Mind the Gap documents my thoughts on class inequality in the UK. There are aspects of British society that I find frustrating. The wealth, power and life opportunities that the upper crust inherit is inexcusable.
However, I don’t see this as an ‘us versus them’ issue. Being born into a working class or privileged family is no more a choice than being born black or white. It would be wrong of me to attack a whole class of people for the situation they randomly find themselves in. This isn’t about two sets of people warring with one another. It’s about two philosophies, ideologies, going head to head.
Tony Benn was one of my heroes. He sadly passed away last year. He was born into a privileged, political family. He attended Westminster School and later studied at Oxford. He had a career in the army before becoming an MP. When his father died he inherited a peerage (a peerage is a title, such as ‘Duke’, ‘Earl’, or, in this case, ‘Viscount’), which prevented him from continuing as an MP. Benn campaigned for the right to renounce this title in order to continue in his political role, and was successful.
He was a great man, and always followed his heart in politics, even when it was detrimental to his career. He spoke out about the media and bankers about 35 years before our recent troubles. He was solidly against the fruitless Afghanistan and Iraq wars. His left-wing politics were aimed at equality and providing a better life for the cheated underclass.
Tony Benn was born into privilege, but that didn’t define him. His ideology and actions showed his worth as a human being. This isn’t ‘us versus them’. If you are born into privilege that doesn’t mean you can’t do the right thing. In fact, in order to eradicate our current social issues we need strong advocates on both sides of the fence.
We are all one. All people should be born with an equal chance to thrive. Nobody should fall straight from the womb into the scrapheap.
I’m a Glastonbury Festival man. Since 2008 I have worked voluntarily on the Glastonbury Recycling Crew. Tony Benn attended Glastonbury often, and I heard some inspiring speeches from him. He always used to say that it gave him a boost to see so many politically active young people debating and campaigning. Here are some great quotes from the late Tony Benn:
“Making mistakes is part of life. The only things I would feel ashamed of would be if I had said things I hadn’t believed in order to get on. Some politicians do do that.”
“A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.”
“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”
“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”
“Normally, people give up parliament because they want to do more business or spend more time with family. My wife said ‘why don’t you say you’re giving up to devote more time to politics?’. And it is what I have done.”
“I think if you’re going to be committed to doing anything, you really have to care about it, and I suppose that is a romantic idea.”