Archive for the ‘Opinion piece’ Category

I heard a forgettable talking head recently speaking about an “existential threat to liberal democracy” across the world. Let me make a very simple hypothesis for these “experts”: liberal democracy can function very well if you STOP LETTING THE VERY RICH HOARD ALL THE LOOT.

 

People will always get disgruntled at immigration, mechanisation and a changing world, but nothing focuses the mind like seeing your standard of living steadily decline while those at the top are hiding untold riches in island paradises. If the Establishment stops repeating the mistakes of the 1930s; if it stops allowing globalisation to be used essentially as a racket for multinational plunder and money laundering under the guise of “investment”, it might still stand a chance of redeeming itself.

 

I won’t hold my breath.

These current times seem very reminiscent of the dying days of the Major administration. Remember when they were under fire from all sections of the media, even print, couldn’t get any Tory legislation passed, and people were just itching to boot them out of office for a fresh start? Now we regularly see sacrificial ministers wheeled out to be plucked like quivering chickens by the usually gentle and convivial Andrew Marr; answering questions in the irritatingly evasive manner of a suspect waiting for their lawyer to arrive. Mistress Mayhem AKA The Maybot ™ AKA The Feeding Seal has discovered that, much to her chagrin, the left were right all along: that her honeymoon period was almost entirely superficial, down to a combination of soft interviewing, the lauding of her by the press and their relentless hatchet jobs and character assassinations on her opposite number.

 

The inescapable problem for the Tories is that they have boxed themselves in with their narrow ideological obsessions. When the global financial crash struck in 2008, Gordon Brown was at the helm, and by 2010, following his clandestine insult of a voter being inadvertently broadcast, it should have been a cakewalk for the Tories, and they almost even blew that. As it was, the coalition with the LibDems should have suited David Cameron down to the ground. He could play to his natural liberal instincts and put into place his own vision for the country, which may have been closer to a LibDem vision than a Thatcherite Tory one.

 

Unfortunately for him, his party had been packed with raving neoliberals since Thatcher’s day, itching for further privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts for big business. ‘One Nation’ patrician conservatism was outdated; an anachronism. This may not have been too much of an issue if Cameron was smart, dedicated and strong, but he proved to be none of those things as he gave the Chancellor’s job to his old Bullingdon chum George Osborne, rather than the eminently better-qualified LibDem Vince Cable. Suddenly, we went from “coalition in service of the country in its hour of need” to “coalition in service of forwarding the interests of Tory party hard ideologues and big donors”.

 

Osborne was a proper neoliberal in the strictest sense: socially and economically. He idolised Thatcher, and embodied the worst Tory instincts that come with mindless privilege and a cocaine addiction. As far as he was concerned, he could ‘learn’ the chancellorship ‘on the job’, and soon treated cutting expenditure as some kind of game of Monopoly. Some Tories have been accused of reducing the state’s role to ‘custodian of the military’ and using war simply as a colonial tool. Osborne took a similarly reckless myopic approach to the treasury, seemingly taking gleeful abandon in slashing benefits to non-Tory voters, and privatising everything he could lay his hands on, even bragging of it as an end in itself. He clearly understood ‘disaster capitalism’, and the opportunities it presents for furthering nefarious ideological agendas which would otherwise prove publically unpalatable. As long as he kept blowing the ‘deficit’ trumpet, the Emperor’s clothes could remain just about visible to the oblivious masses.

 

When Cameron quietly dropped his ‘Big Society’ idea, most came to the reductive conclusion that Cameron was simply an empty vessel: an acceptable housewife-friendly face to front the completion of the UK’s asset stripping by the Tory neoliberals; a leader whose background in PR would stand him in good stead for bullshitting his way through the myriad social and economic issues Osborne’s demented slashing and burning would wreak.

 

Now though, finally, the tide seems to be turning. Whether the reality of Brexit fallout has been grasped, or people have just seen through the contradictory rhetoric of “all in it together”, the Tories have lost their majority, despite again being investigated of cheating on election expenditure, and having huge swathes of the mainstream media dancing to their tune.

 

Separating Theresa May’s abysmal campaign from the effectiveness of the party in general, an obviously oversimplified hypothesis of their failings would be that they do not know how not to do what they’ve done since Thatcher’s day, despite society and events moving on immeasurably. When Thatcher was handing every public asset to the private sector, it was new. You could disagree with it, but you couldn’t prove categorically that it would fail. Memories of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ sustained Thatcher’s crushing of trade unions and selling off of state monopolies: the context has changed in these last 40 years. Neoliberalism is a discredited economic ideology and a busted flush: 2008 was its natural death.

