Thursday, 30 June 2016

The politics of fidget !

Do you remember back in the days of primary school when your teacher,usually a tall lady with grey hair,glasses and a smile,used to fix her icy glare on you and very loudly tell you:
"Stop fidgeting !"
Whatever you were doing, usually moving about ,you looked up guiltily and stopped whatever it was you were doing.
I've never really been clear what fidgeting was all about, and it came in a variety of guises and sometimes you didn't even know you were fidgeting, but you stopped whatever you were doing,or thought you were doing until it was safe.
Perhaps it was just doing wee things to keep yourself occupied during a dull story,or waiting, for your milk,or a bit of plasticine or trying to take your mind off needing to pee- whatever!
'Doing we things to keep yourself occupied', that seems to be at the core of the modern political system these days, governments have little to do of any significance so they fiddle about with small things to give the illusion of being busy.
It was not always so.
The Attlee government of 1945 did not fidget around trying to find something to do, they had big plans,big ideas and a lot to do.They built a welfare state,a national health service,rebuilt a destroyed infrastructure,took failing industries into public ownership,built thousands of houses,schools,hospitals and did it all in six years!
Everything after that seems to have been downhill.The boldness of that government has been replaced with a lot of tinkering round the edges, a little tweak here a little fidget there.It has for most of my life seemed as if governments just didn't want to frighten the horses.
Now for the sake of brevity, and to save your eyes from drooping and you starting to fidget uncontrollably,I will miss the Tory years,they all appeared to do a great deal of nothing-well apart from the Thatcher years, when they did a great deal of wrecking and turning clocks into sun dials,so a quick canter through the Labour years.
The Wilson years were as about as interesting as watching paint dry, the only thing they may have taken into public ownership may have been bits of the car industry and bits of the ship building industry,but that was generally under pressure from the unions, and was frequently short lived.
They did introduce comprehensive education, but that was in a half hearted way, a sort of fidget round the edges again, and the system started under resourced and of course the private sector was allowed to flourish.
It's true Jennie Lee created the Open University, and they did build a few new universities, but it was all a bit patchy.
To his great credit Wilson did keep this country out of the Vietnam War, but as the nuclear submarines lurking in Holy Loch remind us-there was a price to pay.

But most people will rememver with a degree of nausea the glories of Blair.Lets get the significant fidgets out of the way first, a national minimum wage(tichy but something) Sure Start (tiny but something) and a few other things around the edges, worthy no doubt but not the sort of thing you put in your memoirs.
Then there are the other features of the era, Foundation schools, Foundation hospitals,probably Foundation prisons too. PFI initiatives that saddled local authorities and health authorities withy debts far into the future.
And the endless need to measure and report and tick boxes and report again and when all else failed re-organise.
The politics of fidget is the politics of re-organisation.When your civil servants have nothing much to do,appoint a Tsar and get on with another restructuring.
A party that once had a great vision for a new sort of world  was reduced to cheering to the rafters the arrival of civil partnerships, a desirable advance in human relations, but hardly on the same scale as nationalising the railways.
And of course there was always the Iraq war.

I suppose we have reached the apex of fidgeting with the Cameron years, andv the one big idea,:
"Lets have a referendum on our membership of the EU"
To be honest it was never the biggest issue in the world, but Cameron needed to keep his right wing happy and the further right fidgeting away on the margins.
The big deal was his 'negotiations',which were about as significant as a cold sore on a giraffes' lip.
He even managed to lose that, but it will allow an entire ministry of civil servants to fidget around for five or six years at about 20 billion a year unravelling tons of legislation and agreements that may or may not have been any use.
While all this fidgeting is going on, austerity,growing inequality,growing poverty,a housing crisis,a crisis in training and a failure to create real jobs is going on.

This is the moment that the Labour Party should be recreating the big ideas that made 1945 such a success.
What is it doing ?
The numpties are fidgeting about trying to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn,the only leader for decades who sees the big picure and knows what has to done.
Oh for that grey haired old teacher with the icy glare to yell quietly at the fidgeting PLP! 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful prose as ever JD!
    (and you've got the hang of links!)