Political indifference - a constant?

I have just spent 2 relaxing weeks away, on the Island of Crete. When away, I am not one for lazing on a beach somewhere or lots of sightseeing – to me it’s a time to recharge the batteries, take some time out and most of all, catch up on the reading I often have meant to do. This year I managed to get through a range of tomes, from a Matt Haig classic, an autobiography of a colleague, a Jurgen Klopp biopic but also two books by one of my favourite authors – Stuart Maconie. What I like about his writing is his absolute bluntness, his outlook on life and the way in which he describes the people he meets on his travels and places he sees. ‘Hope and Glory’ and his book retracing the Jarrow March of 1936 were exceptional. Unusual that I wasn’t reading about parks. Well I did sneak one in by Hunter Davies on London’s parks, also recommended.

But back to Maconie. He emanates from the northern powerhouse of Wigan and to me, famous for not only rugby league ( I’m no fan ), Wigan Athletic, the divine and legends that are Lost Art (google them) and also for one of the finest parks in the North West – Mesnes Park. Now Maconie dedicates a chapter to public parks in his recent book ‘The Nanny State Made Me’ where he recognises their value and importance to our communities. This is definitely worth a read.

So what’s the connection with my recent Maconie readings? In his book where he retraces the Jarrow March of 1936, he reminds us of the poverty and desperation that drove these men from the NE of England to March to London with a petition, not asking for handouts, but for jobs. What struck me though was that the outcome of the March was deemed an abject failure. The Conservative Prime Minster of the time, Stanley Baldwin refused to meet them or receive their petition. The Labour Party would not endorse the March and it is only in recent years that Labour have since acknowledged what these men were desperately trying to achieve. Eighty five years later, most would argue that times and conditions have improved despite austerity, the impact of Covid and successive Governments since the time of Baldwin’s indifference. We are however faced with a new crisis – not just the recent global pandemic, but a crisis equally concerning, and that of a changing climate. Yet successive governments have ignored the evidence, the cry for change, the blatantly obvious that stares us in our faces – our climate is changing. What Maconie points out was the complete ambivalence of the government in 1936 to the Jarrow Crusade, and leaping forward, what we now have is the complete ambivalence of current governments to climate change.

Environmentalists, scientists, landscape architects, to those of us working in public parks all have a part to play, as if we believe what David Attenborough says, it’s not too late. We need to lobby lobby and lobby at all levels of our communities. Landscapes and specifically those vital breathing spaces in our towns and cities have a very important role to play. Pitt described them as the lungs of London, and indeed they are within all our towns and cities. So whilst a march on London may not achieve anything today, we can continue to crusade and remember the tenacity of those men of ‘Jarra’ and hopefully we find a government that will listen and do something that actually makes a difference.
We can only hope.

Paul Rabbitts