Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday reading

Well I’ve just come back from a bit of winter sun, which with our current shortages on the wards and an always busy load of union work, was greatly needed.

I read a few books while I was away, the new JK Rowling book of fairy tales (adapted for muggles like me), A spot of bother (a great piece of fiction which weaves through different lives in the run up to a wedding and is really funny and very insightful), and Obama’s ‘The Audacity of Hope’ (though I must admit that I’m only a 3rd of the way through).

Obama’s book is a fascinating look at American politics, though with the blinkers that brings (his pride that the American constitution was ‘a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ism’ seems to neglect that the constitution has absolutely enshrined capitalism).

With the context of increased scrutiny that trade union funding and support for political parties are under in the UK, Obama’s discussion of how American unions supported him was particularly interesting. Discussing the support that some unions gave him during the Democrat primaries when he was in the Senate race Obama says,

“So I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back
right away. I don’t consider this corrupting in any way; I don’t mind feeling
obligated towards home-care workers who clean bedpans every day for little more
than the minimum wage, or the teachers in some of the toughest schools in the
country, many of whom have to dip into their own pockets at the beginning of
every school year to buy crayons and books for their students. I got into
politics to fight for these folks, and I’m glad a union is around to remind me
of their struggles.”

This seems to sum up fairly well the difference between corporate donors and trade unions in our effect on politics.

As I said, I'm only a 3rd of the way through. But I hope to finish soon thanks to the number of train journeys this months necessitated by the Christmas period.

Interestingly while I was away we got chatting to a couple (one being a nurse at the local Birmingham mental health trust and proud UNISON member and COHSE before that, the other a Social Worker in Birmingham who left the union [I think it was NALGO] because they expected him to go on strike [and abide by the decisions of him colleagues – shocking]). The Social Worker told me he had no time for Obama and didn’t trust him because he was called Hussain, worrying in anyone, even more so in a Social Worker in a place like Birmingham.