Jun 252014

There has been a lot of rubbish written about the subject of British Values recently.  This post of mine will probably serve to make the already high pile even higher.  But hey-ho, here we go.

Although my mother came to Britain as an immigrant, in a sort of way fleeing her experience of Communist oppression in the ex-Yugoslavia (her parents were anti-Communists during World War Two, and so lost a lot by way of opposing Communist privilege in the post-war period of Tito’s regime), I myself was born in Oxford.  About as quintessentially English as anyone could get, in fact.  I’ve always wanted to return there to live – but one of the undeniable British Values of recent times involves finding it prohibitively expensive to get decently-priced accommodation in places where jobs simultaneously exist.

So here I am, making my living via Internet and web tools and environments, in a property no one would care to call their own.

Stoicism, then?  Another British Value?  That’s two already, and I’ve hardly got started.

Actually, the thesis of this post was to be rather different.  For me, born and bred British but having grown up in between quite different cultural vectors (atheist English/Welsh/Yorkshire/British/European versus dyed-in-the-wool anti-Communist Catholic Croatian), it has always seemed that the greatest achievement of our cultural cauldron has – really not surprising, this – mimicked very closely the outlines and structures of our linguistic heritage.  Yes.  We always look to the United States in these matters – and, admittedly, their achievement is considerable: melding (or maybe that’s welding) a multitude of different – still growing, still effervescing – cultures together in a primal soup of patriotic belief in order to create one country out of an astonishing federal association.  But what we’ve achieved in Britain over the years – what lately we’re looking to ditch, too, as we take onboard everything and anything American – is typically contrary to our cousins across the Atlantic, even as in our diffident way we assume we’ve done really nothing at all to differentiate ourselves.

And, actually, maybe we have really done nothing: our secret being this nothing we’ve really not done.  One of my skills, and one way I make my living, is as a language trainer: www.speak-ok.com is where I ply my trade.  Over the years, I have noticed – as many of us who train will concur – that learners of English almost invariably find it difficult to learn because there is a hole at the centre of its grammatical structures.  The beauty of English is that the formation of its tenses is relatively straightforward; that the subjunctive is mostly invisible where not completely unnecessary (and becoming more so); and that you can make yourself easily understood, especially to other foreign speakers of the language, even where you commit mistakes in what we are normally supposed to say.

I would argue, therefore, that – given a chance – English, and the British, are generally forgiving when it comes to meaning.  We’re not pedants; we don’t pursue arguments to the death; we generally look to comprehend what you meant to say rather than, exactly, what you did.

And this huge vacuum at the centre of the language itself finds an analogous vacuum at the centre of what we feel we can agree upon is the essence of British Values.  But in reality, it’s no vacuum at all: in reality, like foreigners attempting – and failing – to find one-to-one grammatical correspondences with their own finely-wrought languages, what’s to blame is our perception of what we believe – perhaps from a US-style perspective we’re absorbing (or that’s absorbing us) – that we should now be encountering in our cultural heritage, even though it has never been there in the first place.

If the greatness of English, as a linguistic construct, is to be found in its forgiving nature as far as comprehending broken forms and attempts at communication, and therefore making them work for the benefit of everyone, then the greatness of British Values is surely located along the same lines: the same lines as one of its key linguistic heritages; the same lines as the people formed by such a set of linguistic patterns and ways of thinking and seeing.

We are what we speak.  And what we speak, for people from other languages, works in the absence of a certain complication they have learnt to need, to value and to use to control their own national characteristics and ways of doing.

So after all of this, what’s my conclusion?  Let’s, once and for all, stop trying to fill the “vacuum” at the centre of British Values.  An absence doesn’t mean a lack.  It can mean a freedom.  It can mean a liberty to do what we choose – when we are taught rightly not to hurt others.  It can mean a space to move as we would wish.  It can mean an efficiency to finish a job without irrelevant and unhelpful fuss.

That, for me, is where British Values are to be found.

In particular, in English’s inclusive ability not only to acquire new vocabulary and ways of communicating from other cultures but also to live alongside other proud and honourable traditions; to collaborate with them; to learn from them; and to synthesise new ideas from them.

