Was it worth it, Sajid?

 

Worth the accusations of betraying your own? Oh, you did make a token attempt at fighting that notion I know. Not by condemning the Prime Minister’s words mocking Muslim women of course, you wouldn’t be that foolhardy. What’s a spike in hate crime on them compared to your chances of becoming Chancellor, after all? Realpolitik demands you are a Tory first and a Muslim second. I mean to refer to the brave stand you took when you demanded an investigation into Muslim prejudice within the Conservative party live on television amongst your fellow leadership contenders, when it was less clear you were taking shots at Johnson in particular. You had taken many sanctimonious stands against alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour party, so it was good to finally see you recognise the far more visible and prevalent bigotry in your own party, even if you later capitulated when Johnson watered it down to a vague ‘investigation into all forms of prejudice’ which has presumably been mule-kicked so far down the road it’s landed in the ocean and floated away to a remote island. You gave it the best shot within the narrow parameters of your chances of career advancement, and that’s all anyone could ask of you really.

 

Was it worth it when Johnson’s puppeteer Dominic Cummings had your treasury advisor marched out of your office by police? Did this kind of interference not goad you into action? Did reciprocal loyalty to your dedicated staff not matter a jot to you? Apparently not.

 

But was it worth it when the accusations flew that you were simply a token minority? A human shield that Johnson could use to deflect accusations of his own obvious racism? Surely that must have hurt your pride? That pride you were never shy in sharing – that you were the son of an immigrant bus driver. You were presumably delighted to be used on those Tory election posters aping the john Major 1992 campaign that asked what the Tories could offer a working class boy from Rochdale, along with your grinning face, and the line saying they make him Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were probably a few more ethical types wavering over Johnson’s crass race-baiting who were placated by those posters. He might have sneered at the working classes and Muslims (amongst others) in his columns, but he is happy to have a working class Muslim as his trusted Lieutenant, so he can’t really be racist can he? Constructively dismissing you before you’d even delivered your first budget, making you the shortest serving Chancellor in history not struck down by death, well, that doesn’t look quite so good on your Muslim-bus-driver-son-done-good CV does it? Given your outstanding qualifications for the job; experience in trading the kind of junk bonds that caused the 2008 crash at Deutsche Bank, that kind of treatment by Johnson reminds me of the school bully not ragging on you for a week and pretending to be your friend while you do his crucial homework, then reacting after his decent grades come back by pulling your pants down in front of the entire school and setting fire to your school bag.

 

You ducked out with dignity, Saj, that’s something. You might have thought that at the very least other people would view Johnson’s manoeuvres as more than a little poor for optics, removing the first and only BAME Chancellor in British history, but then salt was rubbed into your raw wounds when another BAME MP, the nodding dog lickspittle Rishi Sunak, who has not even been an MP for 5 years, replaced you. That must have hurt badly. You had, you thought, earned your spurs, through service and briefs in Culture, Business and Housing, before working up to the Home Office. You’d been diligent and not made waves, but it wasn’t enough. You didn’t submit entirely to Johnson’s autocracy, and that was your undoing. You weren’t prepared to be castrated, and you have been replaced by a novice toady, who has no form in anything but lying with a winning smile on Johnson’s behalf on television.

 

So, was it worth it? Prostrating yourself to the establishment, having your ethnicity and family faith mocked by your own party, being demeaned by an unelected advisor until eventually you walked rather than being demeaned any further. It seems the old adages still ring true. You can be BAME and rise high in the British establishment, but only if you accept you are there as tokenism and will do as you are told.

 

What a sad fall from Grace, Saj. Couldn’t have happened to a more deluded nitwit. You’ve been used and thrown away and stitched up like a kipper. Which is ironic, seeing as your party is now full of them!

Boris Johnson’s ‘government’ has been in the news for something a little baffling recently, deciding to ban certain news outlets from select internal briefings, apparently on the lines of preferential reporting. This is in addition to the BBC being threatened yet again with removing their funding, despite the corporation making numerous ‘errors’ that coincidentally all damaged the opposition Labour party in the same election campaign. It’s also baffling because 80% of the print media clearly supported Johnson’s lies throughout the General Election, and the 20% that didn’t were not shy in trashing Jeremy Corbyn, leading to a serial liar with no plan being given an unambiguous mandate to irrevocably alter our cultural and trading opportunities for at least a generation, in the image of some of the most malevolent and incompetent ideologues this nation has ever seen elected to high office. I say baffling, because when you have had so little scrutiny and so much amplification of your falsehoods from the print and broadcast media that enough people still apparently trust, what need do you have to eviscerate them? But then, this is Boris Johnson we’re talking about, a man with so little to worry about during his life of privilege and scorn, that he dedicates most of his work to enacting grudges. I guess that’s the explanation. Does he really want to create a UK version of Fox News? Does he have so little pride that he’s effectively happy to be part of Rupert Murdoch’s lower colon? Surely there’s more pride in the Tories winning relentlessly when they can at least say they have no demented Rush Limbaughs dominating the major news channels? That the BBC is still seen worldwide as a bastion of integrity? Why game their advantage even further and turn us into a permanent one party state where fake news coats us all like acid rain, eating away at our collective self respect? I know the answer really, but it’s execrable.

