Fringe Box



Opinion: It’s Time for Some Honesty and Openness

Published on: 30 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 2 Apr, 2024

By Brian Creese

Former Guildford Labour chair

I was delivering Labour leaflets on Slyfield yesterday when I came across a chap standing outside his door surveying the rain. “Don’t bother giving me one of your Labour leaflets,” he said. This is not an uncommon experience when campaigning, but he carried on. “The country is in such a mess, I don’t think any of them can do anything to make it better. We’re finished.”

So we stood in the doorway, sheltering from the rain as he – sadly, not angrily – outlined all the impossible issues we face today – cost of living, poverty, NHS, policing….. “We’re in the worst state I can ever remember and I can’t see any way out of it.”

Such moments are sobering. I sometimes think that those of us running around at the bottom of the political pyramid can have very little impact on the huge problems which we undoubtedly face today. The NHS is underfunded, needs reorganisation, needs more staff, needs new facilities. How do I help by pushing leaflets through doors?

Policing has disappeared in any sense that we used to understand. We are told there are more police today than ever, but frankly I find that hard to believe; we have a PCC election which should be the focus for a serious debate on what policing means in the 21st century – but instead that election is met with massive apathy and disinterest. Only a tiny minority in Guildford will vote for any of the candidates.

The issues we follow on the news are all so difficult, so large, so intractable. Sorting out the NHS, stopping the boats, generating growth, alleviating poverty – and as for peace in Ukraine or Palestine…. None of these are issues which are easily solved with a few soundbites on the doorstep. Is there really any point in activists like us trying to engage people with the political process?

It is a hard sell, particularly after the way in which politics has been almost destroyed by right-wing populists in the past ten years; the prospect of more Trump is particularly disheartening. But at its best, political parties are simply a coalition of people with a shared philosophical outlook. If you believe in social justice, reversing social and economic inequalities, supporting workers’ rights and the principles behind the formation of the NHS and Welfare State you are likely to be a Labour supporter.

You may not necessarily believe that voting Labour will solve all our current problems overnight, but if the party acts in line with its values you may feel it will go about things in the right way. And if your beliefs are from the other side of politics, you may hope further Conservative governments will produce an answer that aligns with your beliefs.

But no one should be telling voters any of this is easy – or quick. We are going to be in a difficult and challenging position for a long time, and no clever three-word slogan on either side is going to solve things.

Let’s hope there is a belated move towards honesty and openness once the election campaigns finally kicks off and voters think seriously about how these difficult problems might be overcome.

Share This Post

Responses to Opinion: It’s Time for Some Honesty and Openness

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 30, 2024 at 2:41 pm

    As expressed by the man on the doorstep in this article – the problem is that the Government just does not work in many areas. That chimes with most people’s experience.

    Ms Truss’s solution was to cut taxes. That does nothing to reassure anyone that she identified the problem – let alone the solution.

    Jeremy Corbyn’s solution was to nationalise everything. Given the performance of the headline “nationalised” company, the Post Office, there’s no assurance that Government ownership would solve very much – or anything.

    This article misses the mark. Take this statement for example: “If you believe in social justice, reversing social and economic inequalities, supporting workers’ rights and the principles behind the formation of the NHS and Welfare State you are likely to be a Labour supporter.”

    This reads like an attempt to appropriate these “common goods” as the property of the Labour Party. But the reality is that most people in England would subscribe to these “principles” andhey don’t belong to the Labour or Conservative parties.

    Much of the difficulty is that none of the political parties identifies the actual problems or sets out credible practical solutions.

    Sadly, they are controlled by zealots – who treat the “party” as having unique “values”. But the average voter does not want to join a cult; he/she wants realistic answers.

    The goal is wide open. But will the odds on favourite put the ball into the back of the net?

    • Wayne Smith Reply

      March 31, 2024 at 8:35 pm

      We dont get any credible practical solutions because whichever party is in power only concentrates on how best to cling on to that power for the next five years. There is no effective long term planning for the greater good.

  2. John Murray Reply

    March 31, 2024 at 10:50 am

    This is a common old man’s plaint. Born in 1946 and growing up in bomb-damaged London I heard regularly that ‘this country is finished’ and indeed, many were leaving for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and not a few came back.

    I had an aunt in those times who taught me the following poem:

    ‘When you and I were young,Jack/And all the trees were green,/And every bird a swan,Jack/And every lass a queen’.

    We all tend to think that things were better in the past. Don’t believe a word of it. Someone is always predicting the end of the world and someone is always wrong.

  3. S Callanan Reply

    March 31, 2024 at 12:56 pm

    Brian Creese says that “The NHS is underfunded, needs reorganisation, needs more staff, needs new facilities.” One at a time, Brian!

    I don’t know about him, but I’ve begun to lose track of how exactly the NHS works. NHS England I know of and their website tells me they “lead the NHS in England to deliver high quality services for all”. Hardly blue-sky thinking.

    NHS Providers? During Covid, “providers bloke” kept popping up on the telly so they’re a name to me, but I couldn’t understand what they did then and I still can’t now. Their website says they’re the membership organisation for the organisations that “treat patients and service users in the NHS”. But surely that’s in part what NHS England does or should be doing?

    Then there’s the NHS Confederation. This is another membership organisation that “brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system”. But surely that’s in part what NHS England does or should be doing?

    Each of these organisations no doubt has a board, governors, etc, so my key questions are a) if we managed without them before, why do we need them now? and b) what improvement in outcomes can they point to?

    I do appreciate, by the way, that “membership organisations” will probably be funded by subscription but where does the subscription money come from?

    If the NHS were reorganised so as to need fewer staff by cutting out elements of duplication, it would have less of a problem with under funding. I’d happily pay for new facilities if I could be satisfied that they were going to be adequately used.

    There’s a fascinating BBC TV programme “Can Gerry Robinson fix the NHS?” in which Robinson, who’d run major companies, went around hospitals and was taken aback to see how under-used expensive operating facilities and equipment were. You can find it on YouTube and I suggest Brian Creese takes a look, if he hasn’t already seen it.

  4. David Roberts Reply

    March 31, 2024 at 7:06 pm

    I agree. My grandfather thought the youth of the 1930s had been softened up by things like the wireless, jazz and the movies: “God help us if there’s another war!”

    Unfortunately, Mr Creese represents nostalgic “Old Labour”. Witness his uncritical support for unfettered growth and building across Guildford’s countryside – as if a million new houses will reduce prices by even a pound. His attitude is a world away from a balanced vision of sustainability in a climate-challenged world that his party is supposed to have embraced.

  5. Roland Dunster Reply

    April 1, 2024 at 11:40 am

    I live in a Guildford Labour held ward and the last Labour representative that knocked on my door asking for my vote was particularly honest and open.

    When I asked him to list five things Labour had done for the area, he was unable to name one. I’ve also since emailed the member for the ward regarding a local issue and received no response.

    This was worrying enough at a local level, but far more concerning for me, are Labour’s national pledges to build on the green belt and to “bulldoze” planning laws to allow far greater house building and to devastate our landscapes with onshore wind “farms”. All this whilst demonising alternative views as “blockers” and “Nimbys”.

  6. Mike Smith Reply

    April 1, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    The writer mentions the Police & Crime Commissioner elections which are actually quite a good example of what’s gone wrong with politics. Originally many of the candidates were independents with relevant police experience and common sense ideas like our first PCC, Kevin Hurley, but now the elections have been taken over by the main parties and we just get apparatchiks. Whoever the Tories put up in Surrey is almost bound to be elected (at least, up until now).

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *