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I’ve heard and read lots of people over the last couple of days telling us what Margaret Thatcher did to harm them and make their lives more difficult. Her sins are then recounted to make it clear how right this person is that it was her fault. But as that well-known “terrorist” Nelson Mandela said “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping that it will kill your enemies.”
Nonetheless, I have a lot of sympathy with those who are picking away at their old wounds. If you’d asked me in November 1990 (while I was honeymooning in Malta and desperately trying to find out what was really going on back in London)what reaction I’d have if she actually died, I’d have probably given you a list of reasons why I would enjoy dancing on her grave.
I joined the Labour Party at the age of 18, toward the end of 1983, partly in response to the horrendous election result in June of that year. I think I was told at home to “stop moaning about it and go and do something about it”.
As a recent school-leaver without a job and as a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists, I was active throughout the following year in campaigns to support the printworkers in dispute with Eddie Shah and supporting miners on strike through 1984 and ’85.
So all through the eighties I was involved and awake to what was going on. And all through that period, I hated Thatcher and the rest of the Government. But I can’t do that any more, it stopped working for me. This isn’t piety, it’s self-preservation.
Next Wednesday, while a coffin-bearing gun carriage trundles down Fleet Street to St Paul’s I’d like to do something other than the obvious choices of cheering or jeering.
I think we need to focus rather on the release of resentment and ways to find reconciliation, preferably without talking about MHT or her colleagues at all. So I’ll be holding Human Scale Conversations on those themes. If you’re interested in doing something different on that day, come along. I’ve not settled on a venue yet, but somewhere away from Whitehall and The City – maybe the weather will be kind and we can go somewhere in Hyde Park. I’ve put up a #wewillgather event and see what happens.
UPDATE/AFTERTHOUGHT I’m doing this in Central London, but if you’re not here on Wednesday, I’d strongly encourage you to organise you’re own event in a similar vein.
I had a long period of TV abstinence beginning in about 2004 (I guess it was about when I started writing here – something had to go to make time for it). But Netflix has drawn me back into fairly regular TV watching because it’s totally under my control and it makes a decent fist most of the time of alerting me to things I’d like to see.
Lots has been written about the new House of Cards which is not being shown on regular TV. It’s on Netflix-only, and the 13 episodes were released all in one go last week. Mostly though people are focusing their attention on the novelty of the release rather than the programme itself.
Which is a shame, because it’s very good. I haven’t gone full throttle into TV addiction yet so I haven’t succumbed to the temptation of just watching the whole thing in a 13-hour marathon, but I’ve managed the first three episodes and we’re getting used to the characters and seeing some of the storylines start to firm up.
I was initially disappointed to realise (it came in the first few shots when Kevin Spacey turned and started talking to camera) that it’s the Michael Dobbs/Andrew Davies House of Cards remade in today’s US political scene. Disappointed only because the original was *so* good, so captivating, so of the time and shockingly near to what we suspected the inside of party politics was like, long before The Thick of It. And because Ian Richardson was so compelling: simultaneously adorable and despicable. And because I’m rarely won over by American remakes of British TV. Where I am at the end of episode 3, Spacey hasn’t quite reached Richard III levels of despicability but he’s getting there and I fully believe that he pulls it off by Episode 13 and Robin Wright is an able Lady Macbeth. Part of the draw for me is seeing how the other recognisable characters might turn out – although it’s pretty much a question of how they will meet their various sticky ends rather that whether they do (I hope).
I like the graphic overlays that denote when people are texting each other. It lets the acting continue without cutting away to a close-up of the phone screen. I haven’t seen it done as authentically before.
It’s very interesting to see it transplanted into American politics and the DC village rather than the Westminster one. Though I am wondering why it took 23 years for this story to be acceptable to a US audience. Is American politics in a similar place now to where we were at the end of the Thatcher era? I guess there are similar levels of disillusionment with the system, but has that come about recently? Is it a new thing? If we got any faith in the system back in 1997 we’ve lost it again since.
One thing that does crop up with the all-in-one release thing is that it makes it hard to have an online social experience around it and so it’s hard to write about without some spoilers – it’s neither like a movie (which you’ve either seen or you haven’t) nor like a standard TV series (where you might allow people to be a few episodes behind, but pretty much you expect everyone to be up to date or avoiding any reviews). And of course it’s also a remake.
But do I hate spoilers so I shall wait until a significantly larger number of my friends are admitting to having seen it.
Now this feels weird.
It started with a tweet, like so many things in my life today.
And of course a bit of banter arose and a hashtag was suggested #LloydDavis4MP but then I started to talk to other people about it and realised that they were taking the proposition seriously, being encouraging saying things like “Oh yes, I think that would be marvellous” So I’m writing about it here so that I’m quite sure that I’m not being blindly selective and only telling people who I know would be supportive but also to better understand what I might do next.
