Lights Out on Independent in Print

Yesterday was a sad day for the British press – the last paper edition of the Independent, though it will continue online and it’s little sibling the i will continue; the savings made on printing an distribution will allow an expansion of its journalism, and more regional coverage, which will be good. The cover was brilliantly chosen – Shanghai turning out the lights to celebrate Earth Day, and the letters ‘The  End’ highlighted within the title. Brilliant piece of design, as always. This edition featured some great articles, but my favourite was by Cole Moreton, titled ‘I am still angry that we still live in an unjust society.’ Not mawkish, just angry at so much that is wrong with our country. It’s long, but worth the effort:

“I am angry…at all the things that have not bee fixed or that have got worse since I wrote my first piece here more than 20 years ago, despite all the people who have appeared in these pages, promising to make them better.

Angry that successive politicians have broken their promises and our hopes, so that even when the country is in a mess, millions of people just don’t bother to vote, believing it won’t make any difference.

Angry that there is to little outcry when a Chancellor uses a sugar tax (which will hit the poor hardest) to sweeten the bitter pill of a Budget that contains more than £1bn in cuts to the care of disabled people who need help to get dressed or go to the pool.

I’m angry that a cabinet of millionaires persists i telling us we’re all in this together. Even Iain Duncan Smith, architect of the chaos and misery in his welfare reforms, doesn’t believe that any more,… When even IDs says the cost to benefits are too cruel, they really are too cruel.

Am million people a year are forced to use food banks to feed themselves and their children. Nearly 5 million live in food poverty. I’m angry that we’v let things get so bad. Angry that so much of it is unnecessary.

Cecelia, a mother of 2 I met just before Christmas, happened to write a number in the wrong place on a form. The £70 a week with which she feeds and clothes herself, her son and her daughter was stopped without warning for a month, driving her to the brink of despair, her are so many stories like that : nearly half of all food bank clients are there because of failures in the system.I’m angry that our Government has so obviously lost all sense of compassion. Angry that we tax people for daring to have a second bedroom eve if they care for a severely disabled parter and need to sleeping a separate bed sometimes to get some rest.

Angry that these life-changing misery-inducing decisions are made by ministers with multiple bedrooms, second homes and staff.

Anger is not all I feel right now, by any means, but it’s a good start.

I’m angry that junior doctors have to strike. Angry that hospitals still have to warn people off coming to overstretched accident and emergency departments as Wigan has just done for the third time in a fortnight. angry at the break-up of a health service that has cared for successive prime ministers’ children.

This is personal. David Cameron swore the NHS was safe in his hands when I sat in his kitchen for this newspaper a decade ago. He talked about his debt to the doctors and nurses who cared for his son Ivan. Yet here we are on the other side of one catastrophic initiative after another, with health workers in revolt.

Tamal Ray, a junior doctor, says: “For the first time in my career, I can see real unity among my colleagues Our eyes have been opened to the subtle dismantling of a health service we believe in and this has inspired a movement for change.”

He’s hopeful. I’m angry that it has come tho this; that we live in a sick, unjust society, after all the fine talk. Angry, too, the the gap between us is getting wider. Angry that a short walk across London takes you from a £300m house in a ward where the average income is £100,000  to another where people ae living on £13,000 a year and the life expectancy of a man is 30 years shorter.

Angry that the billionaires who own such fancy houses live here, but pay no tax here at all.

Angry that on match days across the nation,footballers earning astronomic sums reserved by waiters, stewards ad cleaners on less than the living wage. And angry that friends who burn with a passion for fairness go weak at the knees when it comes to the (once) beautiful game. they turn a blind eye to the riches, the excesses of their heroes and the utter disconnection between the players and the communities in whose name they play.

I’m angry that we have become a nation that will let you in if you’re loaded, but will stick you in  a detention centre off you happen to be poor, sick or in need of asylum. I saw for myself in Yarl’s Wood, where a woman from Sri Lanka died to tell me her story, her mind fractured by the pressure of being held there for so long without trial or explanation. It’s inhumane.

This is not a party political broadcast the current situation is the result of deals done by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party as much as the Tories. We fell in turn for Maggie, Tony and Nick, like dizzy new lover, and were let don every time.

I’m angry that the word politician has become synonymous with liar. angry at the breathtaking cycle of privilege, in which the same well-connected people take turns to turn up and lecture us about  how society should be run, without anything ever actually seeming to change.