 

There’s a predictable wave of status quo huggers and lobby fodder who were waiting in the wings, seething at Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity within the Labour party, who were silenced in 2017 at the success of the manifesto, but now crawl out, despite the overwhelming picture being that the Brexit second referendum was what killed Labour’s chances for good and that blind policy tests consistently proved the wisdom of the manifesto agenda; and desperately claim the baby must be tossed out with the bathwater and we rebuild the Blair shrine so they can be in charge again. These transparent ideologues should be ignored, but it amazes me that so many who don’t have that kind of skin in the game routinely want to blame Corbyn not just for losing, but for Brexit, and apparently anything Johnson goes on to do.

 

What will it take for people to see and call out the absolute state of our media landscape? It wasn’t that long ago when the Leveson inquiry revealed that Rupert Murdoch’s News International had operated like a mafia outfit: bribing public officials, blackmailing ministers, pumping out untrammelled lies about their political opponents, hacking dead kid’s phones and having their reporters and photographers hound and harass everyone from Royals to grieving parents. Nothing serious was done other than Murdoch closing down the News of the World and losing out on his BSKYB takeover bid. His newspapers still poison the body politic, lying and smearing the opposition with impunity. His rags appeal to base fears and emotions, and too many still evidently swallow the toxic waste, judging by many Brexit supporters’ quotes on why they voted to leave. His slurs on Corbyn were reflected in most Labour canvassers’ experiences on doorsteps, and still Labour politicians won’t call it out and demand action, mainly because they simply want to wrest control of the party back and lick Murdoch’s jackboots again.

 

Corbyn was the most abused and degraded opposition leader in history, but Miliband and Brown were torn to shreds too by the Murdoch fiction factory. The Mail of course routinely salivates at anything that smells like authoritarianism, particularly if it upsets liberals, but liberal newspapers are apparently not quite as opposed to it as they are to contributing a little more tax and seeing the working classes have any kind of symbolic power in Downing Street.

 

The BBC really overstepped the mark in the election campaign and could not have done more for Boris Johnson if they were on his payroll, and yet apparently that level of Kuenssberg-style toadying is still not sufficient! They seemingly won’t be happy until we have a Fox News style national broadcaster pumping out frothing bigotry and right-wing fiction all day every day. Perhaps they consider it will be necessary for the future they have in store for all of us post-Brexit to shore up their advantage now before it becomes clear that most of us are due rude awakenings rather than unicorns.

So, being a working class nonentity myself, it was incredibly dispiriting to see so many of my fellow proles gladly gobble for Christmas. There is so much darkness to come in the next decade now, but rather than micro-analyse any of it while the emotion is still raw, I thought of an apt analogy for this election, and to explain will require a movie favourite of this time of year: Die Hard (or perhaps in Johnson’s case it should be ‘Lie Hard’).

Cast of characters:

JOHN MCCLANE – JEREMY CORBYN (not in a literal physical sense, don’t laugh). A flawed and sometimes tetchy guy who doesn’t really want to be there, but is spurred into action by events. Strong moral compass to do the right thing, and fight for the underdog as an underdog, despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned.

HANS GRUBER AND HIS GOONS – TORY PARTY. Ruin the office Christmas party with their greed, keeping everyone fearful and under the gun. Hans lies a lot about his motives, and tells everyone that they will be set free on the roof when his demands are met. Of course, the roof is actually wired to explode and kill everyone, but some desperate captives believe this escape route is the only way to salvation.

OFFICE STAFF – THE WORKING CLASSES. Frightened and bewildered by the traumatic turn of events, some clutch at straws by trusting Hans on the roof escape, while a select few trust John to help. Others, particularly Ellis, actively hate John for seemingly risking their lives, fearing his antics will just enrage their captors and cancel the roof escape. They just want the ordeal to be over, but are highly emotional and can make rash judgements under the stress.

ELLIS – LABOUR PARTY DEFECTORS. Obnoxious snitches full of their own self-importance and want to be the heroes. Plead that they know what’s best and that we should effectively trust the police rather than John to remedy their situation. Also willing to turn John in to their captors just to save their own hides rather than everyone else’s.

EXPLODING ROOF – BREXIT. Obviously. Seems like the escape route if you trust Hans, but most with half a brain can see the explosives and read between the lines.

POLICE – RIGHT WING OF LABOUR PARTY AND LIB DEMS. Claim to want to see everyone safely rescued, but lose lots of their own number through their incompetence at resolving the situation, and seem to spend most of their efforts saying they don’t want John’s help, and that he should just turn himself over to them. Spinelessly obsequious to the FBI.

FBI – THE PRESS. Arrogant, conceited and duplicitous, while claiming to be acting in the public interest. Thinks nobody can see through their bullshit. Absolute contempt for hostage casualties in their assaults – willing to spray a roof full of hostages with automatic fire if it takes down John, despite him trying to help the hostages escape. Attack helicopter provided by the BBC.

