It’s finally happened, everyone. Littlewoods’ 2011 Christmas advert, which went about ruthlessly erasing Santa in favour of your mother owing lots of money to Shop Direct Group, has been surpassed in its awfulness. It feels almost wrong to be typing those words, because I was firmly convinced that nothingcould be worse than that. I was wrong. So very, tragically wrong. Peacocks have outdone them. The “Worst Christmas Advert I’ve Ever Seen” contest now has Peacocks as the all time winner. This is a brown note of an advert that is simply unpleasant in an obnoxious, insulting way from start to finish. Brace yourselves.
I’ve been having some strange thoughts recently. I don’t think my mind has taken well to the idea of “President Trump”, and it is trying to fit things together as best as it can, like in Bioshock Infinite. A central conceit of that game’s plot is that if you get moved into a different reality which isn’t entirely congruent with the one you came from, your mind automatically starts to make up memories where there weren’t any before, to try and reconcile the dissonance between the reality you knew and the one you currently inhabit – otherwise you’re left a twitching, bleeding mess. This feeling, of trying to reconcile between the nice somewhat orderly reality that we had before and the confusing, messy reality of a universe where “President Trump” is a phrase referring to an actual physical concept that exists, is what I’m going through at the moment.
“President Trump” is not a concept that should exist according to any known model of reality I can conceive of. I can at least accept that things like NAMBLA and the KKK have a physical reality, as much as I don’t want them to, because I can conceive of there being pederasts and racists and I can imagine those pederasts and racists having special little clubs where they can be awful pieces of shit together and sometimes go bowling. That is actually a reality-anchored concept that my brain has no trouble imagining. “President Trump” is not. When I think “President”, as in the elected official of the United States of America and not the brand of cheese, I think of serious people who were dedicated to public service in some way and had at least some measure of what sort of job they were running for, and the gravitas it both imbued upon them and also demanded of them. There is a “President” shaped hole in my brain and only certain things will fit into it. Every single Presidential candidate for both the Democrats and Republicans in my lifetime has, in some sense, fit neatly into that hole. Even George W Bush, in hindsight, had his good points, and did in some sense appear to care about governance even if he wasn’t very good at it. Mitt Romney was a man about as warm and human as the macOS System Preferences pane and he was at least someone who I could imagine as President without my mind core dumping. Donald Trump does not fit into that hole. It isn’t so much a square peg/round hole thing as a round hole and a peg that’s a shape that doesn’t actually have a name, with 27 sides and lots of acute and obtuse angles; one that tapers so even if you did somehow manage to put this eldritch abomination of a peg in the round hole it still wouldn’t go through, it’d just jut out of the top and look stupid.
What I’m trying to say is that while Mitt Romney and George W Bush fit into my holes cleanly, Donald Trump doesn’t, and when he doesn’t fit in my hole I have a dump. Hurr hurr.
Put bluntly, this has been a terrible year. So much tragedy and unhappiness has unfolded in 2016; not so much in a personal sense, where realistically speaking things have gone alright for me so far (touch wood) but in general the world in which I live is sliding down the shitter, taking all of the good things that existed in it along with it, starting with David Bowie and ending with the concept of liberal democracy, washed down the plughole by a wave of stupid. So much global awfulness is unfolding that I’m actually starting to have strange, metaphysical thoughts that somehow this is all an illusion; that I’m actually living in the personally-tailored hell of some low-level Weimar German government functionary who died 28 years ago and was reincarnated into a world only he can see, one in which everything just slowly gets worse and worse as some sort of punishment for all the horrible things he enabled. He’s getting to relive the Weimar years again, only this time in the UK, and he knows how it ends because he lived it and he’s screaming and screaming about how it’ll all end in tears and he knows it will just look at what happened it’s written down and everything but it just won’t stop. But none of it’s real, it’s just an illusionary solipsistic nightmare, designed to punish him/me for whatever he/I did, the bastard/cunt. It could be true, for all I know; I’ve never met Donald Trump, only seen him on screens, so for all I know he may not actually exist. I’ve never met Nigel Farage either. I know Jeremy Corbyn exists, I saw him on a stage once (doing the trick with the ping pong balls if I remember rightly, actually not), but I’m not so sure about Theresa May or David Cameron. The United States may not even exist, since I’ve never been there, only read about it and seen pictures. I live with an American but she may just be putting on an accent, that also doesn’t exist except for her and other imaginary “Americans”.
I know these thoughts are mad, and for the sake of the slower-witted of my two readers I don’t actually believe that the world around me is a non-existent Matrix-plus-sado-masochism illusion. Just that it feels that way at the moment just because of how shit the world is. Please do not call for the men in white coats, please, thank you.
Here’s a fun, and unlike my bollocks illusion theory above actually entirely true, story which further illustrates how this utter cunt of a year is ruining my mind. I was walking home from work the other night listening to music, and a particular song came on, one of my favourite songs by a band I like very much. And as I listened to this song, I suddenly had the intrusive thought: “<Lead singer of the band> is probably going to die this year, because it’s 2016 and of course he will because 2016.” Not in the sense of some psychotic episode – this wasn’t some hallucinated voice from God telling me that this bloke was going to die in the next month and a half (I’m deliberately not naming this person in case I jinx it, because if any year is going to see jinxes become reality it’s this one) – but just an idle thought, because that’s what 2016 has done. 2016 has, consummately, made it abundantly clear that absolutely nothing is secure any more, because anything you could love or that brought you joy can be snatched away at a moment’s notice because the world is a cunt and so is 2016 and so fucking there. I then had the sudden realisation that I’d never wanted to punch a period of time in the face before, but I did now. Fucking 2016. What else is it going to take away from us? We’ve already got Brexit, President Trump and half of a decent CD collection gone, anything else nice you want gone? Trees? Squirrels? Dairy Milk? I heard on the news last week that M&S was shutting a load of stores and it genuinely shit me up until I heard the full details; losing Percy Pigs would just about finish me (financially I mean, they have to license my big fat pink face for each one) but it would be just like 2016 to do that to us.
