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I’ve just been listening to BBC reports on last night’s elections and the inevitable post-mortem questions, e.g. ‘Why didn’t Labour do better?’ ‘What caused them to lose votes when the present government is getting everything wrong?’ and, with wearying, growling persistence, a Jack Russell with teeth embedded in a teddy it pretends is a real live rabbit, ‘Is it time for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down?’.

I am nobody special. A Labour Party member since 2015 – and yes, the date is significant. I hadn’t been engaged with politics since the days of Thatcher, when I fought tooth and nail against the poll tax – even withholding it as part of a civil disobedience campaign. I did everything I could to stop Sizewell B, and saw the roads to Leiston being widened and strengthened for the lorries that would soon be trundling along it delivering plant for the nuclear power station BEFORE THE INQUIRY HAD EVEN FINISHED. Yes, that’s how certain someone was of winning this battle. Oh, and I regularly visited Greenham Common, where I learned a different way to get my views across, not by shouting at police or calling out the shoulder numbers of particularly rough ones, nor by chanting slogans, but by engaging the soldiers on the base in actual conversations, coupled with creative cookery which saw warm porridge being thrown at the windscreens of lorries taking the Cruise missiles out for their regular walks in the Newbury countryside.

I’d hardly registered the name Jeremy Corbyn. I knew of Tony Benn, of course, and Michael Foot, and Dennis Skinner, treated by the Tory press with the contemptuous affection you’d show to a smelly sheepdog, but Corbyn was an unknown.

Then Tony Blair burst upon the scene and everything changed. Labour voters having for decades been demoralised by the seeming invincibility of Thatcher and her juggernaut, had crawled away to lick their wounds when suddenly – a charismatic, handsome man stepped into the frame, a young man who was also fearsomely articulate and an extremely good psychologist [in those days], who gave Labour voters confidence that a Labour government could truly happen, and before our very eyes, it did. We weren’t to know how much time Tony had spent winning over the Tory media, schmoozing Murdoch and doing whatever needed to be done behind the scenes to get Tory minds seeking novelty ready to pick up their pens and vote red, for the first time in their lives.

The 1997 manifesto made ten promises:

Over the five years of a Labour government:

1 Education will be our number one priority, and we will increase the share of national income spent on education as we decrease it on the bills of economic and social failure.

2 There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax

3 We will provide stable economic growth with low inflation, and promote dynamic and competitive business and industry at home and abroad

4 We will get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work

5 We will rebuild the NHS, reducing spending on administration and increasing spending on patient care

6 We will be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, and halve the time it takes persistent juvenile offenders to come to court

7 We will help build strong families and strong communities, and lay the foundations of a modern welfare state in pensions and community care

8 We will safeguard our environment, and develop an integrated transport policy to fight congestion and pollution

9 We will clean up politics, decentralise political power throughout the United Kingdom and put the funding of political parties on a proper and accountable basis

10 We will give Britain the leadership in Europe which Britain and Europe need.

And lo and behold, the miracle came to pass, and New Labour was in power. In those days, we did not learn our news from Facebook, there were no blogs, no alternative online opinions, and the policies Blair put into place were good, no question. Grants for graduates to come back and train as teachers, with a salary at the end of it, and huge amounts of cash poured into the NHS. Suddenly people were cheering up and saying ‘Why did we put up with the other lot for so long? I was abroad when this happened, feeling detached. That sense of dislocation continued until I came back to live in the UK in 2012 and saw how disastrously the country was being run.