English the language, and Values the British, don’t so much simplify stuff; rather, instead, they simply make it easier to get along.  And that, right here, is the real virtue we should perceive.

That, right here, is what we should all be attempting to perpetuate.

British Values: the essence of an existence, well experienced.

Mar 162013

Peter has just kindly pointed me in the direction of a film I should’ve stumbled across much sooner in my life.  It’s called “Odd Man Out”.  It’s directed by Carol Reed.  You can find out more about it here.

Now watch this clip below – and focus in particular on this saddening reflection.


“I am nothing.”  Not even charity.

Feel lonely?  It’s hardly surprising.  Making us feel lonely has become the weapon of choice of politicians in crisis.  And as the BBC reports on the awful implications of the Cyprus crisis:

The deal also involves a levy on bank deposits intended to ensure investors contribute to the bailout, the BBC’s Andrew Walker in Brussels reports.

People with less than 100,000 euros in Cypriot bank accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, while those with more will have to pay 9.9%. It is expected to raise 5.8bn euros in additional revenue.

A European Central Bank (ECB) official said the Cypriot authorities had already started to take action to ensure that the levy can be collected. Otherwise, there would be a likelihood of massive withdrawals to avoid it, our correspondent adds.

All of a sudden, people with savings become investors.  Amazing, isn’t it?  From bank deposit levies to bedroom taxes, our rapacious and single-minded political overlords are struggling – as we write, speak and exchange our saddest of thoughts – to hold things together with even a smidgen of coherence.  Whilst millions of children are thrust back into British poverty, billions of pounds in bonuses are distributed by failing British banks to their employees.

No wonder we all feel lonely.  “This cannot be right or just – or even efficient,” we think.  “There must be some other way forward.”

In 2003, when the Iraq War approached, I definitely felt I was the Odd Man Out.  It drove me spare; kind of drove me mad.  It took me a long time to recover.

But what I most fear today is that this same process, to a lesser degree, will now affect millions of thinking citizens.  When powerful owners of communication processes tell us over and over again that what we see and feel is wrong and misplaced, how else can it be?  How else can we react?  How else but to go into some kind of shell and begin to hide away from the reality they deny us?

The tactics they now use are to make us all feel we are odd men and women.  And although we perceive in our calmer moments of understanding that you cannot have a whole nation made of square pegs, they have managed to debilitate our comprehension of what’s going on to such an extent that nothing at all surprises us any more.

Nor do we protest very much – or, at least, that’s the way it seems to be going.  From initial despair to an overwhelmingly resigned misery, there are so many people out there who will begin to give up even on their lives.

They will, you must accept by now, be thinking about giving up on anything more than simple survival.

And so we take it slyly onboard.  And so we seamlessly absorb the implications.

Disabled people thrown out of their homes?  Unemployed people blamed for the consequences of government austerity?  The sick and elderly seen as a drain on our economy?  Privilege defined as the solution to a dysfunctional economy?  “Meh!  Meh!  Meh!  Meh!”

My advice?  Understand loneliness as a litmus test of injustice.  Externalise your fears; don’t blame yourself.  Remember your child and comprehend the unkindness of others.  And above all, face up to this undeniable fact: this Coalition government of ours is psychologically ruthless and without qualms of any sort.

Democracy provides us with no tools or processes to get rid of a government which – more than anything – uses psychological abuse to control, organise and impose its political impulses.  Physical violence would provoke a response from the courts.  But psychological violence at a state-engendered level is still not to be found in the rule books.

So then.  A revolution we need – the question is which.  You cannot abuse an abuser if you want to remain at all emotionally whole.  You cannot fight violence with violence and hope to remain aloof.  Where are we now?  What next for those finite perishable goods we call human beings?  Creatures whose lives are simply drifting down that 21st century gadget-ridden creek without a single bloody empowering paddle to their names.

And all this while, these politicians and business leaders whose crises I mention flailingly attack the entirely blameless citizens they still rule over.

