The Corbynite maneouvre

 

From knowyourmeme.com

 

Two steps forward, two steps back.  That’s how I feel about Jeremy Bernard Corbyn, Member of Parliament for Islington North, cyclist, allotment gardener, pescatarian, supporter of Arsenal Football Club, keen photographer of decorative manhole covers, and leader of the UK Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition in Westminster.

 

Apart from a few occasions in the past when ultra-lefty stupidity has got the better of him and he’s expressed sympathy for some dodgy Irish and Middle Eastern terrorist organisations, I don’t think Corbyn is a bad bloke – certainly not as politicians go.  Indeed, I think most of his views about where British society and the world generally ought to be heading are sane ones.

 

(Please note that I’m talking about Jeremy Corbyn, not necessarily about all members of the Labour Party.  And I’m certainly not talking about the Scottish branch of the Labour Party whom, as I’ve said before on this blog, I regard mostly as a bunch of diddies whose gigantic sense of entitlement is in inverse proportion to their abilities.)

 

For instance, I cheered when Corbyn responded to a recent Twitter pronouncement by Donald Trump.  (‘Pronouncements’ hardly seems the best word for Trump’s Twitter output.  ‘Emissions’?  ‘Discharges’?)  Referring to a demonstration calling itself NHS in Crisis: Fix it Now that’d recently taken place in London and drawn thousands of marchers, President Brainless Blabbermouth Baldy-locks tweeted on February 5th that the demo was evidence of a universal, free-on-the-point-of-delivery healthcare system not working and evidence why nothing similar should be attempted in the USA: “The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working…  No thanks!”

 

(This came after Trump had watched Nigel Farage on his main news source, the loony right-wing Fox News network.  Farage, whom Fox would have you believe is the only British person with an opinion on the planet, had been spouting off about how Britain’s NHS was at ‘breaking point’ and how this was all the fault of beastly immigrants.  Predictably, shit-gibbon Farage sidestepped the fact that 12.5% of NHS staff in England are non-British nationals, i.e. immigrants.)

 

Of course, the London demonstration was really in support of Britain’s National Health Service and its principles; and was protesting at what the organisers, the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, saw as Theresa May’s Conservative government’s underfunding of it and insidious moves to push parts of it towards privatisation.  Jeremy Corbyn responded to Trump’s tweet and nailed its dishonesty: “Wrong. People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. Healthcare is a human right.”

 

From youtube.com

 

My attitude towards Corbyn is like that old catchphrase from The X-Files: “I want to believe.”  Yet despite his good points, he’s repeatedly left me feeling annoyed, frustrated and let-down because of his determined obfuscation about another issue, the none-too-trivial one of Britain quitting the European Union.  With Corbyn at its helm, the Labour Party seems happy just to bob along in the Conservatives’ slipstream on this.  Indeed, Corbyn imposed a three-line whip in the House of Commons to make his MPs vote in favour of the activation of Article 50, which triggered the whole sorry process of Brexit.

 

And can anyone make sense of Corbyn’s position on whether or not Britain should have membership of the EU’s Single Market (like non-EU-members Norway and Switzerland) or Customs Union (like Turkey)?  Corbyn and his Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer have been contradicting each other, and themselves, about this for months.  Their incoherence on the matter has been, well, Trumpian.

 

It was especially maddening that Corbyn missed an open goal at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, after some Treasury forecasts about the dire economic impact of Brexit on the UK found their way onto Buzzfeed.  Rather than raising the matter and using it as a rhetorical machete to reduce Theresa May to sashimi, he chose to bang on about policing and law and order instead.

 

Why has Corbyn has been so vague in his Brexit policies and so toothless about Brexit when confronting the Tories?  Well, first, I suppose Corbyn thinks it makes sense to keep schtum about the topic while the Conservative government is making such a spectacular hash of the Brexit negotiations and while pro and anti-EU factions in the Conservative party are busy eviscerating each other.  (See Anna Soubry’s recent outburst against Jacob Rees Mogg, the new champion of the Brexiting Tory right and a man who looks like the result of a sinister experiment splicing together DNA from Lord Snooty and Dr Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow in Batman).  Why shouldn’t he just sit back and let his opponents get on with destroying themselves?

 

Second, many pro-EU Labour MPs are in the uncomfortable position of having to represent constituencies in Labour’s English heartlands where a majority of people voted for Brexit.  No wonder a lot of Labour politicians, including Corbyn, prefer to bite their tongues about it.

 

And third, I’m pretty sure that Corbyn, for all his endorsements of a ‘remain’ vote before the 2016 Brexit referendum, doesn’t really like the EU that much.  In fact, he’s been anti-Europe at various times in the past – he opposed Britain’s membership of the then-EEC in the 1975 European Communities Referendum, opposed the Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s and opposed the Lisbon Treaty in the 2000s.  I doubt if his attitude differs much from that of his old left-wing guru the late Anthony Wedgewood Benn, who once claimed that “Britain’s continuing membership of the (European) Community would mean the end of Britain as a completely self-governing nation.”

 

© New Statesman

 

By ducking Brexit, Corbyn no doubt reckons he’s doing the right thing by his own beliefs and doing the wise thing by political expediency.  But I suspect it’s a policy that’s going to end in tears, especially if it entails the Labour Party sitting on their hands until it’s too late.  For one thing, those Treasury forecasts make horrendous reading and Labour areas – ones that, paradoxically, voted most enthusiastically for Brexit – are predicted to take the worst economic hits.  The UK generally is expected to see a 2% decline in economic growth under the very best-case scenario, which would be remaining in the Single Market, and an 8% decline under the worst-case one, which would be quitting the EU with no deal at all.  However, the figures range between a 3% decline and an eyewatering 16% one in what’s predicted to be the worst-affected area, England’s North-East.

