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Good luck to the marchers; and meet a man who may have to enter my Great People list

Posted on 26 March 2011 | 10:03am

Good luck to all the marchers trying to put a bit of sense into the government before the full extent of the cuts programme is felt, and the Big Society becomes more pressured, more fractured and a lot less Big.

I won’t be among the vast throng as I have a long planned speech at a ‘Great Minds’ conference near Heathrow, but Fiona will be flying the family flag, fired up by the latest report on the damage being done by Michael Gove’s decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future programme. Schools for the many being allowed to fall into disrepair to allow a few free (sic) schools for the few.

At the conference I am attending, the organisers have asked me to speak about the minds of great people I have known and worked with.

The names won’t be too much of a surprise to regular readers but I may have to sneak in an extra one, someone I met at a dinner in Southampton last night.

His name was Geoff Holt. I first noticed him because he had a huge smile on his face as he came towards me. One of the dinner’s organisers told me he had known him all his adult life and the smile was a near permanent feature.

During the dinner he gave me a copy of his book, Walking on Water, in which he recounts the story of how he sailed single-handedly around Great Britain. No lesser personages than Princess Anne and Ellen Macarthur were quoted on the front of the book in praise of his exploits. But lots of people have sailed round GB, I hear you say. Yes maybe, but how many quadraplegics?

Because if I tell you, finally, that he has been paralysed from the chest down and wheelchair bound since he was 18, you’ll understand why he was even more impressive than long-distance sailors I have met.

Here is his website if you want to know more, and his twitter name is @wetwheels if you want to follow him, as I now do, he having tweeted me during the dinner.

Indeed I see he has tweeted this morning asking whether the 300 accountants at the dinner were among the meanest in Britain. We had some great lots, but it certainly was like getting blood from a stone when I did the auction. We got there in the end, and raised a few grand for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, but it’s the first time I have done an auction where the early bidding was between me and an imaginary figure at the back of the room that I pretended was lifting its hand.

  • Richard

    Your empathy with marches knows no bounds. Those against The Iraq War, and of the Countryside Alliance were many times larger than today’s is expected to be: You briefed against them both!

  • Olli Issakainen

    Social and economic vulnerability impacting ordinary people have origins in the global concentration of wealth and power. A global economic system is exploiting labour and concentrating profits and creating inequality.
    Governments in liberal democracies feel free to ignore mass demonstrations, while in the Arab world they cannot. “Managed” democracies can avoid the apperance of suppression while sustantively terminating democracy.
    Both capitalist democracies and dictatorships use political means to concentrate wealth, power and privilege. Britain has policies of destroying public services without a clear mandate.
    Priority is given to the entitlement of the few at the expense of the many.
    In the Arab world people want break with existing models of power and privilege – they do not simply want westernisation.
    It is about taking the ownership of their societies.
    People in the west should join this rebellion against corporate power and privilege. As Priyamvada Gopal wrote in the Guardian, this is about more fundamental clash between the barbarism of economic plutocracy and the civilisation of social justice.
    Neoliberal policies should have no place in the post-crash world.
    Leaving everything to the markets did not work. The free-market ideology which followed Keynesian economics was funded by rightwing thinktanks.
    In the developing world, neoliberalism was translated into the Washington Consensus. The experiment started in 1970s Chile. Inflation rose to 375% and unemployment to almost 30%. Inequality followed and debt exploded.
    Private sector options were pushed because of ideology.
    In Britain the government is slashing jobs and dismantling welfare system to balance the budget. But the cuts will lead to a spiral of slow growth and high unemployment. New cuts and tax rises are then needed.
    The deficit was caused by massive bank bailout, shrinking government revenues and decline in corporate taxation. Maintaining public spending is needed for long-term support to economy.
    Social movements are fighting the dogma of austerity and privatisation. The legacy of the Chicago School is invading the last battleground for social justice.
    Seven out of 10 people in Britain define themselves as middle class. But the truth is that social mobility has faltered.
    Main political parties think that the idea of aspiration is a vote-winner. But in a globalised economy aspirations cannot be met.
    What we buy, rather than what we produce, has become our core identity.
    Triangulation under New Labour meant that there was no more need for class conflict.
    We now have some homogenised vision of middle-classness.
    Gramsci described a culture in which the ruling class persuades the lower classes to accept its values. Rush to the “centre ground” means that.
    The future of the Labour party lies in the synthesis of New Labour and Blue Labour.
    New Labour´s way of staying true to Labour values was public sector and welfare spending.
    Labour now needs to recreate the coaliton of middle-class and working-class voters that gave the victory in 1997.
    Blue Labour, meaning conservative social democracy with emphasis on the good society and moral economy based on fairness, is the only way “New” Labour can continue after the global financial crisis.
    This new thinking will get Labour elected.

  • Robrob2002

    If a person with a large mortgage loses their job – what’s their first priority?

    Either securing a new job (including borrowing some more money for training etc) or concentrating on making additional mortgage payments to reduce their debt?

    We need to grow our way of of this recession – not cut our way out.

    Good luck to all on the march!

  • Richard Brittain

    250,000 people? Wow, pretty awesome. Did a good job in demonstrating to the government that there are many who oppose them. Shame about the violence.

  • Kitchen Cynic

    I was at that dinner. The auction was a crashing embarassment for the enitre room due to the thunderous lack of bids. However you really should speak to SOSCA. Actually telling attendees in advance that there would be a charity auction or in fact mentioning in advance that there would be any kind of charitable presencen would have been an enormous help to the fundraising activity. Great speech mind, but then I suspect I was the only red in the room!