January 13, 2011 by Rhi
More politics, I’m afraid. Although I’m not sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this passionate and involved in the political process. So on we go.
The debate of what the left can do, in order to oppose cuts made by the government continues. In a debate on Twitter last night with Sunny Hundal (editor of the blog Liberal Conspiracy, and one of the organisers of Netroots UK), he expressed concerns similar to mine – that the bickering that has arisen from issues might not be doing the cause any good. But he did, of course, ask me the $64,ooo question – what should we do?
I should stress, I’m coming at this from a standing start. I’ve not been involved in politics for years. I’ve been a member of both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems at various points in my life. But, quite frankly, looking at the aims of the ‘lefties’ at the moment, it seems to me that it’s not actually about politics, beyond the fact that the cuts are being made by the government. What it is about, is creating a unified voice that will resonate all the way to Westminster, and will make the politicians there realise that they don’t exist in a vacuum.
My suggestion was simple – create an umbrella organisation. Not just one event, or one discussion group. I’ve got experience of umbrella groups within an arts setting. They were useful in that a collection of disparate groups (festivals was my speciality) could come together under one banner, and have more clout. They didn’t have to be the same kind of group – as long as they had a common goal, then it was perfectly possible to set up opportunities for everyone to have their chance to be listened to, and heard, and then take the message forward to the people that needed to hear it.
Nick Clegg’s recent focus on “Alarm Clock Britain” leads me to conclude that politicians aren’t interested in listening to people who want to talk to them any longer. Rather, they prefer to spend time researching who it is they think should be listened to, based on what researchers tell them. Trying to take varying arguments to Westminster may well prove to be fruitless. What I think would be a far better use of time and energy, would be to create a group which Westminster wants to have dialogue with. You only have to look at the importance of groups like Mumsnet during the last election and ever since, to realise that there is power in numbers. The power of Mumsnet lies not in them all agreeing on things, but of them being together in one place so that their common aims are much clearer.
I think it’s perfectly possible to create a group, and appeal to a number of varying groups (disability rights groups, women’s rights groups, left wing activies, student unions – anyone with a vested interest in opposing the cuts), and provide the facility for them to communicate with each other, to work out what the ideas are, work out what we can do, and have a strong identity together than politicians would find hard to ignore.
The stumbling block? The left would have to put aside any ideas of arguing about ideology. It’s not important right now. That comes later – when someone (maybe even the Labour Party) hears what’s being said, and wants to become the political party that represents this movement. That’s not to say people shouldn’t discuss it – just that, when it comes to strategy and direct action, it’s the means to oppose that matters. At the moment, what’s important is that we want to oppose the cuts. And to do that, we have to create a movement, which puts down in very clear terms, what these cuts will mean to individuals, and points out the folly of targeting the people most in need of help. It’s entirely possible to have a large group of people, with different political backgrounds, opinions, ideas and ideology, who can find common ground in wanting the real truth to be known. I’ve read more and more blogs over the last 2 days, each one highlighting another vulnerable group who will suffer. Disable people losing their independence – people with no ability to fight back themselves. They don’t care whether you think we should or shouldn’t join this or that party, or whether enough people are showing respect. They just want to be able to keep their standard of living at a decent level.
There is much at stake here – we risk the well-being of thousands of individuals if we can’t agree to disagree, and leave the witty retorts at the door.
So that’s my answer. The question is – is anyone up for it?