 

Anyone who’s read Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine (2007) must be wondering if an economically-traumatised post-Brexit Britain is being lined up for a strong dose of disaster capitalism; whereby its resources, assets and public services get flogged off in a fire-sale to piratical corporations, oligarchs and free-marketeers by a government desperately trying to pay the bills.  The NHS would surely be top of the auction-list.  At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, it took Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats – remember them? – to raise the scary prospect of American firms taking over chunks of the NHS if Britain has to wheedle a post-Brexit trade deal out of the Trump administration.  Typically, May refused to give any guarantees.  This possibility, combined with potential losses among the NHS’s non-British workforce, suggests that the venerable institution is heading for a horror-story ending.

 

For old Jeremy, these Corbynite manoeuvres around – and avoiding – Brexit might make sense.  But I fear they may well spell disaster for his beloved NHS and for the country as a whole.

 

Knobhead of the Year

 

If 2016 hadn’t been so stomach-churningly hideous, there would’ve been only one serious contender for the title of Knobhead of the Year.  Donald Trump, a man with the IQ of lichen, the charisma of diarrhoea and the moral compass of Beelzebub, was elected 45th president of the United States on November 8th.  He didn’t actually win the election, since he garnered 2.83 million fewer votes than his main opponent.  But fortunately for him the US electoral college system proved to be as demented and rotten as he was.

 

However, 2016 was also the year when a majority of Britons voted for Brexit, their brains apparently reduced to mush by the grisly Brexit cheerleading of people like Conservative MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and then-UKIP leader Nigel Farage.  And it’s the third of this venal triumvirate, Farage, whom I think out-Trumps even Trump in the 2016 knobhead stakes.

 

© Daily Mirror

 

Farage’s antics during the past year have included, a month before the Brexit vote, the launching of a campaign poster depicting hundreds of traumatised Syrian refugees queuing to get into Slovenia with the slogan BREAKING POINT emblazoned on it and the insinuation that all these scary brown-skinned people would soon be invading Britain if it remained in the EU.  The poster bore a chilling resemblance to a clip of old Nazi propaganda that ranted about undesirables flooding “Europe’s cities after the last war… parasites, undermining their host countries.”

 

The Monday after the Brexit vote he got up in the European Parliament – an institution he’s been a member of for the last 20 years without, it’s fair to say, doing much in the way of work – and told his fellow MEPs, “I know that virtually none of you have never (sic) done a proper job in your lives.”  Seen facepalming behind Farage was Lithuanian MEP Vytenis Andriukaitis, whose useless, proper-job-free life had seen him growing up during the Stalin era in exile in the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, overcoming such unpromising beginnings to qualify as a cardiac surgeon and eventually being a co-signatory of the act re-establishing Lithuania as an independent state.

 

From abc.net.au

 

Farage rounded off 2016 in similar classy style by attacking Brendan Cox – husband of Jo Cox, the late Labour Party MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, a pro-European and pro-refugee politician who was murdered shortly before the Brexit vote by a right-wing terrorist called Thomas Mair.  Referring to Hope Not Hate, an organisation campaigning against far-right militant groups that’s supported by Cox and funded by a foundation set up in his wife’s name, Farage said: “He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”  Hope Not Hate have demanded an apology from Farage for this slur, but I’m not holding my breath about them getting one.

 

But for me what clinches Farage’s status as a truly vile human being is his relationship with the US President-elect.  Trump is the equivalent of the loud malevolent playground bully who blighted your childhood.  But there was always one kid who was more detestably obnoxious than that – the slimy little sneak who grovelled before and sucked up to the bully, hoping to attain a smidgeon of his aura of cruel power.  And since it became clear that Trump was going to be the most powerful man on the planet, Farage has been doing a good impersonation of the slimy little sneak, scurrying across the Atlantic to do some major sucking up to the gruesome orange-skinned tycoon.

 

According to Farage, Trump is “full of good ideas”.  He’s confident he “will be a good president” – not like his White House predecessor, whom Farage has described as a “creature” and a “loathsome individual”.  Mind you, Farage also thought Trump was creature-like, though in a positive sense.  After one of Trump’s presidential debates with Hillary Clinton, he admiringly likened him to “a big silverback gorilla prowling the studio”.  Meanwhile, Trump managed to remember who Farage is long enough to tweet that many British people would like to see him “as their ambassador to the United States.  He would do a great job!”

 

Farage has raved about 2016 being the year that the “little people decided they could assert themselves and could actually beat the establishment.”  This utterance was made without irony, despite the allegedly anti-establishment Farage being a former pupil of Dulwich College, a former commodities trader in the City and the sort of guy who if there were ever little people in the vicinity of his house would probably set the dogs on them.  And I doubt if many little people are allowed in the same postal district as Farage’s new best friend, Mr Trump.  They certainly wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the golden lift-doors in Trump Tower, before which Trump and Farage posed for this nauseating and now-infamous photo.

 

© Daily Telegraph

 

Those little people will soon be feeling the pinch in Britain – a country where many folk are already dependent on foodbanks – when the 40 percent of their food that’s imported gets subjected to post-Brexit tariffs and its price gets jacked up further as the pound goes through the floor following the activation of Article 50.  No wonder Farage seems to be doing his best to get out of Blighty before the shit hits the fan.  I reckon 2016’s biggest knobhead is making plans to move to the USA permanently, where he’ll probably end up residing inside Donald Trump’s arse.

 

Will the new moronism strike again?

 

From paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com

 

At one point in James Cameron’s masterly 1986 movie Aliens, an exasperated Sigourney Weaver demands, “Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?”  As someone who’s been out of the United Kingdom for a while, I often find myself asking the same question.

 

I’ve asked it during the last four-and-a-half months especially.  That’s since June 23rd, when a narrow majority of the UK electorate voted for Brexit, i.e. leaving the European Union.

