The 2014 Prestigious Lefty Awards

We don’t take enough time to praise those in our movement, nor do we make much of an effort to tell people they’re appreciated – which leaves those who’ve put their head above the parapet hearing only criticism. I worry that even when criticism is due the cumulative impact is to drive people out of the left, or at least to be less keen on working with us. So, as my tiny contribution to good will every year I take the time to congratulate, reward and recognise those on the left who have made a special contribution over the year.

Sometimes there’s a twist. In 2010 the lefty awards were confined solely to cats. You can read 2013’s edition here. If you think someone deserved to be on this list who isn’t, don’t tell me, tell them – they’d appreciate hearing you like their work.


focus e15Award for Inspirational Conduct Under Fire: Focus E15 Mothers.

For those of you who don’t know who the Focus E15 Mothers are they’re a sterling bunch of women who have stood up against Newham Council, against bullying, victimisation and most of all eviction.

It’s not easy taking on the government at the best of times, especially when you’re young, poor, and all too easily isolated. That’s one of the things that made these women such an inspiration to me this year, give me hope that the future is indeed with the proles.

They prove you don’t need to have gone to Eton to be special, and you don’t need to be rich to achieve something. Wonderful.

Award for best blog post of the year: Vagenda, for “My Big Tits Do Not Belong To You”.

Political blogging is fast becoming a thing of the past, certainly in terms of the clout it once had. With the mainstream media getting in on the act and then Twitter and Facebook mopping up the dregs of resistance blogs are becoming far fewer in number and feel like they’re having less of an impact. But never say die – there is life in the medium yet!

This blog post, from a site I don’t regularly read, really struck home for me when it was written. It helped clarify that intersection between personal behaviour and politics. More importantly it helped me understand much more clearly how the drip, drip, drip of small sexist acts accumulate into something far more invasive.

ypgInternational award for heroism: The Kurdish resistance

The Kurdish struggle is spread across several different nations. Iran and Armenia, Iraq and Turkey, and, of course, northern Syria. The Kurdish forces in particular, but not exclusively, the YPG and PKK, have shown extraordinary bravery and fortitude combating well armed, highly motivated opponents who would wipe them out if they could.

These brave men and women have often paid with their lives to protect their families, homeland and comrades – but most inspiring of all they are winning. Not just winning international support and good will, but winning on the ground, against the enemy. Killing them. Driving them back.

We should be supporting them – their demands and communities, for taking the PKK off of the EU register of terrorist organisations and to do what we can to help ensure the long-term aim of a free Kurdish state is realised.

benn crowGone but not forgotten: Bob Crow and Tony Benn

Two very different socialists, but both fashioned in the old school. To lose Bob Crow so young was particularly tragic I think. Crow showed that having principles did not have to be at the expense of hard nosed realism or pragmatism. He delivered for his members and provided an example for everyone of what a fighting union looks like.

Tony Benn of course was a personally gentle, Christian socialist still just as doggedly committed to Labour as he was decades ago when he almost won the deputy leadership of the party itself. He burned with real passion, but it was tempered with humanity and compassion that I think should serve as an example to us all. Both great socialists, gone but not forgotten.

We also shouldn’t forget Pete Seeger, and Bob Hoskins either, as well as the scores of others who are less well known but have passed this year.

London Black Revs concrete over anti-homeless spikes outside Tesco in Regent Street.Just do it award: London Black Revs

The thing I’ve found so uplifting about the London Black Revs is their unwillingness to wait for anyone else’s permission before going ahead and doing something real. I first noticed them around the time they decided to concrete over the anti-homeless spikes outside Tesco.

Just a small bunch of them got a bit of a plan together and then did it. Brilliant.

Politically more significant, the role they have played in building the solidarity movement here against the US police epidemic of killing black people has been phenomenal to watch. I hope that in the months and years to come they’ll move from success to success and become far more influential in wider British politics.

scotlandChanging the game award: The Yes campaign

A few tried to dismiss the mighty achievement that the Scottish independence movement made by winning a 45% vote for Yes. They said that was that, they lost, the SNP might as well fold and the rest of the Yes campaign needs to pack up its bags and head on home.

What they failed to recognise was the seismic shift that had taken place towards a hope that things could be different than this. And as it became clear that the promises of the unholy alliance in the No campaign were being fudged and forgotten no sooner had the votes been counted that shift become truly solid.

No one now thinks that the independence movement is a spent force and it is very likely that pro-independence parties like the Scottish Greens and the SNP will both likely see their largest ever share of a general election vote in May. What comes next we shall see, but by changing the mood of a nation they have opened up all kinds of possibilities for change. This is what a mass movement can do.

maccorbynParliamentarian of the year – Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell

In theory they’re two people rather than one, but regardless this year the award is shared between two socialist Labour MPs who have both put in decades of political work tirelessly campaigning for every just cause, workers’ battle and right-on cause.

I have no idea how they manage to be in so many places at once but on any given day, at any given hour one of them is popping up to jab a finger in the eye of the powerful and put an arm round those in need. I take them for granted and I shouldn’t – they show exactly how strong a small voice from the back benches can be when it isn’t dampened by careerism or softened by the “needs” of the party leadership.

beanBook of the year award: JP Bean’s Singing From the Floor

I was really blown away by this book that I only really picked up by chance. An oral history of post-war British folk clubs it doesn’t just chart the invention of a nostalgic tradition fused with left political currents of its day, it also builds a picture in the words of the participants of exactly how much of a DIY, tied together with string and tape tradition it was.

For me this was the most powerful aspect of the book, the way it brings the characters to life and how the author really takes a back seat as he curates people’s own experiences and memories of the rise and fall (?) of folk clubs in Britain. A really multi-voiced work that feels like you’re part of community just by reading it.

lily allenSay what you feel award: Lily Allen for refusing to be part of Band Aid 30 or whatever it was called.

She described the rehashed single as “smug” and preferred to donate actual money rather than posturing for an afternoon and garnering a bit of free PR.

I’m not generally one for criticising people trying to do good things but the response to Ebola in Africa has been utterly bizarre and this Band Aid episode did not help one little bit.

Cuba showed you can send real help, in the form of actual doctors, without having celebrities preen in front of cameras to do it. But more than this what Africa needs is ongoing economic justice that would strike at the heart of so many of the health emergencies we see on the continent – not least the ongoing AIDS epidemic in some countries.

Damon Albarn, who almost certainly was not asked to take part in the single said “Having been to many countries and gotten to know many people, it always seems that we have only one view of it. There are problems with our idea of charity, especially these things that suddenly balloon out of nothing and then create a media frenzy where some of that essential communication is lost and it starts to feel like it’s a process where, if you give money, you solve the problem.”

TyrionLastly… Regicide of the year goes to Tyrion Lanister

Well, all right. I know he’s fictional but we can’t let a good deed go unmentioned can we? Oh, actually we’d better as we don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s not up to speed yet… but it’s amazing!

Game of Thrones (that’s the show/books that he lives in) is one of the most politically correct TV series you could possibly imagine charting, as it does, the events around a series of weddings.

Strong women characters with actual personalities, the injustices of inequality and war highlighted continually and, most of all, one of the best parts goes to a disabled actor who has simply hit the ball out of the park by playing a man whose circumstances will simply not allow him to be good, and so he makes the best of it as he can.

Don’t go to the loo while he’s on – lovely.

As for 2015? Well one to watch may well be Darren Hall, who is vying to become a Green MP in Bristol, who the Independent outrageously tipped for the win. Can he do it? I’d be amazed if he can but best of luck to him and it’s great to see people really going for actual victories rather than just moral ones.

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