Category Archives: Labour Party

7 Quotations That Define Aneurin Bevan

Aneurin (Nye) Bevan was the Minister for Health in Clement Attlee’s post-war government and was responsible for the establishment of the NHS. The son of a coal miner, Bevan consistently defended social justice and the rights of working people. Here are seven quotations that we think define his legacy as a radical politician and a man who should always be remembered!

1. “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune the cost of which should be shared by the community.”

Today, the NHS is one of the UK’s most prized-possessions. The value, common-sense and necessity of free healthcare has become ingrained in the national psyche, perhaps because very few people remember living without it. But it hasn’t always been this way: in 1952, the idea of free healthcare was largely viewed as an absurdly idealistic hope. And yet, despite opposition and hostility, Aneurin Bevan fought for what he believed in and proved himself to be more than just a radical, but a visionary. If he hadn’t remained committed to his belief that illness was an undeserved misfortune, society today might be very different indeed.

2. “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Again, this quotation, in just 20 words, demonstrates the absurdity of paying for healthcare. Why should someone with more money deserve to live longer than someone with less? Why should lack of means have any affect on health and well-being? When put in these terms, the idea of healthcare in exchange for money seems wholly barbaric, and it’s something the USA must address. Of course, the only American presidential candidate addressing it is self-declared Democratic Socialist and radical Bernie Sanders – #FeelTheBern!

Aneurin Bevan tea towel

3. “It [the NHS] will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” Continue reading

A Patriotic Vision For The Left

For a long time now, the words “nationalistic” and “patriotic” have seemed to me to be largely associated with xenophobia, bigotry and prejudice. Political parties like UKIP and the British Nationalist Party have long been claiming that only they are proud of their country and their people.

UKIP’s 2015 General Election manifesto was emblazoned with the slogan “Believe in Britain” as if no other political party did. The English Defence League adopted St George’s flag (ignorant to the fact that St George was Syrian) as if to suggest that they were the true guardians and lovers of our country, and that no other political party could really care for England.

A quick Google search reinforces this unusual association between bigotry and patriotism. The so-called “patriot movement” consists of various conservative movements in the United States that include organised militia members, tax protesters, conspiracy theorists, and radical Christians who believe in an impending apocalypse. ‘Patriotism’ apparently equates with ‘loony’, too.

And just as these illiberal, conservative groups often pose as patriotic, so the left has forever been accused of the opposite: of having a deep loathing for the United Kingdom and wanting to systematically dismantle all of its traditions and institutions. In his novel A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor describes his early perception of left-wing politicians as men and women determined to see the destruction of everything ‘British’, from country-life and religion to cricket and farming. Continue reading

Stop Fracking Hand

Frack Fracking – Get Green Energy

The following post is another written by Will Richardson, a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6. Agree with the post or not, we’d love your comments below!

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You know when you’re drinking a milkshake and you start to reach the end; you’ve drained it down to a diluted little pool of milk and bubbles and spit-back between the ice cubes, so you suck harder on the straw and it begins to make that gross slurping noise, kind of like: “phhhssshrrrawwwhhphhh”. Well that is a pretty apt beverage-based illustration of fracking.

As if we don’t know when to stop, as if we truly have no concept of the velocity at which we are hoovering up the life-enabling resources on which we depend, we have begun the process in the UK leading to desperately guzzling the final dregs from within the earth’s crust through fracking. All in the hopes we can power our futile existence for just a while longer until our planet starts to compact and crush inwards like a Ribena carton subject to a particularly greedy child.

Fracking is in vogue at the moment as the way to harvest non-renewable resources and it, as well as everything revolving around it, is absolutely bloody awful. Like frantic and suddenly bankrupt millionaires popping the cork on our last hurrah, through fracking we are attempting to live the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to, frenziedly chasing the dream we once lived before the repo men come knocking on the door. And in a time when sustainable energy options are not only a dire necessity, but plentifully available and logistically workable, this is simply unacceptable.

Fracking, or ‘shale gas drilling’, as it’s more euphemistically called by George and David and Amber Rudd as they try surreptitiously to bring it into the public consciousness of acceptability, is a process whereby a rig drills vertically down and then horizontally a few thousand feet underground to expose cracks in the shale rock, in which are hidden pesky little gobbets of shale gas. Slickwater is then pumped down to widen the cracks, and then proppants – some scientific sand mixture – to keep the cracks widened so the gas can escape back up the pipe and be harvested.