So what made me, in my late sixties, never having joined any party before, become a signed-up party member? I’d seen Jeremy Corbyn get elected by the membership – a freak result, some probably thought, caused by Ed Milliband changing the rules and allowing the membership to vote for their leader, for which he has my gratitude. The extraordinary result sent Corbyn from zero to hero in a matter of weeks, a mass popular feeling so strong that when moves were made to take away his victory, by subjecting him to yet another election, where many of his supporters had their hands tied by rules making them ineligible, by charging members to vote, and by suspending others on the flimsiest pretext, in spite of all this, he was elected with an even bigger majority. Without this certainty I do not think Corbyn would willingly have sought the limelight. He leads because he has our mandate. From that moment he was under attack, not only from the predictably terrified Tory media, but from hundreds of his own MPs. I saw what the Parliamentary Labour Party was doing to one of their own, and I felt I simply had to stand up with him in solidarity. A decent man was being kicked around. I was only one voice to add to the many, I’m glad to say. His re-election was resounding, but not only that. I can’t have been the only person to have noticed the beginnings of a mass social movement during that campaign, built on hope, not greed, crafted from vision and ideals, not the lowest common denominator of getting rich quick. I pause to note that by now Blair was a very rich man indeed. Yet, somehow, those MPs who worked to topple Corbyn failed to grasp the size of the treasure that was within their reach. Far from embracing with tears in their eyes the elusive young who had finally been woken up to politics as ideas and vision, and who wanted the things that Labour, or Corbyn’s version of it, was offering, as well as being drawn by the warmth, sincerity and kindness of this new leader, they gave us all a chilly welcome, accusing us of being Trotskyists and implying that we were somehow pawns being manipulated by someone more powerful. I was made welcome by my branch, of course, and by my CLP, but from Westminster, only a brooding frown of disapproval. I thought it baffling that the right hand men and woman of Blair’s cabinets refused to serve and retreated to the back benches, where they sniped at their leader, then sneaked away and briefed the Tory media [in which I must reluctantly include the BBC] What a cock-up Jeremy was making of the leadership, according to them. Is it any wonder, when hardly any of the Westminster party wanted the policies he was offering?

That is the crux. We have people sitting in Westminster as Labour MPs who have in the past voted for, and continue to vote for, Tory policies. They continue to undermine Corbyn, publicly and in the press.

What I accuse them of is a failure to understand themselves. Some of these right-wing ex-greats from Blair’s time talk about ‘the Party I love’, not realising that the one they love was an aberration, a freak construct of a brilliant strategic mind, who, if he’d chosen to join the Tories, would have rapidly risen to become PM, with Thatcher’s hand in blessing on his shoulder – well, he got that later. They think like Tories. They woo big business. They like to privatise. Some of them are ‘extremely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich’. So is it asking too much to suggest they abandon their beliefs, if indeed they are beliefs, and not ideas adopted ad hoc because they came with the glittering prizes Blair had to offer? In these days of spin, it’s hard to tell.

Because the Labour Party I care about is the party Dennis Skinner loves. And Diane Abbott, and Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn and many, many others. I’m not the only oldie who has come back to Labour after Blair drove us away, and he did. He drove many voters away, over his three triumphs. Perhaps it was the candidates he parachuted in, forgetting local loyalties and local party members. Perhaps it was the distancing of Labour from its industrial heartlands, a sense that no attention needed to be paid to then because they always voted Labour. Like Scotland. Perhaps it was the first steps into selling off our NHS.

I’m asking you affectionately-styled ‘moderates’ to look at our manifesto. Can you honestly support every one of the cornerstones of the next Labour government? Maybe you can say an honest ‘yes’ to nationalising water, our railways, bringing back the NHS to what it once was, undoing the damage and reckless privateering of the business model – but what about the things the membership wanted, but weren’t allowed to ask for. Like not renewing Trident – a heavily Tory policy? And I wonder, you pale blue leopards, if you, like Tories, view everything in terms of profit and loss? Is the Tony Blair model of successful post-leadership lifestyle [which is pretty well identical to Cameron’s, give or take a shepherd’s hut] jet-setting to exotic locations, giving expensive speeches to wealthy businessmen, and telling Labour and the Tories how they should do things – is that where you’d like to be in a few years’ time?

Why don’t you take a look at the LibDem manifesto? I am not trying to insult you, but you might be far more comfortable there, and you could certainly rise to the top very quickly, with your reputations and your abilities. There is talk in the MSM about the formation of a new, centrist party – are you waiting for that? I sense a hesitation there, it’s a gamble that might backfire badly.