 

It’s well-documented that many Brexit supporters came from areas and social classes that feel most disfranchised in modern-day Britain and feel most distant from the country’s centres of political, economic and cultural power (which are invariably in London).  So they followed the advice of the likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and used the Brexit referendum as a means to raise a middle finger at the establishment.

 

Of course, there’s no way that Farage, Gove or Johnson could be described as members of the British establishment.  Oh no.  Not Nigel Farage, who was educated at Dulwich College and once worked as a commodity trader in the City of London; not Michael Gove, who was educated at Oxford University and served as a president of the Oxford Union and worked as a journalist with the Times and Spectator; and certainly not Boris Johnson, who was educated at Eton College and Oxford University and worked as a journalist with the Times, Spectator and Daily Telegraph.  Wot, establishment?  Not us, guvnor.

 

Often, the areas most strongly in favour of Brexit were the ones most economically dependent on the EU.  According to the Financial Times, East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire sends a bigger proportion of its exports to the EU than anywhere else in Britain, yet in June 65% of its voters told the EU to go and get stuffed.  Similarly, many Brexit voters came from the poorer end of society, where food security is a constant worry.  With Britain having to import 40% of its food these days, and the pound weakening post-Brexit, and the likelihood of post-EU tariffs being added to many imports, the prices of things on the supermarket shelves can only rocket upwards.  So with Brexit likely to f**k up your local economy and f**k up your household budget, voting for it was probably, you know, stupid.

 

Still, I’m sure that such anti-establishment rebels as Nigel Farage (who’s worth about three million pounds according to www.the-net-worth.com) and Boris Johnson (who’s earned twice as much as the prime minister in the last two years according to the Daily Mail) will be sharing the pain with you.

 

From www.christopherfowler.co.uk

 

In another example of Brexit stupidity, Boris Johnson enthused at this year’s Conservative Party conference about Britain being a world leader in ‘soft’ power, i.e. diplomatic, cultural, economic and educational influence.  He spoke of “the vast and subtle and persuasive extension of British influence around the world that goes with having a language that was invented and perfected in this country, and now has more speakers than any other language on earth.”  He described the ‘gentle, kindly gunboats of British soft power’ going ‘up the creeks and inlets of every continent on earth’ captained by such British cultural icons as ‘Jeremy Clarkson’, ‘J.K. Rowling’ and ‘the BBC’.

 

Johnson got it wrong about English having the most speakers of any language – in 2015, 962 million people spoke English compared to the 1090 million who spoke Mandarin Chinese – but Britain has topped tables of countries ranked by their estimated soft power.  In July 2015, an article in the Economist cited as possible reasons for this Britain’s ‘chart-topping music albums’, the ‘foreign following of its football teams’, its universities ‘attracting vast numbers of foreign students’ and the country generally having a good ‘engagement’ with the world.

 

That was in 2015, mind you, a year before Brexit.  Now is it not just really, really, really stupid for Johnson to brag about Britain’s soft-power capacity when he’s championed the cause that’s f***ed that capacity up its arse?  The vote and the toxic shenanigans that followed – racists suddenly feeling entitled to verbally and physically assault foreigners on the streets, the obnoxious anti-European, anti-foreigner rhetoric displayed at the Tory Party conference – must have snookered Britain’s soft-power status.  No wonder that a fortnight ago it was reported that the number of European students applying to British universities has dropped by 9%.

 

Having soft power depends on people around the world liking and respecting you.  Brexit and its legacy have changed that for Britain, and not just in terms of how the rest of Europe views it – I can see attitudes changing too in southern Asia, where I live now.  Until very recently, Britain was regarded as being a bit starchy and old-fashioned, but cool – sort of like Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).  Now Britain is regarded as an international village idiot, gibbering and self-harming in its hovel somewhere beyond the outskirts of Europe.

 

Of course, just now, anyone daring to question the wisdom of Brexit is labelled a traitor by Brexit-crazy British politicians and Brexit-crazy British newspapers (shit-sheets like the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun and the increasingly crass Daily Telegraph).  Doubters, prevaricators and sceptics are accused of unpatriotically talking the country down.  Concerned economists are dismissed as untrustworthy ‘experts’ – as Michael Gove said memorably, the British “have had enough of experts.”  Fie on you, traitorous experts, for having the temerity to know stuff!

 

Meanwhile, any critic of Brexit with cultural leanings is damned as a ‘left-wing luvvie’.  This label has even been attached to the former England football-team captain Gary Lineker, who recently tweeted his discomfort at post-Brexit Britain and the hostility of attitudes towards children from the ‘Calais Jungle’ migrant camp in France.

 

Generally, being slightly less-than-enthusiastic about Brexit marks you out as a member of the ‘liberal metropolitan elite’ who voted to remain in the EU – a sneering minority accounting for a mere 48% of the votes cast.  That’s the derisive term used by Britain’s gloriously Brexiting Prime Minister Theresa May, who back in June had supported Britain remaining in the EU.

 

It feels like a new virus that turns people into morons is on the loose.  And it feels like Britain has succumbed to an epidemic of this new moronism.

 

From www.newscorpse.com

 

Alas, it seems that the same infection has taken hold in the United States too.  For today is when American voters go to the polls to elect the 45th president of the USA.  The choice ought to be simple.  They must decide between Hillary Clinton, an uninspiring, uncharismatic technocrat who carries too much political baggage for comfort, but who has plenty of government experience and who at least isn’t mad; and one Donald John Trump.

 

That’s the billionaire Donald Trump who’s suffered six bankruptcies (so far) in his hotel and casino businesses; who believes Mexicans to be rapists; who wants to ban Muslims from the USA; who’s endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan; who likes to grab women by the pussy; who dismisses climate change as a hoax; who’s flattened the environmentally-precious Balmedie Beach in Aberdeenshire in order to build a golf course that he promised would employ 6000 people (but by 2016 had employed only 200); who established an alleged educational institution that violated New York State law by calling itself a ‘university’; who managed to wangle his way out of paying taxes by claiming a loss of 916 million dollars in 1995; who’s hinted that gun-owners ought to shoot Clinton; who’s promised to lock Clinton up if he wins; who’s refused to accept the result if he loses; who has a man-crush on Vladimir Putin; who’s wondered aloud what the point is of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them.