TAKAGI – MODERATE TORIES EXPELLED BY JOHNSON. Corporate boss much like any others (i.e. shit), but with at least a slight sense of ethics. Won’t surrender the password to the vault, even when threatened with execution.

DICK THORNBOROUGH – LOW INFORMATION HIGH CONFIDENCE POLITICAL OPINIONATORS. Smarmy, superior and imagine everyone wants to hear what they have to say. Not averse to threats or bullying if people challenge them. Undermine McClane at every stage, despite being too cowardly to take a fraction of the abuse and vitriol that McClane tolerates themselves. Most likely to say “McClane is weak and should give himself up. The police know what they’re doing, this guy is too much of a loose cannon to be able to save all those people.”

POWELL – MOMENTUM/PROLES CAPABLE OF CRITICAL THINKING. Sees through the bullshit that McClane is subjected to. Doesn’t have faith in the police or FBI to help. Knows that Gruber’s group are unequivocally the enemy and not to be trusted. Keeps McClane’s spirits up when he feels most demoralised.

Of course, this election turned out to be the plot from Die Hard up until the roof scene, where McClane is slaughtered by the FBI, the roof blows up most of the hostages and Gruber and co. walk away with the loot. There is no happy ending here.

Amid all the hype, this is legitimately a moment of reckoning in British electoral history. Whatever result, there will be a paradigm shift. If, as expected, Johnson wins any kind of majority, the shift will be to normalise outright lies in political discourse, evading accountability and scrutiny of your record in government, and outrageous character slurs on the leader of the opposition. We will become Trump’s America. If a hung parliament is returned, it will prove that lies and bullying and shitloads of money cannot buy democracy entirely and the Tories may have to rethink future strategies. If the Christmas miracle happens and Corbyn wins a majority, then we have the most profound shift: a turn away from the last 40 years of economic ‘consensus’; a return to wealth distribution and evidence-led policy and away from deregulation, race to the bottom in tax rates and hiving off crucial public services to unaccountable corporations.

 

As Peter Oborne articulates so well, if you are a ‘moderate’ Tory of a One Nation flavour, it would be best if you chose Lib Dem, Labour (it’s only 5 years and unlikely anyway) or abstained. Your party has been claimed by extremists. Even if you are a Brexit true believer against all evidence, you should not tolerate Johnson’s unashamed racism, sexism and homophobia: in print no less. His comment about EU citizens “treating this country like their own for too long” is an absolutely unabashed plea for the far right to support him. He is not hiding the fact that he is appealing to bigots everywhere and saying he understands them. Is this true Conservatism? Is leaving the single market (practically created by Margaret Thatcher) and customs union, effectively crippling business and sticking two fingers up to Northern Ireland, conservatism? It certainly doesn’t sound like unionism. Just ask the DUP who Johnson betrayed.

 

It’s useful to remember that Theresa May was pilloried and forced out by her own side for coming up with a withdrawal agreement better than this one. The press has somehow conned us into thinking Johnson’s amazing charisma has ground the EU down, but it is just him capitulating to EU demands at the eleventh hour, more than Theresa May and yet he is portrayed as a Tory hero! The press (including the dire BBC) is effectively acting as Johnson’s P.R. agent. No details are necessary, just ‘Get Brexit Done’ as his infantile and dishonest slogan goes. If you want Brexit done, honestly, Corbyn is your best bet. It will be over in double-quick time if you win the confirmatory referendum, because we will still be in the customs union and won’t need to negotiate an entire trade framework from scratch. Johnson’s could go on for years, despite his ‘pledge’ which is worth nothing from a proven pathological liar. Think about it: he’s lied to his family, his wives, his employers, his party and his party’s unionist allies. He is lying to you too.

 

This horrible election campaign has been all about misinformation and disinformation. They are not ‘both as bad as each other’. This is an appeal to apathy that the Tories always deploy to demoralise. Labour’s offer is huge for the working classes, women, minorities and the disabled. It takes back control of natural monopolies that rip us off. It eases the financial pain on commuters, and tenants. Don’t fall for the bullshit hype in the establishment media.

 

Thatcher might have declared war on the working classes, but Blair arguably did something worse. He laid the groundwork for Brexit and Johnson by making the public believe that class no longer existed, and when you are led to believe class doesn’t exist, it’s easy to convince you that the interests of capital are the same as those of labour. They are not. They are diametrically opposed. Capital gets rich by exploiting labour, always has. We may need to exist symbiotically with capital but this does not mean turning ourselves into indentured slaves. Rupert Murdoch’s interests are not the same as yours. He is lying to you to protect his tax exile status and stranglehold on the British newspaper market to influence the selection of right wing governments. He preys on low information voters by appealing to emotional reactions, but he wants you poor and angry to serve his agenda. We can do something profound today, and return a Prime Minister Rupert didn’t approve for the first time.

It does seem as if austerity has ground down people’s sense of optimism. When Labour announces a good policy, working class people are doing the rich’s job for them by saying “how will you pay for that?” when we don’t ask the rich how we afford constant military interventions. We pay tax and live in this country; we can choose our own destiny without it being approved by media moguls.