The truth is, that your electoral success when the next General Election comes along is in the hands of your Constituency Labour Party. They are the individuals that will show up, wave the banners, phone potential voters, talk on doorsteps and in streets, telling them why you are the one they should vote for. But, I can imagine a potential voter asking, which kind of Labour is this one? Is she like Corbyn, or more like Blair?

Why should we put in a position where this question is even asked? Why can’t we all share one vision? I don’t see why any CLP should have to canvass on behalf of a sitting MP who in the past has told stories to the press, undermined Corbyn in and outside the house, and on the knife edge that is Brexit, not held their tongues and waited to see what mess the Tories get into before jumping onto a bandwagon which is lurching towards an unknown destination. If party discipline is irksome to you, maybe you should think about standing as independents. You might be successful, but at the moment, you’re offering the same half-baked Toryism that was rejected by the voters, along with Ed Milliband, in 2010.

I’m in Labour now, and nothing will make me leave. Do you truly feel the same way? Or are you working towards a return to the old days of New Labour, the happy shiny people making Britannia cool, where you [and the Tory media] will feel more comfortable?

It isn’t going to happen. The future is with the young, and they don’t want what you’re offering. They want uncool vegetarian cyclist Corbyn, with his earnestness and his old-fashioned courtesy. And you know why? Because he believes now in the same things he’s always believed in. Because he speaks honestly and sincerely. Because he listens to everyone with the same degree of attention. These are qualities to emulate, qualities that should make you feel humble because you don’t have them. To adopt Jeremy’s policies means to betray the values of Blair – in all honesty, how can you do that? So please, consider your positions. Don’t stay in a party that has moved on without you. Don’t betray your values, but go where they will be of most use. If not LibDems, then Tories would love to have you – they are very short of ideas and they currently lack any political talent at all. You could go far. And maybe that is what’s most important to you.

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The word is that the unions in the UK are contemplating an all-out General Strike to coincide with the Tory party conference in October. Possibly it may include Black Friday.

I don’t belong to a union, only the Society of Authors, and the withdrawal of my freelance labour will hardly make any impact on the world of work. But like every adult in the UK, I am encouraged to  want, desire, buy, consume and grab as much stuff as anyone is willing to flog me.

Usually I enjoy shopping, either online or for real. But I am sick of a government that nourishes and encourages the worship of only one value – money. Trade, business, dealing – whatever you want to call it – is not the motivating force in my life. I believe in people’s ability to care about others, to go out of their comfort zone to let our fellow human beings know their lives are as important as mine, to help and support those who, through no fault of their own, are at the bottom of the squalid heap this government has created.

Tories do not care about values  I cherish, like compassion, kindness, or unselfishness – funny, isn’t it, when so many of them profess to follow the teachings of Jesus?

So, here’s my suggestion. Let us make the General Strike even more powerful by refusing to buy stuff for as long as the Strike lasts. I don’t mean food and vital necessities – I mean the large luxury items that the City wants to see us buy to prop up the failing pound. I do not care about The Pound, nor about The City, because they are not concerned with the well-being of citizens, they are interested only in what is in our wallets.

Will you join me? Will you stop being an obedient little consumer for a brief spell? Will you tell your friends, and any group you are part of?

I passionately hope so.

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‘Hello, your Majesty. May I form a government, please?’
‘With the DUP? Supported by Loyalist terrorists? We don’t think so. Ask Mr Corbyn to come and see me. He has the integrity I don’t see in you and your grubby little deal.’
But… your Maj, I am so strong and stable -‘
‘Oh, give it a rest, will you, Theresa, or I’ll set the corgis onto you.’

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I feel some compassion for principled Tories who have had nothing to do with masterminding the election campaign presently being fought by the Tory élite and their paid Rottweiler, Lynton Crosby.

