Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Progress ?

Back from a few days looking after my parents. They’re in their 80’s now and recently old age seems to have suddenly caught up with them. Mum is pretty much confined to a wheel chair and Dad, who looks after her, had to have a cataract operation which took him out of commission for a few days - so I had to step in to the role of carer.

On the upside I got to spend more time with them than I had for years and we got on well. On the downside there’s no getting away from the fact that it is humiliating for them and embarrassing for me to have reached the stage when a parent is being looked after by their offspring.

Whilst I’m with them the TV is full of the 60th birthday of the National Health Service. My Dad in particular regards the '45 Labour Government as this country’s finest hour and the NHS as the jewel in the crown with Nye Bevan as the hero of his generation.

He’s guilty and ashamed to have gone private to have his cataract operation - but he just can’t afford to wait the time required by the health service. And meanwhile my Mum is still waiting to get an appointment for the pain management clinic…

This is where the Old / New Labour divide really makes itself felt:

My parents are long standing Labour members, ex-local councillors – their idea of 'socialism' means trying to make things fairer and better. For most of their lifetimes this seemed to be pretty much the direction that things were moving. They grew up in wartime and the achievements of the 45 Labour government seemed like the logical conclusion to the ‘People’s War’ - you could call it progress.

Instead as they are getting older it now seems that these achievements are being unpicked and that the clock is being turned back.
We spoke about this - they felt that they should apologise to future generations for ever allowing themselves to be hood-winked into going along with the Blair project. And letting New Labour un-do everything that their generation had built. At this point I should have had something reassuring to say to them - but I came up empty.

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