In order to make such citizens feel entirely blameworthy.

In order to make them feel entirely odd.


Oct 282012

Three references I’d ask you to read before I proceed with this post.  First, I posted a piece on confusing sex and power earlier today.  It’s led me to further thoughts – none of which are happy ones.

Second, I just tweeted thus:

I honestly do not know why British institutions are turning out so rotten. As a kid, I was led to believe in them. Why? And to what purpose?

Finally, this piece, which Dave Semple just sent my way, on the history behind the BBC‘s culture of child abuse – a culture which formed and perpetuated itself way before Mr Jimmy Savile came on the scene.

It’s a terrifying article, this last one, describing as it does the casual attitude at the time, in that post-war period, of what bordered on a kind of disposable hatred to young persons of both sexes.  It will sadden you greatly, if you manage to find the time to read it.  This is not a case of a raft of a country’s institutions deteriorating suddenly and explosively: this is, rather, a continuity of malignant spirit which burrowed its way – like the jokey letters down a stick of rock – into the very psyche and shared behaviours of a whole nation.


Two things that come to mind.  The first is whether what has happened in the post-war period isn’t indicative of a wider sequence of abuse.  Abusers are known to occupy two existences: their all-too-often public and shameful one of criminal and their all-too-private and shameful one of victim.  Yes.  The abusers have been abused.

The English were, after all, famous for saying: “Children should be seen and not heard.”  How easily this describes a voyeur’s controlling perspective: the right to fuck around with someone’s head and not be reported.

Just imagine if we expand the remit of this phrase to a broader series of sexual practices.

So this abuse which the abusers – of which I am sure many more will appear – have so clearly suffered … to what, then, can we attribute its existence?  Well.  I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t going to be the result of a much greater and national trauma than that silly, giggly and unfathomably traditional English inability to quite know what to do about sex.

I’m beginning to wonder if what is clearly becoming a sick and widespread aggression against defenceless individuals in secretive care homes, public institutions and perhaps even many private households too, hidden for decades from the full view of the public’s shared consciousness, isn’t in part some kind of reaction by that generation which fought in the Second World War and suffered its privations.  If sexual abuse – abuse of power, abuse of position, abuse of reputation, abuse of recognition – is going to be as widespread as it now looks will shortly be the case, can there be any other explanation than this?  A whole nation – abused by violent injustice, random death and cruel loss – fighting, turning in on and finally devouring its own.

A tremendous source of pain which was never fully understood, appreciated, talked about or dealt with by a society with an infinitely stiff upper lip and capacity to drink tea and talk about the weather, even as its deepest fears scythed through its emotional and mental wellbeing.

I don’t know.  I’m no sociologist.  Though the above probably demonstrates I’m quite good at psycho-babble theorising.

All I can say is that the implications for a wider society, for a wider body politic, for our wider institutions … well, they really couldn’t be more profound: if government ministers, political aides and people at the very top of public and private institutions knew about these kinds of things, if they stood by as they happened or even participated, if they sullied the deep realities of institutional probity and if they were capable – at the same time – of sustaining a hollow visage of honesty, frankness and sincerity to the outside world, what else – in all truth – were they capable of hiding from the rest of us?

For that is the biggest question still to be unravelled.  He who possesses a secret of another can demand an absolute loyalty – and he who can demand an absolute loyalty can build a terrifying power.  Just imagine the situation if this was not only unidirectional but bidirectional.  Our society, riddled by guilty makers and shakers – each knowing something the other on an allegedly opposing side would not wish the public to comprehend.

Our two-party system, thus riddled and perverted, effectively becomes a one-party state.

And that, maybe, is what’s really happening here: just as the Berlin Wall and the wider Soviet structures came tumbling down overnight through their own savage incoherences – examples of puff-pastry politics if there ever was such a thing – so now what we are witnessing in British society is a reflection, an absolutely accurate mirror image, of the lies the Communists lived.  The consequences: rapid deterioration and awful collapse as long-empty structures fall irrevocably in on themselves.