It is surely under his instruction that May and other highly-placed Tories have agreed to lie and slander in order to sneak their empty promises past a damning array of facts, to try and snatch this election from the man who is, at the moment, winning without deceit and with a generosity of spirit his opponents could do worse than try to emulate.

We have all learned through social media how the Tory campaign from the outset took its methodology from the architect of ‘strong and stable’ power, Adolf Hitler, who ended his second volume of ‘Mein Kampf’, written in 1926, on that confident assertion. He it was who laid bare his philosophy on the correct use of propaganda:

‘The PSYCHE of the broad masses is accessible only to what is strong and uncompromising. Like a woman whose inner sensibilities are not so much under the sway of abstract reasoning but are always subject to the influence of a vague emotional longing for the strength that completes her being, and who would rather bow to the strong man than dominate the weakling–in like manner the masses of the people prefer the ruler to the suppliant and are filled with a stronger sense of mental security by a teaching that brooks no rival than by a teaching which offers them a liberal choice.’

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (p. 34).  . Kindle Edition.

Does that seem familiar?

How about this?

‘The interests of the working class were not allowed for a moment to cross the path of this purpose; for in politics the application of economic pressure is always possible if the one side be sufficiently unscrupulous and the other sufficiently inert and docile. In this case both conditions were fulfilled.

 

Because, at the very heart of the Tories’ campaign, is an icy disdain for ordinary people:

…for everybody who properly estimates the political intelligence of the masses can easily see that this is not sufficiently developed to enable them to form general political judgments on their own account, or to select the men who might be competent to carry out their ideas in practice.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (p. 57).  . Kindle Edition.

 

So, with the Tory PR machine grinding into gear, the next step, according to Hitler, would be to get the Press lined up and obedient:

‘It took the Press only a few days to transform some ridiculously trivial matter into an issue of national importance, while vital problems were completely ignored or filched and hidden away from public attention. The Press succeeded in the magical art of producing names from nowhere within the course of a few weeks. They made it appear that the great hopes of the masses were bound up with those names. And so they made those names more popular than any man of real ability could ever hope to be in a long lifetime.

Hard to believe that was written in 1926.

Here’s how the Tory propaganda machine planned to ensure their tired old dogmas would take on a sprightly freshness:

The art of leadership, as displayed by really great popular leaders in all ages, consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention into sections. The more the militant energies of the people are directed towards one objective the more will new recruits join the movement, attracted by the magnetism of its unified action, and thus the striking power will be all the more enhanced

Because, at bottom, Tories despise you. They think any old guff will do, if it’s sold to you hard enough. And any old leader will do, as long as she can put up a decent show. Oh, and they make sure to use a limited vocabulary repeated until we fully comprehend it, because we, collectively, are not considered very bright.

‘Here the art of propaganda consists in putting a matter so clearly and forcibly before the minds of the people as to create a general conviction regarding the reality of a certain fact, the necessity of certain things and the just character of something that is essential.

But as this art is not an end in itself and because its purpose must be exactly that of the advertisement poster, to attract the attention of the masses and not by any means to dispense individual instructions to those who already have an educated opinion on things or who wish to form such an opinion on grounds of objective study-because that is not the purpose of propaganda, it must appeal to the feelings of the public rather than to their reasoning powers.

Did I say already that politicians using this type of propaganda have only contempt for the intellects of millions of us?

All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. Thus its purely intellectual level will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.’

So last night we saw Theresa May, that shy, retiring flower who has so successfully avoided meeting real people in her tightly-controlled campaign, answering questions from the public.

What for us voters was a deadly serious Q & A, she saw as another opportunity to slander and lie about Labour politicians. She twice said, during the Question Time programme, that Diane Abbott wants to destroy police DNA files of criminals, when that was not at all what Abbott said. Abbott has pledged to remove innocent people’s DNA once a crime has been solved. She quotes the case of a fourteen year old girl having to submit her DNA to the police for a crime in which she was not even a suspect. Would anyone want to start their adult lives with a police record they have done nothing to deserve?

