“Austerity is over” – so what exactly did Daniel Blake die for?

Conservative Party billboards, 2010

Theresa May has said that austerity is finished. What she didn’t mention – but knows full well – is that it was never necessary in the first place.

After the financial crisis of 2007-8, which was largely caused by deregulation of the financial system on the ideological basis that the market always knows best, the Conservative press started telling a story which wasn’t true. The narrative they came up with was that Labour overspending had caused the country to become mired in unsustainable levels of public debt. The solution was to do what they had always wanted: shrink the British state, selling off the profitable parts of the NHS and reducing the post-war Welfare State to a bare mimimum. It was a clear case of what Naomi Klein had described the previous year as the shock doctrine: the taking advantage of a crisis in order to implement an extreme ideological agenda which in normal circumstances would be roundly rejected. As the neoliberal guru Milton Friedman had said:

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.

On the basis of the story the Conservatives won two general elections. As a direct result of the ‘savage’ cuts (to quote Nick Clegg’s ill-advised boasts) millions turned to food banks and thousands were killed by benefit sanctions and the removal of their disability benefits. The NHS is now on its last legs, both of which are due to be ripped off at any moment and sold off to speculators, as detailed in the Naylor Review.

How were they able to get away with it? Because the Labour Party never challenged the narrative. They never pointed out with sufficient conviction that it wasn’t government overspending that had caused the crisis. Whenever they tried to articulate their own version of events it was done so unconvincingly that the right-wing press shouted them down and they were cowed.

Now the Labour Party is telling its own story and it happens to be one that coincides with the truth. Austerity was a con, a scam, and a coup and the damage that’s been done to public services and to social cohesion was a result of maliciousness and greed. Now, at long last, after seven bitter and frustrating years, it is finally arguing its case with such conviction that the whole tenor of debates about society and the economy have changed more or less overnight.

The Tories think they can get away with pretending to drop austerity and moving swiftly on. They must not be allowed to do so. The cuts agenda has been the entire basis of government policy at every moment of the last seven years and they knew that it was based on lies. They knew that the economic crisis was nothing to do with government overspending. The scale of the scam that has been pulled is so great that it would take a truth and reconciliation commission to get at the truth. It was not based on a regrettable misunderstanding that has now been resolved. It was based on an immense campaign of lies so that public wealth in all its different forms, both tangible and intangible but all absolutely invaluable, could be monetised, financialised and ultimately stolen. It hasn’t been a marginal aspect of the last two governments’ political programmes but their absolute centrepiece. We have been ruled by a regime of austerity and in order to move on from it in any meaningful way HEADS MUST FUCKING ROLL starting with that of Theresa May, who just a few weeks ago thought she could crush all political opposition for good. If austerity is dead, then so are the careers of all those who, with staggering dishonesty and massive corruption, supported it in the first place. They have ruined millions of lives – and, given that without austerity, Brexit would be inconceivable, set in chain a series of consequences which may end up destroying peace between European nations – on the basis of an absolute lie.

People Theresa May is now in hock to

Things haven’t gone to plan for the PM. According to the script drawn up by her rather hapless advisors back in April, by this point any remaining dissidents were supposed to have been lying at the bottom of the Irish Sea and she herself was due to be anointed with the Royal Wax of the Imperial Beehive. Instead she’s spending 24 hours a day on the phone to crackpot Ulsterfolk with accents so densely-packed you could use them to blow up a betting shop, while any courtiers who haven’t had their heads chopped off were last heard of making up some absolute f*cking nonsense about goat’s skin. Plus Mr Murdoch’s not at all happy, and he’s not the only one. Here’s a short list of the people she has to appease if she wants to stay in power beyond Tuesday teatime.

1. Rupert Murdoch

When Murdoch summoned May immediately after the election announcement in order to hand her her instructions, he told her in a very loud, grouchy, sort-how-you’d-imagine-an-aging-pedo-to-sound voice GET MICHAEL BLOODY GOVE IN THE BLOODY CABINET. Luckily for her she then screwed up the election, so at this point she can appoint whoever she wants. She might as well make Gerry Adams Minister for Sport or dig up Jimmy Savile and make him Secretary of State for Media and Children’s Hospitals. Whatever she does, she no longer risks attracting opprobrium, simply because there is simply no more opprobrium to be had in the entire country. In fact, given the levels of opprobrium that the British Government is currently attracting from Europe and around the world, global supplies look like running out. Luckily they can be enhanced by another mineral resource, which appears to be infinite: ridicule.