 

Donald Trump is a garrulous gob-shite, a bigoted bell-end, a maggoty skidmark on the boxer shorts of American politics.  Oh, and his suntan looks like radioactive slurry.  And his hairdo’s so hideous it may as well be the pubes of Satan.

 

Clinton or Trump?  It should be a no-brainer.  However, Trump is in with a shout of winning the presidency – a 35% probability according to polling supremo Nate Silver – which suggests that an awful lot of Americans have developed ‘no-brain syndrome’.

 

Will the new moronism that’s afflicted Britain strike again?  I guess this time tomorrow we’ll know.

 

© 20th Century Fox

 

The Great British horror show

 

(c) International Business Times

 

I’m a big fan of horror movies but I can’t say I’ve been enjoying this new horror movie that stars the entire population of Britain and that’s been playing endlessly since last Thursday morning.  What’s it called again?  I Know What EU Did Last SummerThe BrexorcistHalloween 4: The Return of Michael Gove?

 

Actually, these past days of epic-scale tragedy and farce, which have followed Britain’s decision in the referendum-vote of June 23rd to leave the European Union, put me in mind of several horror films.  These are the films I’m reminded of and why.

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) British Lion Films

 

When I see Nigel Farage and his supporters in those rural provinces of the UK that voted to quit the EU despite them being heavily dependent on EU subsidies, I think of The Wicker Man (1973).  In this, a posh aristocrat convinces his simple-minded countryside followers that the bountifulness of their harvests and the richness of their coffers depends, not very logically, on them occasionally sacrificing a virgin.  In Farage’s case, he persuaded them to sacrifice their EU membership.  The film ends with the latest sacrifice, played by Edward Woodward, predicting that the next time the harvests fail and the coffers are empty, the countryside folk will be sticking the aristocrat himself into a wicker man and setting it alight.  So if this analogy holds, things may end unhappily for Nigel (but happily for the rest of us).

 

(c) Warner Brothers / Transatlantic Pictures

 

When I see Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, I think of Alfred’s Hitchcock’s dark psychological thriller Rope (1948).  This begins with two vain aesthetes, Brandon and Phillip, committing a murder to show their intellectual superiority.  Then they spend the rest of the film unravelling through guilt at what they’ve done and fear of being found out.  Since the referendum result, our very own Brandon and Philip have been looking increasingly sweaty and twitchy while, no doubt, the thought “Oh my God, what the f**k have we done?” grows ever shriller in their heads,

 

When I don’t see George Osbourne – he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth since the vote, despite the fact that he’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and despite the fact that the pound and markets generally have gone into freefall – I obviously think of The Invisible Man (1933).

 

(c) Universal Pictures

 

When I see the Labour Party currently tearing itself apart over the issue of the leadership, or non-leadership, of Jeremy Corbyn during the referendum campaign – the last time I’d checked, there’d been eleven resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet – I think of the virus in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) that instantly transforms its victims into red-eyed, slavering, vomiting, hyperactive and very bitey zombies.  Though if the somnolent Corbyn himself got infected he’d probably just dribble a little bit onto his cardigan.

 

When I see Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and the only leader in the past few days to actually display qualities of leadership, I think of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986).  From her base in Edinburgh, peering south towards the madness that’s engulfed Westminster, Sturgeon must feel like Weaver in her spaceship while it circles the space-colony planet where hideous and slimy things have happened.  (Though ‘nuking them from orbit’ isn’t an option here.)

 

When I see close-ups of Michael Gove’s face, I think of the baby in David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) Libra Films International

 

Whereas when I see Boris Johnson, I think of the midget blonde monsters spawned by Samantha Eggar in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1980).

 

(c) Evening Standard

(c) New World Pictures

 

Mind you, that’s when I’m not thinking of the creepy kids in Village of the Damned (1960).

 

(c) MGM

 

And when I see the whole sorry mess, with the triumphant leaders of the Brexit campaign now admitting that – duh! – they didn’t actually have a plan about what to do in the event of them winning, I think of the Final Destination series.  In those movies, it’s never quite clear what the final destination is.  But you have a pretty good idea that everyone involved is going to die horribly.

 

The best and worst of Britain

 

(c) BBC

(c) The Guardian

 

I suspect every British person with access to the Internet is currently typing out and posting their tuppence-worth about the murder of Jo Cox, the Labour Party MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire and a pro-European politician with a track record in helping refugees and victims of oppression.  I’m not in the UK at the moment, but I still have a British passport and I have access to the Internet.  So here’s my tuppence-worth.

 

I’m suspicious when people talk about cause and effect.  Events definitely have reasons and actions definitely have consequences, but to my mind the patterns of causes that contribute to something happening and the patterns of effects that emanate from it happening are too complex to be fully understood.  It’s more complicated than the model of a row of dominoes simply knocking each other down, which seems to be the common assumption when folk engage in discussions, debates and arguments.  A didn’t just cause B, thanks to which C happened.  More likely, A-L caused M, thanks to which N-Z happened.

 

More importantly, I’m wary of the concept of cause and effect because if you treat actions only in terms of their consequences, you rob those actions of their own intrinsic worth.

 

So I’m not going to say that Cox’s murder, at the hands of a man with a history of mental illness and links to at least one white supremacist organisation, was the result of anything in particular.  Not even the result of the belligerent, poisonous atmosphere that’s been evident in Britain recently as campaigning has heated and attitudes have hardened in the lead-up to the referendum on June 23rd about whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union.  Not even the result of the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner rhetoric that’s been amped up by the ‘Leave’ side, particularly by Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party, who shortly before Cox’s murder unveiled a new campaign poster bearing the words BREAKING POINT and a picture of a long, dense crowd of refugees receding into the distance.

