In the Hungry ’30s, a couple of ladies from up West went down the East End to tell cockney women how to make a nourishing soup from left over fish heads and tails.
As they began their lecture, a voice from the back shouted out, “When do we get the fish?”
Today, we have the membership of the Labour Party, and their fellow travellers and hangers on, turning Labour back into the equivalent of those women from up West.
Turning Labour back into the party it was before Attlee and Bevin picked it up by the scruff of the neck, dusted it down and tidied it up.
Labour’s membership under Ed Miliband was 70% ABC1 and now, under Jeremy Corbyn, it is 77% ABC1.
And so we come to Mums for Corbyn.
Let us, first, unpack that organisation’s name.
Let us reflect on its exclusivity.
It is not just for mums and not dads and/or parents, but only for mums in communion with Jeremy Corbyn.
Mums for Corbyn is, therefore, a very select group before we even begin to look at what it is about.
I think we may be confident it is as unrepresentative of the wider electorate as is the Labour Party’s membership and that of People’s Momentum.
Somewhere in hell, Goebbels must be cackling with amusement as he hears of the (self appointed) People’s Momentum, People’s Leader, People’s Chancellor …
Any way, back to Mums for Corbyn and Community Not Capital: Creating a Childcare System That Actually Works.
One learns very quickly that Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton are clearly very suspicious of the private sector and the profit motive.
Surprise, surprise they endorse the Labour Party’s desire to move away from marketisation of essential public services, citing its proposal to renationalise those bits of the rail network, not already in public hands.
Is rail an essential public service as much as the bus?
I only ask, because more people travel by bus than train and the average bus passenger is not as affluent as the average rail commuter.
Labour’s renationalisation plan is about cutting rail fares for the more affluent public transport user, whilst doing nothing similar for the woman on the Clapham omnibus, but that cannot be right, can it?
I mean Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is the Party of the People, is it not?
Any way, Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton recommend that people visit this site for an idea of the sort of childcare system about which they are musing.
The project to which they link is based in Birmingham and wants to work with parents, grandparents, professionals in the sector, commissioners, policy makers, educationalists, social entrepreneurs and many others to develop and test radical solutions to enable children and families to thrive.
Social enterprises, sotto voce, set out to make profits …
Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton, social entrepreneurs seek to make profits or, more accurately, surpluses.
I am sure you did not buy into David Cameron’s Big Society with its not for profit community organisations, delivering services in your local community, on a shoe string?
Why do you think people switched, some while ago now, to talking about social enterprises?
And, even if your target is not to do more than just cover your costs, a not very sensible idea, you do need to adopt a business like approach to running your enterprise.
And a business like approach requires putting the service user at the heart of your operation which means giving the customer what the customer wants and not what you think they should want, at least not to begin with.
I stress this point, because, in doing a word search through this article, I found only one example of a word like listen:
“The knowledge and experience of childcare professionals should be valued and listened to, informing the way that childcare services are run.”
Nothing much to disagree with there, except the article makes no reference to listening to, engaging with, speaking with or consulting the users of childcare, whatever their gender, as to what they might like.
I appreciate it may be a bit confusing for some on the left, but organisations do not work best, if they are built around and run in the narrow interest of the staff they employ.
Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton do though, to be fair, link to this project that puts a premium on working with all likely stakeholders. Although, I do wonder if they understand what working with all stakeholders would actually mean in practice.
And, if you really want to inclusively redesign childcare to meet the needs of users, male and female, in the 2010s then you ought to start with where the system is now and ask a representative cross section of service users, if it meets their current and likely future needs.
For example, a lot of childcare only seems to be available during extended office hours on week days.
Is that because those hours suit the business models of most providers or because there is no demand for childcare outside of those times?
New Deal for Lone Parents
I am quite often reminded these days of when I implemented the New Deal for Lone Parents in Birmingham and Solihull in 1998. A lot of thought and time went into designing this strand of New Deal.
In particular, the National Council for One Parent Families drew up an eight week training programme for the Jobcentre New Deal Lone Parent Advisers, a new resource dedicated solely to working with single parents, and actually delivered it to the first groups of advisers.
We had in Birmingham and Solihull already developed a good, local working relationship with Gingerbread before the 1997 General Election. Gingerbread supported us as we strove to make NDLP meet the needs of lone parents in Birmingham and Solihull.
NCOPF merged at a later date with Gingerbread.
The high profile partners with whom we were working on New Deal for Young People in 1998 took an interest in New Deal for Lone Parents and some of them set up an oversight committee. The committee had no formal role, but I attended the first meeting any way.
I had put in place five NDLP Advisers by then and had spoken with one of them, a good friend and colleague, about how things were going by the time of the meeting.
My chum’s response was very positive, very up beat. Her clients were very appreciative of the help on offer and the new Tax Credits were making work much more attractive to them. They were not being stigmatised as has been claimed recently by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the i newspaper.
“Ideology doesn’t put food on the table” (Angela Rayner)
My friend’s clients did not want to be on Income Support, but they needed to know they would be better off in work. They wanted to be in a position to put food on the table; to be able to go away on holiday once a year; to not to have to choose between paying a bill and buying a new pair of shoes for a son or daughter.