2. Paul Dacre

Imagine the scene. Theresa May, with all her liberal values arraigned alongside her, visits the Labour stronghold of Kensington. She insists that the UK must remain in Single Market and that there must be some measure of free movement, especially for those EU citizens who are settled in the UK. Well, she says that to herself, silently, while nervously sipping her coffee from King Edward VIII chinztware cups. Then the Editor of the Daily Mail turns up, calls her a stupid f*cking c*nt eight times in the first two minutes and orders her to go back to Number 10 and wait for a f*cking email with her f*cking instructions in it.

3. The Saudis

She can’t afford to offend the Saudis, even if they will keep sending their suicide bombers to blow up London. That’s why she continues to (literally) sit on a report which details their plans to do basically just that. In the meantime, as Amber Rudd argues, selling death equipment into the Middle East remains the best guarantee of prosperity and stability for the post-Brexit UK*. Or, you know, not. At least on the next trade mission they’ll be able to send over the DUP as official representatives, and they’re sure to have a huge amount in common with their hosts.

4. The DUP

A lot of commentary on the DUP over the last few days has focussed on how bigoted they are, which is actually in a way unfortunate, because they’re actually more corrupt than they are bigoted. Although, to be fair, they’re also more bigoted than they are corrupt. And vice versa. The initial negotiations over the not-allowed-to-call-it-a-coalition-because-of-the-stupid-bloody-peace-process took precisely as long as it took to say we’llgiveyouwhateveryouwant. There was then a slight delay as everything Arlene Foster said had to be translated from pure hatespeak into something resembling BBC Tory English so that Laura Kuenssberg could try to sell the whole thing to the British public while besmirching, defaming and maligning the opposition, as her contract clearly specifies. They’ve now got as far as establishing that the DUP wants to ban Catholics from public and private office (and transport), hold Orange Marches on Downing Street every Thursday and burn down St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is obviously all fine and dandy. Did you know that Jeremy Corbyn once went to a pub in Belfast where members of Sinn Fein had played darts just three weeks earlier? Oh, you did.

5. The Brexit negotiating teams

“The…what?! Oh, f*ck, I’d forgotten all about that…”

*It’s even more lucrative when you factor in the, er, training that goes into these ‘defence contracts’.

A three-month-old baby assesses the propects for the MAY-DUP coalition

So, you’re three months old…

Four and a half months, actually. Nineteen weeks on Monday.

It says…

Yes, I know. My male parent thought it made for a more eye-catching headline. It’s not the first time he’s used me to promote his political opinions. A bit ‘clickbaity’ I suppose, but whatcha gonna do.

I see. Well, as some are saying this election was largely decided by the youth vote, I wondered how you, as someone…relatively youthful, saw what has happened, and particularly the subsequent events.

Well, although I’m as yet barely able to grasp a baby’s rattle, let alone the ins and outs of political horsetrading, I find the whole DUP thing interesting for three main reasons. Firstly, it puts paid to any notion of the Conservatives as anything other than deeply socially reactionary and driven by the will to power. It’s now ten years since David Cameron went around pretending he could talk to huskies. Even at the time, even though I wouldn’t be born for another nine years and eight months, I could see that it was all a charade, but the image did stick, and when he resigned there were people praising him for his social progressiveness on (for example) gay marriage. That sort of notion of the Tory Party is now absolutely dead. For all the talk of ‘modernisers’, it’s an atavistic, pre-modern assemblage. Secondly, something that’s not been discussed much is anti-catholicism. I think it’s paid very little attention to in England – commentary on the DUP has mostly focussed, rightly I think, on their homophobia, climate denial and misogyny – but it’s still a theme in English life. We sort of outsource that part of our history to the fringes and pretend it no longer exists, but I’d be very interested to know how catholic Tories view this agreement. Finally, there’s the lack of strategic thinking. This deal won’t last. The alacrity with which it was announced suggests strongly to me that May just agreed to give the DUP whatever they want, and that will obviously lead to problems in the medium term if not before. I think people did use to think of May as someone who possessed a modicum of political intelligence, but in strategic terms she’s not much more sophisticated than her new best friend, that outright dickhead in the United States. Maybe, as some wag put it on Twitter, she has a thing for orangemen…

Yes, indeed. Er, you seem to have a keen interest in events, did you stay up for the results?

After a fashion. I initially fell asleep at around nine thirty, and then woke up for a scream and a snack about two. Then it was back to sleep for two hours until I woke up again for, as the parental people would doubtlessly put it, “some bloody reason”. So no, I didn’t follow events too closely.

Right. Now, in the context of Brexit…

Can I just say something? Sorry to interrupt, my conversational instincts are still a little unrefined. Burp. Look, I have to say that I find the whole Brexit thing understandable. If not actually laudable. I mean, let me make an analogy. A few weeks ago they took me to stay in a hotel. I’m not sure why we went, to me it’s all just random colours and sounds wherever we go and it was a totally unfamiliar environment so I was bound to play up. Anyway, they tried to get me to sleep in this travel cot which was quite frankly far too close to the ground for comfort, I mean I would have basically been sleeping on the floor like one of those woof woof creatures they always go on about. So I kicked off. Every time they lowered me into the bloody thing I started screaming like a, you know. After they’d tried about fifty times they were going mental and in the end they let me sleep on the bed like a normal person. They barely got any sleep (I had my arms stretched out on the bed so there was basically no space and the male one ended up crashed out in an armchair), but I was fine (although I think I soiled myself at least three times), and the whole mini-break thing ended up being cut short! Now, how does that relate to Brexit? Well, I think I’ll let you, as it were, ‘do the math’.

Right, er…now, in terms of…

Sorry to interrupt again, but that’s rather a nice shirt you’re wearing. Could I possibly have a taste? I haven’t had any ‘milky-wilky’ for…

Well, I’d rather you didn’t. I have a social engagement to attend after this…

Suit yourself, bub.

Thank you. Now, given your depth of understanding of the issues, I wondered if you had any suggestions for our readers in terms of authors who have a particular insight into these issues.

Well, it’s not directly related to these events, but by far the most interesting book I’ve encountered of late is this crackly one made of some sort of cloth. It mostly consists of pictures of something called ‘animals’, apparently. I find it compelling for two reasons: 1) it’s colourful and 2) it’s tasty. I’ve barely got past sucking on the first few pages but I have to say I’m finding it riveting. I fully intend to eat it all one day. And I have to say, when it comes to eating printed material, I carry out my promises. Not like that Ukip arsehole!

Right. Now, just one more…

Excuse me, I’m going to have to cut you short. I’m afraid I appear to have ‘done a Theresa’. Could you possibly alert one of the parental people?


First task for the Left: Deal with reality, not some clickbait version of it

The result is not final, but it’s never been in any doubt: Labour is set to win the General Election with a massive landslide. All the latest reports say so: the ones from The Canary, something someone posted on Facebook, and a tweet I saw which had more than 300 likes…

If only reality was determined by wishes. In a way, it is. The market decides what sort of media we have access to. The most popular newspapers in the UK are The Daily Mail and The Sun. They tell their readers what they want to hear, which just happens to be line with the interests and opinions of their owners. When it comes to elections their voices are by far the loudest.

What about those of us with a different worldview, who can see through Sun and Mail headlines, who are aware of the manipulation inherent in private media ownership? Is our only option to believe whatever wildly optimistic/wilfully misleading information pops up on our timelines and newsfeeds?

Thankfully, no, it isn’t. In the UK, around Europe and in the US there is a free press which tries to represent reality according to a shared set of values, practices and guidelines. Does that mean we should have blind faith in whatever reporters and columnists for the Guardian, the New Statesman or other progressive publications have to tell us? No, it doesn’t. We need to read with a critical eye, bearing in mind such issues as bias and omission, questioning and arguing back where necessary.

What about ignoring the ‘Mainstream Media’ has to say altogether? That’s what the Donald Trumps of this world would love us to do. He fingers reponsible publications as the ‘public enemy’, instructing his followers not a believe a word of anything critical written about him. His approach is rather like that of politicians in countries like Mexico, where reporters are regularly murdered for investigating and seeking to expose the corruption of the rich and powerful.

