Call me Duchess

In a rare attempt to learn something, I recently joined the Royal Society for the Arts. Irritated that the box for ‘Ms’ being missing on the form, I chose to adopt a different gene pool and plumped for the title of Duchess which was, quite inexplicably, on the list of drop down options. Hilarious at the time but actively hazardous for someone living on the Old Kent Road.


This toe dipping into aristocratic circles turned out to be good preparation for the weekend. You might have missed the fact that there was a national demonstration against the cuts organized by the trade union movement on Saturday. Not because of a low turnout mind, rather the complete absence of reporting in the weekend’s newspapers.


On arrival at Big Ben I burst into tears at the sight of the Swindon NUT’s banner. I grew up outside Swindon and I won’t have a word said against it. Because of the likelihood of learning to drive on the magic roundabout (oh my days, Google it) the kids of Swindon really really need their teachers because without an education they aren’t going anywhere. I speak from experience.  Pretty emotional at the wave of sanity coming down the embankment, I then bump into Prof G the last man standing from the Communist Party, and we wave as the Carrot Collective goes past (with carrots) and the surprisingly funky midwives, with the chiropodists and podiatrists tagging along like daggy mates. About 60 anarchists squeal past, delighted at having their own police escort. I was reminded of something my old boss, a union general secretary known as Fred and his Bag of F***s, said to me in the face of what promised to be one helluva political bun fight, “if someone wants to f*****g hurt you they don’t f*****g tell you in advance”, nuff said.


Having been out of the UK left field for a decade I have not had the opportunity to sit through the history-of-the-fragmented-left lecture for some time, however an opportunity arose as we were held outside Fortnum and Masons to make sure we didn’t jack in our careers to nick organic honey. At this point someone from the Socialist Resistance read my dirty little mind (I admit have a deep love for F&M marzipan fruit but this does not make me the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette damn it) and accused me of being a Labour Aristocrat. The charge was based on the fact that I have a contract of employment.


Watching the trade union leadership call for a general strike on the big screen left me feeling this not as an insult, rather a statement of fact. To be employed, with a contract and pension in today’s employment relations climate is indeed something high class. This is terrifying if you factor in that most of this working-gentry don’t clear more than £20,000 and what we laughably call a pension is estimated to be worth £5000 a year. The last bastion of trade unionism is in education, a sector taking a true battering. Call me paranoid but it’s probably no coincidence then that teachers have been on strike at least 4 times over the last 18 months. That’s not to keep us in chandelier earrings, rather the possibility of eating post-68.


This is how messed up we are, that a call for a general strike looks like privilege. At the risk of looking like a fop with a gauntlet, those of us in the Labour Aristocracy have the responsibility to defend our traditions, of work with wages, rights and the chance of surviving work. If striking makes me upwardly mobile then you don’t have to call me comrade, I choose Duchess.

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