Media,  UK Politics

“Reactionary sectional interests”

This is a guest post from Ben

You are young-ish. Between the ages of 25 and 40. You are a graduate. Of a good university – almost certainly Russell Group, and probably elite – Oxbridge, Durham, Bristol or one of the London colleges. You live in inner north London. Or at least the better bits of south London. Clapham, maybe. Or St. Reatham, at a push. You earn more than the national median wage of £21,320. In fact, you, or your colleagues whom you respect and whose positions you aspire to one day take, earn substantially more than the London median wage of £30,000. Your chief executive earned £471,000 in 2008/9.

A small hedge fund? Blue chip? The law?

No.

The Guardian.

You attended your editorial meeting where the general election line was discussed. Not decided, mind you. That decision is jealously guarded by your more senior colleagues. The ones who are even further removed from reality than you are.

You’re not particularly interested in history. 1997 is a dim memory. In the meantime there’s been Afghanistan (you forget that you supported it at the time – the increasing number of body bags provide the “moral” imperative now), Iraq, PFI, detention without trial, the – horror of horrors – Digital Economy Bill.

All Labour. You’re a modern sort of person – you don’t need to think about the history, the background, the context. What’s important – what fits with your assumptions – is the requirement for the tired, old party to be punished.

And so there is no heated debate. Just an echo chamber. Because all your colleagues think just like you do. You all know that you’re liberal, enlightened, sensible. How could anyone on the left possibly disagree with support for a Liberal Democrat vote?

And so the die is cast.

And suddenly you find a furore you didn’t expect. Some of your readers (not the CIF commenters, but the ones who’ve read the actual paper for years) are angry. Upset.

People are accusing you of ignoring 13 years of transformational change. You don’t use the NHS that much, and don’t have kids. Your colleague, James, has children, but he didn’t realise what a big deal those Sure Start Centres were – it’s not like Tessa or Henry attend them, so how could you expect him to know? You didn’t really notice that Labour had transformed the public services. You noticed that you had to increase the pay of your agency cleaner shortly after 1997, but that was the only real up close experience of the effects of the minimum wage you had. You think ASBOs are an ante-diluvian horror, not a vital tool to defend law abiding working class people. You think the New Deal was terribly unfair, rather than an essential tool of fairness and empowerment. Most of all, you’re glad that the government that introduced student fees will soon be gone. The massive expansion in higher education is great and all – we’re all liberal, and we wouldn’t turn around like those died-in-the-wool Tories and say it was a bad idea. It’s just that there are more important issues. Education is a right, not a privilege, and if we have to dramatically cut back the number of places available and remove the maintenance grants that Labour reintroduced for the poorest third in order to shout that principle loud and clear, then that’s just the way it has to be.

And that’s why you, and all your colleagues, and your senior colleagues who made the actual decision, made the brave, progressive choice to advocate a vote for the Liberal Democrats. Time for a change. Change that works for you. Or whatever it is.

But your readers all have a choice too. Some of us will never buy the Guardian again. It’s nothing personal.

Really.

We just don’t think you really understand the way life actually works in the UK, or what really matters in the lives of the people that a great progressive newspaper should support.

We’ll remember this. And long after the slam-dunk defeat of 2010 is a distant memory, after we’ve clawed ourselves back into contention, back from third place, if that is what it is to be – and by God we’ll fight to prevent your complacent and counter-productive desires becoming a reality – we’ll recall what you did and said.

We’ll recall that you put the electoral system above the education system, that you put House of Lords reform above continuing reform of the benefit and tax credit system to empower working people. And we’ll recall that you put Nick Clegg’s earnest vacuity ahead of a hundred years of blood and sweat and tears.

And then we’ll recall that there is only space for one searing, demanding, committed force for change and reform. And that the chance for the likes of you passed in the flames of the first War.

Some of us may be new Labour, Blairite, warmongers, or whatever people like you want to call us, and some of us may be traditional socialists or social democrats, but our party is a broad church of reform.

We’ve had tough times before. We’ve lived through tempestuous change in the 1980s and we’ve come back, renewed and reformed, dedicated to representing the aspirations of working people. Because our mission is too important to allow it to be cast aside through our own introspection, complacency or self-imposed irrelevance.

And that is our strength. We work with each other day in and day out, and our coherence, solidarity and discipline as a mass party representing working people means that we’ll be around long after the Guardian and your favoured liberal choice of the moment have been obscured by the shifting sands of time.

We will bury you.

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