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George Michael, “Praying for Time” (1990) A Song for Our Era

I have no interest in George’s media profile, nor do I have the slightest credence for the things that so called “journalists” wrote in the wake of his untimely death in early 2017.

What I remember is a guy who wrote songs defending his working class contemporaries, “Wham Rap”, and faced tabloid fury when his band Wham! joined the Style Council and others to play a benefit gig at the Royal Albert Hall for striking miners in September 1984. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn praised George’s work for LGBTX and workers rights.

This song is taken from George’s seminal solo record, “Listen Without Prejudice” released in 1990.

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

Nearly 1 million UK citizens were referred to food banks last year, according to the respected Trussel Trust. Please note; referred. You have to have a letter from a health professional or other agency. You can’t just turn up. How many people just can’t face the humiliation?

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

It’s not like we haven’t been here before, over and over, ad nauseum. Capitalism DOESN’T WORK! We keep sticking our finger into the proverbial free market socket expecting a different outcome. We are the sixth richest nation on the planet and yet shocking levels poverty in the UK is still allowed to happen. It’s, “The Road to Wigan Pier” (1937) and the 1936 era of the Jarrow Hunger March revisited.

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll taking our chance to say
I sang twenty years and a day
But nothing changed
The human race found some other guy
And walked into the flame

During the 2015 election campaign Mylene Klass facing Ed Miliband about a proposed Mansion Tax said about spending £2 MILLION on a house, ““in London, which is where 80 per cent of the people who will be paying this tax actually live, have you seen what that amount of money can get you? It’s like a garage.” AND KEPT A STRAIGHT FACE! 1% of the world’s richest people own more than the rest of us put together according to War on Want.

It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate, hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Then maybe we should all be praying for time

A killer stanza. Yes, absolutely. That’s because the Labour Party has failed miserably to offer any smidgeon of hope to the people. The Daily Mail feed this by scapegoating and we end up with former Labour Councillors joining UKIP. Hate is a corrosive, negative and emotionally draining way to feel about life and the world. Socialism is uplifting as it brings us together with a vision for hope. They did in 1945 with a “deficit” of FIVE TIMES what we have today. We can do this. It’s about priorities. Trident or access of University? Paying a Council CEO £600 a day or safeguarding children?

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity, charity is a coat you wear twice a year

“Every charity represents a failure in Society”. Les Jones (1929/96). I never forget what my father law taught me, even as a Samaritan. I dread to think what he would make of what’s going on today.

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

How many people in the City have been punished for wrecking the economy? With their criminal, “securities”, and, “futures” scams they destroyed any, “gains” made by the working class under New Labour. Yet if the national minimum wage had kept pace with FTSE 100 CEO salaries since 1999, it would now be £18.89 per hour instead of £6.50. The BBC are supine; 50,000 marched against Austerity in London. That never happened. A mass march and rally in Hull city centre against TTIP supported by all the Trade Unions, the TUC, the Greens and local Labour Councillors with backbone never happened either. Fracking? Err. What? Et al.

So you scream from behind your door
Say what’s mine is mine and not yours

The classic divide and rule agenda, which Robert Tressel’s totemic novel, “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” (1914) explains, is used brilliantly by the Tories and New Labour by via their trumpeting of toughness and demonization of workers, ““Decent Labour voters see their neighbours lie about all day and get benefits while they are working their socks off, and say, “Why should I vote Labour when they let this happen?” Then Rachel Reeves said in 2013, “We would be tougher than the Conservatives (on Social Security)”. Just who do these people think they speak for? Shame on them.

It’s hard to love, Jesus, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope, there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Then maybe we should all be praying for time

We need hope and if the Labour leadership fail to provide they should bugger off and form their own neo liberal party, be honest and go into coalition with the Tories. They have nothing in common with us, anything to say to give us hope. They can’t even support just causes such as the Care UK Workers in Miliband’s own back yard of Doncaster. They won’t show solidarity with Public Sector workers and Ed Balls declared in October 2014, “There will be no money for local Government” and it took them SIX MONTHS to say they would axe the Bedroom Tax. And I could go on….

But……..The UK has produced epic struggles and examples where vested interests have been challenged and held to account. From John Ball and the Peasants Revolt through the Levellers, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the rise of the Unions and the 1945 Labour Government, to the Poll Tax Rebellion and in 2015 ¼ million mobilising against Austerity the British people have a tradition of standing up for what is right.
We must stand up to be counted as Socialists, but crucially learn to be outward looking. Every meeting must have an action in the community and we must channel our desire to be proved ideologically correct at all costs by placing the needs of everyone in the community above making worthy speeches for each other.

The visit of the US President gives us an opportunity to come together, draw people into more engagement and demonstrate that the power is with us. When we realise this there will a sea change in Society.



About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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