National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative
Commons BY-NC-SA *
I suppose many of us are already fed up with the 'yah boo-ing' of so many politicians on so many media programmes. Never mind, I can hear you say, four weeks today and we can put on the news programmes again, read the comments columns in the newspapers knowing that we are safe for another five years from electioneering.
Of course that may not be true. There may be - very probably will be - that interregnum where political deals are being made, coalitions are being forged and best political friends fall out whilst new, unlikely alliances look increasingly likely.
After what happened in the days following the last General Election, we should be ready for anything both ante and post May 7th. Increasingly shrill 'discussions' on TV programmes must make many voters despair. Shouts of 'not true' from political opponents only serve to confuse not enlighten. Last night's 'Question Time' was a prime example. The 'token journalist' was obviously not impartial and if not exactly toeing a party line seemed to be following a line laid down by editorial policy. The two lady politicians were complete contrasts one so shrill and incapable of answering a question that she made her very reasonable opponent appear even more reasonable, especially when she answered a question! The two male politicians also contrasted each other, one patronising especially when talking about the less fortunate sections of society, the other so capable and inclusive that at times I wanted to cheer. Notice I name no names or parties/newspaper because sadly this sort of make up happens each week and only the faces change.
So what are we to think and how do we decide to vote? Well I have taught history and I also have a family history of, shall we say, membership of the 'awkward squad'. I look at where we are now in society and who/which party is responsible for it. Sadly, so many of our current social conditions remind me of the 'Bad Old Days'
The zero hours contracts remind me of how my English greatgrandfathers used to wait at the docks to be picked for a day's work. Zero hour contracts have grown massively under the Coalition government and Ed Miliband has pledged to end this 'epidemic'. And don't forget Dirty Dave Cameron admitted he couldn't live on a zero hours contract.
Food banks remind me of soup kitchens. Many times in the past unfortunately the disadvantaged and dispossessed have had to resort to soup kitchens, free breakfast clubs etc when there has not been enough money coming into the family home to feed the individuals. In recent history, most scandalously, during the miners strike in the 1980s when the Conservative Government sequestered the Miner's Union funds and for some the only meal of the day was that provided by the soup kitchens or food given by the relief committees. In the depression era of the 1930s when so many were unemployed, soup kitchens etc fed many, the photograph* above is from an archive at the National Media Museum . But most of these previous incarnations were necessary in times before the Welfare state and in today's affluent society there should be no need for such 'charity'. If our society cannot support those who are sick, unemployed and disadvantaged it is a very harsh society. Especially when it rewards the very rich with income tax breaks. Ian Duncan Smith is very vocal about benefit cuts..... Do we trust his party as government again?
Demonization of immigrants reminds me of the ghettoization of Jews, Irish and Welsh and other Ethnic minorities in times gone by. So much racism is of economic basis as so many individuals have come to this country in search of work to enable them to send money home to their often starving families back in their home countries. My father came to England from Wales on one of the hunger marches in the 1930s and when looking for work and digs was often met by notices stating 'No Dogs, No Irish, No Welsh'. Nigel Farage does not seem to understand why others wish to live in our country and uses our facilities even thought his ancestors did just that albeit many, many years ago. He does not seem to recognize that when British citizens live in a EU country they are also entitled to use their facilities, despite being a MEP. When we lived in an EU country we used their health services extensively. So do we want such an ill informed man one of our MPs?
What looks like the prospective dismantling of the NHS reminds me of the stories of pre-1948 medical care in the UK. How one of my aunts died on the day the National Health came into being and the family story that they all wondered if she would have lived if it had come into being a year before. How it cost his mother 2/6d [13p] to have a bead removed from my father-in-law's nose in the 1920s when that amount of money would have provided the family's tea. How it was cheaper to have all their teeth removed rather than have a few fillings attended to. How individuals went blind due to cataracts or undiagnosed or untreated glaucoma. How women who needed hysterectomies bled and bled each month, suffered from anemia and often died too young as their immune systems weakened. I remember David Cameron's boast pre 2010 General Election 'We are the Party of the NHS'. What - the destruction of it? Do I want his government in power to destroy what is left?
The hiking of the pension age reminds me of way my English grandfather worked until he was nearly 70, in poor health [see above] and died, worn out and an old man aged 72. How my Welsh grandfather never even reached pension age and died aged 64 of 'the coal dust' [pneumoconiosis] on his lungs. No compensation then either. Leaving my Grandmother to be supported by her children. Do I want a government who will keep us all working beyond our capability whilst giving tax breaks to the very rich via tax havens and non-dom status?
So listen to the politicians, read the elections addresses. But listen also to the subtexts, read between the lines, look back to what their parties said last time and what they actually did. Go to meetings if you can, ask questions whether face to face or by letter or email.
Do vote - many died, especially women, to get that privilege - don't waste it!