I didn’t attend the TUC March on Saturday. Gutted doesn’t even sum up how I felt, but I didn’t go. I watched it on television, I spoke to friends of mine throughout the day and night. I read their tweets. But by the end of the day, I had a very sour taste in my mouth. And the ‘anti-cuts’ movement took a very predictable turn.
I’ll nail my colours to the mast. I would have been in Fortnum and Mason I had a sleeping bag packed, I intended to stay on Trafalgar Square. So unbiased I am not. Interested in what is unfolding, I am.
I watched as Labour politicians hijacked the March. Ed Miliband appealing to the ‘mainstream majority’. Words which were careful not to undermine his commitment to welfare cuts and the cuts to Local Authorities which Labour had planned pre-election. After successive years of using Local Authorities as barely noticed scapegoats, taking pre-election cuts there was no public appetite for elsewhere.
He spoke movingly about the Sufffragettes, as he carefully ensured that he didn’t undermine his commitment to e nsure that there is no bridge for women to meet their basic living costs, should their marriage end after they have children. He invoked Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, as he reframed a March where half a million people were marching for their jobs, their futures and their children’s futures- as a march for Labour as an alternative to a government whose economic and social policy they share.
Since the march, the Labour spin machine has turned on those whose direct action has filled the gap left by Labour’s lack of opposition.
I recall what happenened after Netroots. The digital conference where Labour tried to appropriate grassroots online opposition to cuts for political capital, attempting to marginalise anyone who doesn’t currently feel Labour offer a solution.Within days Ed Miliband was defining himself as the ‘progressive champion’ in the hope he could exploit that opposition. A role to be dropped as research by Searchlight showed that Blue Labour was a more effective way of winning votes without abandoning the New Labour approach. We now see that strategy moved over to UkUncut
Outraged leading Labour journalists, and lesser known Labour wannabes have declared their disgust at the hijacking of this protest by UKUncut. Upset that UKUncut had hijacked ‘their’ march. They have condemned the violence of 145 people who sat down peacefully in a Fortnum and Mason. They have glibly ignored the video evidence of those people being misled by the police. They said very little when a police application asking for stricter powers to tackle protestors was ready to go at 9am on Monday morning, after a peaceful march of half a million people resulted in 14 arrests for crimes beyond sitting down in a food shop. Have wilfully conflated the actions of one group, with the actions of a Blacbloc they know full well is a leaderless strategy likely to happen at any March on that scale. Twitter has been ablaze with Labour activists condeming the ‘hijacking’ of Saturday’s March without a trace of irony.
The attack that Labour are making on UKUncut is important.
UKUncut’s insistence that we discuss the tax avoidance culture that Labour helped to create, is as much of a threat to Labour as it is to the ‘Condemns’. Ed Miliband studiously avoids discussion of the debt bubble that is crippling his ‘squeezed middle’. He studiously avoids talking about the numbers of the squeezed middle who are welfare dependent, and never mentions those who are welfare dependent and in debt. He is as happy as the Condems to cast aside a working class, who will never earn enough not to need housing benefit, as irrelevant to Labour’s aims. Happy to watch as they morph from being taxpayers who need political representation, to disenfranchised benefit claimants who everyone else can be encouraged to blame.
Labour knows it cannot pursue equality any more, not while it pursues a market confidence that demands suppressed wages, destruction of public services and expansion of the debt bubble that is crippling his desired voters. So Labour turn on the ‘class war’.
These are just Middle Class kids. They should be ashamed. They should apologise for ‘hijacking’ a peaceful protest. Like those self appointed authentics(thanks very much to Jennifer Mahony, and our ‘left wing blogosphere’ for that title-some are going to be conflicted this week as they face the same treatment they didn’t realise they were dishing out), and those disabled people crying betrayal because Labour aren’t representing them. UKUncut need to be cast adrift. They should shut up. Stop dividing the movement. Stop interfering with Labour’s ability to unite people behind them. Stop undermining the mainstream majority Labour speak for. As a cherry on top there is female journalist who has the audacity not to claim to be reporting from the perspective of the dickswinging, Westminster centric bubble they have created: let Labour activists round on her.
Labour cannot afford to pursue economic equality, so a discourse has emerged where the pursuit of soci
al liberalism is different to the pursuit of economic equality.
There has been much discussion about the split between ‘liberal progressive values’, and the pursuit of material equality. About the split between middle class liberals, and those who want economic inequality addressed. This is not a split in values. This is a very real problem a political party face, as they try to figure out a way to tally an economic policy which shifts wealth upwards, and casts adrift the poorest in our society, with winning votes for being nicer than the Conservatives. The values are not incompatible, they are just not compatible with those who for whom self interest and power are more important. I am supposed to despise these ‘kids’ for being middle class, while launching myself into Labour’s arms, as they encourage people to look away from what is being done to the people and places I know.
I watch Labour systematically try to co-opt opposition to the cuts. Repeatedly try to marginalise those who dare to discuss what is happening outside their faux tribalism.
And I think apologies need to be made. Labour can apologise to the half a million people marching because of their policies. To the welfare dependent, in debt, squeezed middle, who will now pay for this crisis. While Labour encourages them to blame the poorest in our society it is washing it’s hands of. To the people whose children will never see university, or understand what it is to earn enough to gain access to a mortgage on a small house. And to the middle class kids Labour wants us to despise for having the gall to stand up and point out that several things are not quite right at the moment. To those fighting against cuts that affect them, who are seeing every turn hampered by a manufactured factionalism Labour need, in order to mask their role in creating the problems they face. I agree. The people who hijacked Saturday’s March should apologise.
To be honest though, the list of things they need to apologise for, is so long I don’t think I would be awake by the time they got to UkUncut.
PS Added later. According to Labour activist- Labour not only didn’t hijack the march- they organised it. I wish they had told the group of friends I had going down specifically because they face losing their homes due to housing benefit cut, or the ESA claimants marching…