But it is their latest effort which has reached an all-time low. They have produced a video which has been edited and altered to mean the exact opposite of what was said. I won’t give a link to it because it is so despicable.

Corbyn was being asked if he would condemn the IRA bombings. Corbyn’s sincere condemnation of all violence, loyalist and republican, has been trimmed in this video to make it seem as if he is refusing to condemn the IRA bombings. This is an out and out deceit. And it is the most watched video of the Tory campaign [clearly, the others are forgettable]. The fact is that, when he was asked by Mo Mowlam to help her start peace negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement, he met, talked and listened to Ian Paisley. After they met, they continued to have a civilised exchange of letters. As Corbyn says, in order to achieve peace, sometimes you have to talk to people whose views you dislike.

The Tories’ tactics smack of desperation. They cannot campaign on their record or their achievements – apart from the well-deserved success of same-sex marriage legislation – they have done nothing to be proud of in the past seven years of power. The vaunted economic recovery beloved of Osborne has made no difference whatsoever to the lives of millions. Calculations of strength or weakness of The Great British Pound are irrelevant when you haven’t got enough pounds in your pocket to put down a mortgage or even rent a house, or when, even though you are working full time, you are humiliatingly forced to accept the charity handout of food banks.

So, is this the gang of dishonest brokers we want to negotiate our Brexit arrangements? How can Barnier trust anything Boris Johnson or David Davis says, when they seem to be perfectly comfortable with a campaign based on lying? Is this the calibre of man we want representing the UK and our interests?

And why on earth is May talking about Brexit discussions as if we are already at war with the EU?

I leave the last word to Hitler. He was a vile human being, but he certainly knew how to build a dictatorship. He would have recognised with a smirk the Tories’ ‘coalition of chaos’ soundbite.

The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to the one category; for weak and wavering natures among a leader’s following may easily begin to be dubious about the justice of their own cause if they have to face different enemies.

 

Happy voting on June 8th.

 

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Is there one? Oh yes.

I am seizing on the fact that he is there, in our faces and our media, and will be there for the next four years. On the campaign trail, it was evident to me that personal popularity ranks very high with him, and he gets irritated very easily if people get under his oh-so-thin skin.

As a writer of riper years, I’ve been saddened for a long time by the lack of engagement of the arts worlds in the UK and Ireland with urgent, world-wide issues – climate change, the emergence and prevalence of harmful, hurtful, violent opinions, the damage done to our cultural lives, our humanity, by a succession of neoliberal governments, and, further back, the damage done to the NHS by its creeping privatisation under Labour, the destruction wrought on the fabric of British society by Margaret Thatcher, and the austerity choices made by increasingly right-wing governments in London and Dublin.

There have been some brave attempts which stand out because of their rarity – Ken Loach, whose writer Paul Laverty distilled his research for ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ into a screenplay so plausible it has the credible punch of a documentary, but whose uncompromising truths remain compartmentalised by the mainstream media as the ravings of a ‘lefty luvvie’. And at the National Theatre in London, this year I saw a verbatim theatre piece called ‘Another World’ about the radicalisation of young men in Britain.

In Ireland, ‘Hinterland’ by Sebastian Barry looked at party political corruption and the exigencies of political reality.

But who has written a play about Irish Water? About the mounting numbers who emigrate, as they did in the eighties? Who has written a play to tell our children honestly what the world is becoming?

The dancer and choreographer Catherine Young is the only creator I know of in Ireland who has recently given us a response to the political chaos our rulers helped to create. Her compelling dance piece, ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, was inspired by the stories of migrants and refugees from Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Africa – all whom have made Kerry their home. At The Everyman in Cork, Artistic Director Julie Kelleher has sought out women’s voices, from Carmel Winters ‘Witness’ to ‘Sisters of the Rising’.

Ireland’s great national theatres have been focused this year on the past glories of 1916, rather than looking at the present, or ahead to the chaos we are creating for future generations.

