain & which the most to lose: by noon, only the BBC website had a mention of today’s actions in the UK, stressing the preparedness of the police & quoting union leaders on the forthcoming nice humbleness of events. The Guardian, meanwhile, has forgotten that there are going to be any actions in the UK today, giving space to “Britain’s cutest log cabins” (“for when you want to hide away somewhere cosy”) instead; while the Independent, looking into the distance with a similar expression of conflicted rigidity & refusal to make eye-contact, concentrates on “Premier mouser! Vote a new cat into Number 10“, one of their popular “50 best ways of exercising your inviolate right to choice without fear of injury at the hands of the police” series.

at last

Thatcher’s anti-union laws, left in place by New Labour, are on the statute book for just these occasions. But we must not let the law paralyse us.
–Len McCluskey

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Gurdiana, Land of the Increasingly Conflicted, today’s editorial gives us the most perfect parody of the smug, established, middle-aged neoliberal voice. The old & the young are to take their telling-off & defend the postwar settlement the way the headmaster has chosen: by saying something glibly clever as you watch the ConDem handymen rip it out like the ghastly old fashioned kitchen in an otherwise rather cheerful little workingman’s cottage.