Tag Archives: england

England toilet paper

Have we reached peak flag?

There are some days when I couldn’t feel more alienated from UK politics, and today is one of them. While we are still struggling to comprehend why the people of Rochester and Strood just re-elected an MP who is a virtual caricature of every worst Westminster character trait imaginable in what they seem to think is a defiant anti-Westminster rebuff, Labour opted to lose it completely. They sacked Emily Thornberry from the front bench for posting a picture of a house with three England flags in the window alongside in a way that might be construed as mildly passive-aggressive. Sacked immediately by an apparently furious Ed Miliband, we’ve been bombarded today by pictures of the house’s occupant, nicknamed “White Van Dan” riding around Islington in his van, which has now been covered by Sun newspaper stickers. Meanwhile, asked what he thinks whenever he sees a white van, Ed Miliband came up with the ultimate Thick-Of-It-ism by replying “respect“.

Hanging over all this is the spectre of Gillian Duffy, the pensioner from Rochdale who Gordon Brown unwisely called a bigoted woman while wearing a live microphone during the 2010 general election campaign. In both cases, the response has seemed as out of touch if less authentic than the original offence. In fact, the only thing less authentic is the manufactured outrage whipped up by the media and Labour’s rivals which caused the apologies in the first place.

Labour aren’t just the victims of this. Just yesterday, Labour’s new anti-Green unit had managed to get the Evening Standard to publish a story attacking Green Party leader Natalie Bennett for the apparently egregious offence of travelling across Europe in a comfortable train instead of the indignity of squatting in one of those flying toilets that passes for a RyanAir plane. As someone who did something rather similar last month, albeit mostly out of a desire for comfort rather than wanting to minimise carbon emissions, I struggle to understand what the fuss is about. I certainly struggle to understand why Labour thinks this is going to alienate potential voters from the Green Party.

Much of what I wrote about Norman Baker’s treatment following his resignation earlier this month also applies to this latest debacle. I’m growing increasingly despairing of politicians’ craven need to indulge every reactionary twinge, as long as it emerges from a housing estate. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is genuine concern for the poor and marginalised in society however; I have no idea if White Van Dan receives benefits or not, but under different circumstances he is exactly the kind of bloke that the Sun typically vilifies for being a scrounger, with Labour cheerleading behind it. If you’re poor, the political class hate you; yet if you say something like “it’s not racist to want to kick brown people out of the country”, you are fêted and patronised as the authentic voice of the working classes. Meanwhile, the under-25s are looking at having their benefits slashed regardless of whether Labour or the Tories win a plurality at the next general election. And despite housing being one of the biggest single causes of poverty and social immobility, none of the parties appear to be interest in doing much about it.

The thing is, as a strategy for marginalising the far right, it doesn’t work, at all, as Ukip’s surge in recent years and the BNP’s upswing before that has repeatedly demonstrated. We are fortunate in this country in that most of our far right parties are so venal that they tend to turn in on themselves as soon as they get a whiff of success (helped along by organisations like Hope Not Hate). The BNP and English Defence League both spectacularly self-destructed, as indeed did Ukip 10 years ago following Robert Kilroy Silk’s attempts at a takeover. And looking at the oddballs which Ukip got elected as MEPs this year, there’s a good chance they will self-destruct again.

But by not challenging the very thing they stand for, all the main parties have achieved is to grow the reactionary core vote. As parties collapse, new ones rise up and quickly take their place. If Nigel Farage does self-immolate at some point, you can bet that there’s another smooth talking, slimy public former public schoolboy ready to take his place.

As it is, when people say idiotic things like immigration is a taboo subject in British politics, the main parties all nod their heads sagely, despite knowing that it’s all they ever talk about. I’m hardly the first person to notice that “Ukip are right, don’t vote for them” has spectacularly failed as a political message. And while politicians are falling over themselves to come up with ever harsher anti-immigration policies, whilst straining to appear non-racist, immigrants themselves meanwhile are shoring up the NHS, the treasury and our cultural life.

