Part two of our contemporary fairy tale – The Fall and Rise of the Evil Trolls.
How did Albion arrive at this? Find out in the next installment, “The Beguiling of the Leftist Tribe”
How did Albion arrive at this? Find out in the next installment, “The Beguiling of the Leftist Tribe”
(And the Scourge of the Neo-liberal Creed )
Once upon a time,
A small boy learnt at his Mothers’ knee that it was right to stand with those whom others might reject, persecute or threaten with hate. He listened to tales of the darker times within the enchanted land of Albion, where the Ogres of ignorance egged on by the Trolls of want and need, marched through the streets of the greatest city of Albion. His loving family explained how this Ogre and his entourage had hurled threats and abuse outside the communities of descendants of the children of Jerusalem, with self righteous anger burning within their breasts; having been told very clearly by the Oracles and their kind through their trumpets of popular mass communication that those Trolls haunting their lives had been created by them. So the Oracles continued to grow fat and wealthy, shielded by the fires of anger their avarice had unleashed. The flames would eventually be doused, but yet still not entirely extinguished in the battle of Cable Street, the tales of which began that little boys’ learning.
Across the sea
Upon the continent of Europe and beyond, a similar tide was rising, fulminated by a group of very dysfunctional bad Oracles; with a fetish for uniforms and (if it where not so serious) a rather silly way of marching, which their followers seemed obliged to copy. These dark waters of what became told as Fascism; would engulf many nations leaving much devastation, featuring every manifestation of inhumanity, intolerance and pain, before overwhelming force, the sacrifice of many gallant souls (and a bigger wedge of cash than the Fascists could muster) made them recede. But they never really went away, for those evil Trolls summoned by the bad Oracles would continue to dwell within the deepest recesses of every kingdom thus and once infested.
Back in the land of Albion, the warriors had returned from their heroic struggles defeating the Fascists across the ocean. Many were determined not to go easily back to the doffing of the cap and tugged forelocks of yesteryear. So it would be that The Oracles of old, expecting to return to their gilded temples; would soon be aghast to find a new wave was rising upon the voices of those they thought forever vanquished with great and victorious effect by the Zinoviev letter of 1924.
The hitherto discredited leftist tribe produced Oracles by the names of Atlee, Bevin, Dalton and Cripps who were elevated to power upon this wave of popular dissent and became the new high priests. Their reign over Government was to bring great and enduring change to the war battered land of Albion. They looked to the plans crafted by the great and Liberal master of monies Beveridge, to ensure the evil trolls of want, hunger, ignorance and ill health should never again be allowed to stalk the land as they once had. It came to pass that soon, having offered due diligence at the alter of Keynes, they built a mighty Edifice called the mixed economy, the walls of which bore the legends; NHS, National education system, Public utilities, Welfare and public housing. Although these priests were destined to fall far sooner then their great and enduring influence might merit, the Edifice they had built would stand and remain sturdy for many years to come.
Whilst all of this went on, our little boy grew into a young man. Determined to do right, he followed the path set before him by those stories told to him as a small child. Through gatherings of members of the young socialist guild he joined the tribe from which the great change had risen. He took his place on the barricade for the trade union cause and plunged into the often turbulent waters of the political sea.
Meantime, the Edifice thus built was still preserved by the Priests and Oracles of both left and right; for all still paid lip service, at least, to the idea that without the shelter of its mighty walls, the roof of the economic world might cave in.
Came the Lady of Grantham to the high table and the Oracles who had plotted and schemed for this day rejoiced that their champion had arrived. For now, these Oracles of the old guard could emerge from the shadows cast by the hitherto sacred Edifice, dragging with them scriptures enunciated by Friedman and Hayek. These texts that so inspired them, foretold that great freedoms would be visited upon the land of Albion and beyond, if only the shackles were removed and those markets set free.
Low, even as the Lady drove out of her palaces those who did not believe with the zeal required in the teachings within the sacred scriptures, deep beneath the land, those ancient Trolls stirred back into vengeful life. They tore at the walls of the caves that had imprisoned them with sharp and avaricious claws, striking out for the world above, making slow relentless progress. As the light of day fell upon them, the names they bore could be clearly seen and amongst their numbers were Want and Need.
The returning trolls of Want and Need brought back to life the great Ogres of ignorance, bigotry, inequality and ill health and unleashed them upon the lands of Albion. Centres of industriousness fell, their assets stripped, their workers beaten down by the yeomanry whose loyalty had been bought by the lady for a few extra pieces of silver in their purse. The Oracles who had returned and grown brave and strong; proclaimed each victory through their golden media trumpets whilst acolytes and priests of the Lady’s order praised the unfettered market and made proclamations that there would come a great tide of trinkets and monies that would cascade throughout the lands and this cascade would be called “trickle down” economics.
Eventually fell and it is said by some that she was quite, quite mad by then, her mind poisoned by the beguiling potions made by the trolls that she had unleashed. Unfortunately, by this time too, the infectious malaise of Neo-liberalism had bored deep into the very heart of Albion and spread far beyond its shores. The Oracles and high priests of the land, far from being weakened by the disease that infested their fiefdom had grown rich and strong for all who came to take office at their feet must first swear their fealty to this poisoned creed.
