Monday, 3 July 2017

Footsore But Hopeful, Despite So Much Horror.

We went to the People’s Assembly March in London on Saturday and had a great time. So many people, so many conversations: it was like an ambulatory night in the world’s friendliest pub without the booze. I have, at last, heard Jeremy Corbyn speak live, and it was a belter, but we also heard Diane Abbot, Suggs, and, though the tone was triumphant and optimistic, it was overshadowed by many horrors: prominent among them, the Grenfell Tower massacre, although the speaker who talked about anti-muslim hate crime left me devastated by her description of the recent acid attack, of which I hadn’t yet been aware. Excuse a little outburst: SICK BASTARDS!

Perhaps most depressing for the long-term, however, is the drift towards fascism represented by Theresa May’s £1.5 Billion bribe to the DUP to prop up her discredited regime. Speaker after speaker pointed out the hypocrisy of it, and how it lays bare the lie of austerity, particularly coming, as it does, in the same week that the imploding government managed to strap itself together to vote down the repeal of the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. For me, though, it shows that the swivel-eyed fascist is determined to hang on, to do the maximum damage, and ignore the pain her illegitimate government is doing.

I want to write about some things that happened on the march, including the conversations I had, but it is a work day. For now, I’ll leave you with another cartoon. Theresa May is an open target for satire, and our political cartoonists are not missing.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Election: A Post-Non-Mortem

It was glorious, but it ain’t over.


Forgive me allowing myself a little boast, but I feel as though, for once in my life, I was ahead of the herd. I joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn, have voted for him for leader twice, and have never lost faith in his power to be a potent influence for good in British life. I have a ‘Corbynista’ shirt which I have worn to local party meetings throughout the Blairite fightback, and I have held out hope, through two turbulent, contentious years, that a lucid, honest politician, who talks about real life rather than rarefied, contained abstractions, could bring British politics back to sanity.

Of course, I am in the lowest twenty percent of median average household incomes, and approximately £500 per year worse off than I was before 2008, which is probably, when we get past the hypnotised fixation with media control, a pretty good driver of mood. I’ve also been working in public service throughout the period in which the Tory hit squads have been ‘working tirelessly’ to destroy them.

Until a couple of weeks ago, being a Corbyn supporting member of the Labour Party was seen widely as an extreme position, but it suddenly appears mainstream, and the violent, corrupt, brutish, hateful extremism that has passed as the political centre-ground for most of my life, just as suddenly, seems like a marginal, confused, farcical and outmoded embarrassment. It’s not gone; it’s still hanging on and still a danger, but a visible one, stripped of its disguising power to confuse. Neo-liberalism is looking vulnerable, fragile.


Nine weeks ago, it seemed as though we were enduring business as usual and that it was fixed and eternal. True, the Labour Party continued to make dangerously reasonable and realistic policy statements, as they had been doing for the last year, but they were drowned beneath news stories that all started with “the trouble with these ideas is that they’re not part of the proper political dialogue”. I was avoiding media, reading the LRB but staying away from the ‘news’, because its hypocrisy just enraged me. Every time I heard a commentator who was, supposedly, ‘in the loop’, I was reminded of my favourite piece of cartoon art.

So, we had a government committed to an ideology that was impossible to pin down, but amounted to the idea that the state and state institutions are somehow inherently evil and must be dismantled. In practice, what that meant was that they had to make life as hard as possible for ordinary people. There was a crisis, which, again, they couldn’t clearly identify, but it involved, variously,

  • being threatened by refugees, who were about to ‘flood’ this country and destroy some, again unidentifiable, quality of Britishness. The fact that those refugees were mainly children, starving in abject, wretched poverty in a field in Calais, didn’t reduce the threat.
  • being ripped off by an endless horde of people who pretended to be ill, or disabled, or dying, or old, so that they could live at the expense of Tory voters whose property is more sacrosanct than the lives of people with disabilities.
  • being incandescently offended by a failure to worship at the altar of the military, or the royal family, or not eating fish and chips in a suitably patriotic manner.