 

No, I’m not going to argue that Cox’s murder was the result of anything done by Farage and his anti-EU allies, despite the fact that I regard Farage as a ratbag opportunist of the highest order – forever peddling the shtick that he’s a man of the people and a crusader against the political, financial and business elites who’ve deprived ordinary citizens of power over their own lives, when in fact he’s a former public schoolboy (Dulwich College, alma mater of P.G. Wodehouse, Michael Powell, C.S. Forester and Dennis Wheatley) and a former commodity broker who’s worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert, Credit Lyonnais Rouse, Refco and Natexis Metals.  (In this respect he’s no better than that other populist denouncer of the ruling elite, Donald Trump, who’s so un-elite that he was worth $200,000 – the equivalent of about a million dollars today – when he graduated from college in 1968.)

 

That said, I don’t feel much sympathy for right-wing pro-leave commentators like James Delingpole, who’s been whinging about ‘journalists, PR men and politicians’ linking Cox’s murder with the alarmist tone of the Leave campaign.  “(D)o you genuinely, sincerely believe,” he lamented on www.breitbart.com, “that Thomas Mair, the suspected gunman who killed Jo Cox, is representative of the 50 percent or more of British people who believe that our country would be a better, freer, more prosperous, secure and democratically accountable place outside the EU?”  In fact, I feel no sympathy at all for Delingpole while he fulminates about his cause being framed within an unflattering narrative that he doesn’t like; because if there’s one thing that Delingpole and his chums in Britain’s mainly right-wing press are very good at doing, it’s taking causes they don’t like and framing them within unflattering narratives.

 

Hence, those people campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum were portrayed in Britain’s right-wing tabloids as extremists who said beastly things to J.K. Rowling on Twitter and flung eggs at Labour MP Jim Murphy.  The Murphy egg-chucking incident was reported with such horror that you’d have thought Scotland was about to undergo its own version of Kristallnacht; though in retrospect and after events on June 16th it seems pretty mild.  Sure, the ‘yes’ side had a few nutters on its fringes but so did the ‘no side’.  However, the newspapers ignored abuse and death-threats against leading lights on the independence side like Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Sillars because they didn’t fit the desired narrative.

 

And I have no doubt that we’d be getting a major narrative rammed down our throats at the moment if on June 16th a mentally unstable Muslim man had shouted “ISIS!” and attacked and killed someone campaigning for a ‘leave’ vote.  Intriguingly, despite Thomas Mair name-checking a far-right organisation during the attack – he shouted “Britain First” while stabbing and shooting Cox to death – Britain’s newspapers have refrained from calling it a ‘terrorist’ incident and have emphasised the man’s psychiatric problems.  You’re allowed to do that under the British press rulebook if the perpetrator of an atrocity is a white bloke.

 

Instead, I’ll just ask you to make a comparison.  On the morning of June 16th, Farage launched his new BREAKING POINT campaign poster.  The people depicted in it, standing in their hundreds, extending back into the distance, are actually refugees who’ve fled the civil war in Syria and ended up in Croatia, which, it’s fair to say, isn’t that close to Britain.  I assume those refugees are frightened and traumatised by the experiences they’ve been through, but UKIP’s message is clear.  “These are scary people and they’re coming your way!  Be afraid, Britain, very afraid!  Vote to leave the EU or prepare to die!”  At least one child is visible in the picture, near the front of the queue and on the right.  And as people who’ve studied the original picture have pointed out, there’s actually a white guy at the very front.  But UKIP stuck a panel with the message “Leave the European Union on June 23rd” on the poster to hide his face, presumably because it wasn’t chillingly brown enough.

 

From breakingdownthenews.blogspot.com

 

It has also been pointed out that Farage’s poster bears an uncanny resemblance to a clip of old Nazi propaganda that rants about undesirables flooding “Europe’s cities after the last war… parasites, undermining their host countries.”  That’s the Nazis, you know.  Adolf Hitler, World War II and all that.  Didn’t we British fight against those Nazis, and their fascism and hatred of the other?  In doing so, didn’t we achieve our ‘finest hour’, to quote Winston Churchill, whom I understand is a bit of a hero in Nigel Farage’s house?

 

Compare the BREAKING POINT poster with the career of Jo Cox.  For seven years she was employed with the aid group Oxfam and her involvement in its humanitarian campaigns led to her working with oppressed people in Sudan and Afghanistan.  She was also an advisor to the anti-slavery charity, the Freedom Fund.  After she became an MP, she campaigned for the creation of civilian safe havens within Syria and she chaired the All Parties Friends of Syria group.  During her maiden speech in the House of Commons, she praised her constituents in Yorkshire, of all races and creeds, saying: “While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

 

So which of the two – that UKIP poster or the life of Jo Cox – do you think represents the best of Britain and which represents the worst?  And if you have to stop and think about that question…  Well, I can only say that I hope you and Nigel are very happy together.

 

Definitely the last ever 2015 election post

 

This, I promise, will be my final comment on the UK general election, which took place on Thursday.  Thereafter, normal service will be resumed on Blood and Porridge.  Yes, I will return to writing about my usual topics, which are James Bond, Father Ted, graveyards, obscure British horror movies and the sexy places I have visited.

 

During the campaign that preceded it and in the actual results it produced, this election has sucked and yet, perversely, it’s felt rather enjoyable too.  Here are five reasons why it sucked; and five more reasons why, at the same time, I enjoyed it.

 

WHY IT SUCKED

 

One: social media.

The Twitter-sphere and Internet generally are infested with abuse-screaming bampots of all political persuasions.  Vilely insulting other people who disagree with your political views, from a keyboard, at a safe and hidden distance, is abhorrent.  It’s a practice, however, that’s best dealt with by ignoring it.  Unfortunately, with Britain’s newspapers, we have a partisan traditional media that both mistrusts and misunderstands the nature of modern information technology; and treats it as an easy source of outrageous comments that can be held up and waved in your headlines as supposed proof that all your political opponents are foul-mouthed lunatics.

