Revolution isn't easy

Spanking, mascara and a range of other thorny topics

Dear Marina,

Thought I'd ask for your assistance on tackling what I am sure will be a thorny issue over the next few weeks, that is being accused of suffering from a traditional Conservative pastime, I am led to believe, of taking a spanking. I am assured that all the best schools still appreciate this form of 'social education', never did me any harm and all that, but I am worried that the younger generations today lack the stiff upper lipishness to take it without blubbing. What is your advice on dealing with this situation?

Chin up dear gal, we shall overcome.

Yours,

Wurzel Fortesque-Smythe, 3rd Earl of Little Snodgrass.

I too Lord Snodgrass have recently been tainted by this pastime so beloved of that Spliffing Toff and his lackeys.

Oh sir! The anguish, the guilt, the turmoil. There was nothing I could do to stop them. Over the knees I went, my skirt pulled up unceremoniously, exposing my pert bare cheeks to the vagaries of their strike. Thwack! Thwack! And Thwack again!

Believe me sir, I implored them to stop, I fought hard to escape, but my squeals of protestation fell on deaf ears and the more I struggled, the harder they spanked. I stand before you, scarred, sir but an innocent party to this cheek drubbing. Our seats didn’t stand a chance.

When I have recovered enough to sit down I promise you sir I shall have my revenge on these Tories for their sadistic perversion of the democratic process.

In short sir, they so spanked the wrong peach bottom.

Dear Marina,

I come from four generations of coal miners, my first memory is of mum singing The Internationale and I have spent most of my adult life in Riffley WMC. My problem is that I am seriously thinking about getting into politics, considering the local election results do you think I should try and become a Tory councillor?

On the fence, Riffley

Are you really suggesting that if you can’t beat them you should join them? People like me didn’t lay down our political lives so that people who should know better swap sides for the enemy.

Please, either contact your local Liberal Democrats or go lie down in a darkened room until common sense prevails.

Dear Marina,

I have never been a fan of my local MP Tony Blair, and was very active in the anti-war protests - even burning an effigy of the man. But when I watched him in Sedgefield last night, I have to admit to shedding a tear or two. Am I strange or do, like me, most middle aged housewives secretly just want to hug him?

Homemaker, Sedgefield

Pull yourself together woman. This is the man who brought the Labour party to its knees, our country to war and rendered the NHS unstable and critical. Among other things.

I missed most of his speech yesterday owing to a sudden need to vomit in a bucket I had foresightedly placed beside me for that very purpose. So I cannot comment on yesterday’s performance.

But hug Tony Blair? He’s not some wayward toddler in need of love and attention, he’s a grown man with an ego the size of Mars and the morals of a Babylonian whore.

Now get yourself along to your doctor and ask him to prescribe Bromide incase we have a snap General Election and you’re tempted to vote for him.

Dear Marina,

Why do women always have to put mascara on with their mouths open?

GB, Downing St

Because, Gordie, it would smudge under the eyes, otherwise. Please, I know you’re trying to appeal to women, but this isn’t working. Please don’t ask me another. Oh, and expect a demonstration when you get to Brighton on Sunday. In 1997 you pledged to never let houseprices spiral out of control. Here in Brighty the boom – or should that be bubble - adds £74.00 to the value of a home, EVERY DAY!

I’m delighted you listened to me regarding ID cards. Review by all means, but don’t forget to cancel the order once you’ve rounded up the paper work But you must also concentrate on housing needs, otherwise it won’t be a peaceful revolution and you’ll be the first up against the wall with David Cameron wielding the Cat-o-nine-tails!

Dear Marina,

After the local elections has Ming “the vase” shattered his chances of leading the party at the next

GE

Some critics might argue as to whether the vase is half full or half empty. Some might even mix their metaphors to ask: “Is it half baked?” I would suggest, as does God, I believe, in the bible, that we should concentrate on the empty vessels that make the most noise (Corinthians). Ming’s deafening silence during the run up to the local elections, therefore, could be construed as proof positive that the vase overfloweth – with flowers of the revolution perhaps.

It would be helpful if he could hang on a bit as my road to parliament – and leadership -has been blocked by an unwelcome landslide but I’m digging myself out as fast as I can. For as sure as Ming’s dynastic reign must come to an end, so surely must come the revolution. Viva Ming! Viva the revolution. Viva my parliamentary campaign which is already accepting donations to the usual address.

Dear Marina

This is just to say sorry about your election result last week. I'm in
the Green Party and I'm always surprised at your choice of party but we
need all the active original politicians we can get. Good courageous
stuff about the war too! Perhaps East Saltdean isn't the best place to
start the revolution but I hope you will find other ways to continue to
be active.

