Things do look quite dire at the moment for most people; small businesses, large businesses, small countries and large countries, for young people and older people, for those in work and for those who are not.
2012 looks to be an anxious vulnerable time for so many of us.
In my mind, I play out a variety of game plans for both me and those around me.
When the NHS reform bill was voted through in May it was clear that things were much worse than we had thought. Sure, there had previously been student protests about tuition fee increases and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, but these could be seen by politicians as minority interests. Simply issues that concern the young and their parents. Not even all parents would be affected, just those with bright children of the right age group. However with the NHS reform bill, here was an issue that affected us all ... or perhaps all of us that did not have private health insurance. If there was to be a smidgeon of light at the end of the tunnel, it was the hope that there were enough MP’s of conscience to rebel on at least this issue. Over the last few weeks with the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders (LASPO) bill going through the House of Lords, Norman Tebbit who famously stated that the unemployed should “get on their bikes” to find work becoming the darling of many a left-wing cartoonist, managed a gargantuan image shift by fighting to legal aid to be retained cases of alleged medical negligence involving children. When Tebbit comes to our rescue, what kind of an alternative dimension do we find ourselves living in.
As we enter a new year, in 2011 there have been mass statements of the need for a political change of direction such as the TUC rally on 26th March and the combined day of action on pensions on 30th November, where we saw that biggest demonstrations that the country has ever seen. However, with parliamentary politicians in their seats for the next few years there is no sign of any movement for a change in direction.
The unity that was achieved in the TUC actions in March and November has to be the way forward, but it seems hard to get agreement on the when and the why. It is important for the trade union movement to build community links as more and more will not be in work. These are not as strong as they could be and approaches from Unite in allowing a version of membership for those not in employment must be an approach that all unions should consider for the future. There needs to be far more encouragement and incentive for unions that have their strength regionally to build links and relationships locally as that is where change needs to be actioned, brick by brick.
The thing to avoid in 2012 is conflict within the Labour Party. Despite the loose lipped comments by some senior Labour MP’s, the last thing that the party and the country need is a ditching of Labour's leader. The other potential site of conflict is between the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement over more industrial action. Yes, there should be healthy debate within open democratic processes but when decisions are taken it would be better that the ego’s are put aside so that action for change can be as effective as possible.
So although the does seem to be despair ... lets be part of the difference we want to see.