30 April 2009

WTF is wrong with the British people?

Two recent items in the Guardian have started me thinking about how the British people have lost the run of themselves over Labour at the moment.

The first, today, was the reaction to Peter Hain’s Comment is Free piece about the BNP. Hain said, correctly, that it was vitally important they didn’t win a European Parliament seat, and cast his mind back to the 1970s campaigns against the National Front:

‘…the BNP leaders are more sophisticated than the old National Front. They wear suits rather than openly flirt with nazism. They sound smooth and plausible on radio or TV. They are exploiting alienation from Westminster politics, particularly among the white working class. Yet their politics are fundamentally similar: the scapegoating of black people, Muslims, Jews, foreigners, gays and lesbians for social and economic problems. Whenever they are ascendant locally, racial violence and racial hatred are barely beneath the surface.’

And what’s the reaction from commentators – in The Guardian, remember? Well, it can be summarised as: ‘Labour is making such a mess of things that we don’t blame anyone for voting BNP; Labour will get what they deserve.’

Excuse me? I remember the days when, if you were fed up with Labour, you thought about voting Liberal Democrat, or Green, or staying at home. Not voting for a party whose policies include repatriation, and whose concept of Britishness isn’t based on citizenship as measured by your passport, but by the colour of your skin. Since when was there any justification for voting for such a party? - or excusing others who do so?

The second item was a summary of three recent opinion polls on voting behaviour, all of which put the Tories on 45%. That’s nearly half. Surely there can be no clearer demonstration of the political and economic illiteracy of the British people than the intention of large numbers to vote for a party that would cut public spending at the present time, just when unemployment is rocketing. Do people really think they will pay less tax under a Tory government? No – the Tories may well use a greater share of tax revenues to repay national debt more quickly, but it’ll be at the expense of the services we all depend on.

So let’s recap. If you want to live in a country governed by the Tories, along with a sizeable BNP presence in Europe and in local government, and you are middle class:

  • you’ll have to pay higher taxes

  • and pay for medical care

  • and for your children’s education, including university

  • and for a state of the art burglar alarm.

If you're working class:

  • you'll be fucked.


Garibaldy said...

Well said!

Jenny Muir said...

Thank you!

Rabelais said...

This is indeed depressing Jenny. But rather than asking WTF is wrong with the British people wouldn't it better to place the blame for this malaise were it belongs and that is at the feet of what has been a pretty disappointing Labour administration?

I suspect that at the next election votes for the Tories and the BNP will be less an endorsement of those parties than democracy in one of its more negative expressions. Some people will vote for the right to punish Labour. This is a pretty abject form of politics.

On the other hand, we might ask WTF is wrong with the English people, since the Scots and Welsh seem to have political alternatives to the left of Labour, parties that continue to advance as Labour loses. What's the alternative for that English constituency that is fast becoming seen as an ethnic group in itself - the white, English working class?

nick said...

I can't agree, Rabelais. However disappointing the Labour government (heart-breaking, more like), the answer can't be voting for parties that would do much more damage and make people's lives even worse. The rational (though much harder) response is to wake the government up and demand they fulfill the egalitarian ideals and promises that encouraged people to vote for them.

A lurch back to unfettered Thatcherism, with the market and big business once again playing havoc with the lives of ordinary people, is the last thing we need.

Rabelais said...

Hi Nick,
Couldn't agree more, as I say I think voting negatively is pretty abject. But how to waken Labour up and make it listen? I suppose I'm pessimistic about British Labour Party's prospects at the next election. I think it'll get a spanking and then it's back to the hard road to renewal for the future.

Even after the election who will be working to rejuvenate the party. In terms of membership I hear Labour is a bit of a shell. It looks bleak.

If there is to be be any progress I suspect it'll be organised, initially at least, extra-parliamentary in form. I hope though that he left doesn't get stuck in the habit of 'Grand Old Duke of York' protest politics and appreciates that ultimately it has to organise to win elections.

Jenny Muir said...

Hi Rabelais - Nick has said what I would have about the alternatives, but there are two other points: yes, I agree with your reasoning about the malaise being worse in England. I think the white working class has to take back the Labour Party, myself.

And that's the second point, alhtough it's hard to make it with much credibility from a part of the UK where Labour doesn't stand for elections. I do think poeple have to stick with hopeless parties way past the stage where UK Labour is now, and in fact I wonder if Labour is getting a bit more left wing recently, however also unfortunately more authoritarian. That doesn't stop extra parliamentary activity too, in fact we need both in a properly functioning democracy.

But above all we need political education - not in the Marxist sense, in the sense of educating the population about what political processes and structures are for, and how it's part of being a responsible citizen to have an informed opinion and to vote.

Rabelais said...

I found David Blunkett's recent intervention sort of indicative of the rot that seems to have set into thinking in the upper-echelons of Labour. I've summarised it below as best I can:

'A radical new programme of old-fashioned politics that draws on our early roots but which doesn’t reverse the modernisation and reform of Labour in the 1990s. The old battles are over and the need for visionary action is self-evident. So talk of going back to the past is dangerous unless its to our roots and the old fashioned past.'

So to just to recap. That’s backwards to go forwards, backwards and forwards, old and new, the old is the new but no turning back.

Oh balls! Labour's gonna lose the next election, isn't it?

The full text of his Guardian article is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/01/labour-politics-david-blunkett

Wisewebwoman said...

It has appeared to me, Jenny for a long time now that "by the people, for the people" has long since left us and I think we're all drinking the Koolaid so to speak if we think that Big Biz is not running the world and us poor sheeple.
Labour/Tory is semantics only.
sorry to be such a cynic, but the more I explore the more jaded I feel.
Is there hope?
Yes, with taking back into community and exploring the Solaris alternative.

Baino said...

Hah! Nothing like a recession to see the rise of facism. Worked for Germany! Nick, the problem is that people DO punish existing regimes by making poor voting choices. The only reason Howard was shafted was basically he'd been in for too long! Well that and the prospect of our then treasurer taking over the reigns. Despite his good performance, he was very unpopular!
I agree that political education is vital . .sadly when people are losing jobs and watching their bottom line, politics just fades to the insignificant. Bread on the table becomes far more important.

Jenny Muir said...

Rab - yes, it's complete rubbish, Labour is tearing itself apart and, as you say, is very likely to lose the next general election at this rate.

www and Baino - interestingly similar prespectives from Canada and Australia respectively. www, what is the Solaris option? I read the book a very long time ago but can't remember the end. I'm sceptical about 'community' as a solution to the present malaise (which is obviously wider than the UK) because I've seen the problems that can bring - but community action joined to a wider political movement is the way to do it, I think.

Baino - you're right that people will see their own situation as a priority, but the political education you mention ahs to include an appreciation of the value of the social wage - and making health, education, housing and so on good enough that people continue to be prepared to pay their taxes for these services. If you're paying taxes and can't see what you're getting back for it, that's when another party's promise of lower taxes can seem attractive.