I was searching for a most decent quote to begin this week’s column. So, who better to start with than Tony Blair … no, I jest of course. A much bigger and more important and global game-changer I have chosen. It has to be Dr Martin Luther King. Dr King once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Never a truer word was spoken that is more relevant to the world we live in today.
Which brings me back to Tony Blair. No, I’m not going to take a cheap shot at the ex-prime minister. But, as I watched the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, respond to the Tiggerish Mr Hammond this week, I saw a glimmer of hope. He accused the government benches of being Tory posh boys, which is where my reference to Mr Blair comes in. I always felt he was the archetypal Tory posh boy, who just chose the wrong party when he was younger.
But, there you go, the choices we make have a huge impact on the hope we create for ourselves and for others. As our politicians in Scotland and at Westminster crack on with the formalities and react to local and world events, I’m looking for a glimmer of hope for the next decade.
And maybe I have just found it in Mr McDonnell. But, before I go on, as many of you know, I have not really chosen a political party that I want to join. No party gets my juices going enough that I want to become a card-carrying member. The SNP nearly had me at one point. And I sometimes think that being a Conservative would be okay as I look at Ruth Davidson. But, to date, I have not signed up yet. However, I could be convinced as I look at the Corbyn/McDonnell ticket.
Why? Well, I see a little hope there for the future in these two gents. To be honest, I just don’t think the Tories have delivered as I had hoped. When he was Chancellor, George Osborne repeatedly said “we’re all in this together” as he chiselled out cuts and promoted austerity. In 2012, the then chief secretary to the treasury, Danny Alexander, told the Liberal Democrats, “we simply will not allow the books to be balanced in a way that hits the poorest hardest”. But alas, the poorest have been hit hardest and the Tories have not done enough, in my opinion, to tax their chums and share the wealth. So, can Mr McDonnell offer hope to the teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, whom he quotes as feeling the pain with no tangible hope at present?
For the first time in years, I can see clear blue water between Labour and the Conservatives. I didn’t see it with Miliband. But now the socialist policies that Mr McDonnell would pursue kind of make sense to me. He has a plan. Crikey, am I becoming more left-leaning as I get older?
So, I looked a bit deeper at how his plan would work in Scotland. How would it offer hope when juxtaposed alongside Scottish Labour? Well, now’s the time for Richard Leonard to enter stage left. As I flicked through the TV channels, I came across Mr Leonard giving his speech at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee. Initially, I found him a bit awkward, but the man got into his stride. And he was being watched and studied and scrutinised by Mr McDonnell, who was sitting in the hall.
I bet he was well pleased with Mr Leonard as they were definitely singing from the same hymn sheet. This address to the party faithful in Scotland was the most unabashedly left-wing speech I have ever heard from a mainstream party leader. Again, I felt that something was happening across the Corbyn/McDonnell ticket that was being mirrored here in Scotland. I liked that and it added to my sense of hope. So what now?
We are reaching a crossroads that has huge implications for hope in Scotland and the UK. If we believe that capitalism and capitalists, tycoons and the market are working well, then stick with the Tories I would suggest. Albeit the deficit is not looking great and they are all over the place with Brexit.
Or if we want a big change, a disruptive change that will alter the social fabric of our society in a corrective sense, then choose Labour in Scotland and at Westminster. But, do not get misty-eyed. This is not a Labour leadership across the UK that wants to go back to strikes, the comrades and builder’s tea round a crackling brazier.
No, this is a Labour Party that wants to put a stop to the “low-wage, low-output economy, built on the quicksand of precarious work, zero-hour contracts, agency working and umbrella companies”. And for once, I actually believe that hope is in the air as they mark out their political territory.
If the richest one per cent in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 50 per cent – a statistic that is exactly the same the USA, funnily enough – then somethings badly wrong.
I’m a huge, no a massive believer in enterprise and business building. But, it seems that business building has not made everyone wealthy. So, I can see hope in Labour policies that may well address this, if it can get into power.
Yes, our economy is teetering on a knife edge, but if it is going to jitter and bumble along, then at least let’s do it together providing everyone with some form of hope.
To be continued, Mr McDonnell …