on winning elections via the politics of victimhood

The politics of victimhood is a dangerous beast.  Whilst UKIP has long practised it in its pursuit of political notoriety, using false perceptions of immigration realities to whip up a casual furore amongst those who feel bewildered by our globalising world’s latterday speed of change, and whilst certain elements in both the Tories and Labour have preferred in a quite cowardly and triangulating way to simply go along with the narrative, in truth it only leads to the start of a banal fascism.

That fascism is already here.

Yet, for the moment, that politics of victimhood I mention seems to be working for the UKIPs amongst us where it doesn’t work for the progressives.  I used to tweet at the Twitter account @eiohel; stopped for a number of reasons already described previously on this blog; and then realised, in dawning hindsight, that one of the more important dynamics which drove me finally to let go was that so many of the people I followed on this account were deliberately promoting the aforementioned politics of victimhood – though well within what I am sure most of them perceived as a framework of a left-wing nature.

By saying this, I don’t question their honesty, truth or integrity in any way.  I just question whether their strategy – simply summarised as persistently using and exposing, for all to publicly see, their own declining standards of living at the hands of this awful Coalition government – will succeed in winning over hearts and minds outside their super-informed and well-organised support networks.

To my mind, now, after suffering their pain from the outside looking in for a long and unhappy three years or so, I’m not sure it will.  For the first time in as many years, the Tories are above Labour in the opinion polls.  And it’s not that I don’t approve of Labour’s leadership – quite the opposite, in fact; quite the opposite.  But I suspect that where Labour have preferred to also use the same politics of victimhood which is apparently working so well for UKIP & Co, and which they see being used to great (though limited) effect by those very real and yet empowered victims in the Twitter- and Facebook-spheres, for progressives – progressives who really wish to show they are progressive – it is simply not enough to bewail one’s suffering.  It is not even enough – not even even appropriate – to bewail one’s suffering and then tack on a pointed piecemeal process of policymaking.  No.  In truth, if there is to be a real difference between rank fascism (wherever it is to be found) and a progressive stance in relation to this currently pitiful and intellectually poor world we are both sleepwalking into and actively permitting, then it must lie in how we tell our stories.

Let us not complain how poor we are, how badly treated we find ourselves, how bullied and discriminated against this society does make us.  That is the UKIP/Tory way.  That does not ennoble us.  That sings no different a song to any voter out there.

Instead, if we are to learn from our recent past at all, we need to show that voting Labour makes you smarter, cleverer, happier and more sociable.

Not socialist.

Social-ist.  Skim off from all this corporate-devised social media the instincts to share, collaborate and act that could so easily make for a better world.

Democracy not as a goal but as a tool.  Not as a destination but, rather, a way of seeing.

And leave the politics of victimhood for those who would believe they are to be nothing but the acted-upon.

Not us, though.

So yes.  Perhaps the thought will upset you.  But appealing to people’s compassionate sides so overwhelmingly as the sad evidence now allows will only create a debilitating fatigue.  Labour needs leadership which doesn’t fall into the easy trap of choosing to reaffirm our prejudices but, rather, prefers to go down the route of enabling our ability to draw out the positives in life.  And to cross over frontiers of humanity.

In a way, like art itself, like a good kind of mathematics too, Labour needs to be a party which doesn’t gather votes to itself by subtracting from life but – instead – appeals to and facilitates people’s lives by adding all the time.  Not a mania for Gove-like change so that bully-boys can demonstrate their ability to thump legislative tables.  No.  An intelligence which observes and truly learns from what history can teach for the better.

“So stop complaining?” you ask.  “Is that what you say?”

Maybe so.  Stop complaining, yes – perhaps that is what I mean.

Don’t forget any of what they’ve done, by all means.  But do use your memories to reverse – quite as fast as you can – out of personally, and politically, destructive victimhood.

a call to #opendata and #freedomofinformation bods for some help

A call for help here – maybe an #opendata wizard or a #foi genius.  In England, or with access to English education and/or council open data.

