We have had a lot of politics in 2011, perhaps too much, but one thing we haven’t had is hope, what hope we have had has been squashed or derided. At a time when we are looking for a lasting solution to the social and financial problems facing the United Kingdom and Europe – and it really has to be a lasting solution requiring fundamental change – we have had the glimmer of hope squashed.
Cameron has played much on the ‘Bulldog spirit’ in 2011, but he really doesn’t get it and has singularly failed to grasp the point of the Churchillian zeitgeist, the hope that Churchill offered – yes it was ‘Blood, sweat, tears’ but with hope; if we look at ‘Britain’s Darkest Hour’ it was in this period the Beveridge Report was written that laid the foundation of what we now call the Welfare State.
The Beveridge Report was a revolutionary moment in British history that addressed, directly, the fundamental problems of society. It was bold as it was necessary, and was a beacon of hope and revolutionary change during World War Two – in one sense our ‘last hurrah’ – Britain’s darkest hour’. The Beveridge report was as radical as formation of NATO or the European Union, all which have underpinned and secured peace and security in Europe for 70 years.
The brightest points in the political history of the United Kingdom in the 20th Century were ignited, along with Beveridge and also by Nye Bevan who wrote ‘In Place of Fear’ the ideological and moral cornerstone of the National Health Service, which should be required reading for any occupants of either Number 10 or the Department of Health.
Amid the uncertainty in Europe, as Angela Merkel put it in the Bundestag “as dire as the challenges faced in World War Two”, this year will see the virtual dismantling of the National Health Service – in a sense a dismantling of hope, of care, and of welfare, when need hope building, not dismantling, ideologically every fibre of my being is opposed to the cuts, but more than just political opposition I am opposed to the plans because it is driven by ideology not care.
The National Health Service – above all else – was the shining hope of the post war settlement, if only because it replaced the fear of seeking medical care, a basic human right.
So where is our hope as we enter 2012?
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars ~ Oscar Wilde
We have seen groups all over the world challenge not only their ‘Leaders’ but also Capitalism, the struggle of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia are equivalent with the 26th March demonstration in London and the Occupy Wall Street, London, Portland, and the ‘General Strike’ of 30 November – challenge has been made and must be continued, this is not a challenge for chaos or anarchy, but a call for fundamental reform of the way we live and the way organise ourselves.
I was critical of the response of St Pauls to the Occupy London Stock Exchange, two weeks of posturing and wondering what to do, and then the Church seemed to find its moral compass, it took the resignation of three Senior Clerics, Canon Chancellor Rev Giles Fraser, Rev Graeme Knowles and Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres to do so, but ‘making a stand’ comes with a cost, and there were people willing to pay the price. A moral lead was taken, and shortly after that the issues began to be addressed by both the Church of England and the media – Occupy LSX had begun the dialogue, which we must continue. To me the clear message is not ‘re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ while Europe sinks deeper into crisis, but a fundamental change in the way we live, we spend, and organise our politics. We have need of a vision for the future, a repetition of this crisis is not an option.
What Occupy LSX started was to talk the need for a fundamental change that all the political parties had ignored, like a giant Elephant in the room; our hope has to come from a vision for a future, it has to come from inspired leadership, it has to come from Leaders who genuinely want a better future for ALL; more over it has to come from us. We really do have to put into practice the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, cruelly quoted by Margaret Thatcher in 1979:
Make me an instrument of your peace ….
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, faith
but we have to mean it
The defining moments of 2011 came from the people and the ‘Markets’, not the politicians.
A couple of years ago I heard a quote that has stuck with me,
Without food a man can last a month,
Without water he can last three days
Without hope he cannot survive three minutes