You might think, perhaps, that forcing open cracks in the very foundations of the ground upon which we tread may not be the best idea in terms of the integrity of our land. Well, chum, you’d be right in thinking such a thing. The US Geological Survey itself has admitted that fracking has caused earthquakes in previously geologically staid states, i.e., states where earthquakes haven’t been usual for millions of years. Indeed, between 1973 and 2008 there were about 21 earthquakes per year in the central and eastern US. That pumped up to 99 per year between 2009 and 2013, and in 2014 alone there were 659 earthquakes! At that rate, the women’s sex toy industry is going to be bankrupted, seeing as most of the country is turning into one massive Sybian. The geological devastation wrought by fracking, then, is not up for debate. Fracking causes earthquakes. Continue reading

Why This Man Was So Optimistic

Our instant reaction on hearing of death is one of sadness. Tony Benn, who died aged 88 on 14th March 2014, received the usual cross-party tributes and eulogies from both friends and enemies. He was variously described as a crusader for the left, uncompromising in his views, and an inspiration whose influence stretched beyond traditional party politics – a great loss to politics and the left in particular.

Benn himself, however, was more prepared for the end, not wallowing in despair but simply noting the inevitability of being ‘switched off’ at some point. In fact, optimism was a recurring theme in Benn’s writing and speaking long before his death, and we at Radical Tea Towel don’t think this aspect of his character has received enough attention. It is likely a key reason for his success as political grandee and spokesperson for the left – and is arguably what he most wanted to be remembered for.

Benn believed that the history of the left and of society had to be seen in terms of the great progress achieved, and that frame of reference provided optimism for the future of those seeking progressive change. A pessimistic frame, meanwhile, would only ever be self-fulfilling. In his famous interview with comedian Ali G in 2000, Tony Benn warned of the dangers of society conforming to the lens through which you view it.

BENN TO ALI G: “You’re not living in the real world my friend, you’re living in a world where everybody is just so bloody greedy that there’s no hope of building a better society and that’s why we’re in a mess… You think they are lazy, greedy, don’t want to work, you call women bitches and then you are asking me about a society that’s happy. Well I’ll tell you what, somebody will shoot you someday because you treat them like an animal.”

After initially feeling angry once he was told the interview was a hoax, Benn concluded that the video was in fact educational in that, along with others in the Ali G series, it would encourage people to look again at their own prejudices surrounding the issues raised. An optimism lacking in fellow, more conservative, interviewees. Continue reading

Top Radical & Progressive Events Of The 19th Century: Part 1

15. Establishment of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (1844)

Toad Lane store

Toad Lane – the Pioneers’ cooperative store

The modern British cooperative movement traces its roots to the foundation of this Rochdale society, one of the first consumer cooperatives. The ‘Rochdale Principles’ were written by the society as a set of ideals that of form the basis of cooperative movements to this day. The 19th century movement was backed by progressive industrialists such as Robert Owen, who believed in providing good working conditions and education for the families of his employees.

 

14. Chartist Demonstration in London (1848)

The 1848 Chartist meeting on Kennington Common

The 1848 Chartist meeting on Kennington Common

The Chartist political reform movement had delivered several petitions to parliament following publication of the People’s Charter in 1838 (see below), but by far the biggest was in 1848 as part of a demonstration in London. Tens of thousands of workers gathered on Kennington Common in the biggest call for political reform – universal suffrage, payment of MPs and equal-sized constituencies, among other demands – to date. Continue reading

Top Progressive Achievements of the 20th Century (UK): Pt2

This is the second of two posts on the ‘Top Progressive Achievements of the 20th Century’ in the UK. You can read the first part here.

7. Pay Equality (1970)

equalpay

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 (implemented in 1975) made it illegal to discriminate between men and women in pay and work conditions, provided it could be proved that a claimant’s work was broadly the same as another employee. Although the Labour Party and trade unions had previously promised support for equal pay legislation, it was the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 (dramatised by the 2010 film ‘Made in Dagenham’) that energised the issue and encouraged MP Barbara Castle to push through the act.

 

6. Race Relations Act (1965)

Increased immigration from the Caribbean in post-war Britain had raised awareness of racial discrimination

Immigrants arriving in London on the Windrush, 1948

Significant as not only the first piece of racial equality legislation in the UK, but also the precursor for several pieces of liberal legislation from the 1960s onwards. The new law made it a civil offence to publicly discriminate on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins, but was criticised for its weakness in failing to cover key areas such as employment and housing. It was strengthened by an amendment in 1968 and replaced in 1976. Post-war immigration from the Caribbean and former empire nations had raised awareness of racial discrimination in Britain.

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Top Progressive Achievements of the 20th Century (UK): Pt1

15. Establishment of the Open University (1969)

open university

The OU’s provision of distance learning and its open entry policy, stating that previous academic achievement was no bar to course enrollment, allowed thousands of adults to gain qualifications while still in full or part-time employment. By widening access to higher education, the OU has arguably been a significant contributor to social mobility. Today the OU is the largest academic institution in the UK, with over 250,000 people enrolled in its courses.

 

14. Defeat of the Poll Tax (1990)

Photo Credit: eddymanzano via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: eddymanzano via Compfight cc

The Community Charge, also known as the poll tax, was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government from 1989. A campaign of opposition, including an infamous riot in London’s Trafalgar Square, expressed the huge unpopularity of the tax, and contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. John Major announced the poll tax’s replacement by council tax in his first speech as Prime Minister.

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