In solidarity,

Chris Smith, Lewes

Revolutions begin with like-minded individuals grouping together for strength and working together for change. Whether it’s a gradual change “in due course” or fast and radical, depends on the revolution.

I disagree that East Saltdean is an unsuitable locale for revolutionary zest. Let’s face it, if I can get my Tory voting neighbours to go green (small ‘g’ OBVIOUSLY!), through education and empowerment I sincerely believe our success could be replicated anywhere!

I can’t answer for our newly elected Conservative Councillors though. What a bunch of ….. No I promised myself to reclaim the ideology associated with that particular anatomical reference as a positive for womankind . . .

But as I’ve often said: if you’re blue and you want to go green, you need yellow. I still have my town council seat. I shall use this minute, almost homeopathic, dose of Liberal Democracy to heal my people of their moment of madness. I shall happily square up to the henchmen of the Spliffing Toff sitting across the council chamber. I shall work harder than ever to prepare my community for change.

Come the next General Election I will do all in my power to squeeze the shit out of the Conservative vote to ensure our constituents are protected from the prospect of a millionaire Tory from out of town being returned to parliament as our MP.

Regarding your surprise at my choice of political party, it really is a no brainer. As a practitioner of community politics I find Liberal Democrat policies practical to implement and highly effective, particularly in the area of crime reduction.

If I had my way I’d have the Greens absorbed into the Liberal Democrats. It wouldn’t necessarily enhance our green credentials, as we’re already doing that for ourselves. It would however stop you lot running round like anarchists standing for election wherever you fancy, splitting the vote and delivering the Conservatives to office.

Perhaps the Greens secretly hanker for a Tory government in the hopes that a dictatorial regime in the spirit of Thatcher might wave the flag for green fascism.

Thank you for supporting my anti-war protest, as did many old soldiers at the reunion dinner of the Royal Sussex Regiment to which I was invited as a guest and after dinner speaker. All I said was “as a future leader I pledge never to take this great army of ours into an illegal war.” I cannot apologise for the furore, as I never mentioned Iraq. But at least we know now that those soldiers present from the Princess of Wales regiment, who led the booing, recognise the invasion of Iraq as illegal. Now they and the press who turned against me, just need convincing that it is the Emperor who is naked and in need of a new outfit, not the “small boy” who is wrong and deserving of punishment.

No one said the revolution was going to be easy…

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Chuka Umunna calls for "solidarity" among Labour MPs, whoever is voted leader

The full text of shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna's speech to Policy Network on election-winning ideas for Labour's future, and the weaknesses of the New Labour project.

There has never been an easy time to be a social democrat (or “democratic socialist” as we sometimes call ourselves in Britain). Whereas the right can demonise the poor and extol the virtues of the market, and the hard left can demonise the market and extol the role of the state, our position of constraining the domination of markets and reforming the state is, by definition, more complex.

It is nonetheless the case that social democracy has a historic responsibility, in every generation, to renew democracy and preserve a civic culture. This is achieved not through soundbites and slogans, but through the hard-headed development of a progressive politics that reconciles liberty and democracy, new comers and locals to our communities, business and workers, in a common life that preserves security, prosperity and peace.  This historic mission is all the more urgent now and my determination that we succeed has grown not weakened since our election defeat last May.

But, in order to be heard, it is necessary to make balanced and reasonable argument that both animates and inspires our movement, and which is popular and plausible with the people.  The first is pre-requisite to the second; and there is no choice to be made between your party’s fundamental principles and electability. They are mutually dependent - you cannot do one without the other.

We are in the midst of choosing a new leader and it is clear to anyone who has watched the UK Labour Party leadership election this summer that amongst a significant number there is a profound rage against Third Way politics – as pursued by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and others - as a rejection of our fundamental values.

In the UK there is a view that New Labour accepted an uncritical accommodation with global capital that widened inequality, weakened organised labour and we were too close to the US Republicans and too far from the European left.

I do not believe this is fair, not least because we rescued many of our public services from the scrap heap when we came to office in 1997 and there were very significant achievements  we should celebrate.  New Labour renewed our National Health Service in a fundamental way; we built new schools and improved existing ones; we set up new children’s centres all over the country; we brought in a National Minimum Wage; we worked with others to bring peace to Northern Ireland; we introduced civil partnerships.  Just some of our achievements.

