Sunday, 2 May 2010

Can we afford to leave Lenton's future to chance?

This coming Thursday will see one of the most important general elections in my life time. Being born in 1944, I was just one when Labour was swept to power in the 1945 general election. That election and its consequences has defined my life in many ways and all for the better.
I am the little one in this pic, which was taken in 1946. Pop, on the left, is my maternal grandfather and I am being held by my mother, Betty. On the right is my Uncle Sid, Pop's brother, who was so damaged by his experiences of World War I that he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital, except for occasional stays with family. My mother wasn't married and never spoke to me about my father. I never had the courage to question her, or other members of my family about who my father was. I found out at her funeral, from my Uncle Frank, that he was Irish, worked at the GEC factory in North Wembley during World War II with my mother and was a good footballer. His surname might have been O'Brian or O'Ryan.
My mother was often away working whilst I was little and married Jimmy in 1952. A lovely man, who I came to love more and more as we both became older and I remember his passing in 2008, eighteen months after my mother, with fonder memories and more sadness. It was my Nanna and Pop who nurtured me, who cared for me, and it was my uncles and aunts, especially my Uncle Dave and Auntie Nannie, who provided me with that extra love that all children need. My mother was there, somewhere, in the background. I think Nanna just took charge. She died when I was 15 and so Pop and I lived alone, apart from the ever-present lodgers, who occupied the big first-floor front bedroom, except for the few occasions when mother and Jimmy came to live with us for some reason. My mother's solutuon to any problem was to try and run away from it. When she couldn't, she became depressed and morose. By any measure, Jimmy was a saint.

I have another picture of me like the one above which was taken at the same time, but without the pointing finger. In both pictures I am standing on a tank in the back garden of the semi-detached house in Wembley that was my home for the first 22 years of my life. Pop and I got along well and I still dream about him regularly. I always have done. He was a man of his time and, by my standards, treated Nanna badly. I can only remember one really bad argument about what I have long forgotten everything, except for his blurting out in the middle of it all "You're just like your father — it's the bloody Irish in you — always fighting something — you can never leave well alone".

By then I was already a very active 'young socialist' in the Labour Party and my trade union. I knew what Attlee and his post-war Labour government had done for ordinary people. Their achievements shaped our nation for a generation or more and helped shape the hopes and ambitions of many.

After Attlee, we had to wait until 1964 and Harold Wilson before we had another Labour Government. It also lasted only six years, but it achieved much. I was 20 when Wilson came to power. I did not have a vote, but I was in a small way, party to reducing the voting age to 18. My life moved on and Labour managed a comeback in the 1970s, by which time I was a councillor in Birmingham. Labour was changing, responding to global markets, a Europe flexing its economic muscle. It all ended in tears and a big 'if only'. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

What followed was Thatcher and eighteen years of social and industrial destruction. Her culture and politics played to our baser instincts and, as a society, many of us were happy to embrace all that she offered. So much so that when Blair and Brown led Labour to that fantastic victory in 1997, they believed that they could only survive by dealing with the city monsters Thatcher had helped to create. Voters wanted different then, as now. For what progress we have had during the last thirteen years we have paid a heavy price and will have to endure much for the rest of my life and beyond.

My close  and long time friend Paul is, in many ways, the 'other' me. The one who is not political or active in the community. Who goes on long country walks, tends his large garden and has hobbies. We share a passion for breadmaking, cooking, and two women, who have been friends for longer than us. In his blog, Distant Thoughts, his last entry is about the forthcoming general election. I know that he articulates the views of most of the friends I have spoken to in recent weeks. I would do Paul a disservice if I was suggest otherwise. They all want a change in the voting system more radical than Brown's proposal. I find it impossible to argue against them when they say that Blair and Brown had the chance to change the voting system after the 1997 election and they didn't, so why trust Labour now? Paul makes the point that in choosing who to vote for, we have to accept things we don't like. We do not have 'pick and mix' politics.

I agree. Yet, yet, when we look at the choices before us this coming Thursday, only Labour offers some hope that all need not be lost and the price I will pay is billions being spent on a Trident replacement, ID cards and the continuing privatisation of public services. The cuts are already with us. Lenton, like the rest of England, will have to pay a heavy price for bailing out the bankers in London, but, but, they need to be managed and mindful of local needs and opinions. The cuts are not something to be imposed by a city council or a government without giving local communities the chance to offer their own practical and financially viable alternatives. What politicians and parties have done will count for little or nothing on Thursday. It is the future that matters and I am in no doubt that Labour is the party to vote for. Cuts and more cuts are inevitable, but they need to be phased and applied in a way which protects the poor, the weak and vulnerable. 

In Nottingham South, a vote for Lilian Greenwood will be a vote for someone with a track record of campaigning for the less well-off, the weakest in our society. That is the only thing from the past which will matter on Thursday — as for the future, we need to take stock of where we are now and where we want to be in ten, twenty… fifty years time, then work towards that future, steadily and with determination. I have my own thoughts about these things. They will matter little if, as a society, we get things wrong on Thursday.

Vote Labour, vote Lilian Greenwood…

Now I am off delivering and will spend Thursday number taking at The Lenton Centre. Then we will watch television until the Nottingham results come in and I can go to the bed knowing that Lilian is my MP.

Notts County win promotion from the Football League 2nd division as champions.

1 comment:

Rosie said...

Like you I will be sticking with the devil I know! I too think about my heritage, my ancestors and all things that have lead to this point in time and find I can't not vote for Labour. I've voted for them since I was first able to vote and won't change now. At this point in my life my main worry is of course pensions, welfare and NHS and with these I always feel safer with a Labour government than with any other - I hope I'm not proved wrong.