When Darkness Falls

A Journal of The Plague Year

May 2021

In the years when I was making the transition from being a little boy to a teenager and then a young man, some of the realities of history gradually unfolded before me. The second world war as a child appeared as a glorious adventure, fuelled by my weekly comics and endless black and white films on the telly, and part of ancient history. In reality, from the middle of the Sixties, it was only twenty years earlier, roughly the same distance as 9/11 is from today. Then, as the details of the Nazis and concentration camps emerged for me, I was genuinely shaken to realise, probably for the first time, man’s capacity for savage, industrial-scale, cruelty to others. The reality of the Holocaust more than anything else never loses its power to shock and baffle me. The final stage of this gradual loss of innocence, was the story of the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the thirties. I could never quite grasp how it was possible that the Nazis rose to power through the democratic processes of the state. Yes, I know there was manipulation and propaganda, violence and coercion, but even so it was a process that took several years. Did nobody notice? Was no-one motivated to resist? How could they possibly have allowed it?

For years, this formed part of my fundamental narrative: that the world was inexorably getting better, and that as universal education spread, a vaguely socialist perspective, rooted in a concern for the common good and a belief in collectivism, meant that steadily, with some slips on the way, fairness, prosperity and equity were growing. The rise of the Nazis belonged to a more primitive version of human society. It couldnt happen here again, not now. I’ve held on to that narrative, sometimes like a drowning man clinging to bit of driftwood, for years. Even during the beginning of the Tories austerity regime from 2010 I comforted myself that it was a passing phase, and that demographics alone meant that The Tories were inevitably a busted flush.

I was also bolstered by a belief that democracy works. That the population can be trusted not to make stupid decisions, so that, in the end, liberal values are not at risk. That belief has gone now, I’m afraid. It could only ever work as long as there was untrammelled access to reliable, accurate information. A combination of social media and the internet has put paid to that. To think that 20-25 years ago, one of the apparent attractions of the internet and its lack of regulation was the idea of democratising power and information flow, so that neither corporations nor governments, could propagandise their way to power, like the Nazis did in Germany all those years ago.

The Trump experience in the States shows how easy it is to convince people of lies. Even today, it’s clear that The Republican party, far from repudiating the Trump lies, has completely embraced them and Liz Cheney is to be expelled for not backing Trump in the aftermath of the election. What has the world come when Liz Cheney has turned into the poster girl for liberal democracy and the rule of law? Her father will be turning in his grave. This has chilling consequences for the next election. Now, one of the only two available choices to the American people, is as near as dammit fascist.

And the same applies here. The results from our own sweep of elections last week were not unexpected. But they were tremendously depressing nonetheless, not least for the fact that they presage probably another ten years of this, the worst Government and Prime Minister in my life time. And another ten years of this amoral crew really does not bear thinking about. What is the charge sheet as it stands and what can we look forward to?

  • Serial, repeated and proven lying
  • Corruption, misuse of money, cronyism with favours for friends
  • Contempt for the rule of law and the constitution.
  • Obstacles to Judicial review increased so the government cannot be held accountable by citizens
  • Stripping away of planning regulations for a plague of unregulated house building on green belt land
  • Gerrymandering election law via constituency boundaries and photo id for voters.
  • Removal of democratic rights to protest

There is probably more. There is so much shit cascading from Westminster that it’s impossible to compile a definitive list that can be relied upon for more than five minutes.

And when all of this is going on, the BBC acts like an organ of Government, craven and cowardly, frightened that the license fee will be abolished. As the playwright David Hare said a few weeks ago, “The BBC is like Pravda”. At 1 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock, regular as clockwork, the BBC news bulletin turns into a party political broadcast for the Government, aided and abetted by the COVID briefings that give Johnson star billing. Laura Kuenssberg, in an extraordinary article on the BBC website, supposedly investigating Johnson’s lying, cannot bring herself to find a single lie, and dances on the head of a pin to excuse or redefine lying. She is like some kind of mediaeval cleric writing a treatise about equivocation. It was only written in the first place because she was shamed into doing something on it by the 11 million internet views of Peter Stefanovic’s video compilation of Johnson’s 6 main lies to Parliament. She does not even have to do any work on it – he’s done it all. And still she exonerates him and waits patiently for her eventual place in the honours list in the future. Click the link below to see the article and make your own mind up.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56624437

And the people, those guardians against our slide into the pit of corruption and fascism, vote for it all, cheerily, proclaiming that good old Boris is a bit of a character. And Hitler and Pol Pot would be a laugh to go for a beer with. The most depressing part of the post-election spectacle was Chris Mason’s interview of a father and son on the dockside at Hartlepool, falling into line and providing the standard Vox Pop proving that the Tories are on the side of working people and Labour are just interested in trendy London Metropolitan types. One day soon, somebody on Universal benefit in some godforsaken Red Wall town, will actually use those words in a vox pop BBC interview: “No, I used to be Labour, like me father and grandfather before him, but now Labour are just for the metropolitan liberal elite, like.”

