Given that I very infrequently go out of the house or meet people, due to a profound depression due to a recent bereavement, I listen to phone-ins on local radio. A popular topic has been, ‘are you proud of your country?’
I must admit that I am totally bored to death of this discussion. In the blue corner, there is a lot of attacking of the ‘Leftwaffe’ (yes, remember that when you have to resort to insults you have lost the argument?) that the Left is ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘always doing the country down’. In the red corner, people are well and truly fed up; sick of stressful utility bills, sewage being pumped into local beaches, criminal barristers and posties on strike, railway workers sick of the way they have been treated, and so on.
Nostalgia meant that people enjoyed referring to the 1970s when the UK was ‘the sick man of Europe’. I remember looking up the inflation rate yesterday, having been aghast that a serious political commentator asked how we could “stop” inflation (revealing a complete misunderstanding of how inflation works). Apart from Lithuania and one or two countries in the European Union, we are well ahead. It is hard to escape from the conclusion that this is something to do with the Ukrainian war, but it clearly is something to do with the delays in processing due to Brexit. How awful is it must be to go back to the 1970s when shareholders were not fleecing the system, local libraries existed, it didn’t take hours to call an ambulance, social care wasn’t totally on its knees?
My late mother warned me that when you tell a lie you are forced to tell another lie and another and another. Listening to Nigel Farage argue that the Conservative Party has failed to use Brexit to stop the dinghy influx was totally laughable. It’s been explained to him that this problem has been caused by Brexit, in that we don’t have good relations with France – there is no obligation on France, for example, for them to return dinghies. One person in the audience in the Liz Truss GB News “people’s debate” even suggested quite randomly sending the refugees, contrary to international law, to Kenya. People talk about asking the Royal Navy to send the dinghies back to France, but this has been definitely rules out as an option.
The lie over Brexit is getting larger and larger. So confused I was about the arguments for why people might support the exit of the European Union, a position Mick Lynch holds, is that I followed Mick Lynch’s advise – to go back to the original arguments of the 1970s, such as Peter Shore. Tony Benn and Peter Shore both refer to the weakening of democracy. I, like Roy Jenkins, find this a rather dubious argument for a number of reasons. For example, people in France and Germany do not spend all of their time being ‘resentful’ that they are being ‘governed from Brussels’. Also, following 2016, the UK has taken back control, so that catastrophic decisions made by Liz Truss and others, regarding the Environmental Agency and other aspects, have led to raw sewage making the UK being surrounded by a moat of hot sewage. The legal aid cuts which Truss also delivered tells us what sort of ‘small state’ the Tories have in mind, meaning that the criminal law is now on its knees. Criminal barristers, some of whom are being paid less than the national minimum wage, are simply sick of it. The public are sick of water companies with litres of water spewing out of burst pipes, hose pipe bans, and millions of bonuses and spent on dividends. There is clearly no ‘market’ in that I cannot ‘shop around’ for water. Nobody ever says, ‘I had great electricity this morning’.
I completely understand why Grace Blakeley are exhausted at explaining the failure of Thatcherite economics. These were near monopoly oligopolies, with no real competition. When they were privatised, they were still acting as monopolies. And the worst thing is – with no ownership or stake, we cannot intervene. As Thatcher liked to triumphantly used, ‘You can’t buck the market’. Who knew Corbyn was right too – you can’t buck a rigged market? The regulators have failed to intervene on behalf of the public too. The media for decades have defended this failed ideology, and this had held the country to ransom with the Tory government. Labour is going through a tough time, with the usual split between socialism and social democracy, with much personal hostility thrown in, but this has always been the case. Bevan was himself expelled from the Labour Party, and treated pretty appallingly like other contemporaneous leaders. The Bevan / Gaitskell rift was followed by the Benn / Foot / Healey rift, and so on. The problem is, as it’s always been, is that Labour will put so much energy into procedure, process, and fighting each other, that it will not devote itself to fighting Truss and Sunak who are clearly atrocious. Labour has previously been accused of being more concerned with party than country, but if it is seen to be clearly on the side of the country – given that the Tories are clearly not – it seriously has a fighting chance of forming a government. A stuck clock is right occasionally, or every dog has its day, or whatever your worst case scenario is.