Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Middle Class, Middle Aged, but I have no voice...

I write letters and emails. Not just any letters and emails - I write to the Prime Minister, to MPs, to newspapers. Well I think I've done things back to front. I remember a teacher telling me in the 1980s that he thought we were the 'me' generation. We were 'Thatcher's Children' content with things as long as we had good prospects and expectation of a better lifestyle than our parents. Maybe we were apathetic, maybe it was just youth, but I didn't engage with politics outside of my duty to vote - oh yes, we did that. Beyond that I'm not sure that I was very radical at all for a young person.


Now I realise that I have strongly held views about the nature of society I want to be part of. It shames me that the current crop of 'leaders' are 'my age', 'my people'...except not a one of them represents me. I'm a middle aged, middle class woman and I don't feel I have a voice in parliament - what on earth does that say about our democracy?

So, I write letters. I am continuing a family tradition as I follow in the footsteps of my great Uncle Billy - or the 'Bold Horatio' as was his name in our family. He was a GP in Durham and wrote copiously to Mrs Thatcher, Mr Kinnock, The Times, anyone with influence. He had a collection of responses to be proud of, considered responses which showed that his point of view had been registered by an individual, rather than as part of some machinery of 'managing the message'. I waited for four months for a response from the Ministry of Justice only to be fobbed off with a regurgitated press release, rather than engage with any of the evidence based points I had made regarding the privatising of Probation. In fact, as I recall the letter from the PM's office had assured me, three months previously that my letter had been sent by them to the MOJ for a considered response.

My 'roar' of protest used to be a 'tut' followed by an eye roll. Now I've got my gander up and I have nothing to lose, so speak up I shall! Like the 'bold Horatio' I shall make a nuisance of myself and ask, if someone like me feels as if I am unheard, how on earth do others in society feel? And where did real leadership go? Is it just my age that makes me feel that they don't make MPs the way they used to? Where are the characters? Where are the politicians who have convictions and ideals? There is no colour, no nuance, no intelligence in political debate and that I think is not just a sign of me being a grumpy old woman, but is a sad reflection of the current state of our democracy.

It has been with surprise that I have found my voice, realising that it feels as if I am some sort of radical. The thing is I am fighting to keep well established parts of our welfare state - the NHS, a publicly owned and accountable Criminal Justice System, with a core belief in investing in people's capacity to change. It is frustrating to find that my battle is with a morally vacuous, intellectually bankrupt ruling class that is incapable of engaging in sustained debate. Instead, for years now, we have been fobbed off by some kind of unholy alliance between government and media.

So I will continue to write my letters and emails, in the hope that there may be someone in government today who actually knows the ideals that their policies represent. I am certain of my ideals, they have formed the backbone of this country since the end of the last war - how come I'm the radical? When did a compassionate society become too expensive? How did we end up being led by a bunch of public schoolboys masquerading as politicians? What real alternatives do we have?