Put simply this whole year is doing funny things to me with its mix of absolute horror, repeated stupidity and a profound sense of complete impotence in the face of it all. So I tried to make myself better by writing a load of shit and it hasn’t helped. Oh well.
I’ve long been someone critical of Nigel Farage’s sudden ubiquity in British politics. I did it again on Friday as part of a larger point about how fascists (a category I gladly include Farage in given his meanderings about violent unrest and marches protesting against the independent judiciary) get unearned screen time, which they use (surprise!) to spread fascism. Back in 2013 I noticed that, very suddenly, Farage was everywhere. Ukip was everywhere; it was being mentioned, talked of in hushed tones as being a political earthquake in the making, as being something to watch out for. Never mind that this party had, at this point, never legitimately won a single seat in Parliament – its sole elected representation was in the European Parliament, a body which it does not want to be engaged with, and then as a transparent protest vote. We are now three years and one general election down the line, and Ukip have one MP. 14million voters, mind, but one MP – down from a high of two, both defectors from the Conservative Party. Even the Liberal Democrats in their post-meltdown phase managed to get 8 non-defector MPs in a reasonably fair fight. The Greens managed to win a seat on their own merits too, for all the good it’s done them.
Farage has achieved full national recognition while having done nothing to earn it. He is a household name but nobody can name a single concrete positive change he has actually made to anyone’s lives, despite a full seventeen years of elected office which he has, as is well known, used solely to claim expenses while not turning up to meetings of committees on which he sits. The reason nobody can name a single concrete legislative success for him is that he has none. At least Donald Trump could sell hotel rooms. He is an odious individual whose stock in trade is telling lies, talking nonsense, dog-whistling and barking his own peculiar parochial worldview at anyone who asks, a worldview in which it is him (an ex-commodities trader who has been in politics for decades) against the “establishment”, which can roughly be defined as anyone who is not Ukip or Nigel Farage. Despite all of the above and the fact that he is, in the final analysis, quite dim, Farage has been gifted platforms by our national media and his bullshit opinions given credence he and they simply do not deserve. Seventeen years in politics and he has achieved nothing. His pet cause of seeking a vote to the EU didn’t even get achieved because of him, it got achieved in spite of him and his general repulsiveness, with other (marginally) less objectionable people taking over the starring role in the campaign.
This brings us to today. Less than a week after the US election, and on Remembrance Sunday of all days, Farage had flown out to Trump Tower to brown-nose America’s new Orange Julius, and in the process offered to be a go-between between the British government and the new Trump administration (may God have mercy on our souls). The Government, as it should, promptly slapped down Farage’s kind offer while reiterating that it is actually the Government and Farage is not.
I’m sorry, but who the fuck does this jumped up little prick think he is? How dare he – how dare he – decide that he is somehow qualified to be some sort of important diplomatic figure solely because he wants to be one? How hubristic do you have to be to be a, let’s be frank, no-mark politician who has accomplished fuck all of any significance except riling up bigots and enriching yourself at taxpayers’ expense and then think you have any business at all interposing yourself between your country and another? He doesn’t represent the United Kingdom; he barely represents Ukip; the people he should be representing in the position he was actually elected to serve in he doesn’t because he’s focused on his sole real interest, that is, promoting himself. He has about as much right to represent the British government or people as I do. How fucking dare he?
More than anything else, this is what has finally – finally – led to me losing my rag completely with Farage; this newfound sense that he somehow represents anything beyond his own pisspot party, and the sheer arrogance of trying to sell himself as an unofficial ambassador to the British people (not to mention disrespect to the actual government he’s seeking to partially usurp). The man has no redeeming qualities, no meaningful elected office, no actual sense of public duty and no interests beyond self-promotion. He should be laughed at, ignored and given the exact amount of attention that his actual qualifications deserve – nil. Fuck him and all of his ilk.
I really, really, really can’t put anything more starkly or certainly than the title. The entire liberal democratic order which we have been part of for so long has been totally upended by a cancer of resurgent fascism. If Brexit was a symptom of this cancer then Trump is a metastasis to the brain and lungs, and a sign that this cancer is both aggressive and terminal.
The battle is lost because anyone with any power or influence who could conceivably have fought against this turn of events has been enabling it and allowing it to grow, and the will to actively fight it in the way it needs to be fought is not there. It is precisely the fault of the same sort of chattering “moderates” or “independents” or “centrists” who, with Brexit, decided that what was directed by media owners, Conservative MPs and the blatant fucking fraud that is Nigel Farage, a commodities trader and then career politician fashioned into a working class hero anti-politician by nothing more than skilful marketing and ignorance, was actually a revolution of the put-upon and neglected white working class. It is the fault of the same people who decided that the response to xenophobia was to reward it with “understanding” and attention rather than principle. Inasmuch as the white working class did vote for Brexit and Trump for economic reasons, they were played; encouraged to vote against their own interest and ignore the actual cause of what has made their lives so thoroughly shitty (that being the progressive rollback of trades unionism and deliberate destruction of manufacturing starting in the Thatcher era). Brexit is not going to make the UK richer, and Trump is not going to make anyone’s life better or more comfortable except for the racist frog avatar people who have been emboldened and feel that the wind is blowing in their direction. They feel that way because they have been and it is.
There is a reason why the right way to deal with fascists, racists, homophobes and other such cunts is and was not to allow them a level playing field and compete in the “marketplace of ideas”, with the smug assumed knowledge that nice and noble liberal democratic ideals will beat them handily due to their moral correctness; the correct response is to deny them a platform to the greatest possible extent, because fascists do not give a fuck about your nice liberal democratic ideals of open debate, they do not give a fuck about the marketplace of ideas and they certainly don’t give any fucks at all about finding truth, sitting down around a table and finding compromise and a better way forward or any of this highfaluting Enlightenment bullshit that the dead white men that wrote the US constitution thought would lead to perfection. Being afforded a platform is what they want; it gets their foot in the door and gives them legitimacy so they can spout plausible sounding populist nonsense and stir up hatred; it gives them the grounds to say that their ideas as much an equal choice in the marketplace of ideas as anyone else’s. They explicitly do not care about the rights of free speech and assembly they demand and mourn every time their bigotry is censured except to the extent that they want the opportunity to spread more of it. They do not care about the truth or coherence or even basic consistency of what they are saying, because they explicitly reject your Enlightenment values of reasoned debate and discourse and wish to substitute their own of sheer brute force. Every single one of the “moderates” who argues that discourse is the solution here seems to forget that what ended Nazism as the despicable force in the world that it was was not reasoned factual debate, it was a solid asskicking by the UK, US and USSR followed by the government that replaced it completely expunging Germany of Nazism in all its forms – its language, its institutions, its symbols and the denial of its crimes against humanity being erased and banned except to the extent of leaving its beaten, rotting head on a pike as a warning to others.
But this time around we, as a people, didn’t learn a lesson and we didn’t no-platform anyone, we fought against no-platforming because we naively believed that the truth will out and we’ll soundly defeat these bastards with the sheer force of words and rhetoric, ignoring that their chief advantage is that they don’t give a shit about the rules of discourse and we do, leaving us restrained and them not. The Daily Mail, Fox News, Breitbart, The Sun, the more obscure derpy places like Townhall, WorldNetDaily and American Thinker all thrive and disseminate complete horseshit and hatred because they are not required to care about the truth of what they publish or broadcast, they don’t particularly wish to care about it and so they don’t, while The Guardian, the Independent, the Times (both New York and London) and even the Daily Telegraph see it as a noble duty to print the truth (as, rightly, should everyone). They fight by Queensberry Rules while the Sun and Breitbart grab the nearest chair and prepare to smash it over everyone’s heads.
Some may object to my characterisation of Farage and Trump as fascists, calling this hyperbole. These people can go fuck themselves as they are part of the problem. Trump and Farage both hold in common a contempt for liberal, pluralistic democratic institutions and checks and balances, exemplified by Farage’s outrage over Parliament being required to sanction our exit from the EU (and his attendant call for a march on the High Court so that it would “listen to the will of the people”) and Trump’s desire to “open up libel laws” so as to be able to sue media sources that dared to print nasty things about him, or even to print what he actually said – in direct contravention to the US’ own constitution, a document I honestly doubt Trump has the attention span to read, let alone comprehend. They both wilfully stirred up, at best, fear of if not hatred of an “other” – in both men’s cases, refugees from Syria, in Trump’s case also Mexicans and to a certain extent African-Americans and Jews. They both have an express desire to place the nation state, the only good nation state in their world view, above all else, and see fit to equate whatever ends they want as good for the country and all else as expressly bad and traitorous to it. They are fascists, by any reasonable definition, and their platform should have been denied, and it wasn’t.
Special mention here goes to the BBC, who more than any other organisation (even the proudly Ukip-loving Daily Express) legitimised Farage as part of our discourse. Every gap on a panel show he could fill, every political discussion programme he could find a slot on, every possible chance he could take to put his nasty frog-like face in front of an audience as if he was a serious contributor to the political process and the public conversation, rather than a nasty and unprincipled anarchic piece of work who wanted to tear the whole thing down and remake it in his own image, they gave him and he took. Even as he gave tentative endorsement for political violence in the event of immigration not being controlled to his liking, the BBC continued to almost uniquely coddle him and allow him a platform. That comment alone, as horrifying as it is revealing, should have been the point at which the nation’s media stopped giving him oxygen, but that was a few years after they started giving him a platform totally unmerited by either Ukip’s actual support or the quality of their arguments, and the damage had already been done. By comparison, Trump reached his state of sheer repellence about twelve seconds after his campaign started and as such he should have been treated as the horror clown he is rather than given the hours upon hours of media attention he did not in any way deserve. The final insult of this was thrice placing this buffoon, this awful exemplar of everything with diction as poor as his reasoning, on a stage opposite Hillary Clinton, an intelligent woman whose thirty year career of public service in positions of great responsibility had undeniably improved the lives of many through her efforts, whose accomplishments seemed to have been placed on a level pegging with thirty years of grift, sleaze and literal bankruptcy.
So what, we just no-platform now, stop this before it can get truly ugly? It’s too late. The cancer has taken root and spread, and it is now vandalising the property of minorities, grabbing women’s pussies on subways and intimidating everyone Trump cast shade over during his campaign. Moreover, the people who support this shit do not care to listen to your facts or your solutions, they are vengeful, spiteful people and are thoroughly convinced of their own popular support. Nobody believes themselves to be a villain, even someone shouting at a Mexican-looking person to go back home from their car, spray painting a swastika on a black church or groping a woman because they feel they can now gleefully do so. Social media also plays a part in this, both in the sense of allowing both “sides” to create echo chambers where they can further have their belief of moral rectitude reinforced and then of allowing one side to be thoroughly brigaded and trampled by another that, as above, does not care about your mores or your rights or your well being or your state of mind or anything else beyond that and will direct as many death threats and revenge porn pictures towards you as their bandwidth permits. (Thanks, by the way, Twitter – even Reddit, a site which has swallowed the “valuable discourse” bollocks whole, tired of their group of awful pricks and did something to try and wall them off from the rest of their site, no matter how ineffective; why can’t you?)
