Green and pleasant land, Part 3
To the naked eye, England appears now to have come full circle. There were moments when the emancipation of the working class Englishman and Englishwoman might have been achieved by their country’s embracing of Europe – and even as far back as 2015, some 69% of respondents in the EU said they were happy with the institution – but David Cameron came to scupper that.
Cameron was perhaps the first of what you might call the Triumvirate of Thickos, England’s most stupid leaders. A vapid and bland man with an expressionless, almost botoxed, face (almost as if he still had his todger in the Oxford pig’s mouth), in 2012 he left his daughter in the pub. That wouldn’t have been so bad had his daughter not been 8 years old. And were it not merely a precursor for leaving his entire country in the shit. OK, OK, I won’t go over the old ground – even though I am doing, I suppose. Where Thatcher and Blair had attempted to solidify their position through wars, Cameron opted for the hara kiri or seppuku approach. He lifted the lid of the box to reveal that England’s soft racist underbelly was alive and well, and had merely been gathering dust in the European years. It had, of course, been kept alive by decades of populist tabloid press.
If one accepts that the EU is a club to which countries belong, to whose rules countries have to adhere in order to trade and remain, and in whose running countries have a say and the right to veto, it pretty much seems a decent way of operating on a massive pan-European scale. In reality, there are many flaws in the EU, and almost every country is irritated about something. Jealousy of Germany; migrants from Romania and Bulgaria and Poland; Spain’s reaction to Catalan independence claims; and, the overt homogeneity of standards – necessary, I suppose to enable fair trading among members – has led to a certain incipient blandness. But we have had 75 years of peace and unbridled prosperity, traversing the 2008/9 financial crisis with relative ease, offering a staunch buffer to Russian expansionism, and sharing wealth among the poorest regions. So if you accept that, which you do on applying for membership, and understand that the best way of changing things (especially as a powerful core member like the UK) is to do so from within, there can be little or no problem. And those poorer regions getting all the help? Turns out there are a hell of a lot of them in England: North-East; Wales; Cornwall, etc.
“How can that be?” you ask. How can a country that arrogantly boasts of being in the top 5 of wealthy countries have so much poverty? I used to think that was a rhetorical question – but having seen the absolute shitstorm of shambolic stupidity in the UK, I am no longer sure. But just in case a Brexiteer stumbles on this page, I’ll explain: it is because trickle-down economics doesn’t work, never has, probably never will, and 10 years of austerity politics have destroyed morale and support networks. While London, its bankers, and most of the current Conservative party were raking in the cash, the regions have been left to their own devices. The money is either frittered away on vanity projects (HS2) or wasted (as with Brexit). It is not invested in social programmes, the NHS or developing a better life for the country’s citizens, instead it is divvied up among the rich. You know, like what happened to North Sea Oil. It is the inner cities of England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland that have paid the price. In 2014, England contained six out of the ten most disadvantaged regions in the EU. European money kept things going for most people, while British governments were content to sit back and let the crisis unfold.
Britain and Britons are massively in debt. There is no hope for blue collar workers other than going further into debt. Conservative austerity has stripped away many of the programmes on which people used to rely. And do I need to mention the absolute national shame of the massive food bank use? Perhaps the EU has some share of the blame here, for its policies may have contributed to transforming England from a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of consumers. I say “may” and “contributed” because this was actually one of Thatcher’s stated aims, and an aim in which she succeeded completely. Debt has spiralled out of control as people feel they can just borrow money and then jet off to Cyprus or Spain or Portugal or Italy or Greece for two weeks in the sun, for mini-breaks in cultural capitals of the world, for lads’ nights’ out in Dublin or Amsterdam. Everything is accessible, and the English want everything and they want it now. At the same time as Britons were getting poorer, they were getting greedier.
Cameron’s pursuit of the far right in his party, his implementation of austerity policies and willingness for a referendum on EU membership, was always going to cause massive unrest. Austerity might have functioned (doubtful) had the EU been around to bail it out. But instead of looking inside the country to find fixes (say higher taxes for billionaires and institutions like Amazon, Google, banks etc., Cameron allowed the Conservatives to look outwards: they saw the EU was looking to impose just those higher taxes on the wealthy and decided it was time to unleash the dogs. The anti-EU campaign went into immediate overdrive and the first victim, if you’ll excuse the obvious plagiarism, was truth. Those empty shops in every small and medium-sized town in England? Not the fault of skyrocketing rents and inflation, it’s because of the EU. The malfunctioning NHS? Too many foreigners coming into the country and using our services. Poverty? How the hell can England help its poor when we have to send all our money to those foreigners in Brussels? Unemployment? Bloody Poles coming into the country and stealing our jobs. National debt? EU. Obviously. If only we didn’t have to make these massive payments to Brussels every week, we’d be able to give you everything you want…
Those foreigners in Europe became the bête noire of every discussion. The Brexit era revealed that racism and nastiness towards foreigners is still endemic in Britain. Indeed, it is not just racism, it is classism. It is not just endemic, it is rife. The modern day rulers of England have managed – quite brilliantly, I have to say – to turn logic on its head, to use and possibly improve on Orwellian principles to distort and destroy the truth, to militarise nationalism. People have been convinced to choose something that is not just not in their best interests, but actively against their best interests. And because the default mode of wealthy people in business is cupidity, and because the generic sneering superiority of the English has its apotheosis in an inbred “upper class” who consider foreigners and their own working class as untrustworthy, inferior and subhuman, you have the festering pile of faeces you saw over the weekend. Throw in an education system essentially destroyed by ideological stupidity and bureaucracy (both Labour and Conservative), a society en plein désarroi as a result of Thatcherite policies coming to fruition (leading to massive debt and the proliferation of yob culture), and the drip-feeding of lies – absolute untruths – from people and institutions in which truth had previously been revered (the BBC, The Times, the Prime Minister and to a lesser extent politicians). Debate is militarised. There is no room for fence sitters.
So where the hell will this all end? The obvious answer would appear to be in massive unrest and violence. Things are going to come to a head soon: the Northern Ireland issue; Scottish independence; unrest in Wales as EU subsidies will completely stop; privatisation of the NHS; inability to trade with the EU on an equal footing… all of these are possible, but as this weekend showed – and indeed the weekend before when Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle was in the news – it may be something completely unrelated that sparks the tinder box.
As with yesterday’s post, I was sent this item just as I ran out of steam on this rant. It is a fascinating view on why Dominic Cummings is so important to the Tories. As with many of Donald Trump’s misdemeanours, one hopes this will be fully investigated once the dust has settled. However, this is England. So I am not holding my breath.