Writers! Musicians! Artists! Choreographers! We have a once in a lifetime chance to let our talents rip in the service of humanity. With wit, imagination, humour, words, gestures and music we can provide a robust alternative to the carping voices of bigotry, hatred, narrow-mindedness and paranoia. If the spectacle of Trump cannot inspire us to great satire, nothing will. If, out of the dystopia his world view will create we can weave a counter-narrative for our children and grandchildren, if we can restore dignity to our citizens who are disabled, old or poor, if we can keep our spirits buoyant and our eyes fixed on a goal which is not about wealth or power, but about a living planet fit for humans and all other species to enjoy, then our art will truly be serving the people.

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I’ve seen this used as an explanation by the right wing media for the anger that is currently  being expressed, both inside and outside parliament. Wealthy people know in their hearts that the poor want everything the rich have got, and they will never be satisfied until the rich have been stripped of all their assets and beggars get to ride upon horses. To paraphrase  Alan Duncan, a Tory backbencher, anyone who isn’t a millionaire has only themselves to blame. We could all be rich, if we really tried.

I’m writing this to try and explain to the wealthy people currently running our country  why their beliefs are wrong, why their actions have aroused such anger, and why our anger is light years removed from envy.

I was born in 1947, along with the NHS. My early life was peppered nights of pain from ear abcesses, horrendous earaches,  frequent visits to our GP, Doctor Shanahan, and visits from district nurses who gave me penicillin injections. I was four when I had my first experience of hospital, to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. [ I don’t know if that hospital still exists as I can’t remember the name of it. Searching for it, I found this website. Look at what we have lost -and this is only in London. Lost hospitals in London. Somehow, we could afford to run all these, at a time of post-war hardship. The reason, I hazard, is because those in charge of our finances were able to think in terms of fairness, and of values other than money]. The children’s ward was full, so I was alone in an empty adult ward. In those days, parents could only come at visiting hours, and when my mother arrived with books for me to read [from the library], I could not tell her what an ordeal I was going through. Enemas. Examinations. Baths – one day I was given three, because I was too frightened to tell the nurses I’d already had one. The NHS was primitive then, but all the medicines and treatment I had, until I got big and healthy, would have been an impossible expense for our family. We lived in a rented basement flat off the Portobello Road, in a crumbling Victorian house with holes in the floors and mice and mould everywhere. That house is worth millions today.   I showed promise at school. I passed the 11+ with the 90% marks required for me to have an interview for Godolphin and Latymer, in those days a state maintained girls’ grammar school for high achievers. It is now a private school. Many of the girls went to university and went on to careers. I was lucky; there were full student grants in those days. I was the first child in my family to get a degree.

During this time I was forging out my own values. What would be my guiding principles through life? How would I see success? What would make me happy? The fact that I chose to work in the arts is an indicator that wealth was never a factor. I never, ever expected to be rich, and I didn’t see that as a goal. I am not good with figures – like George Osborne, I only managed ‘O’ level maths – and buying and selling did not appeal to me as a way of life. Acquiring money was of no interest to me – and I was ambitious, and I have succeeded in making a living in the arts – writing plays for children, working on community drama projects, travelling the North East to bring theatre to people who had never seen it –  all my working life. If I failed to achieve my childhood ambition of fame, my more mature self is heartily relieved to have escaped the merciless spotlight that is our media.

So what  would I like to pass on to my children?

A love of the countryside. Nature has always been inspirational to me. To be able to walk all day along footpaths, across hills and mountains, unspoilt since the Romans were here, to enjoy the public national parks and lands that were all that remained after the illegal Enclosures took much of our common land away. To know that this would be here for ever, for my children and their children, gave me that all-important thing, the thing Cameron is at pains to stress he wishes to give all of us – security. Now the Land registry has been privatised, our public lands are up for grabs. For the sake of profit, our ancient rights to walk and be inspired by the rare beauties of our country will be taken away from us. It’s perfectly legal – it’s an Act of Parliament. But is it fair?