Here is the real talk, for the US. This is going to get worse before it gets better and it will be a very painful process both ways. The incoming Trump administration is not “draining the swamp”, it is draining itself of decent public servants like Barack Obama (a man who, frankly, is too good for the US and is probably now fully aware of that fact, or should be) and refilling the empty pit that remains with discredited, corrupt pieces of shit like Newt Gingrich, a man so free of scruples he let his mistress suck his dick in a car parked out in front of his house with his wife inside. It has already undertaken to make several truly idiotic decisions, such as ceasing all trade with China and Japan – a move that threatens to further destabilise the world economy, and is already sending the Japanese Yen into freefall. Trump does not see the point of NATO, an organisation which has quite effectively kept the peace and keeps imperialism – actual imperialism – at bay, further increasing the chance of war and lessening stability. He doesn’t believe climate change exists, a truly baffling position to take given that so many parts of the US are so susceptible to it. The US is heading for the sort of introspective autarky that North Korea has made such a blinding success of, simply because its leader is a mentally-stunted clown who transparently believes that everything – everything – is a zero-sum game, where any benefit another country, faction, race, sexuality or party may derive is a loss to his own. His most vocal supporters are white supremacists and the alt-right (but I repeat myself), and they are practically frolicking with their new-found freedom to be pieces of shit without fear of censure since law enforcement overwhelmingly supports Trump. If someone voted for Trump, they cannot claim they didn’t vote for this, because they did. Trump is a package deal, and that package includes all of the above.
What about the UK? We’re fucked too, as I previously wrote about. The government has taken the line that the referendum must be followed through on, and does not care about the consequences because it is politically advantageous for them. We are going to be leaving the EU without a cushion to land on, and we have practically no means of making a “success” of Brexit as our Prime Minister repeatedly says, possibly since at this point she is plainly being wilfully deluded in the interests of expediency. Our best hope would be if we were to become a nation somewhat like Japan, but frankly our population is not as educated as theirs, we do not have the manufacturing capacity to have anywhere near their level of self-sufficiency, our culture is nowhere close to theirs and we do not have anywhere near the level of unique skills or must-have products that they do (I don’t see anyone particularly pining for the return of the Austin Allegro while the Nissans we make on Japan’s behalf get bought up in their thousands, nor are Pye TVs particularly wanted in comparison to Panasonic.) We are witnessing the rise of an ugly nationalism and a contempt for the democratic institutions that we urgently need, and a sense that these can and should be ignored if they don’t go with what some assumed majority wants – to the extent that this is stoked by economic factors this can only get worse. There is no mandate for any of this that is in any way defensible, and yet the referendum is being treated as the unalloyed voice of the people while ignoring the almost 50% (probably more, at this point) of the country who wanted nothing like what is happening now. We are also in the position of left-wing positions being instinctively seen as childish, unrealistic or just plain stupid, whereas right-wing ones are seen as adult, realistic, sane and inevitable even when they lead to poor outcomes, largely because our media and political agenda is set by right-wingers and even our less right-wing sources are not at all impervious to their sway. There is an opposition in the country that does actually have some rather good solutions, however whatever the right-wing media has done to discredit them is equally matched by how thoroughly they have discredited themselves through infighting, incompetence on the part of its leadership and a complete failure to realise that if centrism and triangulation didn’t fix things before, it certainly won’t now as politics becomes more polarised and less amenable to such things.
To conclude this somewhat unfocused screed, I have thoroughly had it up to here with this notion that what I really need to do is understand this supposed white working class anger that has the potential to lead to so much destruction and horror and then try and go from there. No and fuck you – I shouldn’t, because every single mote of outrage I have seen from this white working class has not been at anything that could be seen as a realistic cause for their indisputably poor lot in life, and they have clearly not been voting for or endorsing anyone that could help them; the anger has been vented at minorities and scapegoats and long-standing democratic institutions which are meant to ensure that no, “the people” (or whichever group I am supposed to assume represent “the people”) can’t have whatever moronic whim passes through their heads and that there are some principles more important than holding an election or a referendum and having whichever side wins rule the people who didn’t like kings. Principles like rule of law, the sovereignty of Parliament, judicial review, or for that matter not having peoples’ windows bricked because they’re not the right colour or because they either like genitals that are the same as theirs, have or wish they had ones different from the ones they were born with or both. Furthermore, I personally resent the idea that ignorance is somehow superior to knowledge, that ignorance even deserves to be given the same amount of thought or consideration as knowledge or that an ability and desire to think about things past a reflexive surface level makes you somehow elitist or even traitorous, and I am disturbed by the ever-growing cancerous idea that it is.
But as I say, we are too late, and this is hopeless. This genie is now thoroughly out of the bottle, a bell has been rung that cannot be un-rung, and we are all going to have to simply respond, react to and resist it as best as we possibly can, since there is no way now of actually halting it, only perhaps slowing it down, and the institutions that are supposed to protect democracy, pluralism and anyone who dares to be different from the norm are being undermined and infected. I can only hope, deeply, that fewer people suffer this time fascism surges than did last time.
I set myself, back in what was kind of shit but is compared to the post-June 23rd shitheap a glorious golden era, a target of writing three posts a week, minimum. That by now has fallen almost comically by the wayside. It says in the sidebar that new posts appear here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – in my defence, I never said anything about those Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays being consecutive.