When pressed by Mason to explain why they had changed allegiance, they both referenced the Courts being closed, the local hospital being cut etc etc . They did not seem to realise that these issues, absolutely crucial for local communities everywhere, were the responsibility of the Conservative national Government and had nothing to do with the Labour local council, which presumably was on its knees because of swinging austerity cuts imposed by the Tories. Dear me. Johnson is living proof that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time, and that the current Conservative Party is a coalition of the Selfish, the Stupid and the Sentimental. That’s the MPs, before you start getting sniffy about blaming the voters. The only reason I don’t blame the voters, by the way, is because they’re given false information.

And so now, I can completely understand why and how the Nazis rose to power in thirties Berlin. And the rise and end of Trump transformed my understanding of The Handmaid’s Tale from it being a dystopian tale into it as a roadmap for the rise of the far right. The response of the hardcore Trump supporters and the Q anon crazy conspiracy theorists was chilling, but less so than the realisation that previously mainstream liberal Republican types would go along with it for personal power and advancement. Just as here, normal liberal Tories have been expelled (Grieve, Hammond, Greening, Gauke Stewart et al) and any moderates that are still in place, support the slide into moral turpitude to protect their own skins. I shudder to think for too long about where it will all end, and have no faith in The Great British Public to see through the Fake News.

Which is where I started. Regulate the Internet.

Next time: Why Labour has got it so wrong and why Peter Mandelson is most definitely not the answer.

Back to the Future, Part Two: We’re on the brink….

Johnson: Are you sure this will work?

Cummings: It’s the Will of The People…

At the time of writing, it all looks pretty bleak for Labour Party supporters. The last poll put the Tories 19 points ahead.(update at the bottom of this article) Yes, it was similar midway through the 2017 election. Yes, this is an election with, more than ever before, constituency-specific conditions that buck the trend of national polls. Yes, the campaign allows Corbyn more direct access to people to be able to counter the most egregious media bias. Taking all of that into account, it still feels like a mountain to climb, and the ambition of being the largest party in a hung parliament, realistic a few weeks ago, seems unattainable now. The first sign of a closing of the gap in the polls has brought out the big guns of the anti-semitism tactic, a hugely successful plan to discredit the most overtly anti-racist political party in the history of the known universe. You can’t argue against it, if you’re not Jewish, without running the risk of being accused of, at best being in denial about the problem and at worst, being a racist. Even Jewish labour party supporters who have the temerity to contest the MSM version of events are demonised as traitors or not being real Jews. Please, give the tens of thousands of Jewish voices who are pro-Corbyn some air time. Please, when you write these articles, give us some evidence. Please Jeremy, argue your case. Look at some of these links for more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/mar/07/debunking-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-antisemitic Michael Rosen’s blog: https://t.co/H6kKX1R2b0?amp=1 Jewish Voice for Labour: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/smoke-without-fire-the-myth-of-a-labour-antisemitism-crisis/

It could still be the case that real people voting on December 12th will show the polls to have been wrong, but I have to be honest, I’m not expecting that and I’m beginning to feel more than a little depressed. Because what is at stake in this election makes it, by a country mile, the most important in my lifetime. Despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to normalise the Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson, to place them in a One Nation Tory tradition, they are really the Brexit party in all but name.

The Selfish, the Sentimental and the Stupid

Consider what has happened in the last year.

Moderate and mainstream Tories have left in their droves. Either they have something resembling principles, and they cannot in conscience be part of a party that is going to inflict such damage on the country. Or they cannot justify, with weasel words, (See James Cleverly, Matt Hancock, Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove) the blatant, repeated and outright bare faced lying and law breaking that is the modus operandi of the current leadership. Whether they have left, or have been ousted by the withdrawal of the whip, or the actions of rabidly right wing constituency parties, they are no longer there, a moderating influence on future policy direction. Look at the names of those who have gone: Rory Stewart, Ken Clarke, Amber Rudd, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Nick Boles, Justine Greening, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen. His own brother, Jo Johnson, has stepped down as a candidate. We have no way of knowing, at the time of writing, how many of his children are standing against him for other political parties. The party is now an unembarrassed coalition of the selfish, the sentimental and the stupid, a mirror image of the voters they now attract.

You just have to look at the current cabinet for a flavour of what a Johnson Government would do.

Priti Patel as Home Secretary: Believes in the Death Penalty. Thinks poverty is the fault of local authorities. Broke Civil Service regulations last year as Secretary of State for Overseas Development by holding secret meetings without the required Civil service officials, with members of the Israel government over illegal settlements on the West Bank. Thinks British workers are “the worst idlers in the world” Has advocated reducing dramatically the welfare state in the UK and imposing working conditions of countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea

Sajid Javid as Chancellor. His main role appears to be as a token person of colour in the cabinet. Has suffered outright and open racism from other Tory members in the way he has been treated and in the torrent of social media abuse he has experienced from many constituencies, members and officials. Played a leading role, before becoming an MP, in Deutsche bank, enriching himself on the back of his trading of collaterised debt obligations (no, me neither), the financial instrument that played a central part in the collapse of the global banking system.