We all grew up in the shadow of oppression.  For so many years we fought it.  And as we have already noted tonight, the oppressed may learn all too well how to oppress.

The abusers need to be tracked down.

But we mustn’t forget the abuse that made them so.

It’s time we understood that the secrets which bind the powerful to each other – of which the sexual variety is just one pitiful class – need to be blown apart for the good of our body politic, democracy and social intercourse.

It’s only then that we can even begin to recover a sense that our institutions can be believed in; only then that we can even begin to understand what has actually happened to this corrupting Britain.

It’s not just the poor and utterly bewildered young men, women and children who’ve been totally betrayed by their abusing forefathers.  It’s possibly the whole nation which now needs the truth.

After all, such a bitter pill can be no more difficult to swallow than the indignity of always being seen and never heard.

Jun 072012

Ed Miliband made some massive mistakes on identity in his speech yesterday.  Or was that geography?  This, for example (the bold is mine):

Of course, there are economic and political arguments advanced for Scottish separatism.
But even though they often don’t admit it, the logic of the nationalists’ case goes beyond politics and the economy.
It insists that the identification with one of our nations is diminished by the identity with our country a whole.
After all, they want to force people to choose.
To be Scottish or British.

Personally, I don’t see it.  The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just the United Kingdom if you will (yes, OK – some would even abbreviate this to Britain), is a political union of varying degrees of happiness which has muddled along as such unions might.  The British Isles on the other hand, and perhaps rather more controversially, is a geographical reality which also includes the Irish Republic.  If Mr Miliband is saying that a Scotland which chooses no longer to be a part of the political union that is the UK then misses out on the opportunity to claim its identity as both Scottish and British because it no longer pledges allegiance to London, we are clearly in the presence of a curious confusion between geography and politics which hardly helps clarify anything.

Perhaps, even more sadly though, it also reveals an unhappy understanding of the right London-based politicos reserve for themselves when defining the limits of identity itself.

Yet identity is not just a question of politics and history – those areas of knowledge which people who make and shake nations so delight in.

There is surely a third dimension which I would argue is just as important: that of place.  And place belongs to everyone, whether educated or not; whether powerful or humble.  Place was there before history and politics started; place will remain when we all have gone.

This is why Ed Miliband is wrong to conflate the UK with being British.  If he doesn’t understand the difference, he shouldn’t be talking about it.  If he does understand the difference, then he is obfuscating deliberately.

If the Scots so choose, they can be both British and Scottish and outside the United Kingdom.  It’s the lawyerly politicians who prefer not to see that politics and history and laws can be far more easily changed than the land which lies outside their codifications.

Miliband didn’t get it all wrong, though.  He is far more useful – though still revealingly inexact – in the following description of London’s role in all this antagonism:

There are some people who say that this English identity should be reflected in new institutions.
But I don’t detect a longing for more politicians.
For me, it’s not about an English Parliament or an English Assembly.
The English people don’t yearn for simplistic constitutional symmetry.
Our minds don’t work in spreadsheets, just like our streets don’t follow grids.
But there is a real argument here which does unite England, Scotland and Wales:
And that is about the centralisation of power in London.
This resentment is felt in many parts of England.
A sense that our politics is too distant.
Too detached.

Curious how he says our minds don’t work in spreadsheets when this generation of politicians works with nothing else; curious how he argues that politics is centralised in London to its detriment and in the same breath criticises constitutional symmetry for being simplistic.

He says we don’t want more politicians; he doesn’t say we might not want more of the politicians we’ve got.  He argues that our politics is too detached without admitting that the reality is actually that it’s far too attached to certain powerful and wealthy interests.

He says England doesn’t need new institutions; he refuses to recognise that the United Kingdom as a whole has corrupted the ones it already has.

Yes, Mr Miliband.  London is the problem.  You’re right about that.  But you’re wrong to assume that being together through continued inertia is necessarily the answer.  The answer for the kind of politician you represent lies in making the Union so attractive that no one would ever contemplate leaving.  The problem is that London-based politicians have – quite fatally of late – failed to achieve this essential feat.