 

It possibly wasn’t a coincidence that the world best-loved and most fragrant lady novelist, J.K. Rowling, suddenly appeared in the Scottish – Labour Party-leaning – newspapers two days before the general election; where she talked about the online abuse she’d suffered last year at the hands, or tweets, of Scottish-independence supporters after she intervened in the independence debate and said it was a bad idea.  Yes, I think the timing of these sudden J.K. ROWLING TALKS ABOUT LAST YEAR’S TWITTER ABUSE BY SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS headlines was a wee bit suspicious – they hit the newspapers at the exactly the same moment that the Scottish Labour Party was breaking the emergency glass and pulling out her old friend, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to try to save the party’s skin in Scotland.  (It didn’t work.  Scottish Labour ended up losing 40 of its 41 seats to the Scottish National Party.)

 

Predictably, J.K. Rowling is now getting more abusive tweets from the SNP’s lunatic fringe – which makes her Twitter stream a surreal place, where messages like “J.K. Rowling, you’re a traitor to Scotland!” alternate with ones from schoolgirls in South Korea asking her what Hedwig the Owl’s favourite flavour of cheese is.

 

From screenrant.com 

 

On the Internet, you’ll find psychotic SNP supporters, and psychotic Labour supporters, and psychotic Tories, and psychotic Greens.  And psychotic Quakers, and psychotic Buddhists, and psychotic Jedi Knights, and psychotic Coldplay fans.  If you’re going to use the new media that the communications revolution has spawned in the last 20 years, you have to accept the existence of such basket-cases as a sad inevitability and ignore them.  Especially if you dare to offer anything resembling an opinion.

 

And journalists, please stop wading into this online mire searching for stories.  Go into the real world and find some real stories instead.

 

Two: Russell Brand.

I don’t hate the hirsute and ubiquitous Russell Brand, even if I think he was a stupid dick a while ago to advise young people to disdain the democratic process and avoid voting.  I don’t even think it was foolish of Labour leader – former Labour leader – Ed Miliband to talk to him shortly before this election and persuade him that voting is actually a sensible thing to do.  In fact, Ed even persuaded Russ to endorse Labour.

 

What I find irritating is that after Ed had lost the election, Russell Brand immediately declared that he’d made his pro-voting (and pro-Labour) comments in the heat of the moment and hadn’t really meant what he’d said.  Though as soon as he’d disassociated himself from poor Ed, the electoral loser, he then predicted five years of strife under the new Conservative government and urged his followers to behave with ‘compassion’.

 

Which makes it sound like Russell was not only trying to have his cake and eat it; but also to take that cake to bed, and subject it to sustained and vigorous foreplay, and grease it with lubricant and shove it up his arse.

 

(c) The Independent

 

Three: the mainstream press. 

I’ve already written that the majority of Britain’s national newspapers are owned by a half-dozen super-rich, tax-dodging, far-right-wing gits, so I won’t mention that fact again.  (Oops.  I just have.)  Correspondingly, most of these newspapers’ election coverage had to be taken with an amount of salt equivalent to the annual output of the world’s largest salt mine.

 

And as I’ve written before, the coverage of Scotland in the right-wing press before the election was depressingly shrill and xenophobic.  Nor has it stopped during the three days since the Scottish voting public gave a huge mandate to the SNP.  Bruce Anderson, for example, has raged in the Daily Telegraph about ‘half the population of Scotland’ being ‘in the grip of religious hysteria’.  Meanwhile, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote a piece responding to the Scottish results with this charming headline: VILE BIGOTS HAVE MADE ME ASHAMED TO BE SCOTTISH.

 

You may remember that following the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately in 2009, Ms Moir wrote a homophobic column about him that resulted in 25,000 complaints being made to the British Press Complaints Commission.  So funnily enough, the words Vile bigot has made me ashamed to be Scottish are precisely what appear in my head whenever I hear mention of Jan Moir.

 

Four: denial.

To return to the Scottish Labour Party…  Although I don’t support them, I have actually felt a bit sorry for them since their Thursday-night slaughter at the hands of the SNP.  Particularly piteous have been the expressions of denial made by their (now nearly entirely unemployed) politicians: “It’s not our fault!”  “The public didn’t listen to us, the fools!”  And so on.

 

Mind-boggling rather than piteous, though, has been the reaction of their boss Jim Murphy.  Despite losing his seat, and despite his party’s number of MPs going from 41 to one under his watch, Jim is still there.  He maintains that he’s still the right man for the job of Scottish Labour Party leader.  He reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who insists on continuing to fight after having his arms and legs cut off: “I’ll do you for that!  Come here!  I’m invincible!”  (King Arthur: “You’re a loony.”)

 

(c) The Daily Mail

(c) Michael White Productions

 

Mind you, J.K. Rowling did try to console poor Jim by making him an honorary member of the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  Though I have to say that if Jim Murphy had had any authority at Hogwarts at the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord Voldemort would now be ruling the entire universe.

 

Five: the Tories won.

Well, obviously.  And bollocks!  They’ve just brought back Michael Gove.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/michael-gove-reshuffle-rivalry-theresa-may-cabinet-conservative

 

 

BUT…  WHY I ENJOYED IT.

 

One: social media.

Yes, the social media aspect of this general election sucked but, paradoxically, it was brilliant too.  I say that as someone who remembers how elections were in the olden days, when for your information you depended on supposedly-learned authorities penning pieces in the newspapers or pontificating on TV.  Basically, it was a case of well-to-do Oxford / Cambridge-educated political pundits telling us, the plebs, how things were and what to do about it.  And if you wanted to participate in the debate – well, you sat down and penned a letter and sent it off to a newspaper, in the dim hope that it might be published a few days later.