 

But rather than be flexible, the Tory ideologues have only one thought process: more privatisation and deregulation. Only, there is hardly anything left to sell, and it is now hugely unpopular with the general public. Their ‘zombie neoliberalism’ is fooling no one. People can see the connection between the Grenfell Tower disaster and the wider narrative where people are only valued for their economic power and big business literally gets away with murder in pursuit of profit.

 

They no longer have an aura of competence, or a plausible narrative for their plundering of state assets. How can they say more cuts are necessary when they’ve had 7 years to deal with the deficit and failed miserably? Who will be inspired to welcome more misery and cutbacks when they’ve seen no positive results from the 7 years they’ve already endured? Did they really think nobody would notice the stealth abolition of the NHS?

 

The Conservatives have managed to alienate and piss off most of the public sector, including the people we tend to value the most: doctors, police and firefighters, while propagating a culture of racism, class discord and anti-intellectualism. And the only plan they have to satiate these people is to tell them to suck it up because Brexit is the only thing that matters in the world, but they can’t tell us anything about what its aftermath will look like.

 

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun: record numbers still voted for the worst manifesto I have ever known from a major party, and a leader who is seemingly terrified of people unless they’re subservient acolytes. But a leopard can’t change its spots. Either the Tories start ripping off more Labour policies, or they will continue claiming the state can’t do anything positive other than bending over for big business. I cannot see either inspiring again, particularly when it becomes clear that Brexit was a huge mistake. A purge of the neoliberals may take a decade, but surely it is the only cure for this death spiral for the party that seemed unassailable just a fortnight ago.

I’d like to take issue with something I’ve seen repeated quite often in the media in recent days: revisionism amongst Tory supporters or MPs. It goes like this; they’ll talk of the unnecessary election called hubristically by May that has almost inevitably backfired and left Brexit negotiations in doubt at a critical time for the UK.

 

Now as much as I have no respect for May or her actions, there wasn’t a Tory in the country who wasn’t like a nodding dog at the announcement that there would be a snap election “in the national interest”. They gleefully parroted the line that opposition parties were talking of hindering the Brexit process so it was entirely appropriate to spend £130 million on a General Election, despite an actual law forbidding it for another 3 years.

 

Of course this was, like Cameron’s coup de grace with the Brexit referendum, entirely self-serving for May and the Conservative party. Learning precisely nothing from Cameron’s idiotic assertion that nothing bad could possibly come from gambling the whole nation’s economic future on a single roll of the dice, she not only repeated that feat, but also used the exact same tactics in reducing a series of complex arguments to binary choices and simple-minded slogans and bullshit smearmongering – “Project Fear” all over again.

 

But let’s not pretend this is all about the arrogance and delusion of one woman: the whole party was behind this. They’d seen the polls and could not resist the temptation, but this wasn’t just about getting a comfortable majority, or even humiliating their opposition party; this was about snuffing out the only credible threat to the ‘Neoliberal consensus’ for the last 30 years. If they crushed Corbyn, who was actually proposing rolling back corporate dominance and raising taxes on the very richest, their core purpose would not be challenged again, even from an opposition party.

 

Their eyes lit up and they greedily made the grab so thoughtlessly, they hadn’t even considered that they might have to actually make a credible manifesto and have some kind of debates over issues other than fucking Brexit. They looked at the hysterical press slurs at Corbyn, they heard the Labour MPs flouncing out of the Commons and giving up getting re-elected, and made a calculated gamble that for 7 weeks they could make up any old shit for a manifesto, while treating their own voters like mugs, and the rest of us as imbeciles who might get excited and inspired by a cold and unapproachable woman ignoring our questions and crow-barring the same two catchphrases in to every conference, as if she had made bets for a university drinking game.

 

May has now proved herself to be not only a “bloody difficult woman”, but a “stupendously hubristic woman” who learnt nothing from her predecessor’s fall from grace, but instead allowed the press’ preferential treatment of her and lauding of her Brexit intransigence delude her into thinking she was some kind of  a queen; impatient for her glorious coronation.

 

I have to admit I am slightly baffled by her haste in hustling for the DUP to prop her up. Surely she realises that the persistent connection of Corbyn to Irish terrorists will now be even more laughable as an attack method; not to mention the insane risk to the Northern Irish power-sharing agreement by having one side prop up the supposed mediator for the Assembly agreement. The fact she has already described the DUP (despite their clear connection to loyalist paramilitaries) as ‘friends’ is incredible, considering she wouldn’t stop making reference to the fact that Corbyn specifically referred to Hamas as ‘friends’ when seeking negotiations for peace with them.

 

Which makes me wonder: what’s she actually playing at? She must surely know when politically engaged moderate Tory voters begin to research the DUP’s views on homosexuality, climate change and creationism (amongst others), they will be revolted, and turned off the Conservatives. Associations will be permanently made between the parties, which generally damages the party ‘brand’ for more than one election cycle.

 

So does the conspiracy theory contain perhaps a kernel of truth? Did May call the election as an all-or-nothing shot, where she would either get Erdogan-style dictator status in her own little one-party state, or be relieved of the inevitable disasterpiece of Brexit? I’m coming round to this theory more with every development, even if I’m not entirely convinced yet.

 

Whatever happens, we now have a genuine alternative narrative to dismantle the failed neoliberal system in the mainstream, and Corbyn will only grow in stature as this atrocious and offensive coalition of chaos staggers on, in the death throes of their destructive ideology we may finally be able to lay to rest for good. So, young people, you were neglected, ignored and patronised, but now you’ve rescued us, the people who most believed in you. We have all been vindicated. iVive la revolucion!

“Judge us on our record!”

 

Your record is atrocious. Only nation in the developed world to have a growing economy with stagnant wages. Doubled the national debt; more new debt added than every Labour government combined, and in peacetime too. Budget deficit still nowhere near being cleared, and at huge human cost: the kinds of humans that Tories don’t like to associate with anyway. Taxpayer-owned asset giveaway to donors of record proportions, despite no evidence privatisation makes things more cost effective or efficient, and with a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Increasingly authoritarian surveillance of civilians. Prison service, health service and education crumbling; unprecedented waves of strikes on the underground, rail network and even NHS.

 

 

“This is all about Brexit. Only I can deliver the right deal for Britain!”

 

When you were given this immensely important role at a critical point in British history, you decided it was more important to delay the negotiations to call a General Election you said multiple times we didn’t need. You go to the Daily Mail and others talking about how without provocation or hesitation you would reduce millions of people to glowing ashes, and tell the EU we rely on to strike us a positive deal to metaphorically fuck themselves. You recycle the kind of stock clichés an inquisitive 8 year old would take to pieces. Your ministers in charge of the Brexit negotiations offer contradictory statements daily, and you laugh them off as if they were just getting your aunt’s name wrong.

 

 

“*stock character slur on Jeremy Corbyn*”

 

When ad hominem polemic is your primary line of attack, you reveal you are petrified of debating the issues.

 

 

What a farrago of incompetence and chicanery this Tory election campaign has been. A dreadful manifesto, economic threats, a series of limited appearances with ministers parroting nothing but autocues from Lynton Crosby’s ‘Dog-Whistle Psychology for Angry Simpletons’, and the kind of absolute daylight robbery published and promoted in the Naylor Report making it into an interview with Andrew Neil. They have practically pledged to end the NHS, and a large section of the voting public have still not wavered, despite potentially losing access to free healthcare, having their kids’ legacy seized by the state, and given no details at all about Brexit, except it will be amazing for Britain as long as Theresa May is allowed to do whatever she wants.

 

God help us all if this contemptible bunch of clowns, crooks and charlatans become ‘the government we deserve’ on June 9th.

We live in a time where language has never been quite as manipulated by politicians and the mainstream media. Words like ‘aspiration’, ‘security’, ‘democracy’ and ‘economy’ have been perverted from their original definitions and context; mangled into shiny new tools to shape the national discourse. If words are weapons, the Establishment have dodged the harpoons and fashioned them into dirty bombs, pointed at any resistance to their agendas.

One term it occurred to me has been entirely subverted by its original targets is “professionally offended”. Now of course, we all seem to attribute this to ‘luvvy liberals’, who apparently ‘no platform’ any controversial speakers, and make death threats to anyone online who doesn’t check their privilege. I tend to see this happening chiefly when people make derogatory comments with a sexist or bigoted tone to them, whether intended or not.

Meanwhile, the original “professionally offended” brigade were actually the hardline conservatives, who couldn’t stand anyone with a pubic platform even gently mocking religion, or the sanctity of the family; who frothed at the mouth when smut, violence, vices or non-hetero-normative behaviours were covered in any way that didn’t position them as an affront to God. This led to frightening censorship in things like the Hays Code and the Parental Music Resource Centre in America; with Mary Whitehouse’s prudishness and even Section 28 in Britain. These “professionally offended” actually successfully suppressed culture and free thought in a similar manner to fascist dictatorships.