No wonder some of us want to leave.  Not our land, which will always remain where it is.  Rather, our politics, which is manifestly unfit for purpose.  Even to the point that it doesn’t understand the difference between it and our geography.

For if the Scots end up leaving the Union, it’s not the land they’ll be shrugging off but the politics.

And if Ed Miliband wants to be taken seriously in this debate, and wants to seriously pursue a long-lasting solution, he really does need to properly remember this.

Apr 302012

In 1776, the United States declared independence from Britain.  The background can be summarised thus:

The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in early American society and government, collectively referred to as the American Enlightenment. Americans rejected the oligarchies common in aristocratic Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation of a democratically-elected representative government responsible to the will of the people.

Now let’s fast forward a few hundred years to 2012: specifically to today, the 30th April.  Two stories which indicate that the British people themselves now find themselves under a similarly unrepresentative (and what’s more, unresponsive) oligarchy of a nest-feathering self-promoting and essentially inefficient nature.  Firstly, we have a political class in charge which is unable to properly protect our own national borders:

Heathrow approached “breaking” point last week, with passengers left so frustrated by delays that they resorted to storming past officials without showing their documents and slow handclapping staff in immigration halls.

The response of our political class’s representatives?  To prohibit the airport’s owner from distributing explanatory leaflets apologising for the delays.

Secondly, some time coming, we have this awful story:

About 100,000 ill and disabled people will lose their Employment and Support Allowance on 30 April 2012.

That’s the removal of several thousand pounds a year from individuals who surely deserve our solidarity as a token of goodwill – in order to allow them to remain as independent as we can sensibly manage.

Battles for independence in the 21st century?  It would seem laughable if it weren’t so bitterly disappointing: in reality, we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that what the Americans understood in their 18th century enlightenment, we have chosen to so vigorously reject in our own rank and heartless idiocy.

The latter story a case of future misery as personal chaos awaits those who, in the main, have done their very best to deal with what life has thrown their way.

The former story?  A playing-with-fire by a government determined to shift the centres of wealth distribution even more in the direction of just one kind of capitalism.

So to my two final preoccupations:

  1. What’ll happen when the money and savings of those 100,000 ill and disabled people simply run out?  Where will they go?  What will they do?  Who, indeed, and with what authority, will remove them from our Olympic-ridden streets?
  2. What’ll happen when the government has allowed so much wealth to be leeched from our socioeconomic infrastructures that even an institution such as our Border Agency finds it difficult to resource the simple checking of people’s passports?

Yes.  Indeed.  Battles for independence.  Both without and within our system of government, on both civil servants and ordinary citizens, this Coalition has declared a war of attrition on absolutely everything that might pose a future threat to the oligarchy it represents.  It is symbolic and notable that the aforementioned war should affect not only the very weakest in society but also those whose daily role it is to defend our national integrity and security.

The march onwards and upwards of a very particular definition of globalisation has now reached the very heart of sovereign government and all that it stands for.

Capital’s victory is essentially complete.

Just as Great Britain, in other times, completely dominated the Americas.

Perhaps in that there is a lesson we should take onboard.

For it is now the Americas which has learnt to dominate us.

Apr 012012

If you’ve been paying attention over the past year or so – or even just over the past week or so – you’ll realise British politics is about as bizarre and foolish as it can get.  It’s possible that for politically tribal reasons you will find resistible the idea that New Labour laid the foundations in its Intercept Modernisation Programme – but the fact that on April Fools’ Day this story on the so-called Communications Capabilities Development Programme is published everywhere shows how resistant to irony bureaucracy can become.  The plan – in a nutshell – is for all email, website and general Internet usage in the UK to be accessible in realtime to GCHQ, the government’s electromagnetic listening arm.

A bit of history, then, from Open Rights Group’s wiki on the subject:

In the original Coalition Agreement(12th May 2010), this statement appears on page 11:

“We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.”

And Nick Clegg reiterated this in a speech a week later(19th May 2010) when he said:

“We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so.”