 

Compare that with now.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook…  And probably a hundred other innovations that are too new and trendy for someone my age to even know about, let alone understand and use.  Lord George Foulkes can say something pompous and stupid and 30 seconds later you can be in his Twitter stream taking him to task about it and calling him a tube.  If that isn’t proper, participatory democracy, what is?

 

It also, incidentally, made this election incredibly funny.  Political satire is now something the entire population can indulge in, immediately, rather than having to sit down passively and read Private Eye magazine or watch Have I Got News for You.  Some of the jokes, quips, barbs and (courtesy of Photoshop) visual gags whizzing around the Internet have been brilliant.  I particularly like the one about the sartorially eccentric George Galloway, recently deposed MP for Bradford West, now having time to start ‘his Victorian ghost-hunting psychic detective agency’.

 

(c) The Daily Star

 

Two: bloodshed!

Galloway was just one of many politicians who suffered defeats in this election.  In fact, there were more heads left rolling in the dust than there were in several seasons of Game of Thrones.  It felt like a particularly gory afternoon spent at the coliseum in Ancient Rome – lots of sadistic entertainment for the audience, though probably not much fun for the gladiators.  This is remarkable when you consider how even the election that caused the most dramatic reshaping of the electoral landscape in the last 20 years, 1998’s one when Tony Blair trounced John Major, produced just one memorable casualty: Michael Portillo.

 

This time though, we saw the demise of Dougie Alexander, Jim Murphy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and Ester McVey.  Plus most spectacularly of all, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat by a few hundred seats.  Cue a million cruel Internet jokes about Labour getting its Balls cut off.

 

Three: Scottish people ignored the mainstream press.

Despite the Scottish newspapers spending the half-year prior to the election braying about how brilliant Jim Murphy was – facilitated no doubt by Murphy’s shifty but supposedly press-savvy spin doctor John McTernan – nobody in Scotland paid attention.  Result!

 

Four: failure of loonies.

The leader, sorry, ex-leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and hence Britain’s right-wing loony / fruitcake in chief Nigel Farage – he was enthusiastically backed by the Daily Express, which says it all – stood as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Thanet.  He was, however, beaten and this failure prompted his resignation as UKIP leader.  When the result was announced, the face of comedian Al Murray, who ran as a joke-candidate against Farage, was an absolute picture.

 

(c) BBC

 

Talking of loonies and fruitcakes, I was delighted that Susan-Anne White, the demented evangelical-Christian candidate in the constituency I’m originally from, West Tyrone, garnered just 166 votes on the night.  Or as the Google election-results service put it, ‘0%’ of the total.

 

Five: be careful what you wish for, Tories.

In 1992, John Major pulled off a remarkable result for the Conservative Party.  He won a narrow majority – one that nobody had expected, but a majority nonetheless.  Yet within a year, his government was a shambles.  To keep his slender majority intact, Major had to devote his entire energy to threatening, appeasing and pleading with a large contingent of far-right-wing Conservative backbenchers, whose xenophobic, Europhobic, ‘hang-’em, flog ’em’ mind-set was barely distinguishable from that of UKIP today.

 

23 years later, we find David Cameron in the same situation.  He may be looking smug at the moment, but I suspect that smugness will evaporate very shortly as right-wing / moderate-wing civil war threatens to break out in his party.  I will, of course, be here to write about it when it happens.

 

Kippered

 

(c) Huffington Post

 

I don’t know which news item today is more depressing.  News that Glasgow School of Art’s A-listed and much-loved Mackintosh Building, designed by and named after the great Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, went up in flames yesterday.  Or news that the right-wing, anti-EU and anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party managed to win 155 seats in the English council elections two days ago, giving it a real chance of winning parliamentary seats at the next general election and making it officially, in the words of many political pundits, ‘the fourth force in British politics’.

 

I’ll talk about the second news story.  What I found revealing about the UKIP phenomenon was a TV interview that appeared yesterday on youtube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7lPcJ7uscs.  The interview is with a guy called Darren, from Walsall in the West Midlands, and he explains to the interviewer why he’s just voted for UKIP.  Well, he tries to explain.  This is what he says:

 

“The reason why I voted for UKIP was cos, like, we’ve had Labour, we’ve had Conservative, we’ve had the Liberal Democrats.  We want a new party, we want somebody who’s going to send a voice, especially in Europe, especially on immigration, especially round here cos we have different people coming in, taking our jobs and just working for the minimum wage.  Okay, we’ve lived here nearly all our lives and we’ve (inaudible), we’ve had to step up the ladder and we’ve had to work, go to college, earn all our wages and everything else, and they just cut from underneath you, especially, like, the immigrants are coming in, like the Poles and the Ukraines and everything else from the new European countries who are coming in.  Really, you want to get out of the EEC and fight for our own and be a better Great Britain again, like before it was, before it was, before it was everything else, cos Great Britain was all over the world then.”

 

I’m sure that Darren is a decent enough bloke but, once you’ve deciphered what he said, it seems a bit rich that he complains about immigrants ‘coming in’ and then concludes with a nod to the glory days of the British Empire, when ‘Great Britain was all over the world’ – i.e. going into other countries and presumably taking all their jobs.  It’s also ironic that the interviewer (although you can’t see her in the interview-clip on youtube) is a young woman of Asian descent.  Darren doesn’t say anything about this, but maybe he resents her sort coming in and taking all the TV interviewing jobs.  Maybe he could have been a TV interviewer if British people had really ‘fought for our own.’

 

From the look and sound of him, Darren probably hasn’t had many educational or professional opportunities in life and he must be pretty near the bottom of the social pile.  So it’s sad that he and many people like him feel compelled to vote UKIP when, plainly, UKIP is the sort of right-wing party that’d happily screw folk in their position big-time if they ever got to power.  They might give Darren and his ilk someone to blame for their problems, and give them a sense that they’re showing a middle-finger to a callous, uncaring establishment.  But UKIP aren’t on their side.  No way are UKIP on their side.

