Sunday, 17 May 2015

It's Time for A Change



My recent posts seem at odds with the previous umbrella name for this blog-spot: The Personal is Planetary. It was a reflection of my passionate interest in the environment, climate change/global warming.  The issue strikes a chord for people all over the world, indeed the top five of my most popular posts are about the environment. 

   

The passion is undiminished but now it's time for a change.

 

Over the last ten days, my attention has been captured by the machinations of the political world and the lengths to which politicians are prepared to go in order to hold on to or grab the reins of power. And it is true that the ideologically-motivated action of politicians have unintended consequences that affects the planet one way or another. 

 

Who knew that Margaret Thatcher’s overwhelming desire to smash the unions in Britain, and particularly the miners, would have a huge impact on a major driver of global warming? Her speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 (best appreciated on YouTube (Climate Change History - Margaret Thatcher - Speech on ...) never ceases to astonish me.[1]  Amazingly Maggie said:

 

"...We have also recently become aware of another insidious danger. It is as menacing in its way as those more accustomed perils with which international diplomacy has concerned itself for centuries...

 

What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate—all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways." 

 

Was that really you Maggie? On the other hand the lady was probably the first climate sceptic, exhibiting a clear case of Cognitive Dissonance or inconsistency between action and belief.   

 

Apart from the Greens, the environment was not a feature of any Party’s manifesto for the recent general election. The issue paled into insignificance in the face of priorities considered to define our future: the economy, austerity and immigration. The election was also illustrative of the major schism in the landscape of British politics both at a party and national level. 

 

Back in the day my political science class described the post war consensus as an alignment of Labour and Conservative Parties, despite differences in ideology, coming from a desire to maintain Britain's status in the world at the end of WWII.[2] At its most basic level this was an agreement between the aristocratic ruling class and the masses that capitalism was the preferred social and economic system, an arrangement that would deliver the kind of progress advantageous to both sides of the divide. 



This consensus was underpinned by the establishment of the welfare state, currently at the mercy of the Tory zeal for minimizing the State.[3] Deregulation of employment practices advantageous to business but detrimental to the workforce and the environment is seen as unavoidable. The ‘market’ must be unfettered; the economy is paramount.

 

The blurring of the clear divide between the UK's two dominant political parties began with Margaret Thatcher and continued under Tony Blair. They also compete with the proliferation of new parties which, taken together, steered the outcome of the election.  Even the language and assumptions made by the consensus has changed. The ‘ruling class’ is now the ‘super rich’, many coming from humble backgrounds. The ‘masses’ has splintered into the ‘aspiring middle’, 'working people’, and the ‘poor’ from which the most ‘troubled families’ are singled out for their own ‘tzar’.[4]

 

Following the financial meltdown of 2008 and the resultant ‘age of austerity’, the political landscape in Britain has shifted dramatically. That shift has left the Labour Party bruised, confused and holding the short straw.  Its traditional base in Scotland has been decimated, whilst Tory plans for a Northern Powerhouse challenges another stronghold; and then there is UKIP (Labour admits: We underestimated Nigel Farage's Ukip in ...). But the most critical relationship that needs resolution is the one with its birth mother, the trade union movement. 

 

Among the many illusions that abounded in Ed's Labour Party was the misguided  perception that the 2008  'crisis of capitalism' needed a socialist solution, and the people would get it. Sad really. A new settlement with the ‘splintered masses’ leading to political power in the future will require a redefinition of who the Party serves, other than itself, and an understanding of what motivates and can offer reassurance in an uncertain world.

 

The process of change is painful.