Who’s in?

Dear friends,

What a dismal result. After the Festival of Debate, it feels like we were living in a bubble. How’s everyone feeling? I think I’m on stage two of the grief progression: anger.

You can look at the results in a few ways, but one thing I think is clear: Labour lost the argument where it mattered. A 1.5% increase on 2010 is not really an increase. It barely moves them away from a party tarnished by Iraq, Blair and the Crunch. The Tories got a 4% bounce in marginals. Clearly, when it came to it, a lot of people went into the polling booths with Mail headlines ringing in their ears. Ironically, the Conservatives seem to have succeeded in scaring people away from the very thing Ed wasn’t – bold, radical, left. I look forward to arguments about the meaning of voter decisions over a pint soon. But before that…

Is anyone else feeling bereft? Isolated? Angry? I know I am. When I saw the tweets from the protest in London on Sunday, my heart swelled. I started searching “Sheffield protest”. Nothing. Looked at Sheffield Uncut, Fair Deal 4 Sheff, Alt Sheff etc twitter accounts. Nothing. Just this.

five more damned years.jpg

Where did we go wrong? Personally, I’m with Charlotte Church on this:

We thought that by retweeting the latest Owen Jones article, we were doing our bit. Wrong. We need to take the action we should’ve taken before, now. Just because the piratical Conservative party now have a majority doesn’t mean that we’ve lost. On the contrary, it means we’ve got to fight harder. Personally, I feel I haven’t done enough, and I’m going to change that.

Looking back, does anyone feel they took the following for granted:

Unfettered neo-liberal economics has been soundly discredited; the Tories snuck in last time – it was basically an accident; the Lib Dems will be annihilated and Labour will see an inevitable increase in its vote; the opinion polls are only so close because Ed Milliband is no (early) Tony Blair; people can see austerity doesn’t work, that the Tories are assaulting the civil bonds of post-war Britain; they can see the NHS is under threat, that the banks are continuing as if nothing had happened, that tax is being avoided on a massive scale; they feel the neutering of local government.

But everyone sees through this, right? All this “Labour’s Recession, all in this together, better for Britain” bullshit? They must do, surely. Everyone I know does. It’s so obvious.


The only silver lining I can see is that our arguments are still valid. They are clear, simple and true (if you’re inclined to think the last one matters). They appeal to fairness and right and wrong. They haven’t been discredited because they haven’t been made. Or where they have, they haven’t been made often enough, effectively enough and to the right people.

– Our banks are run by criminals facing unprecedented fines for lying, cheating and stealing.

– The Tories are undoing the NHS. A cabinet of millionaires want to sell off what isn’t theirs, to themselves, and then send us the bill.

– Local Government faces an existential crisis – that’s your sure start centre, your library, your park, your social care, your grandma’s care home.

– In modern Britain, tax is now only for the poor. The rich buy socialism.

– In our cities, capital buys up, tears down and replaces our heritage with identikit profit boxes.

– TTIP. Where do you even begin?

– That we all know this is true: we all gain from the gain of all, not just the tiny few.

We need to start shouting. Now. We need to shout long and hard enough so that next time around, maybe, just maybe, enough people will have heard. We need to coordinate better, communicate better, inspire better. We need to put down every obstacle we can to make it as difficult as possible for our new Tory overlords to do as they wish. Above all, we need to stand up.

Preach, Michael!

We’re short on the resources people think matter: money. But we have imagination, talent and passion in abundance. We need to get out on the streets, onto people’s doorsteps, to get in their windows and on their screens. People are bored, despondent and cynical. We need to excite, inspire and shock them. We need to be funny, appealing, new.

So what am I suggesting?

Not a party, or a campaign, but a movement, a mood. The aim? To change the background music of our politics.

I’m not going to apologise for the scale of the ambition here. I think that urge is part of the problem. I’d rather fail than never try.

Campaigns that tie themselves to a particular cause or issue have a built in time limit. When we do that, we invariably lose and go home. Everyone turned out for Devonshire Street and although the fight continues, the issue recedes, people move on. Of course, go too broad and you get the other problem, a movement lacking purpose and drive.

But we already have a model for finding this balance. The Festival of Debate was a fantastic way to bring ideas, people and passion together. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the events. But more, it was the feeling of meeting and discussing, the realisation that there were a lot of people out there all asking themselves the same question: surely, we can do better than this?

The Festival model gives an identity to a movement but allows it to grow. Different events can be organised by different people. I’m thinking everything from rallies, socials, discussions, door stepping, social media content, banners in town, invited speakers, gigs, comedy – what have I missed?

I know we have our differences. Putting my cards on the table for a moment, I’m not going to be manning the barricades as and when some of you advocate the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. But there’s loads of us in Sheffield with enough in common to get noticed. We need to start talking to each other.

Above all, we now have one great gift. A common enemy. I mean, seriously, look at these berks. These guys? Really?


I’m not sure an identity based principally on anti-Tory politics is the best we can do. But it’s a good place to start.

Sheffield Says NOWT! (NO Way, Tories!) anyone?

I am so fed up of feeling like we can’t do any better than this. Tired of being told not even to imagine a better future. I do not accept that this, of all possible worlds, is the best. At the very least, if we do this, we will be able to say, “You know what? At least we tried. At least we didn’t just lie down and roll over.“

So, to quote Bob Dylan, “I’m pledging my time, to you, hoping you’ll come through too.”

And not just my time. I can write, speak, think, charm, joke, talk, provoke, stand up. I know for a fact you lot can do the same and more. I know it because I know, respect and admire you.

Last Thursday was a dark day. But there’s work to do. The Local Elections are next year. Every seat is up for grabs.

Who’s in?


Now read this

Starbucks, Tax Bucks and the Sheffield Star

The Star recently featured an article about this: And I wrote them a letter. Dear Sir, On 11th December you published the story, “Starbucks hit back after Sheffield coffee shop daubed with ‘Pay your tax’ graffiti”.* The article reads... Continue →