Editing of Groundswell over the last few weeks has been hampered by our venerable 84-year old editor David Naden being unwell. David completed an assembly of Act 3 before this and, with him now recovered, we’ve started on Act 1.
Revisiting the rushes of our very first day of filming of 999 Call For The NHS’ campaign groups’ conference at Stafford in January was a depressing reminder of why Labour lost an Election it could and should have won.
In the rushes the anger and distrust towards Labour is palpable amongst the grassroots reps from its old heartlands, including a couple of UKIPpers, as allegations of infiltration and ‘astroturfing’ of campaign groups by (New) Labourite activists, and their attempts to marginalise dissidents, are made. The assembly glimmers with alienation from the Party that has been their historic home.
In the weeks of the Election run-up my agent Elaine regularly called me to share her exasperation. Our litany was that of many would-be Labour supporters. Why was Labour being so timid in its policies? Why was it allowing the Tories to get away with the blatant lie that Labour’s deficit was to blame for the 2008 Crash? Why was it letting the Tories set the agenda on austerity and the economy?
It was less than a month before the Election that I got a knowledgeable insider’s answer. Peter Mandelson and his aides were tightly marking Ed Miliband at Labour Central. This explained the wateriness in Labour’s policies, not least its duplicitous ones for the NHS which actually left it exposed to continuing privatisation.
It also explained the Party’s failure to address the real causes of disaffection among their grassroots, choosing instead to try and override them with the top-down control freakery for which the City-smoothie Mandelblairson New Labour regime was renowned.
It was Lucy Reynolds at the Stafford 999 Call For The NHS conference who vehemently argued that Labour had been systematically infiltrated by the City over the years and remains its lapdog. At the time it was hard to grasp the sheer scale of what she portrayed but events suggest her being disturbingly credible.
‘New’ Labour’s ancien regime has lost no time in reasserting its control over the Party as its swapshop of leadership contenders now daily vie to prove themselves more business-friendly and aspiration-positive than ‘Red’ Miliband. And the sight of this bunch of baldies fighting over a toxic plastic comb simply deepens apathy towards Labour and its future. Who the hell cares who wins?
Which chimes with another of Lucy’s assertions in our Stafford film material – that the ultimate aim of the City honchos is to disabuse the British people of their faith in Parliamentary democracy (not a million miles from the Big Swinging Dick-speak in my Sympathy For The Devil blog). They seem to be doing a pretty good job of that.
After the Tory Election victory a perceptive, level-headed 999 Call activist Deborah Harrington also voiced her conviction to me that we are now effectively moving towards a one-party corporate State, outwardly benign “like Franco’s Spain to a tourist”.
As the Tories embark on their ISIS-like mission to return the public sector to Osborne’s vision of its ‘rightful’ place in the private sector, and Labour shows little sign of being willing to unshackle itself from the City’s grasp (the central cause of so much of the disillusionment with the Party), it’s hard not to agree with both these acute womens’ bleak perspectives.
Many commentators have suggested that Labour’s Election debacle could be a gamechanger in the Party’s history. Whilst it’s early days in Groundswell’s editing my hope is that our filming has captured some revealing elements of what lay behind that unexpected defeat.
And that it has also captured some seeds of a ‘New’ Politics emerging from outside the political apparatus to challenge a political and civil order that has become so hopelessly polluted by the free marketeers that it still won’t take them on properly – not even after the failings of the freebies’ ideology being so abundantly exposed by the 2008 Banking Crash and after all the revelations of systemic corruption in its wake.
It’s hardly surprising that for more and more the only real hope seems to lie in the streets and cyberways beyond the pales of Westminster, Brussels, Washington and all the other mausoleums of political and financial power.
As a genuine grassroots, non-party campaign organisation started and run at street level, and with now broadening horizons, 999 Call For The NHS remain a really interesting marker for this.