However, though we may take issue with the critique, I do not think we can simply dismiss out of hand those who hold critical views of New Labour. Like any government, the New Labour administration made mistakes - it could and should have achieved more, and done more to challenge the Right’s assumptions about the world. In the end, it is not unreasonable to be ambitious for what your party in government can achieve in building greater equality, liberty, democracy and sustainability. It is far better we acknowledge, not reject, this ambition for a better world, as we seek to forge a new politics of the common good fit for the future.

Realising our values in office has been disrupted by globalisation and the surge of technological forces that are displacing and reshaping industry after industry.

Some argue that globalisation as an ideological construct of the right. But we must recognise that we live in an increasingly integrated world in which markets have led to an unprecedented participation of excluded people in prosperity, a rise in living standards for hundreds of millions  of people and a literacy unprecedented in human history – this is particularly so in emerging economies like my father’s native Nigeria. And the internet has led to a level of accountability that has disturbed elites.

Yet, this has been combined with a concentration of ownership that needs to be challenged, of a subordination of politics that requires creative rather than reactive thinking, and these global forces have exacerbated inequalities as well as helped reduce poverty.

So it is important that we understand the sheer scale and impact of new technologies. At the moment we are engaged in a debate about Uber and its threat to one of the last vestiges of vocational labour markets left in London, those of the black taxi cabs and their attainment of 'The Knowledge'. But the reality is that within the next decade there will be the emergence of driverless cars so we have to intensify our exploration of how to support people in a knowledge economy and the realities of lifelong learning, as well as lifelong teaching. As people live longer we will have to think about how to engage them constructively in work and teaching in new ways.

Once again, I'm addressing all of this, Social Democracy requires a balanced view that domesticates the destructive energy of capital while recognising its creative energy, that recognises the need for new skills rather than simply the protection of old ones. A Social Democracy that recognises that internationalism requires co-operation between states and not a zero sum game that protectionism would encourage.

Above all, Social Democratic politics must recognise the importance of place, of the resources to be found in the local through which the pressures of globalisation can be mediated and shaped. Our job is to shape the future and neither to accept it as a passive fate nor to indulge the fantasy that we can dominate it but to work with the grain of change in order to renew our tradition, recognising the creativity of the workforce, the benefits of democracy and the importance of building a common life.  Sources of value are to be found in local traditions and institutions.

This also requires a recognition that though demonstration and protest are important,; but relationships and conversations are a far more effective way of building a movement for political change.

One of the huge weaknesses of New Labour was in its reliance on mobilisation from the centre rather than organising. It therefore allowed itself to be characterised as an elite project with wide popular support but it did not build a base for its support within the party across the country, and it did not develop leaders from the communities it represented. It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics.

Over half a million people are now members, supporters or affiliated supporters of our party, with hundreds of thousands joining in the last few weeks. Some have joined in order to thwart the pursuit of Labour values but many more have joined to further the pursuit of those values, including lots of young people. At a time when so many are walking away from centre left parties across the Western world and many young people do not vote let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate.

So it is vital that we now embrace our new joiners and harness the energy they can bring to renewing Labour’s connection with the people. First, we must help as many them as possible to become doorstep activists for our politics. Second, I have long argued UK Labour should campaign and organise not only to win elections but to affect tangible change through local community campaigns. We brought Arnie Graf, the Chicago community organiser who mentored President Obama in his early years, over from the U.S. to help teach us how to community organise more effectively. We should bring Arnie back over to finish the job and help empower our new joiners to be the change they want to see in every community – we need to build on the links they have with local groups and organisations.

I mentioned at the beginning that in every generation Social Democracy is besieged from left and right but the achievements of each generation are defined by the strength of a complex political tradition that strengthens solidarity through protecting democracy and liberty, a role for the state and the market and seeks to shape the future through an inclusive politics. Solidarity is key which is why we must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office.

Yes, these are troubled times for social democrats. All over Europe there is a sense among our traditional voters that we are remote and do not share their concerns or represent their interests or values.  There is surge of support for populist right wing parties from Denmark to France, of more left wing parties in Greece and Spain and in Britain too. There is renewal of imperial politics in Russia, the murderous and abhorrent regime of ISIL in the Middle East, volatility in the Chinese economy and in Europe a flow of immigration that causes fear and anxiety.

But, the task of Social Democracy in our time is to fashion a politics of hope that can bring together divided populations around justice, peace and prosperity so that we can govern ourselves democratically. We have seen worse than this and weathered the storm. I am looking forward, with great optimism to be being part of a generation that renews our relevance and popularity in the years to come.

Chuka Umunna is the shadow business secretary and the Labour MP for Streatham.