 

If Johnson does win a majority, I see very bleak times ahead. Johnson will no doubt use a majority to gerrymander constituency boundaries, demand ID at polling stations and many other measures to reduce voter turnout. I struggle to foresee another non-Tory government to be honest, no matter how bad the Brexit fallout and subsequent potential sell-out to the USA is. The media will make the majority accept our permanent decline and eventual loss of universal healthcare, and as an added bonus we will no longer have freedom of movement to escape the crumbling nation. If all of the lying, cheating, smearing, restriction of voters and BBC complicity leads to Johnson grabbing himself proper power, it will not just mean a governing party, it will mean a level of discourse and division it will be hard to ever ascend from again. Johnson speaks of Murdoch’s dream of abolishing the licence fee, so Murdoch will no doubt attempt to buy it up to turn it into Fox News UK. We have been warned, but I fear it won’t be enough.

CONSERVATIVE EFFECT ON WELFARE, EMPLOYMENT AND THE ECONOMY

 

MANAGEMENT OF THE ECONOMY

Austerity was always a political choice. Rejecting even mild Keynesian economic ideas of the state stimulating demand in times of recession, work experience chancellor and David Cameron’s school chum George Osborne decided that his Thatcherite state-slashing frenzy fantasy would be best accomplished under cover of ‘fiscal responsibility’. Strangely the Tories had never actually cared much about public debt before, as the facts (rather than myths) illustrate that they have historically borrowed more and paid back less public debt than any Labour government (https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2016/03/13/the-conservatives-have-been-the-biggest-borrowers-over-the-last-70-years/), but the narrative was set, and Osborne presented himself (courtesy of his obsequious media army) as some reluctant pariah sacrificing his personal popularity solely to save the country from economic ruin. The problem was of course that despite this notion being utter bollocks, the Murdoch-Rothermere-Barclay axis eagerly pumped out this fallacious garbage relentlessly – ‘we’re only doing this because Labour messed up’. Like all good propaganda, it had one foot within a common sense narrative and was easily swallowed by low information voters. Incredibly, within a few years, they had the working classes not only accepting their crumbling living standards, but rejecting alternatives, while believing that the global financial crash was in fact solely caused by the Labour government.

At times, the mask slipped. When he wasn’t selling off state infrastructure projects to the Chinese, Osborne gushed about privatising more than Thatcher’s cohorts, including some outrageously inappropriate assets like the blood donation service. It takes a special kind of sociopath to see a public non-profit service that relies on altruism, and think “what an opportunity for my American friends!” It was originally sold off to Bain Capital, a US venture capital group involving ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and later to the Chinese for a big profit, from people’s blood, which they donated out of the goodness (and contents) of their hearts. Talk about literally bleeding us dry. Another moronic privatisation was parts of the ambulance service, with predictable consequences of huge cost increases and less reliability: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36381440.

Osborne treated the treasury like his own public school money box, knowing his malice and ineptitude would never be exposed by the press. He gleefully cut budgets from every department and told them to make do. Because of how centralised the UK is in terms of governance (I believe we are the most centralised nation in Western Europe), when the government cuts local government budgets, those councils have very few other methods of raising income from other sources, and so have to cut services to the bone to balance their budgets.  We see the grim results of this everywhere, in the social care crisis, wrecked roads and extinct bus routes. Of course, Osborne would also ‘helpfully’ suggest that councils could sell off their assets to make up the shortfall, thus doing more for his fantasy by palming off more public assets to (most likely) Tory donors on the cheap. There were also some more outrageous privatisations that didn’t happen only because of huge public pressure: the coalition attempted to sell off swathes of public forests and the Land Registry, if you can believe that. Can you imagine the public body responsible for judging the value of land across the UK, in the hands of a profit-seeking company looking to make a quick buck? What in the world could go wrong?

Within two years of his austerity ‘solution’, Osborne was forced to ease off, as the national debt was mounting, and we narrowly averted a double-dip recession. Being booed at an Olympics ceremony was the least he deserved for his economic incompetence and asset-stripping on behalf of his cronies.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, one of the biggest contradictory statements from the Tories that never seems to be scrutinised to its logical end is that public services are apparently crumbling because “we need a strong economy to fund them”, yet according to the same sources, only the Conservatives deliver a strong economy. So it is both strong (when electioneering) and not strong (when questioned on inadequate funding for public services): Schrodinger’s economy.

Because of the average punter’s general ignorance of economics, they rely on the press and personal experience to tell them if things are okay. If there isn’t a run on the banks and they’ve got a job, then the press tell them things are good, they’ll swallow it. But this ‘economic recovery’ doesn’t need an expert on macroeconomics to analyse when you consider that the Bank of England’s base rate of inflation has never been above one percent since the coalition came to power. This was supposed to be an emergency rate to stabilise the economy following the financial crash of 2008, but it now indicates an economy on life support for an entire lost decade. For context, the decade prior to the financial crash the average base rate of inflation was just over 5 percent (https://www.mortgagestrategy.co.uk/analysis/historical-interest-rates-uk/). An inflation base rate affects saver’s returns from banks, cost of goods in shops, and the increase in people’s mortgage payments, so it seems as if the Bank of England realises that too many people would go into negative equity or lose their houses should the base rate climb much, as well as basic goods becoming too pricey for those on the low end of the income scale. However, a reasonably climbing base rate is an indicator of a healthy economy, while a low one indicates an extremely fragile one.