However, on 19th October 2010, hidden in the depths of the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review was this statement:

“We will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework … We will put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology challenge is compatible with the government’s approach to information storage and civil liberties.”

The revival of the IMP is being spearheaded by the Home Office, which in fact as early as July 2010, planned to revive IMP, as revealed in a largely unnoticed document.

One can only read this as a revival of the Intercept Modernisation Programme. This is despite staunch opposition to the programme by both the Lib Dems and the Tories while they weren’t in government, and their original Coalition Agreement(mentioned above).

GCHQ were revealed to be installing a system for collecting the data required by the IMP in 2009, and are continuing to install this programme despite the suspected opposition of the new coalition. Tories at the time opposed doing this on the sly. Baroness Neville-Jones wanted it to be done only if it was passed as law by Parliament. Baroness Neville-Jones is now the coalition’s security minister and she will have to stick to her guns if the public is to ever see such an important development debated by their elected representatives.

On the 27th October 2010, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Dr Julian Huppert asked the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s Question Time:

“Can the Prime Minister reassure the House that the Government have no plans to revive Labour’s intercept modernisation programme, whether in name or in function, and that he remains fully committed to the pledge in the coalition agreement to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and to roll back state intrusion?”

The Prime Minister had this to say:

The Prime Minister: “I would argue that we have made good progress on rolling back state intrusion in terms of getting rid of ID cards and in terms of the right to enter a person’s home. We are not considering a central Government database to store all communications information, and we shall be working with the Information Commissioner’s Office on anything we do in that area.”

Notice how he doesn’t say they won’t be extending the requirements for CSPs to retain communications data. Is this another hint that IMP will be adopted by the Coalition, just without the centralised database?

So what is the pattern since the Tory-led Coalition got into power?  First, it’s started by putting into place long-term strategies to both disempower and anger the following groups in society:

  • women
  • the unemployed
  • the disabled
  • the sick
  • those in need of legal support
  • those who live anywhere but Tory heartlands
  • the so-called squeezed middle
  • small businesses
  • evidence-based professionals such as doctors and lawyers
  • scientists
  • teachers
  • pensioners

Meanwhile, it’s kept onside the managing elites in:

  • higher education (eg the tuition fees hike)
  • corporations and those ideologically related to the Coalition itself, including those involved in health and education provision (eg the NHS bill, the free schools agenda, HMRC tax liabilities and so on)

And in general, it’s been sympathetic to the lifestyles and interests of:

  • the rich and wealthy (eg the recently announced 50p to 45p reduction in the top rate of income tax)

Now, after all the above, and building on New Labour security plans from as far back as 2006, it suddenly discovers (or suddenly reveals – not quite the same thing I think you’ll agree) that it needs a ferocious plan of thought control to defend us from … exactly what?

In years past, in Tony Blair’s time for example, we had the War Against Terrorism to conceptually deal with.  Even I gave him the benefit of the doubt whilst it still looked like the situation in Iraq was as he pitched it – though I did find evermore unhappy the company he was keeping.  But that War Against Terrorism, whilst always an ongoing matter of some preoccupation, can hardly be seen as the real justification for what is proposed now.


On a day that David Cameron’s approval ratings go through the floor, the real enemy our state needs to be defended from is that long list I described above of those voters this government has chosen to disempower and anger.

And the real reason it needs to be defended is because whilst New Labour took ten years to reach the levels of hubris and disconnect from reality which led to its necessary downfall, the Coalition has managed to achieve all of this in less than twenty-four months.  In a blink of a political eye, the Coalition has committed the massive and always inevitable error of all governments past and future: identify completely the broader interests of the nation with the individual interests of each and every politician who forms a part of its inner circles.

Whilst seriously enough the voters and their families are losing in droves their trust in this Tory-led Coalition, far more dangerously for the wider population is the fact that the individuals at the top of the Coalition have lost all trust in the voters.

The announcement today that it’s time to potentially put the whole nation under continuous government surveillance is a blanket recognition that we as subjects cannot be trusted to run our own lives in collaboration and consonance with the state.

And I would agree.  It, the state that is, is right to be worried.  Essentially because the state itself, under this Tory-led Coalition, has converted itself into the nightmare New Labour was always accused of aiming to become.

Through Cameron it is now clear that Thatcher’s legacy of a land fit for the small shopkeeper has been finally destroyed.  This is not Thatcher’s doing that we see on our TV and computer screens but Blair’s very own twist on the elitist’s approach to micro-managing ordinary people’s lives.

Through Cameron we see Blair finally breaking away from his inspiration and revealing what another decade of New Labour would have meant.

Through Cameron, this government is in the process of breaking very sacred contracts.   And it knows on the inside far better than the rest of us on the out exactly what measures of control it is going to require.

Meanwhile, as we try and comprehend how matters got to such a point, all we can do is battle to remain sane in the face of such insanity.  There is no political beast more dangerous than he or she that is wounded – especially when they believe such attacks have happened and been effected not just through a rank betrayal from their own side of the House but also well before their longer sell-by date could normally have justified.

We would do well to remember this as we witness the April foolishness that is British politics today.

And as we bemoan the real unravelling of that complex travesty of misguided justice: that once-glorious Blairism of the Noughties.

Mar 282012

Whilst unions announce today the serious possibility that our education system will, by 2015, follow the NHS and Legal Aid down the financialisation and commercialisation routes of private self-enrichment on the part of our professional politicos and their business sponsors, it surely becomes evermore clearer – without a shadow of a doubt in fact – what the government is really up to.

They care not a jot about winning the next election; not a jot about currying favour with all the voters; not a jot about creating a society and set of nation states fit for all our peoples.  Only one thing motivates them: the establishment of an unshakeable regime whose reversal will become so unappealingly expensive that – no matter who gets into power at the next general election – the legacy of five long years of anti-socialist ambush will be maintained and sustained for several generations to come.

Perhaps forever.

Labour is falling into a trap, I have to say.  It is fighting a losing but honourable battle on so many simultaneous fronts of political shock and awe that it’s hardly surprising it is allowing itself to be ambushed in this way.  But it needs to come to its senses: the government has done enough for even the least politically scientific amongst us to be able to realise its true trajectory and destination.  British socialism has a long and efficient tradition – the NHS and Legal Aid being two of its major achievements.  Where efficiency is ignored and discarded outright by supposedly businesslike politicos, it’s clear they are not caring to be evidence-based professionals but, rather, aim to act out of prejudice.  And by acting out of prejudice we can conclude they are acting out of personal self-interest.

What’s so bad about all of this is not that these Tories at the top under Cameron’s rule have managed to hijack their own party – which they clearly have; nor that they have hijacked the democratic system as whole – which they did back in 2010 and will do so until 2015; nor, even, that they betray their business roots by doing what they want rather than what is empirically accurate – something which all of us can now surely see.  What’s so really bad about all of this is that we’re all falling into their trap: focussing on discrete policy battles instead of being brave enough to fashion and forge a counter-narrative.

The government say they are looking to reduce the inefficient state.  We should say they are looking to enrich and expand the inefficient private sector of bad business cronyism.  The government say they are looking to reduce the deficit.  We should say they are looking to transfer its impact from a strong nation to helpless individuals.  The government say they are looking to create an environment of opportunity and empowerment.  We should say they are looking to restrict opportunity and empowerment to the already wealthy.

As I said some months ago now, the bad capitalist blame game works as follows:

  1. When large corporations and the people who own them set themselves up in business, they limit their responsibility if everything goes belly-up to the very minimum they can manage to get away with;
  2. When everything goes belly-up, which it almost always does at least once in the history of such companies, the ones at the very top manage to hide behind Chinese walls that reduce their legal responsibility to a very minimum;
  3. When companies’ profits do not achieve expectations, the fault is first and foremost due to the costs of labour – the term “labour” being understood to mean those at the most humble levels in a company and not the (mainly) ever-so-red-blooded gentlemen at the top;
  4. If companies suffer excessively from declining profit margins, people at the top get paid enormous amounts of money to take immediate decisions to fire massive percentages of their workforces – even where such decisions show absolutely no degree of imagination or added value;
  5. If the wider economy falls completely apart, the taxpayer will be obliged to bail out the failing private sector but compelled to destroy the public;
  6. When the wider economy stops functioning in any meaningful way, the workers who lose their jobs will carry both the moral and economic can for not wanting to find new jobs – even where these new jobs don’t exist;
  7. When the economy finally recovers, the workers will have to continue to accept wage cuts for two reasons: firstly, automation might price them out of the market if they don’t watch their demands; secondly, only the rich work harder for more money – the poor, on the other hand, tend to slacken off their labour when not sufficiently terrified;

