Readers of this blog will know that when I am off work I tend to read a lot of books. This week I have been off work – it’s half term – so I have been reading more again. No mystery as to why – during term time I am too knackered to do much other than watch TV in bed – although I have been doing quite a lot of writing recently, so that isn’t strictly true.
Get to the bloody point, Reese you old windbag!
Today I will be writing about a book that plopped through my door at the end of last week. It’s called ‘Being Red: A Politics for the Future’ and is written by Ken Livingstone. It was published by the Left Book Club, which was recently revived by my friend Conrad Landin – in the 1930s the Left Book Club famously published George Orwell’s A Road to Wigan Pier.
I signed up to the Left Book Club a few months ago because I like Conrad – he is an amazingly clever young person who writes for the Morning Star. I met him through the Labour Party and even though I am old enough to be his mum, we got on well. I wrote a few articles for a site he ran called Left Futures, though I think I am basically too boring and pragmatic for him. Conrad is a hardcore Corbynite and I am not – not because I dislike Corbyn, but because I am not sure he can win elections in 21st century Britain.
I admire Conrad a lot for what he is doing even though I may not agree with him 100 per cent politically. The same can be said for Ken Livingstone. I am not sure that I am quite on the same page as him politically – I am too bourgeois – but I have absolute respect for him. I love Ken because he is a Londoner and because he is a fighter. And I like him because he keeps going even when he is pilloried by the press.
I campaigned for Ken back in 2012 and was very sad when he didn’t win. Boris may have funny hair and say funny things but what has he done for London? The bikes were started by Ken and whereas Ken was determined to make sure that new developments contained affordable housing, Boris has made it clear that he cares more for property developers than for people. Requirements to build affordable homes have been slashed or in some cases waived, at a time when the need for homes for London’s workers could not be greater.
Ken briefly slipped out of the limelight but has been brought back by Jeremy Corbyn to review defence policy. This has obviously ruffled quite a few feathers; like Corbyn, Ken is known for his anti nuclear stance. The right wing press has gone mental on this and are hysterically claiming that Ken – not Corbyn – is running Labour.
This article from the Telegraph is fairly typical.
I like the way Ken handles himself in the radio interview – with humour. Ken at his best is a very funny man. However, weirdly the bit of the book I enjoyed the most was his discussion of economics. Ken explained how if Corbyn is elected the government will print money and spend it on infrastructure. Since the 2008 crash, the Bank of England has created £375 billion under its Quantitative Easing programme and given it to the financial sector. Surely it would be much more sensible to spend it on something real? Projects Ken outlines include building 150,000 new homes, HS2, Crossrail 2 and a Liverpool to Leeds high speed rail link to revive the Northern economies. All sounds pretty sensible to me.
I had a bit of a light bulb moment reading this as previously I had been very sceptical of ‘Corbynomics’, probably because of this article written by my neighbour Tony Yates.
He sees an independent Bank of England as a good thing, whereas Ken sees it as a very bad thing – the bank is no longer the servant of the people, but a servant of the financial services industry.
So where does Ken’s book leave me? It makes me more open to the idea that a more left wing government could help the country as a whole, yet I am still not convinced that Corbyn is the person to lead this government. I think it would take someone with absolute balls of steel to face off the City, the media, Google, the IMF and all the other companies and organizations who want to maintain the status quo. I think we do need an alternative to the society we have now, as what we have seems to be working for fewer and fewer people. I am glad I read this book as it has made me think and question my own instincts about where the Labour Party should be positioning itself.
My instincts are that a more moderate Labour party is more likely to win an election. Maybe I am wrong.