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The type of community engagement that mainstream politics has abandoned

Tackle! IWCA under-12s mini football tournament

An IWCA youth football tournament last weekend, as well as providing an enjoyable day out for families in several working class communities, highlights the way that mainstream politics has completely abandoned community engagement as a legitimate activity.

After all the recent publicity over politicians’ expenses, it is worth noting that the IWCA’s under-12s mini football tournament in Oxford was part-funded from the Oxford IWCA councillors’ allowances.

The IWCA in Oxford has, in its short history, managed to organise events such as a Saturday morning Children’s Cinema Club, a SATs booster course for school children and numerous community away-days — on top of it’s many political activities. The fact that it can organise successful events, such as the recent community football tournament on such a small budget only serves to highlight what could be achieved with the huge sums of money lining the pockets of our local MPs, if they were so inclined.

In common with many of his colleagues elsewhere, East Oxford MP, the ex-New Labour cabinet minister Andrew Smith, has taken enough money out of the public purse to become a millionaire. Smith seems to have no problem with the fact that while he squirrels away every penny and looks forward to a wealthy retirement, hard working men and women in his constituency struggle to keep the wolf from their door due to his government’s political and financial incompetence.

Smith claims £4000 per week from the public purse — more than eight times the average wage of his constituents (and much more if we focus solely on the working class residents in the council estates of his constituency). Yet in the eyes of the party faithful and the media he has done nothing wrong because other MPs have claimed more and he hasn’t broken any laws. Historic working class Labour figures such as Nye Bevan, who saw the Labour Party as a potential vehicle for social justice must be spinning in their graves!

But even as recently as the mid-1990’s, Labour still had social and cultural links with working class communities in places such as Oxford through it’s Labour social clubs and their affiliated sporting associations. Many of these clubs (and the sports clubs within them) were sacrificed to help fund the party’s symbolic move to London’s prestigious Millbank Tower — the control post for the New Labour project, which delivered the most right wing, anti-working class government in living memory.

It is now evident that New Labour mismanaged their party as badly as they did the country,  resulting in millions of pounds worth of debt and an ever-dwindling membership.   This in turn forced the party elite to abandon Millbank Towers and scale down its operations as a result of its folly. All the signs indicate that as far as the working class is concerned, there is no way back for the Labour Party, and the imminent separation will in all likelihood result in a permanent and bitter divorce.

Less certainty revolves around who is equipped to fill the vacuum caused by New Labour’s abandonment of the working class.   The void is of course a political one but to a certain extent it is also a social/cultural one (and as far as any serious pro-working class activist is concerned, they are inextricably linked). Currently, with the lack of any genuine working class opposition on a national scale, the BNP are able, simply by positioning themselves against New Labour, to present themselves as the radical champions of working class interests — a grotesque situation that will doubtless prevail until the genuine article is signalled off  the bench and on to the field of play.

Under-12s football tournament: match report

A jubilant Oxford Blackbirds A team claimed the winners trophy after a hard fought 1 – 0 victory over Swansea’s Port Tennant Colts A team in the IWCA under-12s, 6-a-side mini soccer Collecting the trophy - IWCA football tournamenttournament on Saturday 18 July.

Played under glorious sunshine at Oxford City FC’s Court Place Farm, the competition, which also included teams from Didcot Casuals (winners of the day’s Plate Final), Oxford City Colts and North London’s Isledon Wolves, was a resounding success, enjoyed by both competitors and spectators alike.   With all of the days teams having performed exceptionally well in their respective league and cup competitions last season, the tournament promised to be a hard fought one, and in this respect no one went home disappointed.

Full coach-loads from Swansea and London boosted the attendance to around 250 and despite the passion and determination on the pitch the tournament was an exceptionally friendly affair, with the majority of players and supporters staying throughout the evening to enjoy the warm Oxford hospitality.

It was a great day all round and well worth all the hard work put in. Off the back of this year’s successful competition, plans for an even bigger event in Swansea next year are already underway.

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