Big bumbler is watching you

 

© Jersey Evening Post

 

Last week I was doing a job in southern Colombo, which entailed making a journey by taxi for 45 minutes either way in the city’s dense, slow-moving morning and evening traffic.  Having to spend an hour and a half in the back of a taxi each day meant I had time to do some reading.  I finished reading one book on Thursday and on Friday morning I started a new one, Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (1936).  It began:

 

It was a cold grey day in late November.  The weather had changed overnight, when a hacking wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.  It would be dark by four.”

 

If you changed ‘late November’ to ‘mid-December’, the above paragraph would serve as a good metaphor for the state of my soul that Friday morning.  It too was cold, grey, hacking, mizzling, pallid, wintry and dark.  For I had peeked at the BBC’s news website just before leaving my apartment and seen that the exit polls for the British general election, held the day before, were predicting a massive victory for Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party,

 

However, as the final results came through and confirmed the predictions of the polls, I found myself thinking not of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn but of a novel published 13 years later: George Orwell’s 1984.

 

I recalled the lies, lies and more lies that’d poured, lyingly, from the lying mouth of lying liar Boris Johnson – lies about ‘getting Brexit done’ in a matter of weeks when the negotiations were likely to last for years, lies about his Brexit deal not necessitating a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom when it very obviously would, lies about providing 50,000 more nurses, 6000 more doctors and 20,000 more police officers without raising any taxes.  And yet a great swathe of the British voting public had swallowed his baloney.  I was reminded of the line in 1984 that went: “For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four?  Or that the force of gravity works?  Or that the past is unchangeable?  If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?

 

Then there’s the whole contradiction of having a creature like Johnson as prime minister – an office you’d think would require some minimum thresholds of wisdom, gravitas and decency.  There’s nothing in Johnson’s life story that suggests he crosses any of those thresholds.  Not his Droog-like behaviour with the notorious Bullingdon Club at Oxford University.  Not his promise to supply his old school chum (and future convict) Darius Guppy with the home address of journalist Stuart Collier so that Guppy could have Collier beaten up.  Not his journalistic career at the Times, which ended when he was discovered to have fabricated a quote.  Not the abuse he’s heaped on blacks, Muslims, homosexuals and unmarried mothers in the opinion pieces he’s written for the Spectator and Daily Telegraph – insulting single mothers is a bit rich of him, considering he may have left a few single mums behind in his own gallivanting, shag-happy wake.  Not his uselessness as Foreign Secretary, which resulted in the continued incarceration of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff in Iran.  Not his chumminess with the far-right American master-strategist and horror-show Steve Bannon.

 

Yet despite the mass of evidence to the contrary, Johnson managed to convince a sufficient number of British people that he was prime ministerial material.  As 1984 muses:  “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting them.”  Or more bluntly: “Ignorance is strength.”

 

Needless to say, it did Johnson’s cause no harm that his main opponent in this election was the somnolent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.  I didn’t have any beef with Corbyn’s social policies but he promoted them with as much passion and charisma as a plank of wood.  He also came hideously unstuck with the main issue of the election, Brexit.  His party’s Brexit policies were nebulous and obviously designed to let Labour fence-sit and avoid tough questions, so that they wouldn’t alienate potential voters on either side of the argument.  As it turned out, Brexiteers voted for the Tories and Remainers voted for the Liberal Democrats (who were then crucified by Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system), leaving Labour with the worst of both worlds.  Corbyn’s crapness at addressing serious charges of antisemitism made against members and sections of his party worsened the situation even more.

 

When the scale of their defeat dawned on them, Corbyn and his lieutenants were quick to blame the unremittingly hostile coverage they’d received in Britain’s mainstream media.  There’s no doubt that the majority of the newspapers – owned largely by billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers and the 4th Viscount Rothermere, men whose ambition in life is to pay as little tax as possible or no tax at all – are excretable right-wing rags that were never going to give Corbyn a fair hearing.  Actually, if Corbyn was responsible for a tenth of the misdemeanours that Johnson’s responsible for, you would have heard the outraged screams of the Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express from the moon.  But that’s still not an excuse.  After all, the Scottish National Party have next to zero support among the newspapers on sale in Scotland, yet that didn’t stop them getting excellent results on Friday.

 

It says something about Corbyn’s inadequacy that he failed to score against Johnson even though Johnson ran an election campaign so terrible it made that of his predecessor in 2017, Theresa May, look accomplished.  He chickened out of being interviewed by the BBC’s bear-like inquisitor-in-chief Andrew Neil, although all the other party leaders submitted themselves to grillings from Neil.  He actually hid in a giant refrigerator to avoid questions from Piers Morgan.  (Admittedly, if Piers Morgan tried to talk to me, I’d probably run away and hide in a fridge too, but then I’m not campaigning to become prime minister.)  He grabbed a mobile phone from a journalist and pocketed it so that the journalist couldn’t show him a photo of a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on a hospital floor.  And whenever he did muster the courage to do interviews, he just rambled incoherently and incontinently.  His performance was dire.

 

Predictably, a few days before the vote, with the polls suggesting that his lead over Labour might be shrinking, Johnson went into panic mode and started bleating about EU nationals living in Britain who treated it “as though it’s basically part of their own country” – unashamed anti-immigrant dog-whistling, intended to get the racist low-life among the population out voting for him on the day.  And it’s no surprise either that far-right midget Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or ‘Tommy Robinson’ as he likes to call himself, announced after the election that he’d joined the Conservatives.

 

So that’s it.  A man who’s crafted an image of himself as a harmless, bumbling idiot but, underneath the slapstick, is as devoid of moral character and as nasty a piece of work as Donald Trump, now has the power to do whatever he wants with Britain for the next five years.  Brexit is definitely happening.  The framework of EU regulations that once ensured things like wage-levels, health and safety and the environment got some consideration will soon be swept away.  Boris Johnson and his right-wing cadre will proceed with their disaster-capitalism project, which is to turn Britain into a deregulated, lowest-common-denominator Airstrip One – and Sweatshop Two, and Tax Haven Three.

 

To return to 1984 and paraphrase George Orwell: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a clown-shoe stamping on a human face – forever.”

 

From wikipedia.org

 

Killer Jo

 

From evolvepolitics.com

 

It’s fair to say I’m not enjoying the current British general election campaign, especially not with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives showing a consistent and sizeable lead in the opinion polls – a whopping 19% lead over the Labour Party according to the latest Opinium poll commissioned by the Observer newspaper.  I mean, for God’s sake.  It’s Boris Johnson.  A man with a proven record of being a liar, a racist and an idiot.  Donald Trump’s comedy English butler.  And yet a majority of the Great British public are willing to entrust him again with the keys to Number 10.  Is the country being swept by a virus that turns people’s brains to mince?

 

Still, the campaign has had one silver lining.  It’s shown Jo Swinson, who’s been Member of Parliament for Dunbartonshire East for 12 of the last 14 years and who became leader of the Liberal Democrats amid much fanfare in July this year, to be a busted flush.

 

Swinson belongs to the political tradition of former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – and by extension that of Tony Blair, David Cameron and George Osborne.  It’s the tradition of the privileged and entitled, the oily and smooth, the professional politicians and suited technocrats whose unspoken maxims are “We know best” and “Leave everything to us.”  Osborne referred to practitioners of this particular style of politics as ‘The Guild’ and it was nicely described by commentator Chris Deerin in a piece in the Sunday Post last weekend: “These guys were masters of the soundbite, of the polished promise that was in reality no such thing…  They operated to a kind of professional political code: pledge A, which voters liked, when you really intended to deliver B, which they were less keen on; spin the media; control and beguile the national debate. Calculation, misdirection, cynicism.”

 

Swinson, who graduated from the London School of Economics in 2000, who was running for parliament as early as 2001, and whose real-life (i.e. non-political) working experience was restricted to a couple of years in marketing and public relations, obviously believed her destiny wasn’t to remain among the ranks of the great unwashed but to rule over them with the same glib condescension as Blair, Cameron and co.  Predictably, there have been massive disconnections between the platitudes that have come out of her mouth and the things she’s actually done in her political career.  Yet we, the oiks, are supposed to be too dazzled by her rhetoric, too awed by her wonderfulness or just too thick to notice.

