The other day, Charlotte Church took part in a local anti-Tory, anti-austerity march. She was passionate, spoke clearly and intelligently about her feelings on the matter, and was generally very sussed and very charming.
Inevitably, the press jumped on photos of her chanting and marching with glee. K***e H****ns (people quite as horrible as her don’t deserve yet more Google hits) lashed out at Charlotte’s activism as “Champagne Socialism”, whilst in an unsurprisingly chauvinist moment a Tory MP actually dared to describe her behaviour as “unbecoming”. You know what is unbecoming, actually? Making out that it is in any way anything other than responsible and conscientious to stand up for what you believe in.
Obviously all of this was annoying for a number of reasons. But most particularly, it is the idea that people who are well off cannot be socialists. That capitalism and socialism have to exist in completely separate universes. Call me an optimist, but I believe the very opposite.
Socialism is defined as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole”. In short, the country should be owned by the people in it, rather than by big business or banking. The Labour version of socialism moves away from its communist “share everything” mentality, and is instead based on the idea of looking after everyone in our country, helping to keep people safe from harm and to make the most of their lives – regardless of where they started. In essence, it’s about being kind to people, no matter how naive people may think that is.
Socialism in these terms is actually inextricably linked to aspects of capitalism. The idea is that everyone can lead a happy, productive and rewarding life. Sure, part of that is providing a benefits, healthcare and public services package that works for people from all walks of life (not just the rich), but it’s also about empowering people to be able to have jobs, to achieve their potential without having to be one of the few people with the exceptional drive to achieve in the face of absolute adversity.
And of course money has to be a part of this. We need people to earn money so they can grow, evolve and achieve. We need people to have the money to pay taxes so that the people who don’t have as much don’t suffer like dogs at the bottom of the social pile. We also need a strong economy to provide jobs, to offer flexibility, and to help the country to perform on a global level.
As a household, we are well off. We earn enough to cover our mortgage, and savings, and a decent bit of fun here and there. I believe strongly that people should be looked after – being kind to people, even if that means creating a system that is occasionally abused. I’d rather a small percentage of money went to the wrong people if it could mean the difference between destitution and progress in someone else’s life. I do not EVER think that someone should have an advantage (or a disadvantage) purely because of where they had the good luck of bad fortune to be born in the existing scheme of things.
Technically, if such a thing actually existed, I suppose I am a champagne socialist. I benefit from the NHS, but I don’t need any benefits. Under the new government our household is, grotesquely, actually better off. Imagine – I’ve told you we are comfortable for money, easily able to survive well within our means, and the newly elected government are letting us have more money. I wanted someone to take a bit more from us, not hand it back and pat us on the backs for being successful.
As people at the bottom struggle, vast swathes of people voted for the Tory’s because it would mean that they are a bit better off. People sacrificed the bottom echelons of society to hard lives, unpleasant lives, lives filled with food-banks and dodgy second-rate healthcare, just so they could have a bit more cash.
What we really need, actually, is to embrace the “champagne socialist”. People with money, who want to help, to give, to contribute properly to make a system that works more evenly, for the 99 and not just the 1%. Socialism, and Labour, are about far more than just the working class at the bottom of the pile – they are about teamwork, shared goals, a sense of responsibility and generosity that isn’t defined by what class you are, by what job you do. Anyone should be celebrated for caring – and maybe, just maybe, that will bring the end of the selfish voting.
I prefer prosecco anyway.