Of course, the reason for all of this economic pain was ‘cutting the deficit’, which Osborne pledged to do by 2015 and failed miserably, then pledged to clear it by 2025 and basically hoped the general public were gullible idiots. The national debt has ballooned in the last ten years, and people who think they are being clever retort that “you’re mixing up debt and deficit, you can’t pay back debt until you’re earning more than you’re spending”, which is not true. The best way to shrink government debt is to invest and grow the economy, so that the debt-to-GDP ratio shrinks over time. This is how we recovered in the aftermath of the ruins of the Second World War, when debt-to-GDP was initially over 200%. Churchill, much like Osborne, proposed that the country couldn’t afford a welfare state or the NHS, but Attlee conquered him and built both, as well as nationalising swathes of bankrupt British industry. The national debt shrank massively over the next decade and beyond, then, with the odd stutter, incrementally until 2008, when it shot up and continues to climb. It doesn’t help when the Conservatives use infantile analogies for a sovereign currency issuing state like a household shopping budget or private debt repayment plans. Now, the current dishonest incumbent of Number 10 promises to spend loads but still shrink the deficit and debt, despite Brexit coming at a point when our economy has been in the gutter for a decade. The economic shock will be bad.

 

WELFARE AND EMPLOYMENT

It was pretty apparent early on that the Conservatives would play their favourite game of divide and rule, and that scapegoats among the working classes would make the austerity pill easier to swallow for the reactionary. While Theresa May spoke of ‘citizens of nowhere’, George Osborne made much of ‘skivers vs strivers’. Despite estimated benefit fraud accounting for a tiny amount of total welfare spending, the consistent amplification by the Dacre-Murdoch press means the public generally vastly overrate the scale of the problem: the emotional reaction is what counts here. People struggling while working full time are more likely to be resentful of people like them seen to be living easy, despite tax evasion by the super-rich draining much more money from the system (https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/6348/economics/cost-of-benefit-fraud-v-tax-evasion-in-uk/). Former worst Tory opposition leader in living memory Iain Duncan-Smith was put in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions, and, much like Michael Gove, quickly set about making a lot of people’s lives a misery at the altar of his dunderheaded ideology. Whether he genuinely believed that his maliciously authoritarian system of punitive measures and stigma would really miraculously make sick and disabled people take menial jobs and turn their lives around remains to be seen, because he is either a zealot who sees himself as some sort of political Christ figure healing the sick, or he is just a really fucking nasty hypocrite who lives high off the hog, rent-free in his wife’s family’s manor house, while lecturing desperate and frightened people living on the breadline about personal responsibility.

Like other prominent coalition ministers, his charge sheet of incompetence and cruelty is grotesque, and boils down to basic right-wing demagoguery. Using the previously mentioned polemic about ‘skivers’ as his shield going into battle, he spearheaded more and more imaginative ways to fleece the poor while slyly lining the pockets of rich corporations. He imported the American concept of ‘workfare’, where long-term Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants were ordered to work for their paltry seventy-odd pound a week. It’s yet another policy that plays on emotion but does not stand up to any logical scrutiny. I understand why some would not see an issue with the long-term unemployed being incentivised to get into a work routine. The concept is not entirely stupid, but if it is implemented, it needs to be in jobs with little training needed, short hours (because there is no pay), supervised and in the non-profit public sector, because spending more money on training for someone who won’t actually work that job permanently is counterproductive, and, most importantly, it should not replace a paid member of staff’s role. If you allow someone to work even part-time in a corporate role, as Iain Duncan-Smith did with some companies who should be ashamed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_organisations_who_have_participated_in_workfare_programmes), you are 1)  undermining the paid staff by having someone working for less than them 2) forcing someone to work for less than minimum hourly wage 3) giving a profitable company free no-strings labour, as there was no guaranteed placement at the end of the tenure. After numerous legal challenges, and the excellent activism of ‘Boycott Workfare’, this moronic scheme was scrapped, much to IDS’s chagrin, who simply gerrymandered the legal process by getting his unlawful scheme declared retrospectively lawful: mildly Orwellian. The heart rending stories of penury, desperation and suicide caused by the brutal regime instituted by IDS and his cronies will choke anyone with a heart. Food bank usage has increased from tens of thousands to millions (https://fullfact.org/economy/how-many-people-use-food-banks/). Who even referenced food banks in the public discourse in 2010? Widespread whistle blowing indicated that job centres were incentivised to sanction people, even seriously disabled or those with profound mental health issues. The Personal Independence payments and ATOS-led ‘fit for work’ interviews stripped disabled people of dignity and forced people in grave need off the benefits list to present a false case of ‘tackling benefits culture’. We had the despicable scenarios of terminally ill people being declared ‘fit for work’ to deny them any hope of self-sufficiency in their dying days. The Black Triangle Campaign has excellent records and stories of this cruel regime: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/.  It even got to the stage of the U.N. chastising the government’s callous treatment to its own citizens: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/31/un-panel-criticises-uk-failure-to-uphold-disabled-peoples-rights. Amid all the bogus justification of ‘benefits culture’ and ‘the best route out of poverty is a job’, actual statistics confirmed that this was not true: most benefits claimants did in fact work, amongst other dispelled myths: https://www.poverty.ac.uk/editorial/exposing-benefit-%E2%80%98myths%E2%80%99. Universal credit has been an unmitigated disaster, the most obvious howling problem being the insistence that people surviving on next to nothing wait as long as four weeks for first payment.

