I think about John Hume a lot. And currently, that has expanded.
John Hume is a political giant. A Nobel Prize winner, he worked for peace in Northern Ireland all his political life. He was part of the Civil Rights movement in the late Sixties, and as the Troubles exploded he led the marches for peace. He kept walking all the way to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
While others shot and murdered and maimed, or advocated armed action, Hume was a democrat who wanted a better way.
Others have had their moment of glory for changing Northern Ireland, for proving what was possible, but Hume is frequently overlooked. Yet it was Hume’s brilliance, his dogged smarts, his ability to listen and build consensus, the fact that he acted like a damn grown-up that really moved things on to seal the Good Friday Agreement. And don’t forget that it is the Good Friday Agreement that is proving the bulwark against a No-Deal Brexit.
There is a lot to be thankful to John Hume for. He thought of tomorrow.
Sadly, he won’t know. Dementia has taken him. He cannot, his wife Pat said last year, even remember the peace process. Which makes me feel fury at the indiscriminate viciousness of that condition. And also because he can’t intervene and have a word with the small-fry dominating our present.
I’d love to see Hume, in his pomp, go head to head with Mark Francois. I’d love to hear him ask Rees-Mogg to explain ANYTHING he says; to challenge Barry Gardiner to take a coherent position. To have Boris Johnson detail a single clear policy.
There are smart politicians around. There are decent politicians around. There are politicians who believe in things and stand for them, regardless of the party machine. Of course there has been an exodus of well-known figures, like Norman Lamb and Tom Watson and Justine Greening who feel that they’ve come to the end of what they can do within our parliamentary system. I like to believe that amongst the incoming new names there will be similar smart people.
It’s at the top that the problems lie. There is lack of anything to really get hold of, and get behind. A lack of deep thinking and big hearts. We REALLY need John Hume and people like him now. Perhaps during the election campaign we’ll be surprised. But at present we’re having debates about faked videos and about shitposting. For the love of god.
We REALLY need John Hume and people like him now
I have been asked a few times over the last number of days who we are backing in the election. My answer is the same and consistent as it always has been. None of them. The Big Issue does not align with any party. Rather, we challenge them all. We challenge them to prove they’re on the side of those who are at the bottom.
We challenge them to prove they mean it when they say nice things about building communities where everybody can thrive. We’ll challenge them when we feel they are falling short.
It’s why we’re asking them to back the Future Generations Pledge. It’s the means of hardwiring long-term thinking in the easily dismissed short-term policy plans of now.
We’ve already had good backing. You can find your would-be MP and press them to back it too. Let us know how you go.
I like to think it’s the sort of coherent thinking that John Hume would back. That means something.
Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue