Maybe it’s the optimism of spring, but the general election is looking a lot more interesting now than it did back in January.
The leaders of the three main parties still look and sound like Stepford Wives and could probably make a mint selling recordings of their speeches to cure insomnia. Well not David Cameron. At least not for me. He does bad things to my blood pressure.
Sal of Greece, aka Japonica Flowers here in wordpress Land, says that when the anti-austerity party was elected to government in her adopted country people started smiling aagin.
It’s a comment that has stayed with me. The speeches I have heard from the three main parties have each extolled their party’s virtues as being the best to govern, but they don’t exactly make your heart sing. UKIP is about the politics of fear, and could cause a surge in prescriptions for anti-depressants, and we keep being told that the NHS is pretty hard up right now.
Increasingly I find I am paying attention to groups of people who are not standing for parliament but who are working to achieve change in different parts of the country. People like Focus E15 who grew out of a protest when a local council tried to disperse single mothers from a Newham hostel to private rentals 100 miles away; people like the New Economic Foundation “Economics as though people and the planet matter”. At times it feels like the spirit of Greenham Common still lives.
And I see some hope. Some stirring of interest and excitement in politics. Not the old tribal politics I’ve grown up with, the We’re Right You’re wrong stuff, where we elect a party and then it tells us what to do, and all too often tells us off as though we a recalcitrant, stupid or lazy; blames previous administrations for all our woes; says it wants an engaged electorate yet does everything possible to encourage disengagement and apathy; but politics where grops of people are imagining a different way of doing things. Where when the economy isn’t in great shape, the ordinary people of the country are cast into unemployment and poverty to allow business and industry to grow, and those leaders of business and industry are then hailed as saviou5rs and continue to receive their large salaries and often even larger bonuses.
I have seen this cycle too many times in my life to believe that the current austerity drive is going to achieve anything more than a paper success. The collateral damage of these policies, which aren’t recorded in anyone’s accounts, are too great. and it seems to be getting worse. Families are moved from social housing to make room for ‘prestigious developemnts’ on ‘brownfield sites’. They move into accommodation that is often temporary. children’s education is disrupted; schools report tired, disruptive and distressed pupils. Pets, not accepted by private landlords, end up in shelters if they are lucky, or being used as bait for fighting dogs when offered free to ‘good homes’if they’re not. No wonder we have an endless stream of stray and abandoned cats setting up shop in our neighbourhood.
I used to wonder at the number of young children travelling on buses with their mothers late in the evening. I was disapproving, thinking their parents neglectful and uncaring to keep the children up so late. The penny dropped. These are mothers working shifts. After school, the children are collected by a friend or member of the family and taken home. That home is not necessarily near where the child lives. When her shift ends, the mother collects the child and starts the journey home.
There has to be a better way; a way where all of us count; where austerity isn’t a stick with which to beat the poorest and most vulnerable in society; where we are all in it together.