When I compare the great works of art and thought that were destroyed and smothered by these people, to the casual bigotry being suppressed by today’s apparently “professionally offended”, I don’t really think there’s a contest in terms of which is the more detrimental. Particularly since the modern understanding of the idiom challenges language used to demean oppressed sections of society for generations, in ways that bigoted conservatives couldn’t possibly comprehend.

It is a rich irony that the side now crying foul on over-sensitivity has declared a ‘role reversal’, while failing to acknowledge the gravity of their own inability to handle free speech in the past (and present).

It’s getting a bit tiresome seeing people sharing negative memes and articles about Donald Trump, often people who’d not shown the slightest inclination towards political debate before. We all know he’s an entitled buffoon, who’s been cushioned from the fall-out of his obnoxious views and behaviour by his extraordinary wealth, but he won the Republican ticket, and talking as if America should just decide to suddenly disqualify him because he’s a bad person is the same kind of thinking Trump applies to throwing people out of his rallies, and plays into the very credible notion that the Establishment is limiting debate and choice to suit their own agenda.

You can’t make Donald Trump sound worse than he is by sharing details of his numerous bankruptcies, infidelities and moronic quotes. His voters seem to be made up of those who hate the Establishment, those who hate Hillary Clinton, and those who hate everyone. Wagging our collective finger at Trump’s behaviour will not sway these voters’ resolve. My problem with this election trail is that the level of political discourse is descending to Brexit level. “He is an asshole!” “She is a criminal!” Cue audience boos and hisses. American tv loves trash-talking. They have it in most sports, especially boxing, and even the kind of crap that broadcasts here about auctioning stuff from storage garages has to have juvenile trash-talking. But thinking Americans don’t want that. They want issues, they want policies, they want reassurance that things will change for the better.

I’d like to hear Clinton reassure us she’s not just a trigger-hungry chickenhawk, bought and paid for by Wall Street. I’d like to hear optimism and vision. But no. She concentrates on slagging off Trump for being Trump, like berating a lion for eating antelope. You know what they say about never arguing with a moron because they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience? That’s what Trump is doing to all of us. And he may just win.

It’s difficult to tell who is more deluded. The Brexiteers who are reduced to posting news articles about the looming economic catastrophe prefaced with comments like “the sky hasn’t fallen in yet, has it?”; or the Blairites in the PLP, who, rather like a sinister mafia figure, have decided that Jeremy Corbyn has to resign forthwith, or there will be ‘trouble’.

Just what part of “it’s not 1997 any more” do they not understand? They seem to believe they can energise new members by turning around and telling them their vote for leader was misguided, and they need to pick again until they get it right, because big money donors don’t want a potential PM who may impose slightly more onerous tax and anti-corruption regulations on them. Apparently ‘democracy’ is only important when the Neoliberals are running things.

“Jeremy only represents the politics of protest” I hear the drones say. Is that not the whole point of politics? The Blairites’ pitch for the party is that nothing need change? Then why bother challenging the government at all? Why would people vote for the status quo with a red tie? Again, it’s not 1997 any more.

“Labour needs to listen to its voters, not preach to them”. Like when the Blairites acknowledged that ‘Leave’ voters in the North had been ‘left behind by globalisation’, rather than just being xenophobes? Okay, so what are they offering these people, besides ‘listening to their concerns’? What policies are up their sleeve to appease these voters? Jeremy seems to have a few involving regional investment, devolution, and real living wages, yet all I’ve heard from the Blairites is the same empty paternalism we’ve come to expect from zombie MPs like Tristram Hunt. He’ll ‘listen’ to you, he’ll pat you on the head condescendingly, he might even choke a little as he tells you how much these downtrodden rely on a strong Labour Party to lead them out of this horrible Tory nightmare…and then he will implement the square root of nothing, as the big money donors and Rupert Murdoch dictate the agenda.

Maybe Chilcot can finally wash away the last vestiges of the Blairites’ credibility, and show that they stand up for all the wrong things and the wrong interests. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can rescue UK politics, only Proportional Representation can do that. But he is infinitely preferable to the arrogant “do as we say and it’ll be alright” school of authoritarian politics that the PLP Neoliberals have decided to brandish like a club to keep the ‘wrong’ voters “on message”.