Thursday, 30 April 2015

X Marks The What Now? : I Think There May Be An Election Next Week

My article today seems to have got steven harris a little riled. He's unmissable when he's like this...

I’m just dicking with you. Of course I know there’s an election next Thursday. What I mean to convey is that, unlike most people, I’m not content to gobble up bullshit soundbites and mud-slinging on TV and radio in order to decide where my vote will go on May 7th.

That’s what the politicians and much of the media want you to do - they want you to let them do the thinking for you. Murdoch media will predominantly say that the Tories are sexy and the best people to lead this country because those who work for the Murdoch media predominantly went to school, college and university with many of the Tories (actually so did a lot of the BBC’s top political correspondents but they pretend to be ashamed of it while Murdoch’s vultures practically wear it as a badge of honour). There is an exception to the Murdoch rule - in Scotland the Scottish Sun is supporting SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon because, well because in Scotland it would be a hard job indeed to find anyone with a kind word to say about the Conservative party. And that’s expressing it rather mildly.

There was a previous exception. Murdoch media liked Tony Blair’s New Labour. This is because they appreciated the irony of Blair using the words ‘new’ and ‘Labour’ to define his party at a time when he oversaw policy changes which lurched them well over towards the centre right, well away from anything traditional Labour voters would recognise as true left-wing values. And it wasn’t new because Blair basically turned Labour into a diseased, parodic echo of the Tories. Thanks Tone, no wonder Murdoch had his tongue right up your arse.

Ed Miliband is faced with a difficult balancing act of trying to re-establish the Labour party as a party of the worker without alienating great swathes of middle England in the way that Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock seemed to in the 80s. The problem is rendered doubly difficult because the most bullish, least intelligence-led newspapers are all spouting capitalist claptrap as though Miliband is some modern day Lenin come to overthrow the very tenets of British democracy and because 80s Thatcherism and it’s sordid continuation as Blairism made shitty little capitalists of us all. Own your own house, you working people, then you’re more likely to feel like you possess something worthwhile (you don’t, the bank does until that long-distant day you can clear the 2 1/2 times the property’s value you’re paying all your life as a mortgage). Own cars and phones and computers and blah blah blah. Heard this somewhere before? Choose life. Choose a job. We’re all fucking trainspotters now and Thatcher, Major and Blair in particular rammed us up the arse with that socio-political stealth dildo. Let’s all crank up a ten bag of smack and pretend we don’t care.

So if I distrust the media, how on earth will I know who to vote for? I hear the dimwitted and politically ignorant ask. Well, here’s a secret for you: before an election each of the participating parties publishes a manifesto of election promises. Basically it’s a list of “If you vote us into government, this is what we promise we will do with your mandate to govern.” You should try reading them. Media want to draw your attention to insignificant trivia; manifestos allegedly contain hard fact.

I say allegedly because between them the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have broken over a hundred of their collective 2010 manifesto promises since forming a coalition government after the last election. Over a hundred. That’s rather a lot, even for greasy, mendacious politicians. Obviously I can’t go into such numbers in great detail but as a prĂ©cis I will point you to the real testicle-shrinkers.

The Tories pledged to balance the economy by this year. Oh whoops Mr Osborne, there’s still an £80bn deficit despite how you try to rejig the statistics and confuse people as to how the economy is measured. Our national debt is now almost one and a half trillion pounds, higher than under the last Labour government whom the Tories continue to accuse of being untrustworthy with the economy. In 5 years as Chancellor and in direct contradiction of his promises, George Osborne has borrowed more money than 13 years of Labour governments borrowed in total. There has not been the Tory promised healthy increase in productivity either, and the UK is now on average 21% behind the other G7 countries in this respect. The number of young people out of work continues to rise and stood at 3/4 of a million in January.

These are all contrary to Conservative election promises and I’m really just showing you the tip of the iceberg. They want us to be confident, to believe that they’ve handled the economy well since taking over ‘that mess’ they were ‘handed by the last Labour government’. Utterly untrue. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had many faults but i continue to believe that their own pledges concerning the economy in 2010 would have been more likely to have been born out than those written into the Tory manifesto have proven. 

Damn This Tory Manifesto Is Bitter
Or Lib Dems. let’s not forget how many broken promises they’ve asked their party members to swallow just so they can say they’ve been part of a full-term government for the first time in decades. Their manifesto pledged to make drastic changes to that undemocratic second Parliamentary body known as The House of Lords. A pledge dropped when Tory backbenchers made too much noise for David Cameron to support his coalition ‘partners’ on that one. Instead various Lib Dem financial backers have been handed the entirely undemocratic titbit of a peerage in reward for services rendered. Now what did we used to call such behaviour in the good old, bad old days of genuine ideological debate? Oh yes, we called it ‘sleaze’.

There are pages and pages that could be written on the hypocrisy and the failure to deliver of those who have been in power for the past five years. Most of the media aren’t writing these pages because they equally want us to buy into the completely rhetorical notion that this has been a strong and successful parliament. It hasn’t. Not only has the Coalition failed to deliver on so many manifesto promises it has let lower paid working people down while continuing to allow the richest and most corrupt to avoid prosecution for tax avoidance because most of them are Tory or Lib Dem party sponsors.

