Monday 18 March 2013

The (lack of) Spirit of 2013

Yesterday, at the instigation of a friend who is so far to the left that he quit even Arthur Scargill's party, I attended a "simultaneous" showing of Ken Loach's archive-documentary film "The Spirit of '45".

 Loach is  criticised for jumping straight from the atmosphere of hope and "all-in-this-togertherness" which made the creation of our wlefare state possible, to the selfish individuality and contempt for society which was legitimised under Mrs Thatcher and continues to facilitate its destruction.  Loach, who was available to contribute  by video-link  to a discussion after the showing, pointed our that he is not trying to record a history of all  the times -  simply to contrast the two prevailing atmospheres.

I found it most salutary  to be reminded of how much the Labour Government achieved in its one-and-a-bit term of office: the NHS created, secondary education for all introduced, cities re-built and hundreds of thousands of houses built, transport and utilities taken into public ownership; and all against an economic background which shows up our present so-called austerity as the luxury it really is.

The true question for our age is how to build, not a consensus because it doesn't exist, but a  working coalition of that majority which undoubtedly does exist for building a fairer, more caring, cohesive and responsible society.

Despairing of the Labour Party and writing off the Greens (we Liberal Democrats, alas, don't even rate a mention) Loach favours the creation of a new party, and draws attention to a People's Assembly, which is to meet in London on the 26th June, and which he believes will restore hope to our political consciousness.  A wise voice from one of the audiences pointed out that it took 45 years from its formation for the Labour Party to begin to create the society in which it believed.  A "left" even  further divided may well give the neo-conservative right yet another half century or so in which those who already have, or are lucky, can continue to prosper at the expense of the weak.

There is in my view an urgent need for the existing left:  Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and others to grow up, stop abusing each other, and look for the ample common ground we all share. If today's predictions are right, and effective press-regulation is indeed introduced, that shows that politicians can stand up to the powerful and beat them when they try.  May this be the kindling  of  a spirit of hope that, in 2013, may yet  emulate that of  '45.


  1. I think it is useful to have a small party of ultra leftists of the kind of people who do not get on with everyone else and often with each other. As things stand the SWP and Respect fulfill that.
    I think outside of that then Compass fulfills what you are looking for. They are not a political party but they are the umbrella group you are suggesting we have.

  2. Thanks, Left Lib. A lot of sensible and constructive stuff comes out of Compass: I must follow them more closely. Are any Liberal Democrat MPs or other party bigwigs involved?

  3. A lot of water will have to go under the bridge before the Lib Dems can be regarded as a party of the left. A purge of your orange bookers sounds a bit Stalinist but this free marketeering neo liberal economics gang in your party needs dealing with. They really should be in the Tory party it's their natural home.

  4. I understand why you're making this comment, Andrew, but I think you're being a bit harsh. True too many of our current leading lights are too much tared by the monetarist "market-rules OK" brush, as indeed were New Labour and also Gordon Brown. However, as you well know , "left" and "right" in politics are useful but imperfect shorthands, and there's more to leftness and rightness than just economic policy. As you also well know the bulk of our party activists are of the "Social Liberal" ilk rather than Orange Bookers. As a whole, and including our leaders, we are keen on fairness, especially in taxation, strong internationalists, especially in relation to Europe, gung-ho for Human Rights, up front for constitutional and company reform, sane about immigration. constructive on "Lora Norder" issues, and, if not as green as you, greener than the other two. There's not much Tory about that lot.

  5. A friend has Emailed me about an interesting article by Adam Lent of the LSE:

    I particularly like this paragraph:

    "The problem is that the enlarged role for the state acted as a dog whistle for the right detracting their attention for decades from the other very significant aspect of the Spirit of ’45. This is its deeply remedial nature: the notion that the role of the state is to pick up the pieces resulting from the failure of the market and the individual. In short, the state steps in when things go wrong. The obvious alternative view that the state may have a role in stopping things going wrong in the first place has always been the less favoured sibling despite the fact that it is potentially just as powerful and fruitful as the remedial conceptualisation."

    The whole article is well worth a read.