Saturday, 9 March 2013

Fighting Back: the Newcastle Labour Party Way

So back to the Civic Centre to view Newcastle’s Labour led council debate the budget which will, inter alia, close down a number of branch libraries and a couple of respite care homes, Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths.  As you may remember, I attended a previous meeting as recounted here.

Unable to get into the public gallery this time, I watched from the Banqueting Hall where a video link had been established.  This did actually have its advantages.  The camera not only showed the person speaking but the one behind them as well and so we were cheered by the sight of a tory councillor apparently spending the entire evening when not actually speaking engrossed in a book.  A labour councillor at one point seemed to receive what was, from his expression, disconcertingly odd news by text.  But that is by-the-by.

So what did we learn this time?  Well, the labour councillors are still blaming everyone else for all this but at least this time they are angry at what the Government wants them to do.  They are very angry.  They are incandescent with fury.  They are so angry that they are going to…

…do exactly what they’ve been told to and a bit more.

This is a new approach to defiance that had not previously occurred to me.  It would certainly have made the film 300 shorter (and world history probably somewhat different) if Leonidas and his Spartans had defied Xerxes and the Persian horde by escorting them into Greece, possibly waiting for them at Thermopylae holding up a little sign reading ‘Xerxes/Persians’.

NB That last picture is of Councillor Nick Forbes, the council leader.  The joke doesn’t really work if you don’t know that.*

*nor if its not actually funny.  Yes all right, pedants

When the labour councillors were not being angry, they were being sad.  One was so sad she was dressed in black, because she was in mourning for what she had to do you see, as she explained to us.  In fact she was so sad that she burst into tears.  Now I’m sure the gesture was well-meant and that the tears were genuine, but the harsh fact is that in politics gestures and tears are meaningless without action.

It was not all bad news.  The two respite care centres in Heaton have apparently been saved and that is brilliant, no question.  Unfortunately, at least two councillors (including Forbes) decided to sneer at us who had been campaigning for the libraries for, as they hinted heavily, putting our luvvie interests and hobbies over the plight of desperate children and their carers.

Now as someone who has extensive personal knowledge of the importance of respite care I could start announcing loudly how upset I am, how insulting such insinuations are to me, how callous etc etc.  I could even start crying.  But I won’t.  I just sigh and wish for an opportunity to tell these two councillors that the reason politicians are held in contempt is because they behave contemptibly.

The debate lasted for over four hours and labour councillor after labour councillor stood up to denounce the Coalition and, occasionally, us.  Then, at twenty to eleven on Wednesday the 6th of March 2013 the budget proposals were approved in their entirety and a labour council settled back to do the Government’s work for it.

Actually, I lied.

I really could weep.