I started this blog because, well, I’m interested in politics, and wanted to write about that in the hope that other people might actually find the shit I burble interesting or amusing on some level. I might not have a doctorate in political science, and the chances of me breaking any incredible stories any time soon are slim, but Christ can I swear. It’s more or less my only marketable talent. So there’s my opening – Owen Jones with the word “cunt”. The problem is that I have slowly but surely found myself not so much disillusioned with British politics but far too jaded and apathetic to actually do anything relating to it. It’s one of those things that I don’t especially want to pay all that much attention to because I find the whole thing just so incredibly depressing.
Honestly, I can scarcely find myself able to give any mind to the shit the government or anyone else does because as far as I can tell there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, there is only more tunnel, and at the end of THAT tunnel there may be a light, but it’s going to be the headlights of an oncoming train. The UK is completely and irredeemably fucked at this point; the government has, based on a slim margin in a referendum that it ultimately cannot ignore, decided that we must become a banana republic and that the political beliefs of the most dimwitted cretins in the population overrule all of the others. It has taken this as a mandate for regressive, backward, downright idiotic policies which make the incoherent babble that made for policy in the Cameron years look like the fucking New Deal. It can quite credibly take this as a mandate because the UK is a proud nation of morons, morons who are quite willing to ignore evidence and dismiss as scaremongering expert warnings, while simultaneously scaremongering themselves and encouraging fellow morons to go with their guts. Any opposition to this, any suggestion that we perhaps not completely kneecap our own economy and rewrite our constitution wholesale because of a marginal result in a referendum, or even that the slapdash pisstake of a constitution we currently have should apply to such things, is treated as if it was some kind of fascist usurping of democracy.
I simply cannot bring myself to actively think about this very much at all. It’s as if we’re in a bus heading for a cliff, and we know we are, and we know the cliff is very high and that the bottom of high cliffs and buses don’t end well, and all of our friends are standing outside the bus shouting NO STOP DON’T GO OVER THE CLIFF YOU FUCKING MANIACS IT’LL EXPLODE and yet the driver still has his foot resolutely on the accelerator because he’s made the calculation that 52% of the bus’ passengers will be his friend if he goes over the cliff. We’re not quite over the cliff yet; there’s a chance we could not go over, but enough people would consider not going over the cliff to be like the Enabling Act for us not to. This is our future. This is my future. I am genuinely fearful of what will happen here over the next few years, because I very much doubt anything good is going to transpire. I’ve felt depressed about the state of politics before, but I’ve never been worried that the entire concept of liberal democracy is dying before like I am now.
So that’s why I’m not writing very much. I’ve thought about writing more personal things but frankly very little of any interest happens in my life; I reread an older blog I wrote about personal things about 8 years ago and I woke myself up several posts in with my own snoring. Perhaps if after trying out being a pound shop Charlie Brooker and sucking dick at that, and then finding out I don’t have the mental stamina to be a pound shop Owen Jones, I’ll try my hand at music reviews to be a pound shop Mark Prindle then realise I’m shit at that too halfway through my first incoherent, meandering review of It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah which will be read by exactly zero people who I don’t share some amount of genetic material with, and exactly one person who I do. I apologise if you are one of the 26 followers I have on Facebook; not because of the lack of posts, just in general.
2016 really is the shittest year I could imagine.
I need to make an intervention here. Something needs to be said otherwise my head will explode, so here we go. Labour “moderate” MPs, for the umpteenth and final time:
The “Labour heartlands” do not trust Labour on immigration any more and never will again; stop being idiots and actually oppose something.
Look, I know that populist, nativist nonsense is on the ascendant, and is quite popular these days, and a lot of people who used to vote Labour now don’t because immigrants booga booga. That is why you need to actually oppose it and try and put across that it is dangerous, stupid and morally wrong to do things like having a list of companies that employ foreign workers, or use EU citizens currently here as pawns in our soon-to-be-hilarious failure of a “negotiation”, and try and make a good faith argument for what you actually believe – that immigration is good for the country or, at the very least, is not an automatic negative. That’s why we have parties, to argue different points of view. That’s why we have an opposition.
That policy, on lists of companies employing foreign workers, is something that is immediately obviously reckless and stupid if you think for more than two seconds about the implications for companies named on said lists; think about how organised the alt/far right are these days in being absolute shits to whatever classes of people they don’t like and then imagine they have access to a full listing of every company that employs foreigners. I’d give it two hours after publication before someone knocked up some site called Forg.nr or something similarly arseholish and Web 2.0 that allows you to search for nearby businesses employing migrants that have windows at a level you can throw bricks through, with a handy Google Map with lots of little national flags so you can direct your opprobrium as conveniently as possible; and that’s just my first, instinctive gut reaction to such an insane idea. It’d be like Deliveroo meets Kristallnacht.
I mean if it isn’t supposed to be a “list of shame”, as Amber Rudd insisted, what is it supposed to be? What is the point of publishing such a list if it’s not meant to make the sort of thicksicles that care about such things hunt through the list and take some sort of action against businesses that are on it, or at least think worse of the businesses that are on it? I could understand having the data – it’d be useful for the Government to have, but John Q Brexit down the street? Why the fuck should he have the right to know? It’s almost literally none of his business.