Fairness is something that all parents try to teach their children. Sharing with siblings if you have more than they do. Not ganging up on others, not bullying, or lying to help yourself do better. A sense of what George Orwell called decency. To behave in such a way that your conscience does not torment you at night. I can’t answer for the current cabinet, but I wonder if their expensive schools taught them rigorously enough about fairness and decency?  If not, here is a fact for them: the present capitalist system is a triangle. At the top, a tiny number of the very rich, in the larger middle section, the middle classes, and the poor, the most numerous, at the bottom. Unfairness is built into the system, because it is only by keeping most people down below them that the rich can thrive. So to attack people for being part of that necessary structure is deeply unfair. It is bullying.

No one wants to be ill or disabled. I happen to be both, and I bless the NHS and its doctors and nurses every day of my life. They saved my life on a Saturday, by the way, when I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and didn’t realise until I turned blue and passed out. That’s how close I was. So when Jeremy Hunt says that we don’t have a seven day service, he is not being honest. Honesty would be another quality I cherish. I have brought my children up to be considerate and kind, but also honest.  I passionately wish that our rich policiticans, who clearly were raised with so many material advantages, had been taught the importance of these three qualities. Because in the policies they have chosen to carry out, there has been an absence of these vital things.

I would like to bequeath to my kids and to all children everywhere,  hope in the future. A world that is cleaner and more peaceful. And to be able to say to them before I die that I did everything in my power to stop the powerful elites fracking, burning, despoiling, selling to the highest bidder, and by degrees killing the planet, is little consolation. To the rich I say, you cannot make money from a dead planet. Your children and grandchildren will not suffer the results of your policies as soon as we will. Their inherited wealth will keep them cushioned from reality until the very last tree has been felled. But this sick planet is what you are colluding in handing down to your children?

I’m not a Christian, or a believer in any religion. The way I conduct my life is by principles that, if I were to abandon them, would make me feel deeply uncomfortable. So it makes me angry when the only value that is considered worth discussing in Parliament, composed of nominal Christians, is monetary. Staying in the EU – it’s better for business. Fracking – great business opportunity. Selling our hospitals to the highest bidder – nothing wrong with profiting from illness. Refusing sanctuary to refugees desperately fleeing war? Never mind Christian compassion, brotherly love or even a remembrance of how Syria took in refugees and was known as a safe haven, until civil war, and war by proxy, turned the country into a dangerous, chaotic waste land – we can’t afford to have any of them here. Nuclear power stations – wait a minute. The new and long delayed station at Hinkley Point is uneconomic. It will cost us, the powerless, more and more as we pay the price for Osborne’s wrong decisions. A dose of honesty would be welcome here.

What has been lost, utterly lost, by today’s neoliberals, is any sense of sharing. Equality. Social justice. Those with the most helping those with the least – yes, even the undeserving, because, like Orwell, I don’t believe that people are automatically workshy. I hate to be dependent on others. I still work; I still write, even though my official retirement age was nine years ago. I don’t make money; I write because I love doing it. I have the most basic state pension, paid for by my own NI contributions. It isn’t much, because self-employed people don’t make much. But I don’t care, as long as I can live by my core values.

So David Cameron, George Osborne, Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson, and all who follow you-can you open your eyes to values other than than money? I don’t meant collecting art, or having a box at the opera, or taking holidays in Cornwall to enjoy the surfing. The values you seem to lack are the values that built the finest welfare state in the world. Visionary, revolutionary plans, inspired by ideals of fairness, bitterly opposed, of course, by the Tories then – and you have profited from it all. You’ve made billions for the exchequer by  selling off things that belonged to all of us. Not just this government, but the past four, have forgotten that what matters most is not money. You know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. How can we get you to understand?

 

Frances Kay is the author of ‘Micka’, published by Picador, 2010 and ‘Dollywagglers’ published by Tenebris books, 2014. Her play ‘Feast of Bones’ will be performed at the ASSITEJ conference in Birmingham this July.

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We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

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The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 

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