John Clements, my father, a Nottinghamshire coal miner born in 1908, liked to admonish his sons with utterances and platitudes, “None o’ ya is as good a man as ya father,” or “Ya don’t know ya born.” In part he was right about that, compared to the life he was forced to lead ‘down pit’. But one of his invectives has stuck with me, informed me, you could say set me a target. “ You’ve got to be right with people.” A simple statement, but that makes it no less profound. But how is one to be right with people? In one’s own personal life it is fairly clear: be decent and honest and reliable and helpful in your dealings with your fellow humans. A tall order for some. I think my father’s directive was probably contained within the personal world, but when thinking of why I became left wing, my father’s voice, I am sure, was somewhere in the back ground. “ You’ve got to be right with people!” Perhaps in my teens I was too busy having fun and discovering life to be over concerned with politics; and the rage and despair I now feel at the endless ‘colonial’ wars that taint the world and damn humanity did not begin to really appear until my early twenties

I became more and more aware that the gulf of inequality in our class-ridden society was not the natural order, and was not the result of personal endeavour or lack of it, but was a function of the society in which we lived. The dynamics seem clear, but not to some. Anyone who desired a fairer, a juster society could not support, for instance, private education, a powerful means to entrench privilege, for a few. Or indeed, the royal family, the symbol and actuality of privilege. And it dawned on me that a lot of people in Britain did not desire to be “right with people,” their agenda was to maintain the status quo, especially if they benefited from it, or thought they might. And they knew that the poor were poor because of their own failings. The hymn might have been edited some time ago, but the sentiment remains,

“The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high and lowly And ordered their estate.”

How convenient if you happen to live in a castle or the equivalent. So gradually, and then at a quickening pace, my thoughts turned to how society is ordered and run for the benefit of the few, and woe to someone who offers a cogent critique of the ways things are, for of course the institutions of Britain support the rich and powerful, are the rich and powerful. The media works to maintain the inequalities that are gaping wider. The headlines of the Daily Mail are often truly shocking in their manipulative lies, their emotive language, their appeal to the worst instincts in us.

I joined the Labour Party in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I knew nothing of him until one day I was driving home and heard a man talking on the radio. It could have been me; he was expressing me. I arrived home and sat in the car to hear him out and discover who he was. Of course he had to be discredited, for he was a cogent voice of equality and decency. And he was silenced, by the usual suspects, but also cynically by the Labour Party, that political entity that masquerades as a socialist organisation.

We are now in a sorry state in this country. The Tories who have no grasp of my father’s directive, and a Labour Party which it is hard to tell from the awful Tories.

But it is well worth reminding ourselves of the good things socialism has brought to this country. When ‘friends’ deride socialism I ask them what part of socialism do they not like. Is it:

The National Health Service
Free secondary eduction
The national parks
The minimum wage
The Open University
The decriminalisation of homosexuality
The abolition of the death penalty
and the Welfare State generally.

I could go on. In fairness to the old Liberal Party, I note that they introduced the old age pension on 1st January 1909, and mooted the notion of a minimum wage.

We are now travelling at speed away from the high ideals of the Welfare State and the endeavour to create a fairer more just society.

To consider my father’s basic, simple, decent instruction “to be right with people”, Socialism has a chance of being that, Conservatism has no chance at all.


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