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I WAS talking to a friend the other day about our ill-spent youth. Both of us were lonely, bookish, working-class teenagers.
He started reading Tribune when he was 13 because he had heard that George Orwell was one of its writers — it was three months before he discovered that Orwell was dead! Trib was then a weekly newspaper, with very good cultural content. It was the making of him.
Hundreds of miles away, every Friday, I read Labour Weekly, the official weekly newspaper of the Labour Party and I’d be thrilled when we won a council by-election in a town I’d probably never heard of. I scanned these reports the same way many of my peers looked at the football results.
Later, I got involved in the anarchist movement. I don’t regret that time, but I returned to Labour under Thatcherism. Getting rid of the Tories has to be the start point of any left-wing politics, to give us room to breathe.
The best part of 50 years after my Labour Weekly reading, election results still matter, especially the one coming up. I’ll vote Labour and I’m a member of the party. Not uncritical, but even the worst Labour government is better than the best Conservative government.
I’m more positive than that, though, because we need the changes Labour will bring. It’s not just about getting the privateers out of the NHS. It’s not just about our railways. It’s not just about a more ethical foreign policy. The manifesto opens with a section on a green industrial revolution — Labour understands the climate crisis, the most important issue of the day.
In the world I work — bookselling and publishing — Labour has always understood libraries and the importance of culture and reading. Though libraries are often popular in Conservative areas, Tory politicians have always been uneasy about people getting free reading “on the rates.” Perhaps they think that it is communism.
According to our trade magazine The Bookseller, the bookselling and publishing industry will largely vote Labour. Good.
Labour plans to “transform libraries, museums and galleries” with a £1 billion cultural capital fund and seeks tax justice so that booksellers are not driven to the wall by pirates like Amazon. That alone would make voting Labour essential for me.
Oh, and Jeremy, how about restarting Labour Weekly?
Ross Bradshaw runs the award-winning Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham, fiveleavesbookshop.co.uk
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