I have loved this song since I first heard it. I used to have a problem with Kirsty Maccoll’s version. That problem has long gone, although I used to prefer the original if for no other reason than the singer-songwriter could get away with saying, “I don’t want to change the world.” He had earned the right to sing that line because we all knew it wasn’t true. At any rate, it was an oversimplification
Billy Bragg had set out his stall with protest songs, and his contributions to powerful class struggles. Which side are you on? Billy Bragg is on our side.
Where do socialists get off celebrating those who don’t want to change the world? Can we truly excuse those who are only ‘looking for another girl’, for something as selfish as a soul mate? Yes, of course we can.
The thing that moves us to tears of heartache and tears of joy are real flesh and blood people in love. We care nothing for stereotypes. We need complex people with failings, frailties, in love with a soul mate, having to endure unendurable odds to live happily ever after.
Like everyone else, socialists love characters in novels, dramas, poems, films who love their children, their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, extended family, or pets too. But we fall in love with those who can empathize with strangers, with the downtrodden, with those who are most need of a helping hand whether their families are there to help them or not.
Can we fall in love with those who only look after themselves, or only with their very closest relatives? I know I can’t.
Fathers grow to love their children over an extended period. They cannot liberate themselves from this love, if only because they feel a responsibility for letting them down to the extent they don’t turn out as praiseworthy as they would have hoped. The same is true of other relatives. I doubt this has much to do with Richard Dawkins’ notorious selfish gene.
We bond with our families through shared experiences. That at any rate probably explains why the male side of the family gets as caught up in all this love madness as the biological mother whose children remain forever part of her even after the umbilical cord is broken.
But we tend not to fall in love with those who prove incapable of making sacrifices for the entire community. At any rate, those on the left tend not to do this. Socialists feel pity for conservatives who cannot embrace humanity as a whole, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality, disability, whatever. These conservatives are only half human. They are warped. Poor bastards.
Notwithstanding the attempt by Britain’s conservative broadcasters to portray political activists as a breed apart, we are not. We are not robots with software. We have lovers, children, families. Pets even.
Great works of art deal with this inevitable tension between our love for those nearest and dearest to us and our responsibilities to the wider community. Cultured people embrace the tragedy of those whose souls are torn apart by this: Aeneas and Juno, for example.
Man does not live by bread alone. And neither do women. Political activists do not live by throwing their lot in with political struggle alone. We need vacations, rest, and all kinds of sustenance, including intimate relationships with soul mates, and a family. And that brings me to the Scottish referendum and the indispensable role of women in it.
Why are women, allegedly, less likely to vote for independence than are men? I’m not convinced that this will turn out to be the case by the 18th of September. What clearly is true is that more men today claim to have climbed off the so-called ‘spectrum of indecision’. I remain unconvinced that this reflects a fixed opinion. I suspect women are merely less willing to say they have made up their minds before they in fact have. This is admirable.
I think that within the two camps, there will be some who will not vote the way they tell pollsters. I say this not because I think they are necessarily lying, the way Tory voters tend to lie to pollsters, out of shame for being so selfish. I am not convinced that as many have as closed a mind as they claim. Many people probably won’t make up their mind until the very last minute.
Having said that, I suspect the most Gordon Brown, Lord George Robertson, Lord George Fowlkes, Alistair Darling and Johann Lamont can do is scare voters into abstentions. Project Fear is incapable of galvanizing anyone. It is a poison. It is merely a tool for paralysis: a plague on both sides. These are the tawdry ambitions that sludge through Better Together’s veins.
Pauline McNeill had to act as Gordon Brown’s ambassador on Planet Earth when he refused to speak on his own behalf. She proved to be a rather poor spokesperson. She said on STV’s Scotland Tonight that up until Sunday’s poll, Better Together had been extending its lead over the Yes Campaign. Where the hell has she been? Does Better Together think that allowing someone so out of touch with reality represent them helps their cause?
Better Together is a hearse falling over a cliff in slow motion. Not all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men will be able to put it back together again. Even so, it is not enough for the Yes Campaign to pin our hopes on our opponents committing political suicide. We need to champion a positive vision that inspires. This is the only way to consolidate all our gains. There can be no resting on our laurels. The Yes Campaign needs to shore up support within all sections of society. Including women. And the sooner the better.
What will bring women on board is not crossing off a checklist of so-called “women’s issues”. What women want is what essentially the same thing men want. We need society that is humane, just, egalitarian.
Gordon Brown cannot offer women, or men, a humane society. Scotland will not be better together with those determined to surrender to the United Kingdom parliament so long as first-past-the-post reduces most voters in the UK to irrelevance.
Voters, according to Chris Patten’s BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s SKY News, who refuse to cast their vote for the “Ed Miliband for Prime Minister Party” necessarily boosts David Cameron’s prospects of forming a government. What a miserable choice that is.
The Scottish people are not about to be dictated to by Tory idiots at the BBC, at SKY News, Channel Four News, ITV or Channel Five. First-past-the-post delivers anti-democratic monstrosities. The Tory broadcasters who pollute the airwaves do not reflect the values of the voters in Scotland or south of the border. These broadcasters – in combination with this disgusting electoral system – have genetically modified Labour leaders until they are indistinguishable from the rest of the capitalist parties, just in case this party ends up winning an election by default.
By the way, contrary to the nonsense the rather decent journalist Kevin Maguire peddled on Sky Papers on Monday, the growth in support for Scottish independence has zilch to do with shortbread, kilts, haggis or anything like that. This may get me shot by both sides in Scotland’s referendum debate, but I have always agreed that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. There is nothing I want for the Scottish people that I don’t want for my English, Welsh and Northern Irish brothers and sisters. Indeed, I want the exact same rights for the people of Chile, Greece, Egypt, Palestine, Kurdistan, Turkey, Ukraine. For all humanity. What I am fighting for is the last thing that will be delivered by the Better Together charlatans. And Gordon Brown is no better than David Cameron or Nigel Farage in this respect.
Gordon Brown worked hand-in-glove with Tony Blair as they launched an illegal war in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died as a consequence of what these people did. Gordon Brown presided over this mess as his boss deploying Britain’s out-of-control intelligence services to make the entire population of Britain complicit in war crimes, in the process opening all of us up to more terrorist outrages.
Gordon Brown joined hands with Tony Blair to bequeath to voters in Scotland and England the nightmare of a society where five ultra-rich Tory families own more than the poorest 20%.
The voters of Scotland will take no more lessons from Gordon Brown or Pauline McNeill on how to end inequality. Rather than waiting for change in the rest of the United Kingdom, Scotland as a whole will go our own way: men, women, black, white, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, the disabled, young, old, gay, straight… All of us. Our English brothers and sisters are more than welcome to join us on the other side when they’re ready. But we have grown weary of waiting for you to catch up.