The other reason we have to have critical trust in what the liberal media reports is that the majority of what’s reported has a far more than casual relationship with the truth. And if you want to understand what’s going on in the world you need to have some sort access to facts. This election has shown up the consequences of rejecting what the ‘MSM’ says and believing in whatever you come across on yoir newsfeed. The news that social media sites target you with is not based on an understanding of what you as a citizen need to be aware of, but what they understand that you would like to be true. That’s why your timeline is full of stories stating confidently that Jeremy Corbyn is going to win. In reality – and I know this because I read a range of news sources and they all agree on this basic point – Labour is facing a catastrophe. That is a stark fact. The only reason it should be a surprise to you this evening when the first exit polls announce that Labour has been swept away across the board is if you haven’t been paying attention to reality, but rather choosing to believe a version of it which is based on far more sophisticated -and seductive means of manipulation than anything the traditional media can come up with.

There’s a way in which all of this is even more important and more tragic than this particular election. The earth’s climate is collapsing, and yet most of the world’s population are not aware of the most basic facts regarding the causes and consequences of the problem. The most powerful man in the world, the person who by definition has more access to more reliable information than any other, believes that it is a hoax. And how is it that someone who should in theory be extremely well-informed is in practice so dumb? Well, in his own words:

Let’s be better than Trump. Fuck The Canary and all the other cynical, market-driven clickbait fake news outlets, which profit by monetising and thereby devaluing genuine hope. Read what proper journalists have found out instead. This is a good place to start. Like the old joke about asking a farmer for directions has it (‘I wouldn’t start from here…’), if we want to move forward, we need to know where we are right now, not pretend we’re somewhere else entirely. Dreaming is essential: we must shift the boundaries of what is considered possible and reject the depressing mantra that grey neoliberal sludge with a side order of potential fascism is the only dish on offer. But our dreaming must be lucid, allowing us to distinguish pure Disney fantasy from actual verifiable facts. Above all, we need to have a grasp on reality if we’re serious about wanting to transform it.

P.s. I would be obviously ecstatic if thanks to some miracle it turned out that me and every proper news outlet were wrong about this. I’ve been through far too many elections to get my hopes up, especially on the basis of so little convincing evidence. Fuck the Tories. UPDATE: I am very happy to have been proven slightly wrong. Fuck the Tories AND the DUP.

What to say to British people to stop them voting Conservative

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May delivers her keynote address on the second day of the Conservative party annual conference in Manchester

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece which offended, or at least annoyed, a number of people. It was called What to say to French people to stop them voting fascist and it proferred a number of phrases that could be used by anyone visiting France or meeting French people abroad to persuade them not to vote for Le Pen. Some felt strongly that it was patronising and could even be counterproductive. Well, they were wrong, because I myself decided that it wasn’t patronising and the French themselves confirmed that it had been the right thing to do by voting massively for my new hero Emmanuele Macron, who has gone on in the space of a month to stand bravely up to both Trump and Putin and has also put a team of crack neoliberals in place who will once and for all solve the problems of gallic underproductivity and the woeful lack of competitivity in the French economy, hidebound as it is by a bloated public sector which stifles innovation, etc*.

For the purposes of balance, however, and given that there is about to be a general election in my ‘own’ country, I’ve decided to try to repeat the remarkable success of the previous article. I anticipate that this post will be of special interest to any of my US audience visiting the UK or my many Portuguese and Italian followers** chatting to my compatriots on the beach or in Irish bars. Now, when using the following phrases it needs to be borne in mind that the British (particularly the English) are a prickly group of people so it is best to do as they do and lace whatever you say with enormous amounts of irony, that way you can just claim that you were ‘joking’ and will avoid getting glassed/hit in the face with a croquet mallet/etc.

Phrases to say to British people to stop them voting Tory

  1. Hey, geezer, Theresa May is a threat to national security! She sacked 20,000 bobbies!
  2. It’ll be the final solution for the NHS, mate, the full monty. No more Elf Service for us ordinary blokes.
  3. Look, old chap, you do know that she doesn’t have a plan for Brexit? She’s just going to walk away, it’ll be a total cock-up.
  4. It’s the post-Brexit shock doctrine, me ol’ china. Read Naomi Klein, she’s ace.
  5. She won’t stand up to Trump, fella mi lad. Even held his hand on her visit to the White House. Won’t defend Sadiq Khan or even criticise him over the Paris thing. Plus, those yanks, they don’t know how to make a decent bleedin’ cuppa tea.
  6. (When talking to anyone under the age of 30) Listen, bruv, she don’t even believe in Brexit, she was against it from the start. Dem Tories is bare deng, innit. Got any skinz? #grime4corbyn.
  7. (When talking to anyone who looks like they might not be racist) The Tories have taken over the rhetoric of Farage, chum. They might as well change their name to BluKip.
  8. (When talking to anyone who looks or sounds a bit snooty) How d’you do? Do you really think you can trust that ghastly woman? What about the dementia tax u-turn? I say, fancy a fag?
  9. (If speaking to a Londoner) Cor blimey, that Corbyn’s unexpectedly grown in stature during the course of the bleedin’ campaign, ain’t ‘e guv? Blimey, what a pea souper, and no mistake, apples and pears, etc. At least the EU looked after our air quality, luvaduck.
  10. (If speaking to a Northerner) Fookin ‘ell. Fookin’ Tories. BASTards. Ey up, lad/lass, wha’ der folk call a cob in tha parts, yer bastard? UTB!

*Anyone who is interested in irony will appreciate this sentence, which was surprisingly easy and fun to write.
**Strangely enough I don’t have very many French followers.

Theresa May’s secret plan for Brexit

As I’ve argued here from the start, Brexit is impossible. David Cameron blithely drew us all into a trap set by the far-right, and whoever has the responsibility for actually implementing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will quicky find that it’s no easier than building a physical wall between Mexico and the moon.

Trump’s ‘friend’ Nigel Farage, aka the trickster who brought us to this point of total intractability, is a lifelong fascist who would happily, in collaboration with his US and Russian counterparts, start a world war. Seeing the situation the British Government is now in, he’s as gleefull as a bulldog in a kennel built of its own excrement. As a proper pre-referendum democratic debate, i.e. one not distorted by the strident lies of Farage, Johnson, Murdoch* and Dacre – not to mention the illegal manipulation by Cambridge Analytica – would have established, it would take decades of negotiations by legal and constitutional experts on both sides to even begin to disentangle the British State from the European Union.

So what’s Theresa May’s plan, given that she’s always known that the whole thing is a non-starter and that attempts to enact it would destroy the British economy? Even after she’d achieved her vanity project of becoming Prime Minister her early attempts to even define the project were absolutely devoid of meaning. So far she’s toughed it out, pretending that she has a clearly-defined notion of what’s involved. Call it ‘hard Brexit’, to prepare the population for decades’ more austerity. Use the opportunity to put into action the final solution for the NHS and all the other eternally cruel dreams of her political tradition.

In relation to the actual negotiations, she’s attempting to set the country up to take part in a geopolitical tantrum, trying to persuade voters and herself that the UK can realistically just walk away from the whole thing. It’s absolutely to Corbyn’s credit, despite his woeful prevaracation in the run-up up to and immediate wake of the vote, that he’s insisted that ‘no deal’ is not a plausible possibility.

In the meantime, I suspect that for all that she’s just about managing to robotically bluster and fib her way through this campaign and will probably get a majority (although not nearly as big as she wanted), May simply doesn’t want to be Prime Minister any more. I think that her calling of this election was an attempt to establish in her own head a mandate for national suicide, but that however hard she tries she just does not have the courage. It is highly possible that she will do the same as Cameron and wash her hands of the whole disaster. But whether it’s on the individual level of resigning, or at the national level of activating the suicide belt of abandoning negotiations with the EU, Theresa May’s secret plan for Brexit, whether she knows it or not, is to walk away and let everyone else deal with the consequences.

Over the next week, every single person who wants the Tories to be defeated needs to be banging on doors, sticking up posters, striking up conversations with strangers at bus stops and at every point reminding their fellow citizens: the Tories do not give a flying fuck about the future of our society. They just want to get even richer at our expense. And when they say they have a plan for Brexit that involves anything other than the sacrifice of our livelihoods and the martyrdom of our children’s life chances if not their actual lives, they are lying through their expensively-upholstered teeth.

* I’d just like to take this opportunity to suggest that Rupert Murdoch is the Robert Mugabe of British politics.

You know what sells really well online? False hope.

This site’s most popular post (‘Donald Trump is going to snap, and here is how I know‘) was twenty times more popular than any other*. It was so widely shared and liked because it offered comfort at a particularly desperate moment. It was also published in various other more august locations and, bizarrely, led to several people googling “is Infinite Concidence reliable?”.

Well, the fact that I wrote it in less than an hour in my pyjamas might cast some doubt on its veracity. I think people found it so convincing because I used a number of powerful quotes from the fancypants psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Lacan and also because the title expressed such conviction.

It stood out in the frenzied and permanently overheated market for positive or at least reassuring headlines. Some outlets cater specifically to such a demand. In this trenchant takedown of the pro-Corbyn website The Canary, Richard Seymour identifies what’s so worrying about this tendency for demand-driven news which sells itself to our emotions. Even when the writers and editors are on our side such sites’ purposeful misrepresentation of events should concern everyone.

My site (this one) doesn’t pretend to be a news site but some things I post here can be mistaken for news articles, particularly when I bang out a bad-mooded hot take satire. One recent piece that wasn’t satirical but was based around very recent events was this one. It originally had a poor choice of headline (‘Could the Tories throw the election to escape responsibility for Brexit?’, to which the obvious answer is, er, no), and once a couple of readers had drawn my attention to the fact that the title didn’t represent the content I changed it. However, it remains posted in various Facebook groups with the same irresponsible headline, and as such has proved consistently popular. The (risible) notion that the Tories might throw an election they’re almost bound to win gives people false hope.

So many headlines these days promise to provide false hope or assuage rational fears. The ‘content’ that they advertise may not qualify as ‘false news’ but they do present hearsay as fact in a way that any professional journalist would immediately recognise as wilfully misleading and irresponsible. Motivated entirely by commercial considerations in the frenetic attention-impulse economy of the internet, they play on feelings rather than any rational assessment of the facts, with no or very little empirical basis. They are Barnum-style headlines, confirming the truth of whatever you choose to believe. A journalist friend of mine is very entertaining on the subject of blogs like mine, with their (our) assemblage of guesswork presenting constant insult to basic journalistic standards and conventions.

Dealing with news media nowadays demands much more careful and critical reading. As I argued at length here in another piece of guesswork, we need news outlets we can broadly trust. For this reason I blanch whenever I see the term ‘MSM’ (‘mainstream media’). Clearly media literacy involves awareness of such issues as misrepresentation, bias and framing. But bracketing together the Mail and Sun with The Guardian and the NYT is not an example of media literacy, but rather an instance of credulity**. In trying to make sense of British society it’s essential to recognise Murdoch and Dacre are not dissimilar to Mugabe in their attempts to control the political agenda. However, to pretend that the Guardian – for all its growing submission to commercial constraints and its occasional perpetuation of churnalism – is engaged in the same task is puerile and self-defeating. Progressives have to have a much more sophisticated and critical understanding of the media and the role of journalists, ownership and so on than Donald Trump does. His attacks on the free press take advantage of a mood of cynicism which is partly inspired by a lazy misapplication of Chomsky’s work. There’s nothing sophisticated about avoiding news headlines. Anyone doubting the truth of this should consider when the last time they confronted recent facts relating to the earth’s climate. It is an increasingly scary world but hiding from the consequences of our actions is not an adult response and it particularly behoves those of us with children to at least inform ourselves as to what is going on.

In relation to the impending election (in the debate around which our overheating planet has once again barely been mentioned), there is a miniscule chance, were the apparent momentum to continue, that Labour could sneak a victory. It would nonetheless require monumental effort. They have won the campaign but from such a low base of both support and expectation that they are still extremely unlikely to win a majority of seats. Having just spent a week in the UK, I haven’t noticed anyone getting excited in a way that would suggest the tide has actually turned with sufficient force.

Facebook posts like the one above (from a pro-Corbyn group) make me think it isn’t going to happen. They suggest to me that the most excitable are also the least likely to be active offline talking to potential voters. Actual reports from actual doorsteps suggest that, like it or not, resistance to Corbyn himself is palpable. Then there are pieces like this from responsible commentators, acknowledging the shift in mood but recognising that it almosr certainly won’t be sufficient. Most responses to the above post expressed hope that it was the case, but actually what they were not hope but optimism, not on what is true but what should be. But crossed fingers and closed eyes do not win elections.

What online Labour groups should be doing right now is not encouraging unfounded optimism but sharing tales from the doorstep and tips for how to argue with racists and those who don’t trust men with beards. They should also – and this does happen, just not nearly enough in my view – be organising groups of people to go campaigning, with those who live in safe seats offering to go to nearby constituencies that could do with a hand. It seems depressing and significant that few mention where in the country they are. 

Of course in many cases those desperate for any sign of hope are experiencing profound anxiety about the result and looking for reasons to get through another day. We are all vulnerable, but disabled people and pretty much all immigrants are right to be terrified. If the Tories win it is going to be absolutely horrible.

Voting in ten days’ time will not enough to stave off the most reactionary government of our lifetimes. Everyone who wants and needs Labour to win needs to get together with their local party and go canvassing. I myself am a partial hypocrite, in that I live in Italy so my involvement is by definition very limited. Knocking on the doors of my neighbours feels a bit moot. My Italian’s ok but wherever you live there is absolutely no point talking to anyone who doesn’t have a vote.

In any case, if I were in London I wouldn’t campaign for Labour in my constituency (Hackney South & Shoreditch). The result is always a foregone conclusion. I would find a constituency where they need help, volunteer, ask about local issues and then go banging on doors. Due to the iniquitous nature of the British Electoral System it may be the case that the candidate I’d be canvassing for wouldn’t be a Labour one, although given that the failure of the attempt to change that system can be laid squarely at the door of the former leader of the Liberal Democrats I’d be less likely to campaign for them than I would the Greens, Plaid or the SNP.

I suspect that a lot of recent Labour converts have little experience or knowledge of election campaigning. Some need to seek guidance. Sadly the current leadership doesn’t seem to be very adept at working the party machine, which does after all contain the odd Blairite gremlin. I’ve canvassed in several elections and I know that it requires humility and patience, things that do not abound in online politics. Engaging with often grumpy electors is painstaking and sometimes gruelling, but it does mean you’re actually participating in the election rather than just commenting from the digital fringes, where the only reason anyone might pay attention is if they already agree. Nevertheless, if Labour is to stand a chance of forming the next Government, lots of people who currently have no intention of voting will have to be persuaded to do so. That’s your job.

*That second post being a follow-up to the first one, and in turn twenty times more popular than the third most read article. Thankfully at that point the ‘rule of twenties’ breaks down.

** Certain individual BBC journalists, on the other hand, do see it as their responsibility to destroy the Labour Party’s chances of success. Emma Barnett in particular is a shining example of total unprofessionalism.

Want to defeat the Tories? Get offline. Canvass.

It’s no exaggeration to say that should the Conservative Party win in June Britain will experience the most rabidly right-wing government ever as it enters the most fraught period of its modern history. For all that the Tories have no plan for dealing with Brexit – nothing remotely plausible or mature, in any case – they will go on a shock doctrine rampage, trying to reverse all the social, cultural and political gains of the last 70 years.

Corbyn’s speech on terror was considered and reasonable, and outside the slavish Tory press it seems to have been well-received. May’s attempt to misrepresent its content went so far beyond what is normally acceptable in political discourse that it exposed her as little more responsible than Donald Trump. If she continues on this trajectory over the next week she’ll end up demanding that Corbyn be locked up. The revelations of the last few days that her department overlooked the danger represented by the terrorist are now fair game and given that she was prepared to politicise the bombing in such a cynical manner, Labour should exploit them to the full. They took off the gloves and Labour is now (in theory at least) in a position to deliver a series of deft kicks to the chin.

The Tories are currently on the run as Labour enjoys a much more succesful campaign than anyone anticipated. From fox-hunting to social care, the Tories are increasingly recognised as the party of dishonesty and cruelty. 

Still, the tangible shift in mood is probably not enough for Labour to win. The absolute priority now is to encourage people to vote against the Tories, even if they’re not enthusiatic about voting for Labour. What Labour needs now is people knocking on doors spreading word of its most popular policies and directly countering negative impressions of its leader. In doing so they need to stick to the script as defined by the leadership. 

The Tories will be employing all the dirty tricks they used in the referendum. They are already flooding Facebook with individually-targetted ads spreading outright disinformation. Obviously such messages need to be countered online, but that is not where the election will be won. Those who instead of engaging in politics on the doorstep spend all their time whinging and gossiping in their social media bubbles are not helping the cause. Particularly useless – indeed, actively counterproductive – are those spreading puerile conspiracy theories about the Manchester bombing. Arguing that May’s department overlooked the bomber is absolutely different from claiming that they deliberately allowed it to happen, and anyone suggesting the latter should be directly challenged and condemned. They are just as much of an embarrassment to the party as anti-semites.