The Conservatives immediately began making life harder for employees and easier for unscrupulous employers by doing things like extending the time a worker had to serve before they could request a work tribunal from 12 months to 2 years, while also cutting legal aid. A defining character of this government in fact is a comfortable environment for bad businesses: tax cuts, deregulation, reducing meagre worker protections and offering free labour via the ‘workfare’ programme.

The Conservatives have loved to throw around statistics that sound good with no context, like: “there are more people in work than ever before” – there are more people alive than ever before.

“Unemployment is at record lows under this government” – It’s long been accepted that unemployment figures are massaged in all kinds of ways and do not include the involuntary economically inactive or underemployed.

Underemployment is, like food banks, a new norm in this decade, as part of what has been termed ‘the gig economy’, where trendy new ‘flexible’ employers offer staff ‘autonomy’ as freelancers, but in some cases have the nerve to prevent them taking other jobs, meaning it is not freelancing but coerced employment without any of the benefits of secure employment. While the digital economy has defined the decade with tech giants opting out of tax liabilities, Uber, JustEat and the like are opting out of employment responsibilities. As if globalisation hadn’t assisted piratical capitalists enough, they began opting out of even the reduced expectations on them, making their activities seem a lot like borrowing someone’s van to sell ice cream, only to  return it with no compensation, having made a fortune yourself and ran it into the ground. Imagine hanging around the house all day waiting for a phone call to tell you if you have any work tomorrow morning. That this is the reality for one person is bad enough, but evidence seems to suggest it is a growing issue for many of the contemporary precariat class.

“People on tax credits are draining the benefits system” – employers who pay their employees too little to survive on are draining the benefits system. The taxpayer is effectively subsidising their business.

The welfare state is supposed to provide a level beneath which nobody should be allowed to fall. The Conservatives agenda for this whole decade has been to spitefully dehumanise the weak and suffering as fraudsters; crushing them down through the cracks of the support system with malicious intent. After all, as George Osborne quipped about social housing: “Why do you want to build social housing when it just breeds Labour voters?”

If Johnson’s terrible Brexit agreement passes, the economy will look positively booming now in context, and unemployment will soar. These will seem like halcyon days, and the weakest, as always, will suffer the most.

CONSERVATIVE DECADE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

 

It is often said that Tony Blair reacted to Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 General Election triumph, having been the most unpopular Prime Minister in recorded history prior to the Falklands conflict, by stating that ‘war seems to make a leader popular’ (or something along those lines). This was all the more illuminating in 2003, when he decided to disregard well over a million people in the UK who marched against invading Iraq on the coat tails of George W. Bush, despite Blair himself being a supremely popular leader at this time. In fact, the effect of his military intervention had precisely the opposite effect of Maggie’s bounce, in that it turned a well-respected and popular Prime Minister into a pariah in some quarters. His diminishing electoral returns post-Iraq saw him re-elected in 2005 with the lowest share of the popular vote of a majority party in UK electoral history. Quite why David Cameron then decided to ape Blair was a bit of a mystery, but perhaps it’s the Tory thing of craving military adventures to cast themselves as strongmen leaders, particularly as Cameron looked like the kind of guy who would struggle to handle himself in a Christmas market. Cameron was desperate to get involved in bombing Syria when America snapped its fingers, but astonishingly became the first PM to lose a Commons vote on military intervention since 1782, despite him shamefully slurring opponents as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. The reason for this loss then became clear, as the US and UK seemed to switch sides in the conflict more than once. Assad was a tyrant, but the rebels he fought against were also a threat to the region, particularly to the proposed gas pipelines that America and Russia had competing interests in (https://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/is-the-fight-over-a-gas-pipeline-fuelling-the-worlds-bloodiest-conflict/news-story/74efcba9554c10bd35e280b63a9afb74), and we all know how we prefer our tyrants to keep their people under control while we exploit their resources.

