Monday, 18 January 2010

Aspirations ?

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the US. The commemoration of someone who articulated the hopes and dreams of so many seems like an apt time to reflect on the lack of inspiration from our current leaders.

Labour firmly nailed its electoral colours to the mast the other day when it apparently staked out (again) the middle classes and middle England as its natural constituency. After dabbling in past weeks with some class politics, in the 'Cameron-is-a-toff-shocker,' and then the 'maybe-class-is-now-more-important-than-race-revelation'; they have decided to fight the election on an 'aspirational' platform.

I hate their mis-appropriation of the word 'aspirational'.

Martin Luther King telling us that he had a dream is aspirational - wanting a bigger car, a bigger house, a plasma tv and a flashy holiday is not - it's just materialistically and socially ambitious.  Of course there's nothing wrong with that -  and the working class are just as entitled to want any of  these things as the middle class - but it does not constitute a political vision.

Or if it does, then it is a euphemism for a  mean-spirited individualist vision where inevitably 'better'  means not better than you have now, but better than the family next door. It's tempting to call  it post-Thatcherism but it is much older than that - Guizot's 'enrichez-vous' rallying call to the wannabe middle class pre-dates the 'Essex man' phenomenon by a century. Then as now it  wasn't about getting 'on', but getting 'above'.

There's no problem with being aspirational but how about aspiring to something a bit more worthy as the grandiose vision of a political party ?  A decent education for all, the very best free health care from cradle to grave,  proper and affordable housing, real jobs and careers for young people, and dignity and care for the elderly. Just for starters.

Ambitions that are a  bit less like  Guizot (and Thatcher, and Blair) and a bit more like  Scottish Socialist John Maclean 'rising with our class not above it'.

No comments: