millionreasons: (capaldi)

When Cameron was elected leader of the Conservatives he, and they, hardly seemed a threat. I don't mean to the incumbent government, I mean to the actual people. Labour were in the doldrums even before Brown took over and it didn't seem possible that they'd win another term. Cameron's Tory Wet, Compassionate Conservatism (sic), his hoodie-hugging and his tree logo seemed to want to take the same middle ground that Labour were standing on. He and his W11 buddies appeared to be merely career politicians, hardly possible they'd be the Thatcherites of yore. Obviously they were still risible for being Tories, for being posh, for having punchable faces, but it wasn't until the recession hit and they abandoned the caring facade and started their attacks on the public sector and promoting the "need" for swingeing cuts, that I realised that they were Thatcher and then some - that their intentions to dismantle the state have little to do with the recession, and more to do with their sincere political desire to end the state's role in providing safety nets and aid, it will be just there to collect taxes to spend on - what? Propping up more banks? Their big society concept is of a Victorian society where the poor rely on the random munificence of the rich to survive.

Labour's main failing wasn't the Iraq War, it wasn't detention of terror suspects without trial and asylum seekers in prison-camps, it wasn't allowing extraordinary rendition from British soil, or ID cards, or letting Gordon Brown become PM, or abandoning the 10p tax rate. It was, whilst admittedly upping the income of the poorest (as detailed in this well argued article), allowing the people at the top to stay there. For them to feel entitled to be there. To let them feel that they didn't need governments to impose financial regulations on them, that it was their right, their duty, to make more money and regulate themselves. And that not only caused the recession that the Tories have capitalised on, it has also established in our collective conciousness that it's OK for the filthy rich to become richer and filthier and thus the Tories will have no problem persuading us that it's the people at the bottom who a) are to blame with their pitiful demands for £65.45 a week b) must suffer to right the world to its natural state of dog eat dog, survival of the fittest etc etc.

The Tories flagship borough: the Horror of Hammersmith.

From London by Patrick Keiller:

"Robinson began to consider what the Conservative victory would mean for him. His flat would continue to deteriorate and its rent increase. He would be intimidated by vandalism and petty crime. The bus service would get worse. There would be more traffic and noise pollution and an increased risk of getting run down crossing the road. There would be more drunks pissing in the streets when he looked out of the window and more children taking drugs on the stairs when he came home at night. His job would be at risk and subject to more interference. His income would decrease. He would drink more and less well. He would be ill more often. He would die sooner. For the old or anyone with children, it would be much worse....

The public transport system would degenerate into chaos as it was deregulated and privatised. There would be more road schemes. Hospitals would close. As the social security system was dismantled, there would be increased homelessness and crime."

***

If the Tories win today, will the last person in Britain turn off the lights in the hospitals, day centres, schools, youth clubs, social work departments, libraries, universities, homeless hostels, care homes, art galleries, nurseries, the BBC....

 

millionreasons: (capaldi)
British election fever has even hit the US with Jon Stewart mildly mocking the "American-style" Leaders' Debate (videos aren't online anymore. Thanks a bunch, Comedy Central). Interestingly, both The Daily Show and skit-com You Have Been Watching (hosted by Charlie Brooker, the English Jon Stewart, although TDS runs five times a week and Newswipe is on five times....a year) both showed the same ITV blooper of a Facebooker calling David Cameron a c**t. The Daily Show blacked out the rude word, but YHBW blocked the Facebook name. American fear of cussing vs English privacy, there.

The debates have of course been instrumental in propelling Nick Clegg into the limelight. However, despite what the Guardian says, I don't think that the reason that he was previously ignored was because the mainstream media gagged him or and stopped the LibDems having a voice that le peuple want to hear. It's just that the LibDems rarely do anything interesting, Lynne Featherstone's blog, Vince Cable's Mr Bean coments and Simon Hughes's sex-life aside. Nick Clegg has become Sarah Palin without the moose-heads on the wall (although it remains to be said that if there were some doubt about a child's parentage, he'd probably be denying rather than claiming it) - something to brighten up the tedium of the election. Something for the Daily Mail to froth about and twitterers to ironically tweet about. I doubt that the Liberals will make great in-roads in the election. Their overall vote might increase, but some dissatisfied Labourites voting Liberal in safe seats won't change anything. A couple of Portillo/Twigg upsets aside, general elections are decided by a handful of people in key marginals. Cleggmania (for/against) is there to sell papers.

On the other hand, I think it's nonsense when people say "Oh, he can say anything he wants, the Liberals aren't going to be elected". Even the BNP can't say anything it wants because it's not going to be elected - they've moved their message away from "We Hate Darkies" to "Protecting Indigenous (sic) People" in order to garner votes. The Libs have moved into the void created by Labour's shift to the right in order to garner votes. If they're going to stand for anything, for anyone, they have to be consistent - they can't throw any old election promises into the mix. Policies are debated and focus-grouped to death.

I dislike the "American-style" leadership debates precisely because they are American-style. One should still vote for the party and not the leader. One can think Nick Clegg has some good points but dislike the smarmy LibDems. Moreoever, people often vote for their MP despite what the party has done. I wanted to kick Tony Blair in the chops in 2005 but still felt positive towards my MP at the time, Jeremy Corbyn. I voted for Harriet Harman in '97 not just because I wanted Labour to sweep the Tories into oblivion but because she had helped with a housing benefit problem I'd had with Southwark council.

No photoshop wizard has yet created a picture of Clegg, Campo and Foggy-Brown going down a hill in a bathtub, but some wag has made this video which makes the amusing point that Dave Cameron is a bit posh, but also the serious point that Dave Cameron may pretend he's an ordinary Joe but that it's the ordinary Joes who will suffer under a Tory government. The headline in yesterday's Guardian was: TORIES TARGET NORTH EAST AND NORTHERN IRELAND FOR CUTS with Dave quoted as saying: "In Northern Ireland, it is quite clear[.....]that the size of the state has got too big". That's because poor people live there. It was quite easy for Kensington and Chelsea council (where Dave has one of his homes) to give back £50 to each council tax payer because few poor people live there. Anyone earning under £25K and voting for the Tories is shooting themselves in the foot, arm, face and groin.



I used the figure of £25K because, according to the Office of National Statistics, this is the (mean) average wage in Britain. I read this in an article in the LRB which was supposed to be reviewing a book about austerity Britain but went into a big old rant about class, stating that the working class, ethnic minorities, women and gay people all had it hard in the '50s. Things have improved for all of these groups except the poor, but socialism (I suppose meaning closing the gap between rich and poor) is a dirty word. The Labour party were quite clear that they wanted to raise up the people at the bottom without inconveniencing the people at the top. The rich get richer and the poor get Healthy Start vouchers.

The LRB article went on to point out that an unrepresentative (i.e. large) number of people in the cabinet or shadow cabinet, the judiciary and the financial institutions were public-school educated. It costs £30,000 to send a boy to Eton for a year, but 80% of British people don't earn that in a year. Class is still a massive issue, but instead of snobbery keeping the working class out of white collar jobs and the middle class out of the elite, it's money and connections. The public sector is where people who aren't upper middle class work - from the policeman to the dinner lady to the social worker to the IT administrator.

The attack on the public sector comes from people who don't need the public sector. I have several friends whose parents were teachers, the difference being that in the Northern friends' houses, the teacher was the wage earner and the other parent did the 'little' job, whereas amongst the Southerners, the teacher was the lower earner and the spouse was the accountant, lawyer etc. Thus, southerners, or, rather, the well-off, regard the public sector job as less important - and the extremely well off regard them as irrelevant.

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