Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Floating Vote


One moment you’re up to your ankles in compost and the next you’re staring out at the river Thames and London Bridge from the Glaziers’ Hall where the Worshipful Company of Glaziers usually hang out. The building is relatively new since the original was burned down in the Great Fire of London, but the Company was established around 1328 and has its historic charters displayed on the walls - beautiful calligraphy with wax seals the size of dinner plates. There’s a great sense of history here. The tower of London is visible (just) from the bridge if you know where to look, almost swamped by high rise buildings housing financial institutions.
The occasion is the 90th birthday party of one of Britain’s leading Communist party members - Tony Farsky, a contributor to the Morning Star, and a leading peace campaigner, still active in his 10th decade, campaigning for better education, and social equality. He is currently chair of the Southwark Pensioners Committee, lobbying vigorously for pensioners rights and an end to ageism.
Tony is also a great lover of Jazz and his sponsorship has helped a lot of small promoters. The birthday bash had a fantastic line-up of British Jazz musicians, including the great Don Weller, Alan Barnes and David Newton. Several of Tony’s contemporaries put us all to shame jiving and Lindy-hopping - I hope I can do the same if I ever become a nonogenarian.
Among the guests were people from the Jazz world, various peace movements, C.N.D., the communist party, and other political groups. Lib Dem Simon Hughes, fresh from News Night, was one of those who made a speech and caught my attention when he began to talk about the all party committee he chairs on ‘Conflict Issues’. This parliamentary group seeks to reverse political thinking - by focussing on identifying areas of conflict and trying to defuse situations by non combative means.
Having sworn not to vote Labour again after Tony Blair dragged us into the Iraq War, I’ve been very cynical about the state of politics in Britain. But the closer the Big Three get to each other in the polls, the more interesting it becomes. After listening to Simon Hughes, I’m seriously considering voting Liberal Democrat. I liked it when he asked ‘Why are we selling arms to countries who can’t afford to feed their own people?’ I’m aching for a blast of common sense in politics - straight talking, real convictions rather than politic-speak.
I was very impressed by Nick Clegg’s intelligent stand on the Trident missile system during the leaders’ debate. Civilised countries such as Sweden and Denmark don’t feel the need for a nuclear submarine, yet they seem perfectly safe in the world. In Europe, France has enough nuclear weapons - and submarines - for all of us! The billions that Trident will cost would buy an awful lot of much needed health care and education. We are no longer a super-power - we are part of Europe whether we like it or not - a small country, whose national debt is frightening. Do the government seriously, honestly, believe we can go on competing with the USA, Russia and China?
We’ve interfered in the world too much and for all the wrong reasons. Not humanitarian (we stood back and watched the slaughter in Rwanda) but economic reasons. If you’ve got oil or valuable commodities, we’ll send the troops, if not, sorry mate, there’s nothing we can do.
I can’t describe myself as a pacifist because there are things I would probably fight for if there was no other way, but I am a peace lover and a socialist believing passionately that everyone is born equal and has the right to live and bring up their children in peace with a roof over their heads and enough food to keep them from starvation and someone to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
I won’t be voting Communist, Labour or Conservative next week, but I just might think about voting Lib Dem.

4 comments:

  1. Like you, I'm a lifelong but latterly disillusioned Labour voter and am thinking much along the same lines and for much the same reasons, especially Trident. Nick Clegg has looked confident (but not smug or self-congratulatory) during the leaders' debates so far. The South West, where I live, used to be a Liberal stronghold, although less so in recent years, but maybe the forthcoming election could see a return of old Liberal loyalties. Now that would be something!

    I haven't mentioned the Tories but I fear that Cameron is Thatcher's natural heir, despite what he says and espouses when the cameras are on him. Paxman pretty well demolished him during that recent interview. Apart from that old habits, personal principles and experience, and my own family history, would always stand in the way of putting an X alongside a Conservative candidate's name.

    Your post has made me feel so much better; at least I don't feel alone.

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  2. You certainly aren't alone! There are many people with the same doubts and fears as ours. It's going to be interesting to see what happens on the 6th May. In my constituency the Conservatives have such a huge majority my vote is technically pointless, but when I think of what so many women went through to get it for me, I can't bring myself not to vote.

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  3. Your passionate and compassionate post, and 60/16's comment here, makes me think there is a real change wriggling away, counterpointing the current media-led pre-election posturing. That's hopeful, I think. But if a Lib Dem vote is a protest vote (which seems likely) then that's not a vote based on conviction but rejection. And where does that leave us in democratic terms?
    Actually, watching (or listening) to the leaders' debate makes me think that politicians of whatever party have more in common with each other than they have with me. They all have the smell of the counting house, the boardroom or the lecture hall about them. A protest vote could of course put the 'leading' parties on their metal - no bad thing. As it is I could never vote Conservative for similar reasons to 60/16. In addition I can never forgive their vandalism of the teaching profession under Thatcher & Kieth Josephs. Nothing they have done or said since then means anything to me.
    In fact, there are still some decent Labour politicians hanging on in there, flying some kind of decent socialist flag.(See Chris Mullins' autobiography...) I could not and would not desert them now.
    w

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  4. You are very loyal to the labour party Wendy. But I'm afraid the way the Iraq war was handled, the death of David Kelly and the destruction of Andrew Gilligan's career in order to save the government's neck, completely finished me. My politics are still socialist and maybe when a completely new group of labour politicians are standing in a row I'll feel able to put a tick in that box again. I hope so.
    But my LIb Dem vote won't be a protest vote. If I do vote for them it will be because they're worth it!
    And I agree with you totally on the 'sameness' of politicians. They all go to the same media management school I think.

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