Cameron later managed to finally ape Blair in getting us involved in a regime change military intervention that caused absolute chaos, and, aside from Brexit, should be printed in neon as his epitaph. By removing Muammar Gaddafi, again apparently without a discernible plan for the aftermath, Cameron helped turn Libya into a lawless boneyard where civil war, mass rape and slave markets became the new norm. It is because of this thoughtless US conquest, probably driven chiefly by former ally Gaddafi deciding to sell oil in currency other than US dollars (like Saddam, he was a good tyrant until he decided he wasn’t going to obey America any more), that the refugee crisis hit Italy and the European Union more generally, which has caused a continuing backlash, arguably catalysed the rise of the new far right, and incontrovertibly fuelled the Brexit vote itself. If there were any justice then Cameron, like Blair, would also be called a war criminal and held to account for the carnage he unleashed in North Africa, but the worst thing he has to worry about on his speaking tours is chanting about Brexit, and jokes about fucking that pig’s head.

I could write reams about the continuing imperialism of the British establishment, but specifically shameful episodes are the continued unequivocal support to the illegal and unethical actions of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Israeli lobby within parliament are particularly powerful, as evidenced by the recent relentless antisemitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn, driven by his support for the plight of Palestine and the fact that Labour have pledged to cease arms sales to Israel if elected (something initially floated under Ed Miliband, which also lost him Jewish support, though being Jewish himself they couldn’t credibly call him an anti-semite). Israel’s continued land-grabs in Gaza and cowardly murders of unarmed Palestinians (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/03/footage-leaked-of-israeli-officer-shooting-palestinian-in-the-back) continue to appal most of the world, but while Labour supports the ban of arms sales, and boycotts on Israeli goods, Johnson has made it clear he considers Israel unimpeachable and will pressure other countries to not boycott their goods. Meanwhile, Liz Truss, one of the most intellectually-challenged ideologues in cabinet, recently admitted that her government has been illegally selling British arms to the Saudis to bolster their slaughter of the people of Yemen, which is rapidly turning into the world’s next humanitarian catastrophe (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/liz-truss-saudi-arabia-arms-sales-illegal-resignation-yemen-a9121951.html).

Of course, as mentioned earlier, despite being the ‘natural party’ of the armed forces, the Tories have actually presided over drastic cuts in personnel (https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17843123.labour-accuses-uk-govt-39-running-39-military-size-armed-forces-falls-9th-year-running/), have never cared over the mental health needs of veterans or massive increase in homeless incorporating many ex-services personnel, and actually seem far more concerned about protecting war criminals than honest ex-soldiers (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/11/11/northern-ireland-veterans-get-new-protections-tories-announce/).

Not to forget, three ex-Tory cabinet ministers: Priti Patel, Liam Fox and Gavin Williamson, have actually done what they continually accuse the opposition of doing: threatening national security. Priti Patel was sacked after having secret meetings with Israeli ministers which in a distant time would have been called treason rather than the ‘misstep’ it’s treated as nowadays, and who could forget Liam Fox, who used his position as Defence Secretary to seemingly make lucrative future contacts while taking along his paramour/friend Adam Werritty for the ride without proper security clearance. Fox, who later did absolutely nothing useful in his time in charge of post-Brexit trade negotiations, is a prominent supporter of Atlantic Bridge, a shady organisation which effectively advocates the UK becoming a client state to corporate America under the guise of ‘symbiotic trading partnerships’ or some such guff, and the first in a comically long line of erstwhile Defence Secretaries to have ‘disgraced’ prefix their titles. After Fox was sacked for the Werritty affair, his successor, government toady Sir Michael Fallon was deposed when scandal about his ‘handsy’ conduct with women came out, and his ridiculously unqualified successor Gavin ‘Pike’ Williamson was sacked for allegedly leaking defence secrets, having previously embarrassed the military with his hare-brained schemes (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/04/gavin-williamson-instagram-best-bits) and his country by telling Russia in a speech to “shut up and go away” like a school swot being teased for being the teacher’s pet.

So the decade of foreign policy has led to more carnage, more refugees and more big profits for British arms firms, and we can expect more of the same. But, this election, the Labour party is actually pledging to end this imperialist nonsense and use the armed forces to protect the nation, rather than putting themselves in the firing line for the USA’s resource grabs. Corbyn was also one of the few MPs with integrity in voting against the Iraq War, deducing what would happen, and apologising for his party’s part in it. The fact that frothing gammon on Question Time are apoplectic that he refuses to confirm that he would unleash a nuclear holocaust should be seen as the laughable alpha bullshit that it is. He also correctly identifies wars in the Middle East creating power vacuums and resentment against the West which act as the biggest recruiting agents for jihadi groups. If you oppose imperialism, war crimes against civilians, or just want to reduce the risk of future terrorism here in the UK, only ousting the Conservative government can move towards these aims.