This is the situation:


It’s my feeling that since the September 2013 changes in Pupil Registration (England) legislation, councils and schools are both feeling obliged/encouraged by central government to outlaw compassionate leave.  I’d like to find out whether unauthorised absences up to four days long – the fifth day would currently incur a fixed penalty notice – have risen since the introduction of the new legislation/are beginning to rise.

It’s my experience that institutions unofficially prefer parents to take unauthorised leaves of absence instead of allowing authorised compassionate leave.  I’d like to assess if this is a wider experience.  It’s an important issue because if it is the case and other families have suffered the same behaviours, the government will be getting the impression that gratuitous and unjustified unauthorised leaves of absence are on the rise – when in fact the reality is that more and more education institutions are denying all compassionate leave under any circumstances, as they let it be known between the lines that a four-day absence goes essentially unpunished.

Many thanks in advance if you have read thus far.  Please comment below, use the Contact page or email me on mil@pobox.com with any observations.

why it’s important parents should not be encouraged to take unauthorised leaves of absence

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog and elsewhere too recently will know that we have had a death in the family, and that my wife was given compassionate leave by the same institution which in the same week refused our daughter permission for authorised leave of absence to see her grandfather before he died of a horrific cancer.

In the letter which refused the permission for our daughter, and which arrived through the post on 25th March 2014, the day the leave of absence was supposed to start and two days after her grandfather had died of his (I believe) three-week long haemorrhage, they included the following information (it looks like a standard letter for the purpose, which probably explains why they have chosen to give the impression that to visit a dying grandfather under such circumstances is to be seen by the education system – or this school/local authority in particular – as a holiday):

Should you still choose to take a holiday with your child during this period, a Fixed Penalty Notice will be requested by the school nominated person on your child’s return to school should the absence be five days or more.  The notice will then be issued to you (and husband/wife/partner) by the Local Authority in accordance of section 44 of the Education Act 1996.  The current rates payable by parents are £60 where the amount is paid within 21 days and £120 where the amount is paid within 28 days.  This charge is per parent/carer per child.  If the fixed penalty notice remains unpaid this could lead to prosecution in the Magistrate’s Court.

Please note any child who is absent longer than five days after the indicated return date can be legally removed from the school register and the parent/carer may be liable to prosecution.

Now, in the phonecall which the school made on 21st March 2014, informing me of their decision (nothing to fault here – they responded the morning we put our daughter’s request in, so excellent customer focus in this part of the process), the above information was also conveyed to me: that is to say, up to four days incurred no financial penalty whilst five days and above would involved a Fixed Penalty Notice.  Though I have to say I got the impression the school was saying that an unauthorised absence would be the best solution all round, I cannot prove this – but I think the above excerpt from their written reply does make it obvious that the implication/inference is in the air.

I thought little more of this until yesterday, when a language assistant from another school phoned me to offer their condolences.  When I explained the situation, they said they would simply have taken unauthorised absence up to the four-day limit.  I was very angry with this suggestion and explained – as I did to my Member of Parliament’s office last week – exactly why this was wrong: government policy is based (should be based anyhow) on data which is reliable.  On the back of the recent September 2013 amendments to leave of absence legislation, if parents and schoolchildren are being encouraged explicitly or implicitly by their schools and colleges to take unauthorised leaves of absence in cases of real compassionate need, the government will get the impression that there is a veritable plague of term-time holidays being taken, and seeing that few go over the four-day limit, will decide to bring in even more draconian amendments.  Perhaps we will even get to the point that a one-day unauthorised absence will lead to a Fixed Penalty Notice.

Which is why I think the government needs to investigate more widely here: is our experience a one-off case or are more education institutions complying with overarching targets (whether national or zealously local) not to give leaves of absence for any compassionate reasons?  And if the latter, what implications does this have for the datasets that local and national absentee forums and policy-making committees are currently basing their conclusions on?

I do think this needs to be taken into the open.  So a final question: do you have similar experiences or know of anyone who does?  Is this just a Cheshire thing – or is it happening in other parts of the country?

Comments and opinions most welcome, of course.  It’s now up to us all – both parents and professionals – to understand better the real compassionate needs of our schoolchildren.