On believing in everyone having a secure home as a human right.
This is roughly the text of my talk to the Liverpool Walton Constituency Labour Party on the evening of 22nd May 2018.
From a lifetime working in and around housing and communities and at the request of the Walton Constituency Labour Party here in Liverpool, these are my ‘Top 10’ thoughts, a mixture of policies and practicalities, on how we might go about fixing the wide ranging housing crisis we are now in.
Having spent much of yesterday afternoon and evening in Wirral West, as one of the many people there helping the local Labour candidate Margaret Greenwood get elected, I decide to go back to the constituency today, as I take a day off from all forms of working.
Today I’m reflecting on my happiness that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters did such a good job and reintroduced ‘being yourself’ into a political system where that’s been thoroughly yet pointlessly discouraged for years.
American Talk Show host Jimmy Dore talks up the Labour Party Manifesto.
So here’s the thing. Jayne Lawless and I are talking politics during a brief gap in talking about Coming Home Liverpool, which we run together. And Jayne is enthusing about something by someone called Jimmy Dore that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook. But which she can’t send to me because of my outright refusal to have anything to do with Facebook.
“You’ve got to see it Ronnie, you’ve absolutely got to see it. Go home, find it on your computer, find it anywhere and watch it!”
So I do and it’s brilliant. A point by point discussion on the brilliance and straightforwardness of the UK Labour Party’s Manifesto. An unexpected delight, coming as it does from the United States, but a delight nonetheless.
Except its 21 minutes long.
“It would make a great Labour Party political broadcast if it could be edited down to much, much shorter” I tell Jayne.
“So ask him. Ask Jimmy if he minds you doing an edit?”
It’s been a confusing week in politics. The Referendum and its European aftermath that I’ve already written about on here. Followed by the spectacle of our two main political parties choosing consecutive days to appear to tear themselves apart. No one I know was very surprised to see the Tories behaving so badly, but when the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party decided to turn on their own recently elected leader I was, to put it mildly, disappointed.
But we’ll come back to that after a bus ride to town.
Or ‘Seaport: A Life in a Book’This book came out originally in 1964 when I was ten years old. And though I had my adult-side library ticket by then it must have been a reference only book, as I have no memory of bringing it home. Instead I would sit in the North Liverpool library of my childhood and pore over it for hours. Fascinated by such a gorgeous book about the place that, even then, I considered myself lucky to have been born in. Much of which I hadn’t yet seen. My Liverpool was a Ribble bus to County Road and Stanley Park, near where I’d first lived, or all the way into town, with occasional rides on the ferry, back and forth, back and forth.
My parents, having lived through the war years in Vauxhall and Bootle next to the decimated docks, had been glad to move their little family out to the new northern suburbs where everything was new and life could only get better. And Maghull back then was a fascinating place to grow up in. Between our house and the library there was still a farm where you could watch the great big sow suckling her piglets. And the surrounding streets as they got built filled up with footballers from Everton and Liverpool who we would constantly pester for autographs. But also, of course, by 1964 the Beatles were among us and together with this book only added to my fasciation with the place I was actually from, my Liverpool.
So I would sit there in Maghull branch library, gazing at places I hadn’t yet seen and dreaming of finding them. Then over the decades that came I would find the book occasionally in the Liverpool libraries I by then lived near, and notice that in a way, the book and those early dreams were shaping my life.
Eventually a copy of the 1993 reprint of the book entered my life. The father of my partner Sarah, Frank Horton, was dying of lung cancer. And having seen how often I would look through ‘Seaport’ while visiting him, tenderly passed the book over to me, saying “I think it’ll be more use to you than me now.”
I remember a good few years ago when I used to read such stuff ‘management and leadership’ books were fond of quoting Sun Tzu’s classic Chinese text ‘The Art of War’ when giving modern leaders things to think about. Wisdom like:
“All warfare is based on deception.”
So, the explanation might go:
“Don’t be so foolish as to let your competitors in on all your thought processes if you seriously want to outsmart them.”
Naturally I’ve thought of all this again during the current omnishambles that is the Labour Leadership Show and have returned to Sun Tzu to look for an opinion. Reckoning that the class war the Conservative enemy is now pursuing against the people of the country is certainly the kind of war we wouldn’t want to lose. And other than the above, I’ve found nothing. Undeterred I’ve decided to make up my own Sun Tzu quote, informed by his above real words, but to fit our current situation:
“After a heavy defeat the wise army recovers its strength in its barracks.”
Lately and increasingly I have resumed writing in long hand when something really matters to me, when something needs working out. The slowness of it, the active thinking, from my heart directly down my left arm to the tip of my pen.
I’m writing in long hand now, sat on the wall of Sefton Park, the Sunday afternoon before the 2015 General election. Sefton Park where I have come for most of my adult life to walk, reflect and think about all the really big decisions. When to invite, when to leave? When to say yes, when to say no. Today I’m here to keep writing until I can decide who to vote for this Thursday.
As you can tell by the title above, several parties and candidates have already been eliminated by the thinking and experiences of my life up to now. I am a socialist and always have been since, I think, my first ever visit to a public library some time late in the 1950s:
“We’d moved to our new house on a new estate, just North of Liverpool. And in one of our early explorations of the new place, called Maghull, I remember my Dad taking me to the Library there and explaining how it worked. That I could pick the books I wanted and take them home. Then after we, or rather he, had read them to me, we’d bring them back. ‘It’s part of how we’ve decided to run the country. Books are important and this is a good way of making sure everyone can read the books they want,’ he said, gently educating his little son in the gently British version of socialism.”
The quandry of who on earth to vote for? And will we end up with a feuding coalition anyway?
Yesterday evening a brave Conservative walked along our terraced street in Liverpool delivering election leaflets. As soon as I noticed it I went and looked up and down the street to try and see what such a being looked like, but no, they were gone.
Back inside the house soon rang with laughter as I read through the joke in every line leaflet. This chancer, James Pearson is his name, will be ‘safeguarding our NHS, creating new jobs for hardworking people (yes ‘hardworking’ is now a conjoined political word) and protecting us from the coalition of chaos.’ Eh, I thought the Conservatives had spent the last 5 years running that?
Oh well, none of it matters because James has absolutely no chance of winning the seat here. But thanks for delivering your leaflet anyway. It’s your democratic right and it made me smile, not to say laugh, for a few minutes.
In General Election terms this hasn’t happened before. Locally it has, but local doesn’t matter to the same people (The people with big money, the people with strong power, so much the same people). No, what’s happening now is that we know for sure next May is definitely the date of the next General Election. Because a fixed electoral term of 5 years was set early on by this particular Government. This hasn’t happened before nationally and it’s causing a bit of a hoo-haa.
Not familiar with the term? It means (my definition):
“Hoo-haa’ (old political trick). Drumming up a fuss. Never over a big issue. Small error or minor offence anyone could understand – bigged up for apparent short term political gain.”
You see, normally around this stage of a government’s life there would be ‘speculation‘. That a ‘snap’ election might be called if the opposition leader forgot to mention the economy at his annual conference. Or that a vote of ‘no confidence’ might cause an early election if the sitting government were continually embarrassed by bye-election results. Maybe, like 5 years ago, a recent and unexpected piece of good performance in an unforeseen global economic catastrophe promotes ‘speculation’ of a belt for the polls while the going appears good? You see, the ‘speculation’ itself would be the big news and would keep the political chatterers occupied. Not this time.