With the vast majority of the public not willing to even consider voting Ukip, is it really that inconceivable to actually challenge their bullshit? I don’t mean in a mealy mouthed, apologetic way as Labour currently practices, but in a robust and pro-active way. It did not, admittedly, work particularly well for the Lib Dems during the last European elections, but their credibility has been shot to pieces. Imagine if Ed Miliband had decided to take Ukip to task at his party conference this September, instead of spending the last couple of months indulging them? He certainly wouldn’t be in a worse position than he is at the moment. I suspect that his failure to do so has more to do with the rise in Green Party popularity than any newfound concern for the environment.

I’m not a fan of nationalism, but I will confess that some people seem to be capable of practising genuine civic nationalism, and I respect them for it. In the run up and aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum, I came across dozens of examples of it campaigning for Yes. As someone who has always been quite dismissive of SNP claims to be this generous form of nationalism, as opposed to the defensive, hateful kind, this has represented something of a challenge for me (for the avoidance of doubt, I’m not suggesting that all SNP supporters are twinkly civic nationalists; far from it).

The Anglo-British political class however seem to be reacting to the nationalist challenge by adopting an equally reactionary form of nationalism. Throughout the Scottish independence referendum campaign, my twitterfeed seemed to be dominated by No campaigners and English politicos talking about how a Yes vote would force them to erect a border between Scotland and England – not to keep the nationalists out, you understand, but all the dreadful immigrants that the SNP was going to be willing to accept into the country. Self-defined lefties, progressives and Europhiles were talking about Schengen in increasingly shrill tones. This seems to be all that British nationalism has to offer; togevverness in the face of the awful outside world, and nothing but spite for Scotland if it chose to go its own way. As someone who simply doesn’t understand why I should treat Scots as any more or less comradely than the French or Danes – or Liberians for that matter, I found it weirdly alienating.

The Ango-British are really bad at nationalism, not least of all because no-one seems to be able to decide whether to wrap themselves in the English or British flag. I don’t doubt the integrity of people like Billy Bragg wanting an English civic nationalism, but even he isn’t very good at articulating it, and no-one is really listening to him in any case. Instead of trying to invent something that isn’t there, the progressive, civic nationalist thing to do is to simply not worry too much about it, and instead focus on values such as mutual respect and solidarity. Those ought to be our starting points, not a concern about alienating people who have become intoxicated with nationalist lies.

There’s a possibility that Labour might actually realise this over the next couple of months and respond accordingly, but I’m not going to be holding my breath. If they don’t however, I suspect that all we’ll see is a further fragmentation of the Labour vote as haemorrhages between the Greens and Ukip. In many ways, this isn’t a bad thing – the collapse of the established political order is looking increasingly inevitable. But while it might be a positive thing in the long term, in the short term we are likely to just see British politics adrift on a tide of racist and hateful effluent.

The Conservative Party: a better class of bonkers

It’s the 30th, so it must be the Tory conference in Blackpool and thankfully the final leg of the annual Party Conference Odyssey. Thus far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the relative niceness of our B&B (believe me, I’ve been in much worse in this town) and am slowly getting my lay of the land with regards to the culture. Thus far, it all seems to boil down to hats. You don’t see Lib Dems or Labour wearing fedoras or something that wouldn’t look out of place at Ladies Day at Ascot. Having spent much of this afternoon handing out free magazines, I can also attest that I’ve been dead-eyed by more delegates than either of the other two conferences put together. This is also the first time I’ve come across delegates informing me that they don’t want to be a citizen, “I want to be a subject of the crown!” Fair enough.

Whereas last week I could wander about in relative anonymity, here my blogging and regular appearances on 18 Doughty Street get me recognised everywhere. It was nice to finally meet Peter Cuthbertson last night after all these years, although being mid-fever and encountering a particularly tricky madras meant that I wasn’t exactly at my best. I also understand that Croydonian is about to out me on the basis that I’m wearing a Conservative lanyard.

One thing that is particularly distinctive at Tory conference is the rich seam of loons. That isn’t to say the other parties don’t have them as well; we sure do. But the Tories take this one step further. The Free Society and Forest are having a reception stuffed full of delegates behind me as I type in which they are giving out a CD containing “songs for swinging smokers” – even DELGA has struggled to make free love a mainstream issue in the way that seems to be taken for granted here (the reception certainly isn’t about smoking as I’ve just seen a couple of people get ejected for the temerity of lighting up).

And then there is the UK Column (incorporating the Plymouth and Devonport Column), a newspaper which has been handed out all day today. For more information about where they are coming from, see the accompanying website eutruth.org.uk and this YouTube video with their editor David Noakes. I hasten to add that this newspaper is in no way affiliated with the Conservative Party, but it was clearly decided that the Lib Dem and Labour conferences would be much less fertile ground.

This paper is fantastic, bonkers stuff on the extreme end of the Euro-nihilist fringe. Pretty much everyone is listed as EU collaborators involved in a grand conspiracy to foist an EU Police State on the British people, including Cameron, John Redwood, Francis “pornographer” Maude (I bet he’s a smokin’ swinger!), UKIP and Thames Valley Police. As for the mainstream parties:

“The ruling EU marxist cliques in the Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative parties are heavily into sexual practices which most of us would not regard as normal, with a significant amount of paedophilia amongst them, both nationally and locally.”

The Grand Conspiracy has apparently been orchestrated behind the scenes by the Bilderburg Group, German Intellegence, Freemasons, the Legal Profession and the sinister sounding Common Purpose. They have surprisingly accurate seeming percentages for how much each organisation is dominated by The Conspiracy. We therefore are to understand, for example that the Lib Dems and Labour are 60% dominated (some hope for us then) while the Tories are overwhelmed by a 75% dominance of conspirators. Surprisingly, 4% of the Bilderberg Group, we are to understand, are not in on the conspiracy. How Jewish Bankers, the Catholic Church and Zeta Reticulans fit in in all this is sadly left unexplained.

One thing that might confuse the casual reader of this august organ is that despite being called the UK Column, they have what appears to be a flag of St George as part of their logo. Surely that is English imperialism of the worst kind? Apparently not.

It is explained that it is in fact the flag of Arviragus (Arthur?), a Cornish Prince who was friends with Joseph of Arimathea and who kicked the Roman’s arses the last time those dirty continentals invaded. So it isn’t English imperialism at all; it’s Cornish imperialism. So that’s all right then.

And how is this paper funded in the face of such a grand conspiracy? Through local advertising. All well and good, but my humble suggestion to the customers of BDL Denture Clinics, based in Plymouth and Bodmin, is to look very carefully into their credentials. Just a suggestion.

Oh, and there’s a rumour going round that Zac Goldsmith is about to defect to the Lib Dems. I don’t personally believe it for a minute, but then again I don’t really understand what he’s doing here either. And it doesn’t look as if he’s going to be having a very good week.

Bernard Manning: an apology

Earlier today I compared Gareth Young in unfavourable terms to Bernard Manning. In light of Gareth’s subsequent comments, I now accept this was entirely unfair. Bernard Manning was at least honest with himself about what he believed in and never took himself too seriously. It is clear that no-one could ever accuse Gareth of either.

My favourite line is this:

James’ idea that all decisions that affect England are best handled at a UK or local level are a mechanical, almost fascist (sic), idea of democracy; it’s not about what form of government the people would want, but rather what form of government we think is best.

Seriously: support for local government and self-determination is fascist? I’ve never disputed that if the English want an English Parliament, they are welcome to one. My argument is that if someone is offered steak (real self-determination and genuine decentralisation), why would you settle for meatloaf (a centralised English Parliament)? I’ve never said anything different. The fact that this challenges and threatens the English nats’ sense of security so much is a constant source of amusement for me.