Liz Truss as President of the Board of Trade. Someone with the largest recorded gap between their ability and their own estimation of their ability, coming just ahead of Andrea Loathsome, the person who wants to get rid of all workers’ rights legislation from Europe.

Dominic Raab, co-author with Priti of the book “Britain unchained”, a rag bag collection of lunatic fringe right wing stuff, both on economics and social policy. This is the stuff that passes for the intellectual wing of the party. The compensation prize in this election, if the Tories win, is the prospect of Raab, IDS, and even Johnson himself losing their seats. Most of them, Johnson in particular, wouldn’t be able to find the high street of their constituency without a minder holding their hand, because they don’t give a flying fig leaf for boring old constituency work. That sort of stuff is for social workers.

Matt Hancock, minister for Health, who will say and do absolutely anything he has to, to cling on to power and his ministerial limo.

And that’s before we get onto Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for the eighteenth century and Michael Gove whose policy crimes and misdemeanours, and his absolute equanimity about lies and law breaking almost rival Johnson himself. (What a dream team that would have made back in 2016 – The Mendacious Brothers).

So what policies could we reasonably expect to be enacted if the Tories have a working majority, given that the new crop of MPs are likely not to have a single scruple or moral instinct between them? Well, for starters:

  • Savage anti-immigrant legislation
  • Selling off  much of the NHS to USA and a quantum leap towards Health insurance
  • Abolition of all meaningful workers’ rights laws – expect restrictions of sick pay entitlement and the right to paid holidays.
  • Abortion outlawed
  • Increase in State pension age to 75
  • Slashing of public spending on services and infrastructure
  • Increase in unemployment that not even the expansion of the unregulated gig economy can mask.

Most worryingly, once Johnson gets a majority, I don’t think that it’s far fetched to suggest that they will do everything in their power to stack the elections odds against Labour ever getting re-elected. The Boundary commission redrawing of constituencies will go ahead this time, with all that implies for Labour. They will bring in the blatantly partisan requirement for photo ID before citizens are allowed to vote. This will effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Labour voters. Johnson has shown his utter contempt for previously accepted norms of public discourse and for the rule of law and the conventions of parliamentary democracy, and will have no hesitation in dismantling anything that is a hindrance to his pursuit of power and his retention of power once he has his hands on it. The most recent heavy-handed threats against Channel four for not just rolling over are a sign of how none of the freedoms we have taken for granted for so long can now be guaranteed.

Lies, damned lies, and the media

Johnson: Won’t anyone notice?

Pa Johnson: Don’t worry -The great unwashed can’t even spell Pinochio

Cummings: Brilliant!

And it is this that is at the heart of this election, the reason it is of such importance. It is conceivable that reasonable, civilized people can vote Conservative because they believe in a smaller state and trickle-down economics. I don’t agree with them and I think that they are wilfully ignoring all the available evidence, but democracy dictates that we must suck it up when The People make the wrong choices.

But absolutely nobody can vote for this particular brand of the Tory party, who has any regard for the truth, for the law and for freedom.

It is possible that some of the apologists can convince themselves that the ends justify the means, that they know they are right so that it is acceptable, ultimately, to bend the truth and the law, to get a Tory Government. That is chilling enough. Even more sinister is the idea that they know they are wrong, but they want power above all else and are prepared to do anything to get it and then hang on to it.

I don’t want to be hysterical about this. I may be being overly susceptible because I watched the BBC4 series, “The Rise of the Nazi Party” a few weeks ago, and I’ve just finished reading the Booker prize winner, “The Testaments”, Margaret Atwood’s follow up to the dystopian nightmare view of the future, “The Handmaids Tale”. But the checks and balances of a mature liberal democracy that we have all taken for granted as guaranteed for ever are under attack, and suddenly it is possible to see how, step by step, populist authoritarianism slides in through the backdoor and slips into a seat on the back row. Before you know it, it’s taken the stage and the audience are all clapping furiously.

We’re half way there. Already Johnson has:

  • Suppressed the report into Russian interference and donations to the Tories
  • Unlawfully prorogued Parliament
  • Misled the Queen
  • Doctored video of Starmer talking about Brexit
  • Produced a fake “Fact checker” version of the Conservative Party website to mislead the public
  • Threatened a national broadcaster
  • Leant on the BBC, with the license fee an unspoken arm twisted behind their backs.
  • Avoided all serious scrutiny by the media
  • Avoided investigation into fraudulently funnelling money to Jennifer Arcuri when London Mayor.
  • Lied about the reason for having the general election

Ten to twenty years ago, just one of these things would have sunk any political career. Now, apparently, the public say that Johnson’s a naughty boy and we don’t trust him, but we like him and we’re going to vote for him because he will get Brexit done, with his “Oven-Ready” deal.

It’s not the deal that’s Oven Ready. It’s us – the long -suffering Turkeys.

Fight back! Vote tactically, even if that means holding your nose and voting for the Lib Dems. Find out who are the nearest challengers to the Tories in your constituency and vote for them.

Ps: Stop press! Latest polling suggests a narrowing of the gap -It’s not over yet and this makes the tactical voting message above even more important.