What a Party!
My interest in politics, until recently, has always been mixed up with history, the role of parliaments through the ages, the English Civil War, the American Revolution, how the main parties developed through social change, women’s rights campaign, and let’s not forget I grew up with the Northern Irish politics, from terrorism to peace in one generation. So to me an understanding of politics was to appreciate history and vice versa. In my young adulthood everything was about politics, the Falkland War happened as one example, Miners’ Strikes for another, an era ruled by Thatcher with the iron handbag of the Iron Lady. I was acutely aware that I was actually watching significant historical events unfolding in front of me, events that would never be forgotten, that I was watching history live. My parents spoke about that singular event in history when you will always remember where you were when it happened, the John F Kennedy effect as I like to call it, as my parents always remembered what they were doing when they heard of JFK’s assignation. My JFK moment was 31st August 1997.
This was the date Princess Diana died in a terrible car crash in a tunnel in Paris; I was totally gobsmacked as I had only just finished watching some programme about her work to highlight the terrible effect of landmines in Africa. At the time I was sitting in the Duty Managers Apartment as I was the Duty Manager for a category A secure environment for adolescent lifers that were considered too dangerous to go to mainstream Young Offenders Institutions (Prisons). So they were placed on one of four units within the environment where I was an Operations Manager, the four units each specialised in:
Crimes of extreme violence
Crimes of a sexual nature
Crimes of paedophilia
Crimes of arson
Everyone housed in the centre was on more than one ‘Life’ sentence and many committed serial crimes, one young person had been sentenced to six ‘Life’ sentences. It was a centre with a focus on rehabilitation, but many would never be released or would serve 20 to 30 years before even being considered. So our main aim was to make them safer to be in main population of a prison come the age of 18 when they would be transferred. It was a very dangerous place to work and with hindsight it was not worth the money to the tax payer, as often we would make progress with the young girls and boys only to send them to a main stream prison where any personal progress would be lost. There were also those that should never have been there as the only place they should have been was a psychiatric unit. I was acutely aware that everything that happened at the centre was political, my first briefing as a manager was “do not embarrass the Minister”, said in such a tone that it made me swallow hard.
To be honest it wasn’t a place to make mistakes anyway, they got you hurt or got your career burnt, as a manager I was conscious that any blame for a mistake would be hung around your neck just before your were publically hung out to dry for the media. We had all seen it done, it was the nature of working with this clientele, the only people that would have your back were the team, those that needed you as much as you needed them, so there was quite a comradeship on the shop floor. As a senior manager we had to stay overnight within the centre, as adolescents were so unpredictable and staff on nights needed the support. However, once the centre quietened down the Manager could go and get a few hours’ sleep before round two in the morning. The worst shift was going on duty Friday morning and not finishing until Monday early evening, so it was invaluable to grab a couple of hours when you could. Well it was one of those moments alone with a very strong coffee with a side order of Pro-Plus caffeine tablets, whilst I watched the TV, as it helped clear my head, the news about Princess Diana was blurted out by a News Reporter who was crying.
The effect was incredible as every channel became overwhelmed with the news but then came the outpouring of shock, grief & disbelief. Staff on duty were calling me in tears, staff off duty were calling to say they were too upset to come in (I had to re-educate them about their responsibilities), I even had a civil servant call me to tell me to instruct everyone not to comment. I pointed out to him that I really didn’t think that the media would call or come to a centre for adolescent lifers to get a sound bite about Princess Diana. I was informed that all establishments were being contacted to say nothing, which was exactly the standing order when it came to the media anyway. It was a bizarre twenty four hours to live through as an entire nation started to grieve, very strange, this being my JFK moment for sure.
It was also the point when I realised that the news, the reporting of all things political, was different now, it had become, without even noticing a twenty four hour a day media business with ever improving technology and the rise of the digital age. Long gone was the news being confined to a newspaper and the news at 9pm once a day, yes we were in a world of information that was speeding up week by week, and I don’t think it is finished yet. This means that a political party, a political person, can rise to fame quickly if they master the art of media manipulation, getting their messages out at the speed of a smartphone or tablet (god it makes me feel old when you remember a tablet was something you used to swallow and not tap on). For me the digital news revolution has made revelations an everyday occurrence rather than what you read in the Sunday papers and every aspect of someone’s life is now up for grabs, it’s scary stuff. But this instant picture and comment has changed our politics forever, yes we know who we are voting for much better than we ever did, but equally the more money you have can be used to manipulate the media exposure. I genuinely believe we are in an age where a Politician’s spin Guru is more important than the politics they represent.