Because I’m up for it, I think. It fits very well with making social art and building community, which is what I (and others) see myself doing. I’m just not sure how.
I see our current national political system suffering from similar issues to those faced by other large organisations – that large-scale centralised bureaucracies do some things extremely efficiently but mostly at the cost of the people who are supposed to be served by them as well as the people who spend their time trying to run them. I think that working out what it might mean to run this country (or any country) in the next century is something worth putting time and energy into.
The expenses row shows just how vulnerable the system is to abuse of trust. I’m quite sure, from the gobsmacked faces and embarrassed shuffling that most MPs considered they were playing the game as it’s supposed to be played and that from their perspective, the goalposts have been moved. Yes, they knew it was probably wrong, but everyone seemed to be doing it and it’s easy in that situation to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Very easy, that is, if the only people you talk to about it are other people who are engaged in the same activity.
So there’s a choice for those of us who see that change is needed. I could write about this over and over and work out what I think and tell other people what they should do or should believe and engage in endless conversations about policy and designing a better system, or I could say, y’know what, I don’t think it’s possible to stand outside a human system and tinker with it, design a desirable future state and then implement it – that’s the process that got us into this mess and innumerable messes before. I think we have to participate in our democracy in a much more active way.
Which brings me to our current parties. I joined the Labour Party in 1983, soon after the second Thatcher election victory. It felt like a grim time. I was a 1 in 10, a number on a list. The economic base that most people at that time had believed would be with us forever, manufacturing industry, was being swept away, restructured or sold off. I instinctively disliked the hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative style of the Tory party under Thatcher – I preferred the being hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative in my *own* way, and on the side of people more like my family and friends, so I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (which for those unacquainted with the history of such things, means what the press at the time dubbed “The Militant Tendency” though that wasn’t what I thought I was getting into at the time). And then throughout the 1980s I took part in political activity that didn’t work. At a local and national level, we lost again and again. I wasn’t forced out of the party over Clause IV or for being a member of a party within a party or anything like that, the reality was that when my son was born in 1991, I had just been made redundant and I needed to spend more time on caring for my own family than fighting for others. I have voted in every election I’ve been entitled to and on each occasion I’ve voted Labour or spoiled the ballot paper where there was no Labour candidate. And perversely I’ve always lived in Conservative constituencies – the only time that the candidate I voted for has won has been in District Council and European elections. But now I’m done with combat and dogma of whatever flavour and you should judge me on what I do and say today, not the things I went through on the way.
And now I feel quite distanced from any of the parties. They don’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. They seem to be still trying to play the same game and the game has become more important than the original function.
Those of you who’ve seen me at Tuttle will, I hope, have seen me being of service to the group, to the community. The more that I’ve done that, the more I’ve let go of trying to run it, or make it go in a particular direction, the more successful it has been and the more I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’d like the opportunity to try that out on a grander scale. And representing local people at a national level seems where there’s most improvement to be made.
We’re all quite exercised about how public servants should act with integrity and honesty – my definition of integrity is simple – you do what you say on the tin – you are open and clear about the principles that you apply when making decisions and you do what you said you’d do.
So the idea of standing as an independent candidate is quite appealing, running on a ticket of integrity and true service. And I’m attracted to serving Bromsgrove because I lived there, I know and love the town and because they seem to have had a rough deal with MPs for a while. I’m open though to doing something elsewhere or accepting that I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and should just get on with something else.
And of course, I have some interesting ideas about how my knowledge of the use of the social web could support both a campaign and the day-to-day business of being a sitting MP.
I’m very interested in what others think on this. Are there qualities that you think I’m lacking? Can you see a more suitable way for me to contribute to this issue?
Because telling people what’s good for them and what’s best for all of us and what they should do that I’m not already doing – isn’t that the only way it’s going to work? Isn’t that what marketing and politics is all about? Don’t people need to be told how to live better lives, what things they need and what they don’t need, what they really ought to stop doing straight away? Otherwise, then what would happen?
It does seem as though there is no other way. Except, oh dear, we have a rather major blind spot. There is no other way as long as it’s me or my pals who are doing the telling, but the moment that you’re telling me what to do, you’re telling me how to live my life then I will resist – to put it mildly. Sometimes I will resist violently, sometimes more subtly, in fact sometimes so subtly that even I might not notice that I’m resisting, but nonetheless I will resist.
Oh yeah, and I’m quite good at recognising when you try to make me think it was my idea in the first place.
Bonus audio: Vinay Gupta’s lecture on Infrastructure for Anarchists (70MB) at the Temporary School yesterday