Labour’s slim chance of winning rests upon everyone who wants it to win canvassing, leafletting, and talking to real people – friends, colleagues and family. Clearly, anyone in a marginal seat or where Labour stands no chance, needs to grit their teeth and vote for the anti-Tory candidate. For those of us actively appalled by Corbyn’s atrocious leadership over Brexit, a resounding victory for the SNP north of the border will strengthen our case. 

Almost unbelievably given the situation a few weeks ago, the Tories can be defeated, but those of us who dearly want that to happen need to join forces with those knocking on doors. Just voting won’t be enough, and ranting online is so close to useless as to make no meaningful difference*.

*I’m aware of irony, thanks.

#GE2017: Experts puzzled by ‘first party’ effect

YQoXTr6.pngThe last few years have seen huge shifts in world politics, with some established parties (the French Parti Socialiste, PASOK in Greece) more or less disappearing overnight and new contenders coming into play as the voting public tire of the same old establishment names and faces. In the upcoming UK General Election even seasoned observers have been astonished to witness the seemingly unstoppable rise in the polls of a brand-new political force. The party is known as the Conservative Party, and is led by Theresa May, which also happens to be the name (and the person) of the current Prime Minister.

Throughout the country people disillusioned with years of austerity, with cuts to public services devastating areas already reeling from deindustrialisation and underinvestment, are preparing to deliver a huge blow to the government, by voting for it.

“I’m particularly angry about what’s been done in my area to local schools”, says John Blobb from Exeter. “It’s almost impossible to find a place for my child, and it’s all due to the mess successive Conservative ministers have made of the education system. Plus in this next Parliament, if the Tories get a clear majority, it’ll be the final solution for the NHS, full-on privatisation. It’s terrifying. And I cannot f*cking stand the way that woman speaks. She’s like this horrendous mix of cruelty and insincerity, and it all comes out in that truly awful, unbearable voice of hers. That’s why I’m definitely going to vote Conservative”.

Amanda Mardy, from Sunderland, is voting Conservative “because I’ve been sanctioned four times by the jobcentre, and twice it was only because the public transport is so bad I couldn’t get to my appointment on time. I’ve barely got enough food to last me til the weekend, then that’s it. I’ll have to beg, or punch a policeman just so I can get a bed and some food. I think my case proves conclusively that Theresa May is doing an excellent job”.

Sunjit Sahil, from Manchester, is horrified by the level and tone of racist abuse he and members of his family have suffered over the last few months. “I blame the Government for stoking up division in the wake of Brexit. It’s a classic case of divide-and-rule. My nephew was actually called a ‘paki’, by a bus driver, in 2017 for god’s sake! I’m scared about what kind of environment my kids will have to grow up in. I’ll definitely be voting for the Conservative Party to express how angry I am at the Conservative Government.”

Jimmy Chonk is a lifelong animal rights activist who spends his weekends trying to sabotage fox hunts in Berkshire. He’ll be voting Conservative “because someone has to do something to protect foxes”. He also says that the Government’s treatment of child refugees and its “horrifying complacency” with regard to Climate Change has “disgusted” him to the point where he’s “definitely” going to vote for it.

Sandra Scallop of Portmerion was inspired to vote Conservative by the Ken Loach film ‘I, Daniel Blake’. “When I saw that film I was in floods of tears. Just the thought that in this day and age so many people are treated in such a callous way, and it’s getting worse. Thinking about it now makes me so angry I feel physically sick, any one of us could have an accident or get ill and end up in such a situation. People like Theresa May can afford expensive private insurance, they don’t have to worry about such things and they simply do not care about the fate of ordinary people, they’ve probably all got shares in companies which profit from people’s misfortune! And don’t get me started on bloody fracking! In five years’ time we’re probably going to be living in a permanent bloody earthquake zone, with fire pouring out of the kitchen taps. I don’t know the name of my local Conservative MP, but I’m definitely going to vote for him or her”.

Seasoned psephologists are struggling to explain the phenomenon. “We’re used to seeing a third-party protest vote, particularly in by-elections.”, says James Lee Curtice of Essex University. “It’s common to vote out of anger against the Government. This is the first time in my career that I’ve seen what we might call a ‘first party effect’. There is some evidence that the British electorate are responding to what we call the ‘man with beard’ effect in reaction to Jeremy Corbyn. There’s also a very strong chance that large sections of the British electorate are absolute fucking idiots. We really, definitely can’t rule that last possibility out.”

“Vote Conservative”, he added.