Seriously “moderates”, “Blairites”, whatever you’re called but you definitely include Chuka Umunna and Rachel “Like Enoch Powell but explicitly intellectually dishonest because at least he actually believed what he was saying” Reeves, if all you’re going to do in response to blatant xenophobia being espoused by our government on behalf of the thickest percentile of the population is spew handwringing apologetics about “being where the voters are”, in direct contradiction to what you previously said you believed repeatedly and at length, then what is the point of you and what is the point of an opposition putatively led by you? I know that the UK is currently angling to be the world’s premier Weimar Republic replica theme park, but if it’s alright with you I’d rather that the official opposition didn’t decide that it isn’t authentic enough and nod along with the nationalist bollocks on flagrant display because it might win back a few morons to the Labour fold? Please?
The question that never seems to be asked is whether Labour really should be where the voters are if the voters you’re thinking of are xenophobic nationalists, although we can only hazard a guess that the answer from Reeves et al is probably “yes”, although couched in some more apologetics about “legitimate concerns” or some such similar wank which is of the Apple Support insincere “I understand your frustration” mould. Once again, this is an example of the supreme cowardice of the “moderate” wing of the Labour Party, always so thoroughly unwilling to argue for a cause they believe in – even a cause they previously argued for bitterly – if the argument doesn’t give a big centrist wide-on to PNBs or their right wing cousins, the People With Very Real Concerns (i.e. xenophobes and racists). Duhh, making arguments for unpopular but right things is hard – better let Ukip win the argument so we can be in power to be better than them, even if by doing so we actually become the same and therefore no better. This is apparently called “being a moderate”, or as I like to call it “not having a fucking spine“.
Which brings me to my point I made above. Even if Labour does do this and decides to pivot to the right on immigration to capture the PWVRC vote, it will not work. The fact of the matter is that the PWVRCs, to a man, abandoned Labour because of its immigration policy, and the feeling of grievance that Labour didn’t care about their views on it because they blame it for all their ills. The Labour brand is, to such people, tainted now with the idea that Labour represents the abolishment of borders and the taking of jobs from British people to be done by foreigners for less money (neither are actually true, of course.) Why do these “moderates” think that such people are going to be swayed by a few sparse nationalist words, especially when so many of them have explicitly come out and said that it is being done for no other reason than as a nakedly political move to win back voters, and the people involved were both avowedly pro-EU and on the record as being in favour of freedom of movement, even if only in a reformed form (which they still wouldn’t be happy with)? Why do they think that Labour’s actual core vote (as I have argued repeatedly) of urban working and educated middle class people are not going to be repulsed by the same rhetoric? It’s both arrogant, in the sense that Labour feels entitled to these votes even if it does nothing to actually earn them, and patronising to the PWVRCs to assume that all it takes is a few platitudes about something Labour MPs transparently do not believe and they’ll come back like a dog having its name called. Or a whistle blown.
Of course, my sarcasm aside, the PWVRCs do have real concerns which they view through the prism of immigration; about public services, and a lack of employment opportunities, and a fundamentally unbalanced economy. The correct reaction to this is to put across the truth; that the issues with these things are not to do with Piotr coming over to be a plumber, but with structural problems that the Tories have either caused or made worse – the gutting of industry and abandonment of communities dependent upon it, welfare cuts which make life harder for those in poverty, repeated tax cuts on the better off feeding into a deficit that is used as an excuse to not fund services, companies ignoring the minimum wage due to lax enforcement, a minimum wage that is impossible to live on. Owen Jones, quite rightly, said he’d pointed this out some years ago; the issue is that Labour should have done this years ago too, and we are now dealing with the fallout a decade later. To an extent, it may be too late. However, that doesn’t mean that Labour shouldn’t try, or should just assume that it’s a lost cause. The stakes are far too high for our opposition to abandon the moral high ground; conversely, the stakes are high enough that the conversations need to be had and minds changed before it really is too late to stop this country finally sliding into the abyss. At least then, if they tried, they can at least take comfort that when this country finishes its descent into being an inward-looking xenophobic hellhole, it was despite their best efforts and not because it was the path of least resistance.
Here’s something that pisses me off that I’m going to write about, especially pertinent given that Jeremy Corbyn is leader of Labour still (who could have guessed that insulting the party membership as entryists and idiots could have entrenched his supporters and made him appear like an underdog even if he’s shit? Oh wait, me) is the line of argument about electability and trying to move towards where the votes are being the most important thing because without power, Labour can’t help people. This chafes my nutsack because it justifies promising essentially anything to anyone to get into power because of the promise of nebulous “help”. It also implies that this “help” is not something that would be negated by the promises you’ve made.
Let’s say someone “moderate” (doesn’t matter who) becomes Labour leader and wins an election while promising to significantly reform (i.e. dismantle) the welfare system, because the calculation has been made that parochial bellends in Nuneaton and other swing seats won’t vote for Labour unless it comes out swinging against those evil welfare dependents on their handouts. Hooray! Labour can now help people! But… weren’t the people that Labour was elected to “help” those same people who were on benefits out of necessity? And didn’t they just promise to do something about their being dependent on handouts? And aren’t those handouts the one thing keeping a lot of these people from starvation and stagnation? Errr…
Of course, one could make the case that Labour would “help” by creating jobs and therefore rebalancing the economy so fewer people had to be on welfare. But this isn’t what parochial Nuneaton bellends care about, they care about the handouts themselves because of a sense of grievance, and they won’t be placated by any wishy-washy “economics” or “long-term consequences”. They want the handouts gone – that’s what Labour promised. Therefore the handouts have to go, or be severely curtailed. The poor people that were supposedly to be helped by Labour being in power now face a shitty “reformed” welfare system and suffer.
