Sunday, 22 January 2012

One Small Voice From The Blogosphere

Some time before the 1997 election campaign, I suggested to Tony Blair that he needed a campaign song, and that the song should be You’re The Voice, by John Farnham. He said something along the lines that the matter was already in hand, and of course it wasn’t long before we were all clapping along to Things can only get better.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression about my relationship with Mr Blair. I am sure he won’t remember our exchange and it might be worth putting a fiver on whether he remembers me at all!

But, all the same, I always thought my idea was better:

You’re the Voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear,
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear,

Why Labour Got Elected
You see, when Labour was elected on a landslide in 1997, as he well deserved, all the commentators looked to Tony Blair for the reason – was it his charisma? the New Labour narrative? … or maybe Labour’s ‘Clause 4’ moment? The Blairites STILL emphasise New Labour’s credibility with the middle class, and it is their belief in a ‘realistic’ (i.e. centre-right) approach to industry and capitalism which informed Labour’s recent attempt at another ‘Clause 4’ moment, when the Eds announced that they would keep the Tory cuts beyond 2015.

But I was around in 1997, and I can tell you for a fact that it wasn’t New Labour’s ‘Clause 4 moment’ that got it elected. In fact, as a newly-active member in 1994, my first speech at my CLP was to oppose the renunciation of Clause 4.
(I was heckled, and Mr Blair’s agent John Burton, bless him, rescued me.)
The reason that I became a Party activist in 1994 was because – along with hundreds of thousands of others – I had had enough … had enough of Major, had enough of Thatcherism, had enough of the Tories. And it was time for them to go.

Tony Blair was my MP, and I thought he was a great and good man. He was the right man at the right moment. But, to be honest, I would have voted for a donkey if it had been wearing a red rosette.
We WERE ‘the Voice’ at that moment. We were sick of suffering in silence, we were sick of people living in despair and fear, and when the election of 1997 gave us our chance, we SPOKE. It was a momentous and a thrilling time to be in politics.

This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better.

And, my God, we DID!!!! I am proud of the tiny part I played in that election victory, and in bringing that momentous
first Labour administration to power.

Into the Blogosphere
Yesterday, Mark Ferguson wrote an article for LabourList on The State of the Labour Blogosphere.
It is an interesting and thought-provoking article.

In it Mr Ferguson reflects on how the Labour ‘blogosphere’ has shattered into a chaos of innumerable left-wing offerings. New blogs have arisen, he tells us – including ‘the verbose and controversial Dan Hodges and the eloquent new voice of the working class Owen Jones’ – but many others as well. Moreover, he expects, ‘those stories will need to be told with even greater force in the years ahead, so expect these online voices to grow louder and more confident as a result’.

‘The kind of blogs people write’, muses Mr Ferguson, ‘reflects what kind of politics we want too’. And the fact that he has subtitled his article ‘Into the Darkness’ suggests that he is not at all confident that this profusion of bloggings will necessarily yield a positive outcome.
I get the impression that, for Mr Ferguson, the explosion of left-wing blogs is a sign of a lack of clarity in Labour’s message, and of a loss of direction and confidence after our election defeat.

But, Mr Ferguson, as an unknown, barely-noticed example of the proliferation of bloggers, I have to tell you that I do not FEEL part of a confusion of direction, or a bewilderment in the wake of defeat.
Twitter, facebook and ‘the blogosphere’ have given ordinary people a Voice like never before. In the middle east it has toppled governments.
And I am part of the Voice.

We’re the Voice, try and understand it
I am stimulated by the challenging accusations of Dan Hodges, and I am inspired by the vision of Owen Jones … but, faced by this evil Tory government, I have my own outrage and I intend to exercise my right to tell the world what I think about it all.
And I have my ideas about what Labour ought to be doing to oppose the Tories and I intend to speak those out too!

I know that precious people few read what I write. But there are others, also, writing out their anger and disgust. Collectively, we are the Voice. And as the Tory cuts and injustices bite, that Voice will grow louder.

The explosion of left-wing blogs is not the out-fall of defeat, it is the beginning of the fight-back.
And that Voice – perhaps disparate and dissonant at the moment – will not be silent until our government is rid of the stench of Thatcherism, and a Labour government has been re-established.

We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older

You’re the Voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear,
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear.

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