These are the things we need to be underlining; these are the things we need for our counter-narrative.

In fact, if truth be told, we need – also – to point out to our nation states and our peoples the degree to which a good socialism ruled our waves.  Only when we can shrug off the instincts to be stealthy about our achievements can we begin to generate a different way of opposition: socialism was always a heartfelt instinct of the British.  In the past we called it fair play.

Perhaps, then, we need to resurrect that idea and begin to call ourselves the Fair Play Party.  A Fair Play Party for a fair play society.

As British as you ever could get.

Whatever your nation.

Jul 112011

The latest revelations on the News International nightmare simply indicate that at the top of this media pyramid is a dictator in grave need of being toppled.  Either he actively institutionalised criminality – or, through neglect and under his watch, he allowed it to become institutionalised.

During Blair’s reign, it was Saddam who fell.  In Cameron’s, it could well be Murdoch.  But not because of the authorities, not because of the police, not because of the checks and balances of the state.

Rather, because of MPs like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant, of newspapers like the Guardian with the financial resources and morality to pursue the story – and the Fifth Estaters amongst us who use Twitter, Facebook and blogging tools, all of which have allowed us to provide the good traditional journalism that can still be found out there with the people’s wings it required to flourish.

As Anthony Painter recently tweeted:

The fatal misjudgment that News Corp has made is that it’s always had a parliamentary majority behind it. This time it hasn’t. #phonehacking

The corollary is complete.  News International was a de facto dictatorship, operating within the British body politic.  And no politician of real import in recent times has cared to even attempt to defeat this dictatorship.

Each generation needs its villains.  Blair had his opportunity to choose – and chose Iraq instead of Murdoch.  Cameron had his opportunity to choose – and chose the British people instead of Murdoch.  As I pointed out in August last year: 

In a democracy, there are two ways to proceed before your true aims are rumbled.  The first is to attempt to continually butter the population up – this was Blair and New Labour’s approach for many years.  The second is to demoralise and divide all probable opposition prior to the event with acts such as Cameron’s Coalition are carrying out.  Better than demoralise and divide, however, is the strategy of cutting supply lines and taking apart little by little regions of common association.

This is also something that the Coalition will find it hard not to do.

The cuts that are being effected may have an ideological bent designed to socially engineer us back into the Darwinian dark ages of 19th century capitalism, and they may also perpetuate and deepen a recession we were on the point of emerging from, but, principally, their main purpose – if we are to accept my tentative thesis – is to lay the ground for a far more profound set of changes further down the line: changes which will end up being imposed on a thoroughly frightened and unhappy set of atomised and splintered individuals, looking to the support that democratic socialism promised them even as the tactics I have described serve to slowly but permanently disintegrate them from their fellow men and women – as well as lead them, once more, as so many sad times in the past, to believe that dog-eat-dog philosophies are humankind’s inevitable fate.

And yet now the British people have chosen Murdoch – above all – as their target of choice.  Now the British people have settled on the dictatorship they truly wish to desert.

So where does that leave Cameron and his blessedly fashioned neo-conservative project – made, as it is, to the measure of Murdoch’s ideologies; and as foreign to our shores as anything of such evil intent could ever be?  Who will be left untarnished enough to be able to provide the moral and political support to such a futile and suddenly hollow device?

For this is the question that surely occurs to us all: if Rupert Murdoch’s empire is no longer fit and proper to run the British press and media, what does that say of David Cameron himself?