 

In the run-up to this election she’s positioned the Liberal Democrats as the great anti-Brexit party.  Indeed, she’s declared that they would cancel Article 50 and do away with Brexit altogether.  How ironic, then, that she served as Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs in the coalition government that her then-leader Nick Clegg formed with David Cameron in 2010.  Clegg, Swinson and their Liberal Democrat comrades enabled Cameron to become Prime Minister and his premiership resulted in the Brexit referendum six years later.  They also played a role in implementing Cameron’s policies of austerity that, by 2016, had left a large part of the population so disgruntled that they voted for Brexit as a way of raising a middle finger to the establishment.

 

Incidentally, back in 2008, Swinson declared in Parliament that her party “would like to have a referendum on the major issue of whether we are in or out of Europe,” which also makes a nonsense of her stance on the issue now.

 

Her record during the Cameron-Clegg coalition makes damning reading – especially for someone who spoke to the Guardian at the start of this year about how “we need to radically change things and have much more equality.”  She refused to ban zero-hour contracts and was reluctant about increasing the minimum wage.  She supported the massive increase in university tuition fees even though, famously, her party had previously vowed not to increase them.  Welfare cuts, the bedroom tax, reducing corporation tax – she backed them all.  And the enthusiasm she expressed in the Mail on Sunday last year about erecting a statue of Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square doesn’t suggest someone with much respect for ‘equality’, either.

 

She’s yakked on about introducing green taxes and promoting energy conservation.  Yet as her Wikipedia entry notes, her environmental credentials are tarnished by the fact that between 2017 and 2018 she “received political funding from Mark Petterson, the director of Warwick Energy Ltd, which has fracking licences across England” and she “has also voted against plans to ban fracking in the UK.”

 

Mind you, I don’t think the earth’s environment can be that important to Swinson, given her recent professed keenness for launching nuclear missiles, vaporising tens of thousands of people and damning hundreds of thousands of others to lingering deaths from radiation sickness – and presumably triggering a nuclear winter that’d hardly help the planet’s wellbeing.  “Would you ever be prepared to use a nuclear weapon?” an interviewer asked her.  “Yes,” she replied without an iota of hesitation.  Swinson, of course, is eager to tilt her party towards the right in the hope she can hoover up a few votes among Brexit-opposing Conservatives.  Hence her nuclear machismo, her presenting of herself as ‘Killer Jo’.

 

Actually, should Boris Johnson and his party find themselves short of an overall majority in the next parliament, it wouldn’t surprise me if Swinson follows the example of her old master Nick Clegg and plugs the Liberal Democrats into another coalition with the Tories.  We don’t get a Bojo government then, but a Bo / Jo one.

 

A fair number of jibes have been fired at Swinson about things such as her manner (which is like that of the officious, full-of-herself prefect or head girl who used to get on your wick at school) and her accent (which is sometimes weirdly anonymous and at other times sounds like Miss Jean Brodie gargling phlegm).  This has prompted some of her supporters to complain that people only make nasty remarks about her because she’s a woman.  Well, for me, it isn’t a matter of sexism.  I dislike her almost as much as I dislike Johnson not because she’s a woman but because she’s a patronising shyster with the disreputable track record that I’ve described in the paragraphs above.  Incidentally, female politicians like Diane Abbot and Nicola Sturgeon have received industrial amounts of abuse on social media over the years but I can’t remember any of Swinson’s defenders expressing indignation about that.

 

Anyway, even though it became airborne only four months ago, the Swinson bubble seems to be bursting already.  Her party have sunk in the opinion polls and she was dreadful on the BBC’s party-leaders’ edition of Question Time last Thursday, which is ironic considering that she’d threatened legal action against ITV when they’d excluded her from their debate, and limited it to Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, a few days earlier.

 

As one wit commented on Twitter following the Swinson meltdown, “Lib-Dems now considering legal action against the BBC for allowing Jo Swinson to take part in tonight’s debate.”