Wednesday, 27 January 2010

What Happened To Labour?

I am not sure what has been the most obvious in the last 24 hours, a) the fact our economy is about as healthy as a 40 a day smoker or b) that the gap between rich and poor has not been as high for 40 years.

Either way, it begs the question - what happened to Labour? In my youth, I may not have agreed with the rantings of Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot, Dennis Skinner, Arthur Scargill or Tony Benn but you could not fault them for their deep conviction that there was a fundamental inequality in our society. Now, after 12 years of a Labour Government, we find we have the usual defunct economy but also the largest gap between richest and poorest, the least opportunities for our children, and an apparent breaking, if not broken, society that still makes distinctions between sex and gender despite there even being an Equalities Minister and employment laws as tight as a duck's backside.

The reality is that we sit passively reading that bankers at Goldman Sachs will have to make do with only £1m per person this year, we look on with indifference that bosses' average pay is now over five times that of the wages of their average worker and despite the presence of a myriad of laws employers still discriminate on the grounds of race, religion and sex. We may think things are different - but they aren't. You only have to see the rise in the BNP to understand that Britain is not moving forward in its thinking or the clamour to congratulate France on banning the wearing of Burkas by Muslim women.

Then again, we are at war with Muslims and their way of life. We are currently occupying two Muslim countries and we are having another eternal inquiry into why we invaded one of them as it posed no threat to our nation. It's little wonder why people in Britain remain largely anti-foreign, let alone racist.

We convince ourselves that the Taliban are the epitome of pure evil because of the way they treat women and hold them back, yet the recently released figures show clearly that as a society we fundamentally undervalue the contribution of a woman doing the same job and that the opportunities to progress for women are far less than those for men. We have even made the white male worker a class that is oppressed in the media.

I can't say that I know answers to such a complex situation because on the one hand I want a safe place to live, more opportunities for local people to work rather than have more migrant workers in this country, employ the people I think can do the job rather than be told that I must favour certain sections of society, earn as much as I am able and pay less for the failings of others. On the other hand, I know that I am part of the problem. I sit hear and listen to the spoutings of a Government that has failed us through window dressing policies and talk but did little to rectify the underlying problems and I think to myself, 'Well at least I'm ok, despite how much I disagree with their so-called achievements.'

And that about sums it up - as long as we have our Sky TV, a place to live, iPods, 42" TVs, places to eat and pubs to drink in plus the money to support it, we are fat and happy. Who cares about the kids in poverty in this country or the starving in Africa when partners at banks average £1m a year and are furious they are being victimised? It seems Labour doesn't - that party of social equality of old has wooed and knighted bankers as good as anyone and footed the bill when they got so greedy that they broke the country.

We are a society that will gladly fight for the right to watch violent films, make sure our kids have the latest PC games extolling the virtues of stealing cars and defending the right of anyone to do what they want on the internet yet criticise people for having beards, wearing Burkas and being tough on criminals. We are a society that will happily go to war based on false information, then cook the story to justify it when the lie is discovered yet allow countries we 'free and democratise' to have corrupt Governments because it suits our agenda.

The fact is, as a society we haven't really moved very far forward at all. The Labour Party, which once had a passion to tackle such issues, has got as fat and as happy as the society it governs.

I would hate us to get back to the old days of rampant strikes and high powered, politicised Unions that dominated Labour's rise which contributed to the death of the British manufacturing base but I can't help thinking we needed some of those old principles about a better society, because what we have is more polar, discriminatory and broken than it has ever been.

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