Saturday, 6 May 2017

Reconnecting people with their values and their democracy

This is my speech for today's May Day March and Rally in Aberdeen. Written in the wake of yesterday's council election results it looks at the challenges facing our movement in our fight to have a better society for all, as the General Election approaches.

"We live in strange times.

We’ve had 7 years of a Tory government who have hammered ordinary folk

Poverty pay

Rises in insecure labour and zero hours contracts

Wages cap and vastly increasing inequality between the rich and the rest of us

Hideous caps on benefits and a benefits system described by Ken Loach at the STUC as “conscious cruelty” - “a campaign of systematic punishment” which leaves more and more of our children, disabled people and elderly in poverty and distress

Our young people hit particularly hard 

Cuts to the NHS and public services and a massive selling off of the NHS – our NHS (especially in England and Wales)  – to private companies running for profit not patient care.

Yet still people vote Tory

Not just South of the Border but here in Scotland too

What’s that about?

How can anyone think that the Tories have anything to offer anyone but the richest. Aye the richest who have doubled their wealth in the same period the rest of us have got poorer.

And that’s the ones who did vote. Almost 2/3 didn’t vote at all. Didn’t see that they could make a difference.

I don’t know what depresses me most.

But it’s a sign of the times

We live in a world where people believe what the media tells them – even though that same media is run by the very richest people who have doubled their wealth

A media that tells them that Jeremy Corbyn, despite all his policies that speak to trade unionists and working people everywhere, isn’t fit to govern because his suit doesn’t fit.

Or can’t negotiate a Brexit deal because he’s too nice.

People seem to want a woman who will blow up the planet without a second thought rather than a man who has spent his whole life campaigning for peace.

So what do we do about it?

How do we get our message across that it doesn’t have to be like this? That there is an alternative.

Well days like this are a start.

Days when we come together and reaffirm our belief that there is a better way

That our children don’t have to grow up in poverty

That everyone must be treated with dignity and respect.

And then we need to keep on doing what we do to keep challenging the rhetoric of the Tories backed up by a right wing media

To tell it like it is – that the Tories are a government of the rich by the rich for the rich

That they lack compassion for the poor and vulnerable, for the disabled, for asylum seekers and refugees despite the terrible experiences they have faced and survived

That they lack compassion for all of us

That they demonise people in order to divide and rule and so far it is working.

But I don’t believe for a minute that all the people who vote Tory are like that

And that’s our challenge

We need to cut through the bias of the BBC and other media outlets

We need to cut through the soundbites which distort the reality of Tory policies

To reconnect people with their values

The values of care and compassion and community

The values that founded the Welfare State and the NHS

And we need to reconnect people with their democracy however flawed

Their fundamental right, aye their duty to vote

And help them to believe that it will make a difference.

That’s what our movement is for.

And as we approach the General Election on 8th June it’s never been needed more!"

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