THE BLOG

What Labour's Success Means

12/06/2017 12:46 BST | Updated 12/06/2017 12:46 BST
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Those who backed Corbyn from the beginning will feel vindicated; but we've still a long way to go, with many obstacles ahead. While the Conservatives have their own problems, their advantage is always their lack of principle. Their role is to protect the powerful and they will adopt any position necessary to retain power. However, we do now have a great opportunity to move away from the blinkered thinking of the last 40 years, if we can show the necessary discipline and imagination to seize this opportunity.

What Corbyn did, with only 6 weeks of slightly better news coverage, was stunning; and there is a sweetness in watching some Labour MPs and the BBC realise that they might have missed something: not accepting how bad things are, how angry people are, nor that positive alternatives really do exist.

To those who have been campaigning against Austerity the attitude of the BBC has been a particular irritant. But perhaps the BBC is not a Tory mouthpiece, rather it simply reflects the narrow ideological consensus within the Westminster bubble. It assumes that truth is located in the middle and that when the Left moved Right then so did truth. Truth never moved; but attention moved elsewhere.

The failure of the BBC, and the bias in our newspapers, has only increased the importance of social media. And while social media is certainly a conduit for Fake News, it's also a powerful way to reveal those inconvenient truths that don't fit in the Westminster consensus.

Social media is also central to the work of organisations like the Centre for Welfare Reform. As an independent organisation, with no corporate backing, it gives us an affordable way to challenge the tired lies that go under the name Austerity. For instance, ahead of this election, we tried to draw attention to the many lies that are told about the tax-benefit system.

Analysing ONS data for the past 40 years two things are particularly striking. First, inequality is not good for growth. The lie that we can grow our way out of poverty or inequality is one of the most powerful tranquillisers used to put our consciences to sleep. Only political action reduces inequality.

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Second, for all the pretence, there has been no serious effort to reduce poverty in Britain for over 40 years. Instead the facts show that successive governments have taken resources away from the poorest families and transferred them - not to the rich - but to middle-income families.

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The photographer Les Monaghan is also trying to reveal the reality of poverty in modern Britain in his exhibition Relative Poverty. Poverty makes us uncomfortable, and so most of us walk by, on the other side. Worse, the poor are made to feel ashamed of their poverty; and they have no means to organise, lobby or defend themselves from this injustice. We've privatised poverty.

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Poverty is not the only injustice we must wake up to. On the 9th June Jennifer Brea's powerful documentary Unrest had its UK premiere at Sheffield DocFest. The film showed the shameful way some doctors, researchers and politicians have ignored or misrepresented the needs of people with ME, and others with chronic illnesses. People with ME have been represented as frauds, simply because doctors don't know how to treat their illness. Instead of offering research and support, people with ME have faced stigma and neglect.

A similar challenge faces the disability community. After 7 years of vicious policies, targeting disabled people for cuts, there is still only minimal awareness of the size of the crisis. For the first time in my memory social care became a real issue in this election; yet nobody reported the fact that social care has faced a cut of over 40% since 2009. Yet, even with all this injustice, the disability community has struggled to get its voice heard by the establishment.

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What Labour's success means is that more people are beginning to listen. Some are beginning to realise, not just that things are wrong, but that things can change for the better. Perhaps, at last, we will wake from our 40 years of grim and restless sleep:

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