Who would have believed it: tonight in the Leicester City Council Chambers, Deputy Mayor Rory Palmer invoked the revolutionary words of the famed Irish socialist, Oscar Wilde, albeit in a clumsy way to berate the Tories complete lack of humanity.
“As the saying goes, sort-of,” Palmer intoned, “we seem to have a government that seems only to know the financial price of local government and society, but the value of none of it.”
Radical rhetoric was however strictly reserved for admonishing the Tories, as Leicester’s Labour councillors then proceeded to provide unanimous backing to a budget that implemented the Tories austerity agenda.
“Our job is to somehow make the best of this situation,” continued Palmer.
Hence for Palmer and his distinctly unsocialist colleagues in the Council, their job is to reluctantly carry through cuts until that far-off time that his Party is elected to government. By which time of course there really won’t be much local Council left to manage anyway.
With his ode to Wilde done and dusted, Palmer then responded to socialists (like myself) who have called upon Labour Council’s to refuse to implement Tory cuts by warning that for those naysayers who say “we can bury our heads in the sand, that we can ‘resist’ the cuts whatever that happens to mean. The reality however is very simple, if we don’t have the money, we can’t spend the money.”
But resistance is everything Mr Palmer: didn’t you read any Oscar Wilde? What is the point of representing the people of Leicester if you are not going to fight alongside them to defend their livelihoods?
Why should people “be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table?” Oscar Wilde asked. Thus contrary to Palmer’s latest ode to quietism and acceptance, Wilde is clear that “it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer to take than to beg.”
If the Tories will not give Leicester the money that it needs to survive, then we must fight to take it back, just as tens of thousands of people did during the 1980s in Liverpool.
As Wilde puts it: “Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”
With his evident fondness for Irish revolutionaries, perhaps Palmer could learn a thing or two about history from the disobedience of socialists participating in the ongoing elections in Ireland.
While the Irish Labour Party continues to dwindle into political obscurity, the fighting actions taken by the ever-growing People-Before-Profit/Anti-Austerity Alliance is a sight to behold. These are principled socialists who are more than ready to resist cuts, while their Labour Party political rivals seem happy to lead their campaign with their heads buried firmly in the sands of capitalism.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on February 24.