The method they chose for addressing the nagging sense of threat they were so busy maintaining was to impoverish the majority of British people and tell us that it was for our own good. In the meantime, the publicly owned structures -our shared wealth- was to be stolen from us and given to various privatisation parasites, prominent among whom were Richard Branson, American banks and Rupert Murdoch’s advertisers, all of whom seemed to be, mysteriously, clients of Theresa May’s husband.

It also meant, as Chris Riddell’s brilliant depiction of the establishment delusion illustrates, that they were compelled to continue making more refugees, by manufacturing excuses for constant, unending war. And, it turns out with only a very little googling, that most of the government had financial interests in that process as well.


Picture of Penfold from Danger Mouse
Michael Gove: not a genius.

It sounds as though it should be a story about evil genius, but the truth is they’re not geniuses. To list the parade of fools who make up the front row of our current government is to court despair: Michael Gove, the Penfold lookalike who dreams of an illiterate peasantry; Chris Grayling, who reversed a decade’s improvements in the criminal justice system in a few short years of amateurish profiteering; David Davis, who is currently humiliating us with his cluelessness in the Brexit ‘negotiations’, and Boris Johnson, whom Marina Hyde brilliantly described last week as “Britain’s foremost stupid-person’s-idea-of-a-clever-person”. Then there’s the odious and openly corrupt Jeremy Hunt, who never saw a piece of public property he didn’t try to flog and the floundering and out-of-his-depth chancellor Philip Hammond: they’re all dim-witted crooks, propped up by worn-out spin and at one another’s throats because they serve the deepest right-wing lie: look after number one and never tell the truth when a good lie will do. They are, as Frankie Boyle says in the video below, “…some of the worst people in the world…broken sociopaths.”

The battles they’re really concerned with are not the challenges of taking responsibility for the safety, well-being and prosperity of this country. Rather, they are fixed on their own in-fighting; the maintenance of their individual positions in a deeply antagonistic and futile occupation: professional establishment politicking. It’s a game to them. I’ve linked elsewhere to a compellingly lucid explanation of the power shift that took place when the previous gang of crooks decided to retire to spend more time with the profits of their back-handers. When we ask what on Earth Theresa May was thinking, calling an early election just after having declared to the EU that we were off, we have to remember: it wasn’t about us. Their gameplaying is never about us. It’s about their strange little world, in which their concerns, their insecurities and their weird fantasy bubble-world are all that matter.


Theresa May, it turned out, is no brighter than the rest of them. An element of the game-players’ corruption was a sense of entitlement, buttressed by the belief that the Labour Party, having stepped out of the establishment bubble with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, was out of the game. Who’d listen to a party that wanted to [snort] privatise the railways?

Anyway, they had the media on their side.

Except, the suspicion that the backbone of establishment power, a uniform and breathtakingly malign press, was on the wane was a key reason why, when May called the election, I had real hope that she had made a mistake. The overwhelming prejudice of the public environment in the UK said that it would be a foregone conclusion, but that didn’t ring true in the way it had in 2015, when the media had actually worked to try to make the election seem tighter than it was. The people I knew, who in 2015 were reliably parroting the approved lines from The Sun and The Mail about Europe and immigrants, had lost track of what they were supposed to believe and had started focussing on the difficulties in their lives. Very few of them thought by this time that those difficulties had anything to do with immigrants or terrorism: they could see that their enemies were the increasingly fascist dole office, the eviscerated council, the absence of the police in their communities, the rising costs of food, electricity and other luxuries.

Perhaps most hurtfully, they saw their children being victimised. They moaned about the impossibility of getting a place at the few good schools around here. They spoke in resentful rather than aspirational tones about the ‘free’ schools, the fee-paying schools and the ‘academies’ that were sucking all the educational resources out of the Island for the profit of a group of foreign investors and that were, effectively, if not explicitly, establishments reserved for the children of people who had large houses and big cars and friends on the Council.

In the children’s centres where I do a lot of my work, the service users were presented with the steady reduction of options. My own learners had gone through the period of uncertainty about their chances of completing their courses. The Tory/UKip council had abolished our council funding, almost as an afterthought, and the contempt behind that act had registered. My learners knew that we were (and still are) hanging on by a thread, and that the abandonment of all these services is a process of calculated insult, class-to-class.