Meet Lord Adonis, for example. His labour part had 13 years to fix the roads and rails, but now he is the chairman of a Tory-born commission demanding that the be fixed immediately. As if we would not remember. As if we have the memory spans of goldfish. Do we? I’m angry that it seems we do.

“If the North is to become a powerhouse, it has to be better connected,” says Adonis, who could have made that happen years ago.

And here comes his old boss, Tony Blair, with advice about “our destiny” in Europe. The man who took us into a disastrous war in Iraq before floating off into some weird personal fantasy about being president of the world. No thanks Tony, we now where your strategies lead. We don’t really want to bomb Berlin.

Go back to one of your many mansions, in your £27m property portfolio. When a Labour prime minister goes onto become one of the super-rich, there is surely something to get angry about.  No wonder the Labour Party is still in shock at being seduced by this man.

But it’s time to get over that, learn the lessons of what was good about him and chuck out the bad, ditch the guilt and get a grip, surely? Otherwise the party will keep imploding, keep losing.

I’m angry that there is no serious opposition left right now, when we need it more than ever, with the greens a shambles and he Lib gems all but vanished. The strong voice of the SNP is weakened when it plays hypocritical games such as meddling in the vote over English Sunday trading laws.

Some people will say, all this is sanctimonious. Tough. It also happens to be true.

You will have your own reasons to be angry,I’m sure.I’m angry that successive governments have allowed a situation to develop where a whole generation cannot afford to buy and barely to rent.

Angry that in the lifetime of this paper we went from supporting the brightest kids from poor backgrounds through college to saddling the with debt.

I’m proud that the Independent on Sunday was the first to oppose that misguided war and that at least a million of us marched. But I’m angry that the war happened anyway ad that int did what the intelligence services warned it would, turing Iraq into a crucible of terrorism.

My first piece for he Sindy back in 1993 was an interview with Baroness Nicholson about Amar, the Iraqi Kurdish boy she had adopted to save him from war. They ere still being bombed, those children, only now by Turkey. They world has changed a great dal since those days. It feels even more dangerous. Please god don’t let the US choose a racist thug as its next president.

Let’s be honest, though. All this anger is draining. And it’s not enough. We have to turn away and look for something more positive, in order to move on.

There has been so much to celebrate.. Peace in Northern Ireland, for example which we almost take for granted now. Great advances our understanding of the universe around us – gravitational waves, the Higgs Boson – and many lives saved any medical science.

My second piece for the IoS was an interview with the singer Holly Johnson, who came out as having Aids in 1994, when everybody thought it was a death sentence. He has a new song on the Eddie the Eagle soundtrack. I’ve just herd him on the radio and it made me smile.

The Olympic s were a brief but glorious states of the kind of happy inclusive, confident place Brits could be. the Happy, Pink, and Rainbow Lists in this paper have celebrated see of the best of us – the kindest, most generous, most determined, bravest.

I have met and interviewed so many inspiring people here over time. One of my favourites is Ted Jackson, a middle-aged schoolmaster from Surrey who ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents last year, from the antarctic to the African desert and on to Australia.

Ted is not a natural runner. He’s short and stocky and doesn’t like to train much. But he does want people to know abut Overcoming MS, the charity that has helped his wife Sophie. So he does superhuman things buy strength of will alone. Now he and his son are about to attempt a desert marathon and a transatlantic row tougher for the same cause. Extraordinary.

We all have to find ways to keep going,like Ted. Ways of turning our anger at what is happening into a positive energy. Ways to keep believing in and working for fairness and equality.

Keep demanding more of our representatives and refusing to take no for an answer. keep speaking truth to power. Keep telling the world about the people and things that make us happy.

That’s what we have tried to do on these pages, with your support. And that’s why I want to say really, as our conversation here comes to an end: let’s keep getting angry, keep fighting, keep celebrating. What else can we do?

Thank you. It has been privilege to write for you here. Let’s hope we meet again somewhere. Until the, keep on keeping on. Goodbye.”

The end of the print version of this paper is really sad, but if the promises made to employ more regional reporters are kept, it may become a better paper. The London-centricity of our national press is an ongoing problem. This may help rebalance things.But I like cutting things out, so not fond of online papers. 

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