We can see the further issues with this line of thinking now as the whole EU refrendum thing moves on and now the “moderate” position is that Labour should be against free movement because the parochial Nuneaton bellends (I’m just going to call them PNBs now and hope it catches on) and those imaginary heartlands don’t like the idea of the forruns coming over. We need to be where the electorate are so we can help people! We’ll help people by promising that we’ll come out swinging against freedom of movement even if we have to leave the single market! Wait, won’t leaving the single market crater the economy and cause a lot of damage to people? Errr…
The “Labour needs to be electable to help people” slogan is just a pithy way of putting a vaguely socialist spin on the same triangulating bollocks that got Labour its current reputation as a principle-free power-seeking group and a further product of the party’s clear failure to have an actual ideology to coalesce around and the complete unwillingness of many of its MPs to make a good-faith argument for something they know is right but unpopular. It can be used to justify any policy or any pandering which might potentially win Labour votes in swing seats or the mythical Northern “heartlands” by promising to Labour’s actual core of working and middle class urban voters that they’ll be helping people, even if by courting the aforementioned groups they’ll be pursuing policies that would hurt those same people. It is transparent bullshit of the most obvious kind, and anyone espousing it needs to realise that promising vague, undefined help to then be implemented by hurting others (or even those same people they claim to help) is not a trade-off many people wish to make, which is why Corbyn’s full-throated rejection of such obvious nonsense has become so popular. It’s also incredibly paternalistic and self-aggrandising, with the implication that if you don’t go along with this absurd game of “moving to the centre” (i.e. moving rightwards, because that’s where the political centre of gravity has moved) you’re condemning people to a life of misery under a Tory government, and the only way to “help” them is to elect centrists who are going to pander to the people who want all the nastiness a Tory government has to offer anyway.
This argument became most crystallised, and spouted on Twitter ad nauseam, during the leadership election. Cards on the table, had I been eligible I’d probably have voted for Owen Smith, if only because I’d prefer a damp rag that might conceivably be useful for some purpose to used bog roll. That said, I strenuously object to the idea that any putative vote I could have cast should have been done because of some self-regarding assessment of electability being the One True Way and anything which might put off some PNBs also being me damning already-poor people to a life of further poverty under a Tory jackboot. You can fuck right off if you intend to tell me, by implication, that I should be voting for your preferred candidate because otherwise some people will die poor and hungry.
This, incidentally, is not me saying that a centrist Labour government would be the same as or worse than a Tory government or any such other obvious nonsensical and deluded shit peddled by the sort of Corbyn fan who gives the rest of them a bad name (nor, for that matter, am I a fan of Corbyn in any meaningful sense). It is also not me saying that making unpopular stands is always courageous and right; blithering on about Trident and the Falklands, to pick two completely random examples, is far less productive and more of a dead end than defending the existence of a welfare system that involves cash handouts or our membership of the EU. Nor is it me saying that voting pragmatically is a wrong thing to do (it actually is in a binary two-party system like first-past-the-post – not so much when you’re formulating policy options for one of those parties, where there’s rarely only two choices of which one will always win). It is me saying that ends do not always justify means, especially when those ends are so ill-defined and the means are often directly opposed to the ends. It is also me saying that a Labour government being better for basically everyone than a Tory government does not justify any policy or any commitment with the Labour brand slapped on it.
Since I am still failing to summon the effort to talk about politics in any meaningful sense, I think it’s instructive to have a look at what Pete North, someone who has been vehemently against the EU for a very long time, has to say about the looming clusterfuck of trying to extricate ourselves from it:
We are told Brexit means Brexit but in truth the government has no way of satisfying the expectations of leavers without inflicting a good deal of unnecessary self-harm. People think we are leaving a European legal system but it isn’t that simple. We are stepping out of a partition and into a broader global legal system where we have to reconfigure our own laws while honouring legacy commitments and also being mindful that close cooperation is still a necessity for the normal functioning of business.
The leave campaign has caused a number of problems. They pretended that sunlit uplands were only a single bound away and that the alternative is instantly preferable to EU membership. It isn’t.
The thing is, I think Mr North, something of an inverse stopped clock (as in, I’ll be nodding along to a lot of what he says and then suddenly come to a screeching halt as I reach something I’m violently unhappy with) and me would probably agree more on this whole thing than I’d care to admit, despite my being a pinko lefty bastard. The principal difference is that I want us to stay in the EU and he doesn’t.
David Davis, Liam Fox and the other cretins currently in charge of trying to extract ourselves from the EU are singularly not up to the task of it. Unfortunately for them and for us, “get us out of Europe” is a nice enough slogan but one that can be spouted without having to acknowledge the fact that the UK is deeply, deeply integrated with the EU from almost the roots on up, and to yank ourselves out of that is at best something that needs to be done slowly and methodically, if it must be done at all. Having spent decades whinging about it and screaming about how we need to get out from under the federalist EU yoke, they have now discovered that it’s not simply a case of telling the frogs and the krauts to fuck off and then suddenly everything being wonderful, but that we do actually derive some benefit from the EU and more to the point those benefits would be keenly missed by any number of businesses and citizens. The whole thing is beginning to remind me of the joke that goes around regarding Bitcoin and libertarians; the best part of the Brexit shitheap is that we get to watch Brexiteers slowly discover why we were in the EU to begin with.
What little we have heard from the senior Brexit braintrust is, to put it mildly, not encouraging. David Davis’ idea of leaving the single market, with all of its myriad benefits to the UK, because some people are shit-scared of Poles and we can’t let them down in their myopic crusade to keep the forruns out, is one of the stupidest, most cracked-out concepts ever advanced by someone nominally in charge of a government department. Actively insulting businesses as lazy just because they should be seizing all the wonderful “opportunities” this unabashedly cretinous right turn in policy lays out in front of them like an Elizabethan banquet made of fried dog shit is the sort of thing you’d only do if you shouldn’t be in the cabinet to begin with, possibly because you were disgraced and ejected from it once before, like Liam Fox was. Both of those articles feature Theresa May distancing herself from those remarks, which leads to the exciting prospect that our sovereign government is about as organised and coherent as a creche full of meth-addicted chimpanzees – not to mention, as Alex “Right About Everything” Massie pointed out, one that is overtly nationalist and has a strange idea that businesses exist to somehow serve the state by making leaving the EU a success. If you think it’s bad now, wait until the “lazy and fat” ones are British workers, dragging down Brexit by expecting reasonable wages for their work and making the UK less competitive – you’ll love that.
