Why things have to change

On November 11th - Remembrance Day in the UK - two days after Trump's victory and five months after Brexit I wrote the following post on Facebook. And after I wrote it I realised that I had felt frustrated for a very long time that I wasn't able to express my pride in Britain and my profound patriotism - patriotism which drives every political belief I have: belief in society and co-operation and the country we are trying to build together. Below I have pasted the original post that inspired this blog. And in it I will try, as best as I'm able, to express what that patriotism means to me and why it leads me to the political conclusions that it does. 

First posted on Facebook:

A lot of us on the liberal left are in a kind of crisis right now. We don't understand why our political abilities have been lost. But something has come out very clearly from the writing in the last few days: we've lost the ability to inspire.

And behind this I think there's a sterner lesson. A rather horrible lesson and it's this: for many of us on the liberal left we live in a liberal left bubble. Almost everyone we know agrees with us. In the cultural wars - as far as we're concerned - we won the good bits. We got literature and we got theatre and most weeks we get to have the News Quiz as well.

We started to believe that 90% of the people who were educated and refined were naturally on the left. And we laughed at everyone who disagreed with us. We sneered at them. Made fun of them on social media. All those years of Labour rule made us lazy... and superior.

We became the mean, cool kids. We thought our clique would always be on the ascendant and everyone would simply want to join us so we stopped making our case. We thought laughing at the Daily Mail and rolling our eyes at every new Tory wannabe was political engagement. Guess what: we were wrong.

We are brilliant at talking in an echo chamber. The Labour left talk to the Labour left. The Labour right talk to the Labour right. The Greens talk to the Greens. The intellectuals debate in the LRB. We pat each other on Facebook and Twitter. We all read the same articles on the Guardian. We congratulate each other on our quiet and utterly un-influential left-wingedness.

And because we're smug and sneery we alienate every single person who encounters us. We're alienating f-ing everyone... which is how we've managed to lose so many bloody elections.

And along the way we absolutely forgot to make our case. We forgot to say to people, not sneeringly but in all sincerity:

I believe society has to work for everyone and that income inequality leads to poor health, high crime and high anxiety throughout every class and community.

I want to live in a world where my kids grow up to be far prouder of the tax which they pay each year - to build a brilliant education and healthcare system, to pay for our beloved teachers and doctors, to maintain our national security - than they are of their new shoes or their games console or their car.

I am proud to pay tax (and proud to pay more of it as I earn more) because doing my civic duty makes me feel that I'm playing my part in building and improving this community, this country - which I love very deeply. Paying tax is patriotism - the very best kind of patriotism I know.

I am a proud member of the European Union because the EU was invented to prevent another war like WWII occurring, because it is doing what it was designed for and because inter-continental co-operation is a beautiful part of who we are in the UK.

I am proud of my immigrant heritage and proud of Britain for providing a safe place for my family when other countries were more dangerous for us. Our history of colonialism has created many ties with other nations and part of living with that history means accepting that people will *want* to come to Britain.

I believe that society only works if we can provide work for everyone. Where that work has vanished (in manufacturing particularly) we either need to invest very, very heavily to rebuild our manufacturing base - or we need to radically rethink how we're going to define work - include the unpaid caring which millions already do.

We have to stop complaining. We have to stop mocking. We have to unlearn every bad habit we have learned in the past 30 years. We have to make a positive and thoughtful case. Otherwise nothing - NOTHING - is going to change.