There may be trouble ahead
The coalition’s austerity policies would have made sense if the nation truly had been ‘in it together’ as Cameron claimed in 2010. If the richest had helped to lower the deficit by paying higher taxes the poorest would not have had to suffer illness and a worsening of social and living conditions because the government instead chose to cut funding to the sick, to schools, to mental health services, to libraries, to public services in general. Again they kept claiming they were cleaning up Labour’s mess.

I am disgusted at how many people take such a statement at face value. Short term memory or what? The finances of the UK were under pressure in 2010, it is true, but not directly because of wholesale policies of inadequacy from Gordon Brown’s government. Remember the global banking crisis of 2008? Go on, cast your mind back. Now focus on a specific word for a moment: global. So it wasn’t just something that happened to the UK, was it? Which means it wasn’t caused by the policies of the UK government at that time. We might want to debate whether the Brown government responded as well to the crisis as they could have but even then we’d need to recognise (something David Cameron really does not like to do) that the UK still had a Triple A credit rating at the end of the Labour government. Does it have that level credit rating now? No. Wonder if Coalition policies have reduced the country’s economic credibility in relation to the G7 as a whole? Most likely.

Oh and I’d also like to focus on another of the words contained within the phrase ‘global banking crisis’: banking. Are schoolchildren in charge of the banks? No, so why have they suffered under coalition austerity measures when they can’t have caused the crisis? Are those in need of regular NHS care for chronic health conditions likely to have been working for multinational banks when the crisis hit (love how we still don’t call it a crash cos a crisis is apparently less emotive than a crash)? Unlikely: any multinational banker or hedge-fund manager with chronic health problems is almost certain to want to spend money on private health care plans. Did the libraries cause the crisis by not charging enough in fines when books were returned late? No, yet hundreds have been closed across the UK.

Come and play with us Cleggy, forever and ever 
The simple fact of the matter is, the global banking crisis was caused by global bankers. Yes, that does seem like a variation on Cockney Rhyming Slang, and with good reason. Some, not all but some of those global bankers are British which means quite a few of them will be resident in the UK even if they spend a lot of time abroad doing their global thing in global banks globally. So why have they never been made accountable for the problems they helped to cause not just the UK but across the entire capitalist world? I may sound like I’m repeating myself but I very much expect it will have something to do with the fact that they make large donations to the Conservative (and probably Liberal Democratic) party and that many of these exorbitantly rewarded high-flying financiers will have been educated in the same establishments as most of Cameron’s cabinet.

Not since the days of MacMillan has the government looked more like a row of old school tie cronies and chums patting one another on the back and sniggering behind their hands at how the plebs will let them get away with anything because they’re too thick to know when they’re being beguiled by media spin and disenfranchised by corporate and parliamentary mendacity.

So, before you go and split the vote again, why not take a little time to read the manifestos of the parties fighting next week’s election? Remembering, as you do so, that Tony Blair’s first term as Prime Minister did at least see his party live up to over 90% of their manifesto pledges even if he did turn out to be Tory Plan B after all. Remembering also that the Tories and the Lib Dems have broken so many promises since 2010 that it beggar’s belief that anyone credits them with being likely to act out their even more desperate promises this time around. Remembering that the media and corporate leaders want you to be afraid of the people of whom corporate leaders and those who run the media are themselves afraid. Meaning politicians who would place a higher tax burden on media barons and bankers. Politicians who would be less likely to punish the politically squeezed and fiscally shafted workers and the chronically ill.

Lest We Forget
One last thing. I think it is a disgrace that fewer than half of the electorate bothered to get off their arses and vote last time around. If you don’t go to the polling station then sorry but you’re not really entitled to any opinion whatsoever on how the next government, whoever they turn out to be, performs. Spoil your ballot paper by all means - it’s a far more significant gesture than not voting at all which simply looks to the politicians like political apathy, something they will be more than willing to exploit next time around. And the next time. And the next time until democracy itself is spun to death and we’re told it no longer works so we may as well return to ‘good’ old fashioned, elitist, jingoistic nationalism.

Want to make a difference? Go online and read the party manifestos, please. Then wipe your arse on your ballot paper and shove it in the box. Or write “They’re all cunts” on your polling card if you wish. You owe it to yourself to make a recognisable stand or to put your cross next to a party or an individual politician whose promises you genuinely believe. And you owe it to the rest of us not to be a lazy-minded apathetic goitre.

steven harris is adverse to putting his name in capitals because names aren't that important. Also, lower case is sexy. steven writes all sorts of stuff including fiction, poetry, songs, opinion pieces and shopping lists. He does not write on lavatory doors any more. his blog has writing in it and can be located at He lives in Devon with an imaginary cat called Kafka.

Follow him on Twitter as @theplanetharris

Images From BBC And Wikiepedia

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