Pervasive in yesterday’s successful #NetrootsUK day at Congress House here in London was how people could feel part of Society. Not a Big Society, just Society. Nick Clegg and David Cameron have given ‘divide-and-rule’ a whole new dimension instead, by pitting the public sector workers against the private sector, by pitting indigenous people against immigrants, by pitting younger people against older people, and by pitting the disabled population against the non-disabled population; they have not supported the unemployment and disabled, but actively sought to stigmatise them through their policies.
For Nick Clegg and David Cameron, this is particularly deceitful as they have senior experience in public relations. As Nick Cohen writes this morning in the Guardian, any Keynesian policy to reverse now the shocking decline of Britain would take years to implement, and indeed Lord Skidelsky, who is the official biographer of John Maynard Keynes, feels that Vince Cable is not a Keynesian (George Osborne is clearly not).
The case for engagement is even more compelling, when many people feel utterly disenfranchised by the Tory-led BBC. The routine news coverage of the BBC borders on a Pravda-esque approach to journalism (an image I thank James Macintyre for). Without the social media, it would have been impossible for disabled campaigners Sue Marsh (@suey2y) and Kaliya Franklin (@bendygirl) to get their messages across about the lies which the government, with the assistance of the BBC, have been spreading about disabled people, as evidenced in the Spartacus Report.
That is what made Owen Jones’ speech at the #Netroots conference so special, in my view. But it was very special for another reason. Ed Miliband, in his final hustings at Haverstock Hill Comprehensive School, poignantly warned us that we must not view the Unions as the evil uncle of Labour. What truly appalled me was to see an army of young ‘activists’ in their 20s, armed with their iPhones and Blackberries, saying that the Unions are ‘irrelevant’ to them. The Unions are in fact the largest democratic movement in the UK with over 3.5 million members. Union membership is not closed to Labour. Crucially, the Unions campaign very actively for the enforcement of rights of citizens, particularly in employment. The fact that Thompsons Solicitors, an eminent law firm, is on the ground floor of the building #Netroots was hosted in for the second year-in-a-row is a testament to that. John, who helped to organise yesterday’s event superbly in my mind, took time to explain his ‘Stop employment wrongs‘ project which he had been working on. This is incredibly relevant to members of the Society I wish to live in.
That Society, symbolised by allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and a fine to banks for the #LIBOR scandal, at worst is a society driven by shareholders with only thing in mind – their shareholder dividend – is utterly galling. Yes, maybe I’d like a stop to the ‘something for nothing society’ – maybe the Tory-led BBC would like to launch a campaign on millionaires in the cabinet paying more tax on their dividends, as strictly speaking that is income rather than wealth for the economic moral-purists.
Owen’s talk in full which I recorded from the front row yesterday afternoon