Beneath all these frustrations, there was the nagging knowledge that our positions within society are becoming embedded and inherited: the Samanthas and Tobies who go to the ‘free’ (private, exclusive, racially and class homogenous) school up the road will be richer, happier, fitter and will live longer than the children of my community, however good the teachers and leadership in the local council school are.

Awareness had cut through all the bullshit about immigration and ‘our brave troops’. The word ‘inequality’ had gone from a slogan to an experienced truth in the two years between the two elections. I felt that there was a chance to connect people with politics in a way I hadn’t seen in my adult lifetime and, thank God, so did the leadership of the Labour Party. They pushed fairness, they pushed change and they made the approved establishment narrative seem what it truly is: the visceral hatred of the bullying classes who gain their sense of undeserved self-worth from their loathing of the mass of their fellow citizens.

So, telling the corrupt rich that their shit does smell was the right message at the right time, but what had made it so? Was it really that people had put two and two together over the previous two years? Well, yes, in part. Poor people aren’t stupid, but they have been persuaded, by the very political environment that causes their dis-empowerment, to believe that politics was inherently corrupt and they were powerless. Other voices, some well-intentioned, but many less so, had turned disengagement into a form of rebellion: a political anorexia that imagined it was hitting back while playing into the hands of its abusers.

Certainly, the Labour Party offered something completely new in this election: a genuine, meaningful political alternative from a major party with a real prospect of having an effect. In our first past the post system, it may be nice to vote Green, but it’s pretty useless. Labour, on the other hand, even though it lost the election in terms of both votes and seats, has already shaped government policy to a degree that has scared the establishment, and its rabid lackeys, to their shrivelled souls. Click those two links. I love the undertone of panic in Andrea Leadsom’s stupid drift towards totalitarianism, and even more so the failure of certainty in the Guido Fawkes piece, piercing his habitual above-the-fray affectation. It’s like his smirk has faltered, but then, he’s suddenly got a lot less to smirk about. He’s a true believer whose world-view has just collapsed. What is the point of selling yourself to Satan if you can’t spit on the poor?


Amid the glory of the election campaign’s powerful attack upon the status quo, we suffered four outrages to decency that were all symptomatic of the hatred that is at the heart of neo-liberal capitalist politics: two horrible ‘blowback’ incidents from the genocidal warfare of the capitalist war machine, an attack on faith by a far-right lackey of the ruling classes and a mass-killing as a result of reduced state oversight of housing and safety systems. We must not let the anger these events inspire divert us from focussing on the true enemy: the ruling classes of this country. Magnificently, it seems that the purpose of the never-ending, racist ‘terrorist’ emergency that the establishment maintains has lost its power to sway mass opinion: the response has been, overwhelmingly, to choose love, rather than division.

We are, for the first time in my lifetime, fighting fit to resist the divisive power of racist hatred, and we see where our anger should, rightfully, be directed.


It’s not over.

Live a good life, because living a good life is a good in itself. Go vegan, recycle, ride a bike to work rather than using your car.

But, more than anything, it is time to get involved in the political process, and to fight the power of insane, self-serving neo-liberal capitalism.

Tomorrow, Amanda and I and a group of Isle of Wight Labour comrades will be in London, marching for better housing, better wages and better public services. Will we see you there?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Debeaked.

This morning I deactivated my Twitter account.

I feel strange.

I have only been using it regularly for a couple of months. I set up my account in 2015, so that I could keep up with the rapid and exciting changes within the Labour Party. Then Facebook took over, and I largely ignored it. After deleting my Facebook account, I had a blessed period of no social media activity whatsoever. I think of this as a golden era. I might have been a little out of the loop about some things, but I was very productive. My work performance improved and I read more, and blogged with a little more depth.

Then, two months ago (just two months!) our supreme leader called a ‘snap’ general election. The ‘common sense’ view was that Labour would roll over and die. It didn’t work out that way. Like an awful lot of other people, I leapt into enthusiastic action, and my dormant Twitter account was a major tool of my involvement, although not the only tool. I set up a webpage within this site, and blogged about the election campaign on the Island, and I leafleted and marched and went to rallies, and I had a whale of a time, and we achieved a result that no one had predicted.

However, it was not a victory, or a clear-cut loss. My intention had been to shut my Twitter account on the day the election result was announced, but I was hooked and it felt -feels- as though the battle goes on.. I had gathered over sixty followers in under a month and I was enjoying the instant gratification of pontificating, congratulating and dismissing people on a public forum. I think, on the whole, I was in control of my tone. I certainly continued to gather followers and likes and retweets: all the psychic gratification of a system built around conditioned response, but I also was getting dragged in, in the way we love to see others dragged in, to the twitchy, snarly arse-sniffing of a social-media bubble.

Yesterday, I posted a comment about the odious, racist, right-wing ‘commentator’ Melanie Phillips and my sister took exception, suggesting that my use of the word ‘shrill’ was gendered. Now, I don’t regret lashing out at a privileged, fascist conspiracy-theorist. Indeed, I so dislike Phillips that I had trouble, for an hour or two, accepting that my sister had a point. Phillips uses a form of rich-people’s victimy hysteria as a cover for her selfish, spoilt vitriol, and I feel justified in despising her, but I was in danger of taking – indeed, I did take – the ugliness of my subject as an excuse for behaviour or, at least, language, that was as inconsiderate of decency as the poison spouted by the person I was attacking. As Phillips’ racist hatred has proved, words can have consequences. And, with social media, even the most inconsequential, trivial and apparently anonymous voice is only one careless tweet away from personal disaster.

The medium, social media, had shaped my behaviour. It was too easy to publish, albeit to under a hundred people, directly, language of which, in the cold light of day, I was ashamed. Twitter didn’t even have Facebook’s one redeeming virtue, that it facilitates discussion. On Twitter, you are constantly striving for the punchline: the killing blow, without going through the intermediate and potentially enriching process of an exchange of views. It had to end, and so I clicked deactivate, and am now back to being an isolated blogger, publishing my thoughts to the void, and to Diaspora, which, while it doesn’t share all Twitter and Facebook’s failings, cannot, in its restraint, provide quite the same interconnectedness.

However, if you are reading this and would like to keep up with my posts or even engage with me without signing up to this site, you might want to look at Diaspora. It uses a distributed model, and a hub can be set up on any server, which I would like to do some time. For now, I have joined a hub run by the developers, and have come across quite a few interesting people. It is not so compulsive, and it is a little quiet, but it is there.

You can join by clicking this symbol:

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Monday, 5 June 2017

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Monday, 29 May 2017

Voters’ Complicity

Watch this. My own wife thinks this is the greatest moral reason for voting Labour: the cuts against disabled people and the cruel, relentless pressure upon them over the last seven years have really been akin to state cleansing of vulnerable people. I know, from Amanda’s study of the issue, that this woman is not exaggerating.

Watch this, now:

Then this:

 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Humanity

The Tories Have Quietly-and stupidly-Made This An Election About Animal Welfare

Theresa May’s control of her party and its weird, outlying constituencies, is weak. This has been clearest in the way in which she has made tactically stupid concessions to some very nasty groups. Most tellingly, her leaked private promise to a master of hounds to offer a free vote on repealing the ban on hunting with hounds has angered a lot of people. Just as ugly is her promise to the antique-dealing lobby to water down to uselessness the proposed international ban on trading in ivory. In contrast, Labour’s manifesto proposes sweeping and effective new oversight of animal welfare in this country (scroll down to section headed “Animal Welfare”) and international cooperation to improve the human and non-human environment (see the section marked “Diplomacy” for Labour’s commitment to safeguarding the Paris Treaty). If you are disgusted by this and this (WARNING: images of animal suffering), vote Labour.

“Tactical” Voting on the Isle of Wight: Napalming Your Own Front Line

If anything has depressed me more than the sight of the Prime Minister -THE U.K.’S PRIME MINISTER-, unravelling in plain view, over this election, it has been the continuing triumph of stupidity over consideration that I have encountered when talking to people.

On the Island, apart from the gross lies about Jeremy Corbyn’s peacemaking efforts in the Northern Ireland conflict, the greatest expression of that stupidity and lack of effort that people put into this most important of decisions is the belief that they can be clever by voting ‘tactically’.

