An Easterhouse Epiphany
We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.
– Prime Minister, David Cameron
This post is really a response to Liam Murray who wrote in the comments section of Pat Kane’s piece ‘A Revolution of Rising Expectations’ the following: “The entire ‘Yes’ campaign seems to be built on this one dull pedestrian premise – ‘vote yes and our politics will get a bit more left-wing’. I don’t object because I don’t share the politics (in many cases I do) but because it’s a p***-poor reason to upend our constitutional settlement, that’s all.”
It’s also provoked by John Major’s astonishing revelations this week that Britain is run by a privileged elite. It’s a very late denouement that has only three possible explanations: 1) He was too busy shagging Edwina Currie to notice anything going on around him 2) He’s mortally stupid to a degree previously unknown to mankind 3) He’s woken from a dream-like catatonic state only to realise some truths about the world.
Various titles were suggested for this article and we’re considering a regular column dubbed simply Austerity Unionism to track the direct link between gross inequality and our constitutional settlement and structures. We’re indebted to our new best pal on Twitter Joe Oliver (@joe_oliver) who said: “I do love that David Cameron delivered the message ‘Austerity could be with us forever’ in front of a huge gold throne.” Indeed he did Joe and you can read the whole marvel here.
Back to Liam and his plaintive plea – is the Yes vote reduced to a simple promise of more left-wing politics? Well, actually it’s about sovereignty, rather than any particular form of politics, but there are certain driving realities that are shaping the debate. That’s true.
Shelter tell us that there will be more than 80,000 children in the UK face spending Christmas living in temporary housing, details here. So in the sense that there’s a pressing driving need for social justice, then Yes the new Scotland needs to be predicated on a sharp break with the ideology that has shaped Britain for the last thirty years. If it isn’t, what’s the point?
The obsession with privatisation – which has most recently seen our Post Office sold off on the cheap – is another challenge for us to regain control over our economic commons – our collective wealth – and manage them for the benefit of society and not for the profit of a tiny elite.
If all this seems arcane to Liam – or any others – it’s largely because this logic has been so internalised it’s now largely forgotten, largely absent from public dialogue, slightly less in this strange northern outpost.
This won’t be easy as Aidan Moffett wrote this week:
We can be better. We can be BRILLIANT. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but a good future only comes from hard work. I’m not scared of it being difficult, I’m scared of my children being trapped in the same miserable system in twenty years’ time and blaming me for doing nothing about it. Independence is not a negative; it is – to my mind – the only positive way to achieve the future Scotland that most of us seem to want.
But to make this leap we will need to confront the corporate capture of society we have colluded in.
As George Monbiot:
It’s the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It’s the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It’s the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown purged the party of any residue of opposition to corporations and the people who run them. That’s what New Labour was all about.
These for me are the driving compelling reason for independence, not just for a ‘pedestrian left wing politics’ but for a restorative practice of social justice, a transformation of economic inequality and a reclamation of public ownership. You can’t deliver one without the other. For example you can’t get away from fuel poverty without removing the control from a profit-focused cartel. Ed Miliband’s ‘price freeze’ ruse was quickly shown to be a nonsense, despite widespread support in the media. Millions of people now face fuel poverty this winter whilst private companies profits soar.
The challenges we face require a new settlement – they can’t be grounded in an approach that feeds on a race to the bottom with zero hours contracts, mass precarity, a cultural war on the poorest and a loop of victory parades as succor. Nor should we believe the line routinely trotted out by those who oppose independence – that this will mean no difference – that views and values are really no different north and south of the border – and that no change is the best option.
As we prepare for RIC 2013 its clear that the appetite for big policy change is here and now – it’s the prize for any arty r new government willing to seize it.
Ten years ago Iain Duncan Smith cried in Easterhouse. Or so we’re told. Now he’s a bit more focused.
As Polly Tonybee writes Smith has shifted from a faux compassion to a stark brutality. Stopping benefits, driving people on to food banks, the bedroom tax and a slew of punitive cuts we’re just at the front edge of are transforming Britain from a country disfigured by inequality and poverty to one defined by it.
All this implemented by a government we didn’t elect.
As we focus on the campaign ahead, those who chose to vote No are effectively condoning this programme of austerity. How’s that for a dull pedestrian premise?