It may be that we are becoming numb to it. Tory ministers cutting support for those on pitifully low incomes whilst claiming more for a breakfast than many have for a weekly shop. Waiting times in A&E soaring while some ambulances no longer have a paramedic on board. Incomes, particularly those for women, not keeping pace with inflation, adding to a cost of living crisis. (Tired of that phrase? Not as tired as those working several part-time jobs just to stay on top of the bills.) A Government that threatens to shut down a charity feeding the poor because it is too political.
Much of this just in the past few days. Not that you would know it from a media more concerned with the football, obsessed by celebrities, peddling scare stories about migrants, or in a very few cases quite rightly focussed on the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and the Ukraine.
Labour members and supporters are justifiably angered over a photo of the Party Leader holding a newspaper that is hated for what it has done and said over Hillsborough, Page Three or indeed my own city. (There is no doubt that had he refused, there would have been considerable outcry from other quarters, and whether that too would have reinforced the perceptions of some is another debate.) Hated as a publication because of who owns it, and the perceived influence it has over readers and the way they vote, albeit an influence that is outdated and quite likely overestimated. I’d argue that today the influence of The Daily Mail and its website is more pernicious.
For the record, I posted my free promotional copy of The Sun back, unread.
I respect those members and supporters who have taken a view on the events of the past few days, their anger and their frustration. I’d urge them though, to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and think about the long term.
We are on the edge. On the edge of losing the gains we made over thirteen years of a Labour government. A government that was, despite all the criticism thrown at it, redistributive and active in tackling poverty and inequality. It could have done more, yes, but it made much headway in the face of considerable opposition.
We are on the edge of allowing by default a second term to a Conservative coalition government which is decimating our public services, destroying local government, and diminishing the living standards and prospects of the many, whilst at the same time enabling the most wealthy individuals and the most profitable multinational companies to siphon ever larger profits out of our economy. If they are re-elected and continue on the same course, five million children in the UK could be living in poverty by 2020, according to Save The Children.
If we allow a hostile media to define our leadership, whether it is “endorsing” a newspaper, eating a bacon sandwich or even just “looking weird”, rather than on the issues that really matter, then we are surely complicit in the inequality and poverty that will grip this country by the end of the decade.
With barely ten months to go till a critically important election, Labour still has a lead in the polls that, if repeated at an election, would deliver a small but comfortable majority of around 20-40 seats, more if the marginal polling is to be believed. Many, however, bet that a Labour lead can be eroded between now and polling day based on the recovery of incumbent parties in the run up to the election.
It is up to us to decide where we focus our energies, whether we choose to indulge in division and introspection, or step away from the brink, by our actions pulling this country back from the edge of a disaster from which it might never recover.