Let’s put aside the fact that tactical voting is a lie. If you really wanted to vote tactically to dislodge the Tories on the Isle of Wight, you would vote UKIP, but then you would probably go to hell, which is not a good deal. However, for reasons I will outline here, the Green Party has decided to put around the mathematically moronic argument that a vote for them would increase the likelihood of beating the Tories here, and a lot of people have just gone, “Oh, cool”, and not examined that spurious claim for the few milliseconds it would take to expose its absurdity.

The Green Party, thanks to a particular set of historic peculiarities, beat Labour by just over 400 votes in 2015, but, as Julian Critchley has said, they have made those 400 votes do a lot of heavy lifting over the last two years.

Anyway, the Greens think they can get a second place on the Island this time, and they are attempting to make inroads into the Labour vote, although I have seen little evidence of them being successful: I’ve met one confirmed Green voter and he was, I think, stoned. Do not be deceived by Green propaganda: they are attacking Labour: in Norwich, in Cambridge, in Bristol and a number of other Labour target seats, they are attempting to build their profile by riding the coattails of Labour candidates. For them, the Island, a Tory seat, is a fig leaf: their opportunistic attempt to say that they are taking on the Conservatives. Success for them does not mean winning the seat, but looking as though they are a real alternative, which they’re not. In the unlikely event that they maintain their fluke 2015 vote, they will simply embed even deeper the Tory domination of the Island.

The only chance we have of unseating the Tories on the Island, and in the wider U.K., is by concentrating the left-of-Tory vote. Tory voters are tribal. For them, the electoral map is a two party system. I’m not saying that is a good thing, but under our present system, it is the truth. One of the most striking peculiarities of this unusual election campaign is the extent to which the Tories’ vote is slipping: on social care, on animal rights, on young people’s issues, the Tories have scored massive own-goals and their voters are actually leaving them; something that hasn’t happened since 1997. It is extremely unlikely that Conservative voters will go to minority parties, particularly if that party is as extremist as the Green Party. With the collapse of the Lib-Dems, it is Labour that provides a safe and meaningful vote for issues-led, conscientious former Tory voters and for orphaned former Lib-Dems.

If you genuinely like what the Greens say and are voting Green as a matter of honest conscience, I’ve got no argument with you. However, to vote Green, thinking that you are somehow concentrating your electoral fire on the Tories, is just ignorant. It is the tactical equivalent of napalming your own front line. It is a vote for Theresa May.

If you want to get rid of the Tories, VOTE LABOUR.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Democracy Matters.

We went to the event at Northwood House in Cowes last night, to hear Julian Critchley speak again. There had been some debate about whether to cancel, but the decision to resume campaigning was, I believe, correct. We held a minute’s silence, and then Julian expressed what we have all been thinking: terrorism and the even more dangerous fear of terrorism must not stop democracy.

I didn’t have the heart or the time to blog after Tuesday morning’s news. As much as I know that children in Libya, Syria, the Yemen and Iraq are being murdered horrible every day with the complicity of the British state, the Manchester bombing was still a horrible blow. I am not immune to tribalism, and I feel the sense of shock, as well as a renewed pride in the British people, who are, by and large, responding with reason and love, rather than division and hatred. My hope is that the onslaught of lies and filth that the right wing press are spewing isn’t sticking; that people have finally seen through the militarised establishment and are rejecting their lies.

Theresa May was home secretary for five years. She has run down the police force (using her default contrived tone of crusading necessity to justify it) and then she has made a huge strategic blunder, looks as though she might lose the election, and is using the murder of children to justify putting the army on the streets and shutting down democracy for the better part of a week. It feels surreal. This morning, I see stories about them arming G4S, and letting them loose: the evil, incompetent demagogue wants to hire mercenaries from a company from which her husband profits and give them armed power over British citizens.

…the evil, incompetent demagogue wants to hire mercenaries from a company from which her husband profits and give them armed power over British citizens.

An excellent blog, which I recommend, posted this graphic on social media yesterday. It sums up the situation perfectly.

And, how is it, whenever MI6 drops the ball, it’s always in an election year? They’re fighting a couple of hundred disaffected onanists in bedsits, not the wermacht. What do we pay them for?