CONSERVATIVE EFFECT ON HOUSING

 

Are houses any more affordable to buy or rent since 2010? Of course not. The Conservatives pride themselves on being the party of home ownership, but they are also smart enough to realise that pretty much the entire UK economy is reliant on financial services and property, so, even if they disregarded their entire ‘state must not interfere in the markets’ ideology, any serious intervention would bring down property values and make the economy look a lot less rosy. You see, the UK economy is based on a series of mutual incompatibilities, the biggest example being that the most obvious aspiration people have is to own their own home, and yet homes are getting ever more unaffordable for a greater and greater share of the populace. The Conservatives since Thatcher have relied on home ownership being the benchmark for people seeing themselves as ‘Tories’, but less and less of those people can exist without serious assistance from the bank of mum and dad. However, to even begin to redress this imbalance, the party would have to admit that house prices would have to come down significantly, which they won’t contemplate, for the reasons given above and others, like foreign crooks laundering dirty money through UK property as a guaranteed solid annual asset yield for doing nothing. Not even doing nothing, but actively making life harder for non-loaded Brits desperate to get on the housing ladder. Many of these murky Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern sheikhs will most likely donate to the Conservative party on the side too. Of course the other mutual incompatibility that exists in economic reporting is the rate of inflation, which Tories tend to judge as the benchmark of their fiscal prudence. They are obsessed with keeping inflation low, and it seems as if they are generally successful…except inflation figures always ignore the largest and most crucial outgoing in anyone’s budget: housing. Perhaps if this were included, it might form a bigger debate topic amongst the chattering classes and inspire a fight for a solution, but why do that when you can just leave the figures out and pretend everything is more affordable under the Conservatives.

David Cameron came up with all kinds of hare-brained schemes he knew would only exacerbate the housing crisis, because all he wanted was a good headline: to be seen as doing the right thing, when he actually needed to be honest to the public that you can’t have affordable houses and consistently rising house prices making the economy seem heathier and homeowners feel richer. Realistically, the obvious answer has always been staring at us in the face: to separate property as commodity from property as shelter, i.e. a massive council house building programme with genuinely affordable rents (not 80% market rent) and no option to buy. Add to this a Land Value Tax and rent controls across the UK based on average incomes and we would have the beginnings of a solution. Anyway, back to the record of the Tories. As usual, their ‘solutions’ were supply-side nonsense when the solutions required needed to deal with demand. I live in the South East, and we have had swathes of surrounding towns and villages concreted over with new estates. Of course most of these are commuter dormitory houses financially out of reach for locals, with a handful in each sprawling estate termed ‘affordable’ rents, i.e. 80% of the unaffordable market rents for the area. Under the Conservatives, big developers have had an absolute field day, restricting supply by sitting on land for years to drive the value up, before selling it at huge profits for development. The developers will then generally ignore suitable brownfield patches and instead seek to build on inappropriate spaces opposed by locals. The Tories’ ‘localism’ ideals were as vacuous and false as Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ nonsense: a distraction from the usual business of central government handing down diktats. In my own hometown, a new housing estate with a gaudy ‘showroom’ was built, despite being rejected by the residents and at local government level. The developers spent a fortune on legal professionals to tear apart unqualified residents during the appeals process. I understand the rejection was effectively personally overturned by one government minister. This seems to be the opposite of localism, and smacks of cronyism between government and private developers.

As a side note of interest, the ‘nimby’s are one of many naturally Tory-leaning groups that the Conservatives have effectively stuck two fingers up to policy-wise during their time in office. Others include the police, the armed forces, the CBI and even farmers (in regards to Brexit). This again hammers home two things: 1) First Past the Post allows the Tories to alienate everyone but their donors, knowing the only other party that can govern will be relentlessly smeared in the media to give them cover, and 2) the modern Conservative party are not the party of the landed classes and captains of industry any more, they are the party of hedge funds and disaster capitalists. The Tories have long since abandoned the pretence that they operate in the interests of either the country or their own natural supporters. They operate only to please their donors and their ideological wing.

A deeply shaming indictment of the Conservatives came when they were the only party to vote against making it a legal requirement to have landlords ensure their properties were fit for human habitation. It later transpired that 72 of these MPs were actually landlords themselves (https://www.indy100.com/article/72-mps-vote-human-habitation-living-standards-private-landlords-grenfell-tower-7790891). It’s hard to find an articulate way to describe human beings as vermin, but those that would seek to profit from other people’s misery, and deny any attempt to ameliorate this a little, fit this category.

During this election campaign, the Tories have been asked about the 200k plus starter homes they had pledged to build in 2015, only to admit zero had been completed. Every housing policy they announce is big on style and empty in substance. It seems to be designed merely to capture headlines: to make the public think they’re busy while actually kicking the can further down the road.

Of course, as well as stories of families having to live in mould-ridden slums, immigrant workers packed into sheds and 10 per room by unscrupulous cowboy landlords, there have also been growing numbers of stories of public advertisements offering free tenancies for sex: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/apr/02/sex-for-rent-accommodation-rogue-landlords-campaign. Rogue landlords, rogue bankers, rogue Uber drivers…anyone notice a pattern under the Conservatives? UK society is becoming a welcoming place for coercion and civilised banditry.

Do I even need to mention the explosion in homelessness, driven by the bedroom tax, benefits cuts, the Universal Credit fiasco and rent increases? https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/25/rough-sleeper-numbers-in-england-rise-for-seventh-year-running. Is this the kind of country we want to live in for the next five years? Because there have been nine years for this government to recognise and ameliorate these problems, and they show no inclination to. If they get a majority this week, we are effectively saying they are above accountability and we no longer expect government to help any of us outside of the elite for something as fundamental as shelter.