I discovered something rather troubling about myself this morning.
I did one of those quizzes that I remember from childhood and that now, rather than peopling the pages of Jackie magazine, can be found on-line. (If you don't remember Jackie magazine, ask your mum. Sigh.) This one was a political test to determine your politics. Having filled out the fifty or so questions, I received my highly scientific result.
‘You are a Trotskyist’ was emblazoned on the screen.
Hot on the heels of my last blog challenging the dismissive tone of some Blairite commentators about the left Labour think-tank GEER of which I am a part, I suppose I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised at the disclosure of my rabid radicalism. But even so. It was not quite what I anticipated: although I do work in Higher Ed with its culture of ‘perpetual revolution’ drawn directly, I imagine, from Trotsky himself. Still, I think I’m a bit on the moderate to wimpy side of the political spectrum.
So am I really a revolutionary? Take free enterprise and the marketplace. Would I really want state-run shops rather than private businesses?
Undoubtedly not. I don’t like the kind of uniformity that implies and I like to see variety in the High Street. But let’s not pretend the current system lends itself to variety. Far from it. Wall-to-wall Tescos and Sainsburys, and the uniformity of many a High Street suggest a dreadful lack of creativity in the marketplace.
I know what I like. I like small businesses and shops where workers feel part of something, not just there to draw a wage packet. I like small businesses that seem genuinely interested in their customers and where staff clearly enjoy what they do.
Take Truck Music Store in
. Conveniently placed about 150 metres from my house, even a shopophobe like myself can drag their sorry ass there to dig out some cool new sounds (and that sentence shows exactly the demographic I occupy! No wonder ‘the joys of middle age’ is the hashtag I use most on Twitter…). Oxford
I visited Truck this afternoon in search of something chilled for that rare thing – a warm British summer afternoon. The staff were helpful, suggested interesting possibilities, played them, and I left one happy customer clutching a Caro Emerald CD. (I also left with the knowledge that you can bring ice-cream or coffee from the café over the road if you want to just sit, read the papers and listen to whatever they are playing. Sheer heaven. Oxfordites: use it now!)
When we think about business we tend to think multi-nationals and faceless corporations. But businesses like Truck are different, and it seems to me that as Labour develops its policies for cultivating business they are the model we should be exploring. We should explore the possibility of variable business rates that reflect the contribution a business makes to its local community. We should think about tax breaks for co-operative businesses. And in testing our policies we should look at what makes a local area vibrant and a good place to live.
Thinking about business through an emphasis on community. What would Trotsky think about that? Not sure I really need to know that, but at some point soon I would really like to know what Labour might think about it.