As a child my grandparents introduced me to the ‘Carry On…’ series of films. From an early age I was as scared by the totally non-scary Oddjob in ‘Carry on Screaming’ as I was amused by Barbara Windsor losing her bra during exercises in ‘Carry on Camping’. Even today, I still laugh at the double entendres and puerile humour of Sid James, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Williams et al.
I was both interested and pleased to see a feature in the Birmingham Post last year that asked people to send in their ‘alternative’ English cultural icons. Alongside 1970s football hooliganism and Raleigh Chopper bikes were the ‘Carry On’ series of films.
Then in a separate poll for the BBC, Kenneth Williams’ “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me” line from ‘Carry on Cleo’ came out as the nation’s favourite comedy one-liner. It obviously wasn’t just me that held the ‘Carry On’ films so dear.
On his website, Alistair Campbell recently announced his intention to take up the invitation from The New Statesman magazine to guest edit an edition some time in March. As part of this he intends to:
…hand over a page, more if the response merits it, which answers the question ‘if I could get one sentence into Labour’s manifesto for the next election, it would say this …’ For all that the Tories may be ahead in the polls, and swanning round like they’re in power already, I think the battle of policy ideas still has more energy on the left than the right, and I hope this reflects that.
So here goes with my own suggestion:
Introduce a ‘living’ wage over the existing ‘minimum’ wage; reinstate the lower 10p tax band; introduce a higher tax band of 60p for those earning above £100,000; and increase the National Insurance Upper Earning Limit and 40p tax band concurrently, so as to support those on the lowest incomes at the same time as increasing revenue to improve public services including the NHS and education.
As impromptu industrial action breaks out across the country, could the underlying more insidious message in Gordon Brown’s “British Jobs for British Workers” speech be coming home to roost?
Following the mass walkout by energy workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery after its owner, Total, awarded a £200m contract to Italian firm IREM – who has been paid to bring in more than 300 of its workers from Italy to do the work – the BBC report that solidarity action has broke out in the following ways:
Workers at Grangemouth Oil Refinery, in central Scotland, walked out in solidarity with the Lincolnshire strikers. Hundreds of contractors – who work for BP and INEOS – agreed the move at a meeting. INEOS said the site was safe and fully operating.
The Unite trade union said contractors at six other Scottish sites were also involved in action, including Scottish Power’s Longannet and Cockenzie power stations, in Fife and East Lothian, Shell’s St Fergus gas plant in Aberdeenshire, and British Energy’s Torness facility in East Lothian.
This post is dedicated to a friend of mine who was so appalled at Labour’s recent performance, that despite being a lifelong Labour supporter and still feeling the need to go to the ballot box, he deliberately spoilt his voting slip rather than vote for any of the parties that were on offer…
On the 2nd May 1997, Tony Blair’s ‘new’ Labour election victory was epitomised by the D:REAM hit, “Things Can Only Get Better”. The same soundtrack, may also have been used for Gordon Brown’s atrocious local elections defeat exactly ten years later on the 2nd May last week. Obviously it would have had to have been used in a more ironic way, but even then the irony might be stretching the point just a little too much still. That is, not if the Labour – ‘old’ or ‘new’ – continue to disconnect itself from an increasingly despairing and disparaging electorate.
Was it though any surprise to lifelong Labour voters like myself?
Of course not, the writing had been on the walls ever since Gordon Brown gifted David Cameron the upper hand last year when he dilly dallied over whether or not to take the country to the ballot boxes by calling for a General Election. Since then, Brown has gone into free-fall and with him, so too a party that is beginning to look increasingly like John Major’s Tories little more than a decade ago.
Since the Genral Election fiasco we’ve had the sharp downturn in the economy and the entirely unacceptable debacle around the abolition of the 10p tax threshold, a despicable policy that for many of Labour’s core voters was the final nail in the coffin. Opinion polls and radio phone-ins last week all suggested that traditional and lifelong Labour voters were prepared to: not bother voting; take the ‘easy’ option of voting ‘Lib Dem’, ‘Green’ or ‘Respect’; or most worryingly, break the habit of a lifetime and vote for the Conservatives. As the Guardian put it last Saturday, nobody seems to know what Labour stands for and when you have David Cameron and his Tory cohorts campaigning for lower tax rates for those on low incomes, you know that not only is that true but that something also just isn’t right.
Even more worrying is the fact that analysts are suggesting that in traditional Labour heartlands, voters are ditching the party in preference of the British National Party (BNP). In an article on the BBC website by Dominic Casciani, it states:
The BNP’s strategy has increasingly seen it focus…on a subtle blend of tensions relating to feelings of disregarded “entitlement” in communities that would have long been considered core Labour supporters…
…The key to understanding the BNP’s attraction is perhaps more easily found in places like Nuneaton, which Labour lost after three decades of control.
The BNP did not sweep to power – but it won two councillors. Up and down the country the party appears to make very small gains when traditional Labour voters stay at home.
For the core voters that abandoned the Labour party last week, many feel that the Party they have been loyal to have once and for all abandoned them. Central to the ‘new’ Labour mentality has been the pandering to the metropolitan middle classes and the tabloid gorging masses of Middle England in order to get their votes and by default, a majority in Parliament. The problem with this approach though is that the Party believed that its core voters would remain loyal no matter how much they were overlooked and quite irrespective of how badly they were treated.
Ministers now have no connections or roots with the people and communities they have come to represent, have no idea about how to re-engage with them and so aimlessly spout on about how a better ‘presentation’ of their policies will make everything right again before the next election. National policies, national decisions and national disasters have, and indeed are, continuing to take their toll.
Now is not a time for more spin, requiring much more than the suggestion by those such as Ed Balls (the children, schools and families secretary) that the Party needs to convince people “that we are on their side”. Now is the time finally lay to rest the terminally ill ‘new’ Labour body and replace it with a newly invigorated and undeniably progressive Party that is comfortable and proud of its traditional Labour values, genuinely reinterpreting and clearly articulating them for today’s – and tomorrow’s – 21st century Britain.