Loathsome Labour’s redeeming factors

Perhaps the media are to blame or it might be the reluctance of
the three major parties to provide a coherent “vision” (too much
like old-fashioned ideology when today’s alleged taste is for pick
‘n’ mix politics based on the latest results of focus groups).
Whatever the cause, an unfortunate whiff of “What’s in it for me?”
is already suffusing coverage of voters’ intentions in the general
election campaign.

The Independent, for instance, reports the case of a bar worker
who wants the minimum wage to rise to tackle low pay in the
licensed trade; a student wants more help for undergraduates; while
Tarquin Stephenson, 23, president of the students’ union at the
University of Hertfordshire, says: “The one thing I want to hear
from any party is the truth.”

Fat chance – but, as an electorate, surely we’re intelligent
enough to realise this: unless those at the bottom of the social
pyramid are given maximum support to break the cycle of
deprivation; unless those damaged by family break-up are given
adequate investment to make the most of their lives; unless our
shocking rate of poverty is seriously tackled (not least by raising
benefits), then, no matter how low the taxes or clean the hospitals
or efficient the schools or constrained the alleged
“troublemakers”, the democratic endeavour will be doomed to
failure, generating more discord, unemployment and misery.

Evidence shows that the most productive and stable societies are
those in which the gap between the lowest earner and the highest is
narrow. In these societies there is a strong, well-funded and
proactive system of social care and a resilient notion of inclusive

Labour has much about it that I loathe, not least its timidity
of recent years which contrasts with the boldness Tony Blair
promised would have built strong foundations in social care. But
its various projects are too vulnerable to abandon now – among
them, Sure Start, the national child care strategy, the
ramifications of Every Child Matters and a slow but growing
awareness that disabled people and older people have shamefully
neglected needs.

Labour is conservative, applying the dictionary definition of
the word – a disliking or opposition to great or sudden change.

Consequently, the voter’s choice is limited. Even so, to vote
Labour out now is to hole the only ship that carries dreams of a
better society for all, on the grounds that you despise its captain
and many of his crew.

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