They wanted to give their children as good a start in life, if not better a better start, than they had had themselves.
That was not what ‘my steering group’ had in mind for them. This group of mostly middle class women, some of them lone parents, had more ambitious plans for the men and women with whom we were working.
I had to tactfully explain that whilst I wanted and needed their help to connect my colleagues and their clients with a range of services, provided by the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, their aspirations were not wanted by the people for whom they drawing them up. At least, not at that moment in time.
I had to deliver a similar explanation to a much larger event in Birmingham, organised by the Industrial Chaplains. I did stress as I had done previously that the NDLPAs wanted to work with those present to deliver the best possible service to the lone parents with whom they were working.
Communal laundry machines …
Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton speak of a “vision for a more collective approach to childcare” that “has the potential to be developed within the model of community care centres, where the concept of care would be centred around the needs of those who use it. It could include the making of collective meals, communal laundry machines, support for new mums (and for new dads as Sure Start has provided?) and breast feeding classes. The possibilities are far from limited and there is clearly scope for a cooperative/state-run model.”
I was intrigued to read the reference to communal laundry machines. Is this a fashion amongst middle class female socialists?
And, if so does anyone have any details of such sharing or similar?
Middle class buy advantage for their children through childcare
I only ask, because some members of the middle class, regardless of their politics, pay good money to buy childcare and, latterly, education that keeps their children well away from any interactions with the offspring of the working class.
Naming no names, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.
Perhaps I should explain that I was, for a while, a Childcare Partnership Manager for Jobcentre Plus. My colleague at that time was gobsmacked to learn, during a visit to a childcare provider in Wylde Green, here in Birmingham, that the nursery had daily menus from which the parents might choose lunch for their progeny.
As an aside, part of the role of a Childcare Partnership Manager was to challenge negative attitudes about lone parents and to encourage more men to go into work in childcare. Back then, 8% of heavy goods vehicle drivers were women and 2% of those working in childcare were men.
Much more recently when the BBC went to a nursery for a story about free childcare, the owner, a male, as it happens, said that if he was to subsist on the money from the Government then he would probably have to cut out the French lessons and yoga classes that he currently provided for his young charges …
If I was that chap, I would pocket the Government money and just reduce his charges a bit for his existing customers, because if they really want the opportunities he currently provides for their children to get ahead, of the hoi polloi, then they will happily continue to pay up.
And people will pay a premium, because they do now, to keep the ratio of qualified staff to children low and to buy the advantages, the ballet lessons and the like, that the middle and upper class use to help maintain their grip on university places, good jobs and the like.
Labour’s ‘transformative’ manifesto
I find it difficult to take Andrea Marie, Camille Barbagallo and Nadine Houghton seriously when they pen a paragraph like this one without, seemingly, having their tongues firmly lodged in their cheeks:
“Labour’s transformative manifesto has shown that ordinary people are hungry for systemic change. It rightly tackled many of the injustices that lead to inequality, poverty and poor health.”
Are they saying ordinary people (whoever they are, they are clearly not the people writing this piece) would be better off by Labour enacting universal ‘free’ university tuition on Day One in Government whilst, at the same time, leaving in place, indefinitely, the Conservative Party’s benefits freeze and benefit cap and pledging to make Universal Credit ‘work’?
Labour is pledging to commit a derisory figure of £500 million towards Sure Start which will not even fully reverse the savage Tory cuts in the programme since May 2010.
That figure will certainly not reboot Sure Start thus allowing practitioners to improve on progress to date and learn from the life experiences of the first cohort of Sure Start graduates who will soon be reaching 18.
Labour has said it will raise £2 billion in Corporation Tax to go towards funding universal childcare for people like those who now make up the majority of Labour’s membership. How much of a stealth tax rebate will that be worth to the likes of Mums for Corbyn?
Andrea Marie’s, Camille Barbagallo’s and Nadine Houghton’s vision of communal childcare for the other ranks does rather seem on a par with Jeremy Corbyn’s own offer to the other ranks of an extra few quid an hour on the National Living Wage; a diminishing chance to rent a Council house (courtesy of the BREXIT for which Corbyn campaigned for forty years, claiming there would be no real downsides) and, at best, a crack at an NVQ3.
I am an unashamed upstart prole
I am an unashamed upstart prole.
I was born into a white working class background and I got on.
I am a member of the aspirational working class who no longer seem welcome in Jeremy Corbyn’s ever more middle class Labour Party, because we want a hand up not a hand out, however well intentioned that leftie noblesse oblige might be.
I had some involvement in the development of a community project in Nechells, a disadvantaged inner city area of Birmingham. Incidentally, the centre was a beneficiary of funds from Europe. I met on a number of occasions the manager of the centre at the heart of the project, a very confident, assertive, well organised middle aged woman.
In the course of time, I discovered that this very competent individual had been recruited from the local community and had previously been involved in the running, if not the setting up, of a local social enterprise that recycled and reconditioned white goods for sale to the public.
White goods like washing machines …
Is this a Clause IV for childcare?
“At Mums For Corbyn, our vision for childcare is a system that enables parents to take democratic control of reproductive services …”
What would those West Enders and East Enders of the 1930s have said to that proposition?