 

I’ve been reading the party’s manifesto from the last general election and it doesn’t give the impression that by voting for them you’ll be sticking it to The Man.  Quite the reverse.  It kicks off by declaring that ‘Britain’s economy is being suffocated by high taxation, excessive EU regulation, overgenerous welfare and punitive bureaucracy.’  It proposes a flat tax of 31% for everyone earning above £11,500 a year, argues that ‘there is no alternative to major cuts in government spending’, envisages two million people being squeezed out of jobs in ‘Education, Health and Public Administration’ so that the public sector is scaled back to a 1997 level, and of course vows to ‘(s)crap up to 120,000 EU directives and regulations that impact on the UK economy,’ presumably including all the ones relating to working conditions, environmental standards and health and safety.  (Amusingly, one of the few examples given of what they’d chop is this one: ‘In particular, UKIP would repeal the forthcoming AIFM Directive that threatens hedge funds in the City of London.’  Which is a good indication of whose side they’re on really.)

 

Yes, it sounds like the sort of scenario that Milton Friedman must have had wet dreams about.  And in countries where such policies have been implemented – often totalitarian countries where the public can’t express opposition to them – the number of people living in poverty has usually skyrocketed.

 

At the same time, it’s a document suffused with Lewis Carroll-type absurdity.  You’ll find all the usual guff you’d expect from UKIP – about banning schools from using ‘global warming propaganda such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth’, allowing teachers to ‘impose proper discipline on pupils’, safeguarding ‘British weights and measures (the pint, the mile, etc.) which have been undermined by the EU’, scrapping political correctness, abolishing the Human Rights Act, and so on and so forth – but look carefully and you’ll find a few pledges that are oddly at variance with the ‘cut, cut, cut’ mantra I’ve described in the previous paragraph.  There’s talk of making sure the NHS can ‘continue to deliver care free at the point of delivery on the basis of need, not ability to pay,’ bringing back ‘free eye-tests and dental check-ups for all UK citizens’, bringing back student grants and spending a whopping ‘extra 40% on defence annually’.  How on earth, one wonders, are they going to pay for these health, education and defence goodies when there’s so much economic pain and paring-to-the-bone going on elsewhere?

 

To be fair to UKIP’s pint-swilling, mule-faced leader Nigel Farage, he did admit back in January that he thought the 2010 manifesto was rubbish: “I didn’t read it.  It was drivel…  We have put that behind us and moved onto a professional footing.”  Mind you, he did stick his name on it at the time.  And I’ve had a look at a UKIP document that was circulated before the recent elections and they’re still banging on about reducing regulations on employers and implementing the sort of flat tax that’d bring relieved smiles to the faces of Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr.

 

Meanwhile, one place in England where UKIP noticeably didn’t do well the other day was London.  In an interview on BBC’s Radio 4, the party’s communities spokesperson Suzanne Evans gave this assessment of why UKIP failed to appeal to Londoners even as it was winning support from people elsewhere in England.  “(W)e do have,” she said, “a more media-savvy, well-educated population in London.”

 

Too well-educated to vote for UKIP?  Oops.  Freudian slip.

 

(c) New Statesman

 

96% Green

 

 From greenparty.org.uk

 

Recently, while I was trawling about on the Internet, I came across the website uk.isidewith.com.  It offers a questionnaire that you complete with your opinions regarding a number of topical issues, about which all the UK’s major political parties have taken a stance.  Then it compares your opinions with the policies of the parties and calculates how much, overall, you’re in agreement with them.  You end up getting your percentage of agreement with each party, which is a bit like having your political DNA tested – you find out how much of you is Labour, how much is Conservative, etc.

 

http://uk.isidewith.com/political-quiz?from=dcbxSuNxN&utm_source=social&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=10ways.com

 

When my results came through I was surprised to find that the party that figured highest in my political DNA was the Green Party.  I was told that 96% of my opinions matched its policies.  I was surprised because I assumed I’d de-Greened myself when I answered a question about my view of nuclear energy.  Unlike the Green Party’s line, I’m reluctantly in favour of having nuclear-power stations.  (I agree with the Guardian’s environmental correspondent George Monbiot that generating nuclear energy is an evil necessity while humanity tries to reduce carbon emissions and limit manmade climate change.)

 

In joint-second place after the Greens were the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.  I’m 95% in agreement with them, which I suppose isn’t a surprise considering how I’d answered a question about whether or not Scotland should be independent.  And just behind them was the Labour Party.  93% of my views match the policies of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, apparently.  This is despite the fact that I’ve always thought life under a Milliband / Balls regime in Westminster would be little better than life under the current Cameron / Osborne regime.  The rhetoric would no doubt be more touchy-feely but the economic and social reality, I suspect, wouldn’t change much.

 

But I was really shocked when I was informed 44% of my opinions match the policies of the United Kingdom Independence Party, that ragtag gang of Little Englanders led by Nigel Farage who want to take Britain out of the European Union and change it back to its glorious, monochrome 1950s version — a Britain where everyone is white and Christian (Church of England, preferably), where the working class doff their caps before their betters, where teachers have the right to take canes and belts to naughty pupils, where smokers have the right to give other people lung cancer in public places, and where television is a Mary Whitehouse-style paragon of decency that’s devoid of bad language (although good old-fashioned non-PC terminology, such as Jeremy Clarkson uses for black people, is probably okay).  Nearly half of my mindset, I was told, was identical to the UKIP mindset.  Well, I can only assume that the 44% of me that agrees with Nigel Farage is the 44% of me that’s located closest to my arse.

 

At least it gives me an excuse to show a picture of Britain’s best-known right-wing buffoon being struck by an egg whilst campaigning yesterday for the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections.  Ha!

 

(c) The Independent