So it turns out I can actually be motivated to write about politics. It’s just that our government has to be turned into a fucking clown car in order for that to happen. Isn’t this year just great?
Due to various personal bits and pieces (mostly good) I’ll be posting a bit less for a little bit. That looking at politics in 2016 is like looking down a chasm of despair and seeing that there is actually a bottom only to see a video of your own imminent death projected onto it is completely besides the point. I’m sure, all else considered, I could summon the effort to write about how having a non-EU immigrant for a partner (like I do) is going to get immeasurably worse under the new government headed by a person who’d have put them into camps if anyone would have let her and it would have dissuaded a couple of foreign students from coming to the UK.
Yeah, not depressing at all.
Here’s a video of a cute fox.
Paddy Ashdown has launched More United, an ultimately well-meaning attempt to gain a coalition of liberal-minded voters to fund liberal-minded MPs which is going to crash and burn like an airliner made of cake without achieving anything of note. Here are the reasons why this is so:
- More United’s purpose is to fund candidates who agree with and say they will implement their principles when in office. These principles include a “fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services” and an “open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms”. Leaving aside that basically everyone who isn’t in Ukip or the SWP wants those things, what these principles essentially are is a paraphrase of fundamental Liberal Democrat ideology.
Not wishing to be a negative Nancy here, but if you want to support Liberal Democrat aims and values, have you ever considered the Liberal Democrats? They’re quite big on Liberal Democrat policies, are the Liberal Democrats. Even better, you can vote for them and if their candidates win then they’ll be a unified voting bloc in Parliament, unlike if you were voting for Labour, Lib Dem, Green or whoever candidates who if they were elected could well be whipped against each other, non-binding pledges to third parties aside.
Let me say it as I see it – it’s founded by Paddy Ashdown and it’s encouraging people to sign a pledge relating to distilled Lib Dem policies. It’s a Lib Dem front. There’s no real shame in that, but that’s how I see it and I don’t know how more obvious it could be. It’s also worth pointing out that Labour moderates (a group whose disaffected members are the clearest targets of this) and the Lib Dems come from totally different ideological viewpoints even if they arrive at the same conclusions, so they’re not all that compatible except in a very shallow sense.
- It’s not even clear whether More United is compatible with party membership. The organisation itself isn’t a party, but by donating to it you would, according to the group’s aims, funding the electoral campaigns of candidates across multiple parties. Political parties are, understandably, tetchy about you endorsing other candidates if you’re a member of theirs; Labour, for instance, has the following in their rule book:
Chapter 2, Clause 1, 4B. A member of the party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, can revoke your membership on the grounds of “membership of or support for another political party in Great Britain“. Of course, being a member/supporter of More United doesn’t mean you are directly supporting another party’s candidate (your £5 or whatever doesn’t knowingly go directly to the coffers of a named candidate of an opponent party to whichever one you’re part of) but it’s still got the aim of donating to candidates who sign up to a pledge regardless of what party they are part of, which I could definitely understand various bodies in various parties not wanting to condone. If I give a friend naked pictures of myself to distribute to my girlfriend and a number of other women besides her, I do not then get to argue to my girlfriend that I’ve not distributed nudes to other women, my mate did after I gave them to him.
I’ll also have blinded numerous innocent women, but that’s by the by.
But anyway, my strange analogy aside, you can by all means sign up to More United; but there’s a non-zero chance that you’ll lose your party card. Labour MP Jess Phillips has signed up as an early member; let’s see how that plays out.
- Even if you sign up to More United, and it supports lots of candidates, and those candidates win, there is absolutely nothing binding those candidates to vote in line with More United’s principles. Political parties have whips. They can whip their MPs to vote in accordance to their party’s wishes and discipline or sanction them if they don’t. A pledge to a random organisation that isn’t the party you’re a member of the parliamentary party of is worth jack shit in the scheme of things. How is this going to achieve anything?
- Even if More United’s candidates win, assuming that they’re a patchwork of different parties (Labour, Lib Dem, Green etc), then related to point 3 there is nothing saying that they will have to work in concert. They can be whipped against each other. A putative “More United” majority would most likely end up being a coalition of Labour and the Lib Dems. Doesn’t sound too horrible, but there’s also no guarantee of such a thing (especially since, as noted, the two are ideologically at odds in numerous ways).
So here we have a group that, while well-intended, has very broadly written principles which, while being so, almost literally paraphrase a single party’s central ethos; could possibly lead to you getting chucked out of any party you’re currently in; means basically nothing since party whips can overrule it; and wouldn’t result in any kind of meaningful coalition. Sounds like a great idea. I’m sure it will achieve all sorts of great things.
Sorry, but if you want to split off the centre lefties from Labour into a (second) social democratic party, that can then ally or merge with the Lib Dems, as is the only real viable option for the party as it flays itself apart like a chicken in a centrifuge, then fucking do it already and do it properly. This pisspoor half-compromise, while again completely well-meaning and utterly inoffensive on the face of it, is just pointless. It’s something you can sign up to to make you feel good about yourself for a moment about how you’re standing up for a liberal Britain. It will achieve nothing and go nowhere.