I think this has contributed to the political situation we’re in now, as no one does media spin better than the big corporations who have made selling and gaining customers an art form. The motivation is of course greed; corporations feed off more money, beating last year’s profits, more, more, more. I mean these corporations have some tricks, they create a state of need, a state of materialism that to not have the latest thing means you are picked on in school or are seen as negatively different, the must have generation that need it all. The reality is that this drove us over the cliff in 2008, the greed of the corporations and the naivety of the people were to blame for sure, but this all started with Thatcher and the deregulations she implemented that caused the first real boom of the 1980’s. Yes Labour didn’t help matters but the seeds for the crash of 2008 were sown by a Tory. The bubble eventually burst in 2008 and it is a little unfair to say Labour were to blame since it was a worldwide crash & recession, and they acted to stabilise our banking regardless of what people say.
The corporations have come back in earnest though, many bankrolling the Conservatives as they had a new target to make money, as the people they have bled dry no long have money to spend on the ‘must haves’. Think about it, during a recession the biggest and fastest growth industry has been Payday Loans who even the Church of England have invested in, and some of them have donated over a million pounds to the Tories. This can be seen as a sweetener to the Coalition not to regulate these parasitic organisations as there have been no actions to curb these exploitative interest rates that are as high as 6000% APR. Neither has the Coalition done anything to curb the excesses of the banks, even the ones we effectively own. I don’t understand the economics of banks where they give people millions in bonuses even though they may have made a loss, it just doesn’t make any sense, just isn’t logical at all. Lose money and be rewarded for it with millions of pounds, does this make sense to you? The only other growth in banking related industry that has risen more than any other is regrettably the rise of Food Banks and the level of use, up 300% in the last 12 months alone. Just from one Food Bank provider they have seen their use go from 300,000 people to over 900,000, quite a legacy this coalition can be proud of. Not only have they (DWP) ‘sanctioned’ hundreds of thousands of people they then leave them to starve or use food banks, banks which even Local Authorities are unable to support due to the vicious cuts in funding from Central Government.
Corporations are the real power now and in the wake of 2008 they came up with a new strategy to make billions of pounds, quite the cunning plan indeed. They bankrolled and put their own party into power with a singular agenda of privatisation which their Party would orchestrate. So the Tories scrape through the election without a clear mandate from the voters, and then they form a coalition with the limp Lib Dems. The Lib Dems instantly drunk on the thought of scraps of powers from the Conservative table dump all their promises to the electorate and become the Tory partners. From 2010 it was instantly clear that the promises, pledges and manifesto statements were utter rubbish, a complete set of lies as their real intention gained clarity. They were supposed to be in power, as any Government should be regardless of party ideologies, to protect the vulnerable, the poor, the homeless and those who were unwell, delivering services to them to make their lives better. Each Government is supposed to act to make the lives of those living in the UK better than the last Government; it’s that unwritten rule that comes hand in hand with the only nation in the world to have the NHS and a comprehensive welfare state – to look after those that need our support. This is the starting point for any Government, well is was until the Coalition got into Ten Downing Street and sat round the Cabinet Table, which should be renamed the Corporate Table.
The Government have systematically delivered sweeping cuts so that more people are in poverty now than at any time since World War Two, but there was more to come, an era of dismantling the NHS, the Welfare State, Schools, Prisons, Court Services, Ambulance Service, Fire Service, Police Service, just about every Government Department delivering services, into units that can be privatised. These units are then run down and suddenly declared not fit for function, well of course they aren’t, the staff that leave aren’t replaced, pressures grow and the ability for the service to function crumbles. Then the service is put out to tender and to no one’s surprise a private company get the contract. This is the process going on right now; the Tories have one intention to privatise our national assets and leaving the most vulnerable people to starve, literally. No other Government has been this destructive, this callous, and this blatant in their contempt for people that did not go to Eton. Now I could go on about how disgusting I find their behaviour, their stripping of our national cupboard bare for the financial benefit of their corporate sponsors, but I won’t. I will leave you with some facts to think about:
Poverty is up under the Coalition
Homelessness is up under the Coalition
Personal debt is up under the Coalition
1% own 99% of the wealth
But this is my final thought; I would bet that all the Ministers are guaranteed Directorships on the Boards of the companies that are given contracts under this Government. Certainly some big industry names have been awarded peerages after sizeable donations to the Tory Party. What a callous, cowardly, corrupt Coalition we have, but there are two solutions:
Vote Yes for Scottish independence September 2014 & send Cameron a kicking
‘Vote Them Out’ in May 2015 & ‘Save our NHS’, our people & Nation!
Yours most sincerely
Smiling Cat Ventures (www.smilingcatventures.org)
Innovative Minds @ Work (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)
Mind the Step (improving accessibility)
Able Politics (increasing disabled peoples engagement in politics)
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Linked-In: Jonathan Wade (Innovative Minds at Work)