“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain”. This quote is, possibly mistakenly, attributed to Winston Churchill. In the 21st century perhaps we should swap Labour for Liberal.
I was left wing when I was young. I had ideals of fraternity and equality. As I aged, I veered to the right. I started to understand that economic is real; that the government has no money except the money we give it; that ultimately it is us that pays for everything.
In the early years I agreed with Thatcher’s privatisations. Why should the state own industry? But as Thatcher’s changes gained traction and as New Labour mimicked and exaggerated her ideology I found myself disgusted with the whole hyper-commercial edifice which was Britain. During the Thatcher years I recall seeing a TV play about “the future” where kids sold electricity to their parents. I thought this ridiculous but this can now happen. If one buys one’s electricity and gas from Utility Warehouse one can earn money buy introducing new customers.
Britain has sold its soul for cafe latte and I find myself moving back to the Left. I want my society to have a sense of community. I want my society to look after the poor and infirm. I want the streets to belong to people and not be just an advertising platform for corporations. I want to roll back the privatisation of public space. My culture should be lived not used to sell trinkets to coach loads of tourists.
I return to my left wing ideals but, depressingly, find that the leaders of the left are either shits, idiots or delusional. I have come to the conclusion that the Left in Britain do not really want to raise up the working class. They do not really want to change society. Instead they are content to be the eternal griping dependents of the Tory elite who they claim to despise.
Today I stumbled across the web site of the The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. The strap line on their web site is: “No to Cuts and Privatisation! Make the Bosses pay!”.
“Make the bosses pay”.
Not “let’s take control!”. Not “let’s change the way Britain works”. No, let’s just cadge a bit of lolly off the toffs. They’ll still be in charge but at least we’ll get a couple of pints and a bag of chips. The cardinal attributes of the British left is not empowered leadership. It is not optimistic energy. The cardinal attribute of the British left is a bitter determination to squeeze the rich and a heartless obsession with control.
In the 90s New Labour were content to leave the capitalist system intact, milking it for funds, while planning more and more idiot schemes to micromanage our lives. Some of the schemes favoured by the last Labour government were: the militarisation of the civil servants who man our border control, identity cards, satellite tracking of cars by the state, mass interception of emails, presumed consent to remove organs for transplantation, holding people for 48 days without charge, a DNA database for whole population and ubiquitous CCCTV.
On the 14th April I listened to BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions and someone asked: “Should cigarettes come in plain packets and would it make a health difference?”. The Secretary of State for Justice and former director of British American Tobacco, Ken Clarkek, spoke first (0:38:18) and said “people now understand the dangers” and went on to say “the point at which you so police somebody else’s wellbeing that your are prepared to order them, put penalties on them, if they wont stop doing something which you think they shouldn’t do is a step one should take cautiously”.
When it was Labour MP, Harriet Harman’s turn to speak (0:42:12) she lectured us at length about the dangers of smoking. She explained that it causes heart and lung decease. This patronising tirade epitomised the attitude of left wing politicians. They can talk for hours about stuff that, as Ken Clark pointed out, we already know. They arrogantly assume that they are more informed than we are. They consider that the warn out cliches which they trot out are pearls of wisdom to the ignorant masses. They cannot conceive that we may have heard all of this before yet reached a different conclusion because our values are based on individual liberty.
The root cause of the British political dichotomy is probably the British class system. The toffs are indoctrinated in special schools to have unjustified self confidence. They believe that they are born to rule and so they find ruling easy. They do not have to be competent, they just have appear confident because we, the working class, still have an ingrained and erroneous respect for toffs.
You deny it but you do! We all do. We may hate the middle class middle manager but we love the eccentric old toff. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who, General Mike Jackson in The Balkans. When British troops went into Iraq Colonel Tim Collins gave a speech and said: “…Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there…”. We loved it. We lapped it up. We British are romantics. We listen to these well educated, confident men and we sneer at the egalitarian Americans. We British are content to send our sons to die on the other side of the world as long as we have some Eton educated idiot fill our heads full of romantic nonsense. “Play up! play up! and play the game!” It is our pride and our curse.
Of course the Thatcher years were supposed to change all this. We were told that we were upwardly mobile. The factories were closed and we were sold cheap suits and sent to work in offices. We were now middle class.
Yes, we’ve had a bath and are materially better off but we office wallahs are still working class. We still talk of nothing but football. We still ridicule education, imagination and individuality. “They hate you if your clever and they despise a fool”. We go on Britain’s Got Talent and tell the pundits that we want to express our individuality but we do it by copying every other fucker who wants to express their individuality.
At heart we still respect the toffs and we still need them to tell us what to do. Crucially, we still prefer to swing the lead rather than get off our arses and take control. The toffs are afraid of hard work while the working classes think that being in charge is too difficult and prefer to throw a sicky.
The status quo has existed for centuries and, rather than upsetting it, the left just shout and scream and demands concessions. Rather than reducing the working class to abject poverty the elite throw us a treat now and then to stop us from rising up and doing any real damage.
After a 13 year run by Labour finishing with a plunge into the biggest economic fuck up since World War 2 Labour turned on a sixpence and reverted to demanding that the government stop the cuts. The working class fell for this nonsense and people, who were not politically aware during the Thatcher years, are now expressing hatred of the Tories. Yet where were these hypocrites during the New Labour years? Where were these charlatans when New Labour wanted to introduce super casinos, built by large American corporations, in areas of deprivation with the ludicrous excuse that this would provide jobs?
Ah, but the left attracts idealists and romantics. This week I heard a great old song on the radio: “Letter From America” by The Proclaimers. According to Wikipedia The Proclaimers are socialists and the background for this song is that Thatcher had shut down Scotland and people were all leaving for America. Great song. Great sentiment.
But hang on. Thatcher is blamed for creating mass unemployment right? So the poor Scottish people were forced to emigrate to another country which, presumably, was not run according to a heartless capitalist ideology. Well great. So, which country did they choose? Cuba? Ukraine? North Korea? No, they chose The United States of America. A country which considers universal health care to be communism.
The next British general election is due in May 2015 and I doubt that the economy will have recovered by then and so Labour will probably get back in. Though most of the leaders of New Labour conveniently slipped away before the shit hit the fan there were more than enough lackeys to grasp the reins of power. So when Labour do get in they will doubtless manage the economy as badly as before.
Is the situation hopeless then? Are we British doomed to alternate between Tory and Labour. Are we condemned to eternally stagger from boom to bust? Shat on by Tories, shoveled up by Labour.
There is hope. Other countries manage to combine competent financial and economic management with liberal social polices and they are just a quick hop over the North Sea. Perhaps Scandinavia is a model for Britain’s future?
First we need to ditch the class system which underpins the oscillating nature of British politics and even here the left are too stupid to make progress. When Tony Blair had the chance he botched the House Of Lords reform instead stuffing it full of cronies. Now the Liberals are trying to introduce elections and Labour are using the occasion for political point scoring. They think that parliament is too busy sorting out the debt crisis to worry about reform. Over 600 MPs sitting on their arses all day in the Palace of Westminster can’t handle two things at once? As usual Labour are TALKING BOLLOCKS. Labour should support reform of the House of Lords and once that is out of the way they should start thinking about reducing the power of the monarchy. Notice I don’t suggest abolition as I consider the continuity provided by the monarchy to be useful.
And there is the real problem. We British cling to the past and are not brave enough to strike out for something new. But change is coming. Recent immigrants to Britain don’t fall for this working class romanticism drivel and Scottish independence may be less than a decade away. Perhaps the break up of the United Kingdom will be the kick up the arse that the British need?