Sunday, 19 August 2012

Getting The Vote Out

Today, Peter Hitchens writes both this:

Those who thought Margaret Thatcher was a conservative should have realised she wasn’t when she wrecked the British Sunday. Is there anyone who really needs supermarkets and other big stores to be open on Sunday? I don’t remember starving back in the old days when such shops were closed. As for it being vital to our economy, Germany – whose economy is vastly healthier than ours – has the strictest Sunday closing laws in the world. Doesn’t every home need a still, untroubled day of rest, when everyone can relax at the same time?

Even Joseph Stalin, at the height of his Marxist rage against private life, failed to abolish the Sabbath. It took Britain’s Tories to succeed where he failed. And now, after an ‘experiment’ in longer Sunday hours during the Olympics (and what have the Olympics to do with Sunday shopping in the first place?), Downing Street is talking about extending it. This will mean more pressure on shop workers to work on Sunday, and more small shops put out of business by the incessant greed and ruthlessness of the supermarkets.

The Tory Party rightly points out that Labour is in the pocket of the unions. But both major parties are the puppets of the hypermarket giants. And here I must put in a good word for Vince Cable, who is (as so often) being smeared and blackguarded by the whispers of Westminster’s professional backstairs-crawlers and their media receptacles. Mr Cable is standing out against making longer opening hours permanent. In doing so, he is quite properly being consistent with what he said to Parliament on April 30: ‘There is the suspicion, which we have already had aired, that the Bill is a Trojan horse preparing the way for a permanent relaxation of the rules. It is not.’

But what about his Tory colleague Mark Prisk, who told the Commons with equal clarity: ‘We have no intention of making the measure permanent’? There’s a lot of tripe talked about how ripping up the rules that make life bearable in this country – from Sunday trading to the green belt – will save our failing economy. It won’t. It will just turn a once pleasant landscape into a hooting, yelling version of Istanbul, a paradise for greed, and nothing to see for miles and miles but traffic jams, concrete and plastic.

And this:

I never thought I would feel sorry for Richard Branson. But it is obviously wrong and stupid to deprive him of the West Coast rail franchise, and give it to Worst Late Western. Mr Branson may be pretty awful, but I wouldn’t let Worst Late Western operate a supermarket trolley. They are experts in greedy fare increases and padded timetables that allow them to run trains slower than they were 20 years ago, yet claim to be punctual. They inflict endless futile announcements on passengers who want peace, but resort to total silence when their elderly trains are mysteriously becalmed in the dark.

But that’s railway privatisation for you, which vies with Gordon Brown’s sale of our gold reserves as the stupidest government policy of modern times. Some people claim British Rail was worse. But BR didn’t have anything like the money that was given to the private train operators (who siphoned it all out into their own pockets) and also to Failcrack, the people who shamefully neglected what had until then been some of the best maintained lines in the world. Now the subsidies are being squeezed, and so it is the passengers who suffer.

The Transport Department hates railways and loves roads and airlines, which is why roads are still nationalised (who did you think owned them?), and air travel is still hugely subsidised, thanks to the exemption of aviation fuel from duty and VAT. I love trains and think they are a great British invention and vital to civilisation. But even if you don’t agree with me, you’d miss them if they weren’t there because of all the goods and cars that would end up on the roads instead.

Any party that promises to bring back BR will get my vote.

I think that we can all see where this is heading. Precisely because of the trade union links that Hitchens still seems to find faintly distasteful, only one party is committed at least to keeping Sunday as special as the last Conservative Government left it, and only one party is making noises towards finally implementing its own 1997 manifesto commitment to renationalise the railways.

That same party is also the only one that now advocates the Union as a first principle, and any concept of English identity. A universal postal service bound up with the monarchy, the Queen's Highways rather than toll roads owned by faraway and unstable petrostates, and Her Majesty's Constabulary rather than the British KGB that is the impending "National Crime Agency". The National Health Service rather than piecemeal privatised provision by the American healthcare companies that pay Andrew Lansley. The restoration, both of energy independence, and of the economic basis of paternal authority, through the reopening of the mines promised by Ed Miliband to one hundred thousand people and the television cameras at the Durham Miners' Gala. The historic regimental system, and aircraft carriers with aircraft on them. No Falkland Islands oil to Argentina. The State action necessary in order to maintain the work of charities and of churches, and the State action necessary in order to maintain a large and thriving middle class. A referendum on continued membership of the EU, explicitly and repeatedly ruled out by David Cameron and William Hague, but never by Ed Miliband. A free vote on the redefinition of marriage, very recently and half-heartedly conceded to Conservative MPs, but always guaranteed to Labour ones.

Labour is reverting, indeed it has now pretty much reverted outside the tiny but noisy ranks of those soon to be expelled, to its historical norm as the voice and vehicle of a many-rooted social democratic patriotism in all directions, inclusive of social and cultural conservatives as well as of social and cultural liberals, inclusive of rural as well as of urban and suburban voices, inclusive of provincial as well as of metropolitan contributions, and inclusive of religious as well as of secular insights. The 2010 intake is very largely "classic Labour", the boys in their dads' suits having decided to sit out the hard work of Opposition. As a result, Labour has long enjoyed a commanding lead both in the opinion polls and at the actual polls.

Labour came third or below in 211 constituencies in 2010, mostly places where it always does, and in most of those always pretty, if pretty, distantly. However, the Coalition has changed the weather. Imagine a formation which, while welcoming Labour's present return to the historical norm set out above, was for that very reason fully aware that someone needed to keep Labour on that track or else stand ready to replace it. Properly organised and sufficiently funded, such a formation could, even in this first instance, expect to win a third of those seats, i.e., around 70. That would be enough to make a very significant difference indeed, even to hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament. But it could only happen if the unions, most obviously, stumped up the cash. And it could only happen if Labour, with no realistic hope of winning those seats, stood aside in that formation's favour.

For now, though, this, from Peter Hitchens. Place your bets as to how long it will be before he actually writes the words in his hugely influential Mail on Sunday column. And place your bets as to who will be next. "You have nowhere to go, except maybe UKIP"? Oh, really? Increasingly evidently, not anymore. But only if Labour holds its nerve as the party of those restrictions on market activity, and of that public ownership of essential services, advocated, "demanded" if you will, by the trade unions.

1 comment:

  1. Right all along again, Mr L. I see that the BPA has disappeared from the blog roll. Its work is done, both locally in selecting Hilary Armstrong's successor, and now nationally.

    At both levels what matters now is keeping a watch on things to make sure that they stay as you have worked so hard to make them.

    By you, locally I mean you yourself, nationally I mean the broad Lindsay-Neil Clark and friends-Blue Labour-Radical Orthodoxy tendency.