What a couple of weeks it has been. Even by Tory standards the weather of late has been very Tory. First we had the budget designed to make poor people poorer and rich people richer. Then we had the attempt to repeal the fox hunting ban by the back door; fox hunting is a blood sport which is the reserve of deranged elitists. Finally we have had the announcement of legislation to permanently alter the way trade unions operate and set back workers rights by around 100 years.
In addition to this George Osborne decided to basically ignore the issue of climate change in his budget, gave greater fiscal support oil companies and sort to incentivise ‘fracking’ whilst at the same time hampering the green energy movement by absurdly removing the Climate Change Levy exemption from renewable electricity.
To get a flavour of what our own local Tory is fighting for on some of the points briefly mentioned above;
In our Stroud District - Neil Carmichael MP has voted;
against paying higher benefits for people unable to work through illness or disability,
in favour of bedroom tax,
against benefits rising to meet cost of living,
in favour of a reduction in welfare spending,
against a scheme to create guaranteed jobs for young people who been long term unemployed,
against a tax on bankers bonuses
against a mansion tax
in favour of reducing corporation tax
Neil Carmichael MP has stated that he will vote in favour of fox hunting.
Neil Carmichael MP has a poor voting record when it comes to the environment.
When I sit down to write these blogs I want to be positive and constructive. But I am, like many of you I am sure, finding it hard to be positive right now. My MP is essentially the very antithesis of what I believe in and my government even more so.
Every morning when I come down to my kitchen and make a cup of tea, I switch on the radio as my preferred method of getting the news as I get my baby ready for the day or get ready for work. Increasingly though I am finding that my finger hovers over the preset button for Radio 4 and is tending to tap the Planet Rock preset as I say to myself ‘do you know what? I just don’t want to know today’. Of course this could just be that I am getting fed up with the today programme!
Progressives must work together
Before the budget was announced I attended a meeting of Stroud Against the Cuts. Stroud Against the Cuts brings together progressive groups from across Stroud and Gloucestershire who, despite whatever other differences, are united in their opposition to austerity.
When the election result was announced in May Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion, said the following;
“…we must move forward today. While the campaign for electoral reform gathers momentum, those of us wanting to see a fairer, more compassionate and progressive politics must find new ways of working together, a new way to do politics – and put that in to practice now”
This is the thing that gives me hope now; the simmering resistance that is turning in to a movement. It is a movement that questions this neoliberal austerity ideology and outright calls for something different, something more hopeful, something less damning.
It is no longer just a utopian fantasy but something eminent economists such Tim Jackson have put in to sound theory. We can create a world in which we redefine prosperity away from our ability to consume goods and amass economic wealth. We can redefine prosperity in terms of happiness, wellbeing and living within the means of this planet that we call home. We don’t have another one to fall back on after all.
The Labour Party
Following Osborne’s despicable budget it is time for the Labour Party to stand up and truly be the main opposition party. Not just opposition for the sake of it no; but because the very fabric of what makes our society great is at risk. Childhoods, retirements, working lives, already desperate lives are at risk.
I hope that the Labour Party will reach out and grasp the hand of Caroline Lucas, and will also stand up to the offer put forward by the 20 year SNP MP, Mhairi Black (youngest MP in 300 years) in her, already very famous, inspirational maiden speech;
“Now, yes we will have political differences, yes in other parliaments we may be opposing parties, but within this chamber we are not. No matter how much I may wish it, the SNP is not the sole opposition to this Government, but nor is the Labour party. It is together with all the parties on these benches that we must form an opposition, and in order to be affective we must oppose not abstain. So I reach out a genuine hand of friendship which I can only hope will be taken. Let us come together, let us be that opposition, let us be that signpost of a better society. Ultimately people are needing a voice, people are needing help, let’s give them it.”
It appears now that scores of Labour MPs are set to join Caroline Lucas in opposing the welfare cuts proposed by the Tories. It is shame that Labour MPs have to do this in defiance of the Labour leadership, but it their true opposition and defence of those who need it most is very welcome all the same.
Progressives must work together, form an opposition both locally and nationally and not allow this government to continue to ideologically dismantle all that makes our country great. The situation is already so very desperate and there has only been a Conservative majority government in power for 2 months. Imagine the horror of a Tory party unopposed for 5 years… if you dare.