Ed, energy and empty sentiment.

I had to laugh, and lament a little. Ed Miliband (a true socialist at heart according to Ken Livingstone) has rocked and shocked the political and corporate world with his pledge to freeze energy prices for two years if he is voted to office at the next election. This could save each household £120 each over the two years (or £60 a year if you speak like normal people).

Brushing aside the unfortunate combination of the word ‘freeze’ and ‘energy’ for a moment, let’s look at just how damn brave this man is.

If you’re not familiar with my blogs, you should know at this point, I don’t come down on any side of the fence. I don’t like the fence at all. And here is yet another reason for why.

I learned about the story from the flapping news coverage that (quite rightly) was covering the reaction of the energy companies to this decree, even if they were perhaps emphasising the companies point of view a little too strongly.

“Britain to face black-out’s if Ed Miliband’s plan is put into action – says energy firms” blared out at me from the telly. Rather unusually I was watching ITV news. Don’t quite know how that happened, but I was.

I laughed at the open corporate threats upon the people of this country. They couldn’t even be bothered to dress it up. They jerked their knee’s with childish obstinacy. Basically saying, “well if you want to freeze our prices, we’re going to leave you all to die, how do you like them eggs Grandma?”

It amazed me how swift and brutal this rhetoric appeared, bolstered by the threat of higher prices before and after the freeze, and a lack of investment in infrastructure etc… It didn’t help that the particular news channel I was watching basically covered the argument from the energy firms as:

“Although the energy companies enjoy high profits, they operate on low margins.”

Well that’s ok then! Isn’t it? I’m sure the billionaires in the industry are constantly worried about the low margins of their chosen trade.

They also tried to gazump us with “not being able to offer lower prices due to the freeze” – because we all know how often energy prices come down don’t we? Happens all the time. And on top of that, the good old “these are multinational companies who may just decide to take their business elsewhere”… where have I heard that before…

But asides from this posturing, it dawned on me that what Ed Miliband was actually proposing, as brave as it sounds (especially when you consider this backlash), isn’t really that revolutionary. If this is all it takes to get companies to drop the ‘caring for the customer’ facade and bare their teeth, what hope is there of anyone ever actually offering us an alternative or opposition to corporate capitalism in the political sphere?

It’s not exactly like Ed Miliband went out there and said he wants to renationalise the energy companies. Imagine the hell that would have caused!

“Energy companies say they will round us all up to use as fuel in their private mansions if Ed Miliband’s plans are put into action”

This ‘brave’ move by Red-Ed, is nothing more than a exercise in hot air (keeping with the theme). I’m all for control of energy to be returned to the people. It is not a commodity that should be profiteered, just like health-care and water. I’m very much of the opinion that those essentials we need to live should not be playthings for businesses to grow fat on and barter with (just look at the threat of blackout’s issued this week, if ever proof was needed why this is a bad thing), but it seems, yet again that our ‘left’ of house representatives, don’t share this sentiment. They’re not talking about nationalising, they’re talking about slightly tinkering.

I heard another view on this matter that I found hard to digest at first. That view was, “well, he shouldn’t interfere with them, they are a private company.” Immediately my blood pressure rises and I start to concoct reasons why private companies should not be allowed to run fast and loose when in charge of live-giving resources, but actually, that’s right, in a fashion. Like I said before, if we don’t want private companies profiting exorbitantly from keeping us alive over winter, we shouldn’t have private companies running those services. It’s the same argument. The only alternative to that argument (one I suspect the Tories would condone), would be to let them do whatever they want, with no fear of reprisal. Which would be fine, if you trusted them, but do we? Do we really?

Once again I find myself looking at both side of this story, both sides of the fence as it were, and feeling unrepresented by either. I also have a feeling that if Labour were to get back in, this pledge would be dropped as they continue to move their funding model away from Unions and court big business interest instead. Once again I find myself thinking, these people have no control, they just want to be ‘seen’ to have control and are being paid off, blackmailed and threatened by the unseen with money, resources. This may sound mad and paranoid to some people, but just think on what happened this week. And what are we talking about? £120 saved each, over two years. Let’s not pretend that will make a ‘real difference to families’ etc…, that’s bugger all in the grand scheme of things, and that’s how little it takes to piss these people off. They need to have their fingers taken off the buttons, but these politic pushers, on all sides, they aren’t the ones to do it. They don’t want to do it.

So, in conclusion. Don’t be taken in by empty promises, don’t be threatened by bullies. I wish I knew what the alternative was, but I don’t. I stick to my mantra however:

‘It is valid to acknowledge that a problem exists even if one doesn’t have the answers. Until we understand the problem, how can we ever get to the answers anyway? Anyone who says your criticism is not valid because you don’t have the answer, is protecting self interest. A good idea will rise from the ashes of a bad one.’

This mantra changes somewhat every time I write it down, but you get the idea, hopefully a good one.

Thanks for reading.

Attending an Anti-Capitalist Road Show.

So, last night I attended an ‘Anti-Capitalist’ Road Show (http://www.redmagic.co.uk/anticap/index.htm) at the Foxlowe in Leek (http://www.foxloweartscentre.org.uk/) which featured 5 musicians treating us to an evening of subversive music.

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect and was worried it would pander to the left of the political system that I’m not very fond of either (the idea that if you’re not ‘one’ thing, you’re the ‘other’ as if the only alternatives in life are left or right doesn’t chime with me…) but actually it did nothing of the sort.

The performers treated us to a nicely balanced mix of the evocative, satirical, comical and in some cases stirringly angry sentiment about the state of things, the reality of the situation, the reason we were there.

The acts were, Peggy Seeger, Leon Rosselson, Grace Petrie, Janet Russell and Jim Woodland. I was encountering them for the first time, but they have some credentials between them! Strikingly, Leon Rosselson used to perform on ‘That was the week that was’ back in the 60s, while Grace Petrie was recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The NOW show’ but two weeks ago. That demonstrates really the generational range that, admittedly, Grace was doing a large part towards creating, but was present and vibrant in the set.

Okay, so there was a leaning towards folk, acoustic tweeness here and there, and I can’t imagine this format being the kick-start to a younger generation of subversion which we will need if things are ever going to change, but it was good reinforcement for people who felt that way, to hear their worries, anger and hope encapsulated in easy to digest, sing along ditties and anthems.

Highlights for me included Leon’s ‘Looters’ songs that cleverly linked the London riots to the British empire’s history of looting. There’s a great line about all we ever exported being, Cricket, The Bible and the Royal Family: http://www.myspace.com/leonrosselson/music/songs/looters-91952569

Peggy Seeger, though lacking her singing voice last night (apparently, I thought she sounded great), satirically posed the question ‘How do you sleep at night?’ to the rich, who replied something along the lines of, ‘Very comfortably thank you, in fine linen and silks, why do you keep asking us that?’. (http://www.peggyseeger.com/)

And Grace Petrie bellowed out the moving ‘They shall not pass’, about the Spanish civil war: (it can be found here http://gracepetrie.com/music/mark-my-words/)

Anyway, the night was interesting, clever, and more importantly it said something important. We are not tied to one way of thinking, when the opposition so closely resembles the power we reject where do we turn? There are more of us. Never accept the idea that there is no ‘alternative’ – anyone who ever tells you that is lying or misinformed. I suspect the former when it comes to economy, taxes, bail-outs and benefits.

Try and catch this road show if you can, that’s the main thing.

Garry

(Here are some other links you might like!:)

http://www.harbourtownrecords.com/russell.html

http://jimwoodlandsongs.wordpress.com/