March 12th 2020
I know: it’s a big claim. “One of the most insane ideas in modern history?” He can’t be serious! You, my friend, can be the judge.
You’ve heard, by now, of America’s bizarre, dismal lack of a response to Coronavirus. But Britain’s lack of a response is even crazier. Yes, really. America’s not responding because it’s a broken society with no public goods: it can’t. But Britain’s not responding because it doesn’t think it should — a conclusion reached by one of the most surreal cocktails of arrogance, pseudoscience, and crackpot punditry the modern world has ever seen.
Imagine that the anti-vaxxers took over a whole society. Britain’s currently in the midst of something exactly, precisely like that, except for a global pandemic — Coronavirus.
Let me give you the facts. According to Robert Peston, one of the UK’s top journalists, Britain’s leaders’ brilliant idea is…”to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity.” Other journalists have noted the same thing.
Wait, what? “Herd immunity”? What’s that, you ask? Here’s your answer, dear reader.
“Herd immunity describes how a population is protected from a disease after vaccination by stopping the germ responsible for the infection being transmitted between people.” In other words, we vaccinate about half the population or more, and then everyone else is protected, too (especially like immunocompromised people, for whom vaccines can be genuinely dangerous.)
Did you see a small problem between the British government’s definition of herd immunity…and what it actually is? Herd immunity is — the real thing — what happens after enough members of a population have been vaccinated. It’s not…just letting an entire nation be rampaged by a lethal virus for which there’s no vaccine. How much death and mayhem would that cause, by the way? “57 million people infected and 1.1 million people dying.”
Good, sweet Lord. Let me summarize. Britain’s leaders appear to want the whole nation to get Coronavirus because they don’t understand basic science, logic, or history — they think that everyone getting sick magically confers resistance on a nation. That is not how disease works. Herd immunity is what happens after large-scale vaccination, as a viral infection subsides. It’s not…just letting a virus run rampant, with the bizarre, vague hope that naturally acquired immunity will somehow emerge and spread amongst the population. That is just a recipe for absolute catastrophe.
Centre or bust ?!
A growing and increasingly commonly shared opinion amongst members of both the Labour Party and across the pond, the Democrat party, is that “the electorate are largely centrist” (politically) and that “a radicle left of centre leadership can not win electorally”. This opinion is shared, often with some regret; and is given as a reason why supporting a more centrist candidate for leadership might be the only possible path to power. After all, the argument might go, “isn’t it always going to be better for everyone if the result is a Labour (or Democrat led) Government?“
I intend to argue that such a view is entirely misguided, will result in no significant changes in the balance of economic power; and will almost certainly result in an increase of political alienation and disengagement, most especially within our most economically disadvantaged communities.
Back in 1997, I still just about held-on to my Labour Party membership; not because I had any enthusiasm for the new direction promised by our party under Tony Blair; but because of loyalty to my colleagues and friends within the local party, combined with my overwhelming desire to see an end to Conservative hegemony. It is also probable that some version of the above “centrist” argument had managed to burrow into my psyche. I, like tens of thousands of other Labour Party members, sat through election night and saw the morning arrive with a rising sense of euphoria. Surely, I reasoned, things can indeed “only get better”?!
I was to quickly come to understand that such a view was entirely wrong. “New Labour” was a very different beast to the Labour Party that I had come to regard as my family.
A massive increase in the use of the Private Finance Initiative for public works such as building new schools, hospitals, Police and Fire stations saw millions of pounds of public assets effectively transferred into private hands. Reforms to the Welfare system saw the introduction of “Conditionality” to benefit claims, An innocent enough sounding term, but the reality of its implementation was to lead to a system of sanctions for claimants considered to have “breached their contracts”. The reality, in the real world, was that thousands of people found that their payments got reduced or stopped altogether with all of the hardships, desperation and misery that has been such a feature of the lives of our most vulnerable people ever since.
The “revolving door” between Government departments and the private sector, if anything, began to spin even more swiftly during the Blair and later Brown years; with senior civil servants, Ministers and supportive members of the PLP picking up non-executive directorships and seats on the board of companies involved in Government contracts as common place; if not more so, than under any previous Conservative administration. The UK arms industry thrived, with active assistance from Government and the embracing and active promotion of interventionist policies by Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is a fact that Blair’s Government engaged in more international conflict than ANY other administration in British history.
My clinging on phase within the party that I loved (and continued to love throughout my wilderness years) did not last long. With great sadness, I came to see New Labour to be an enemy of just about everything I had ever believed. What I now understand to be “centrism” was and remains to be a form of political discourse that promises to remain within the confines of the dominant Neo-liberal political consensus. Nothing, whether that be economic policy or social policy, must actively challenge the hegemony of the social and economic elites. Such was the price paid by Tony Blair before his electoral victory in 1997, sealed with his visits to Rupert Murdoch to garner support and his “we won as New Labour and we will Govern as New Labour” post election speech.
I really hate to be the bearer of bad new, but, trust me when I say, Tory Lite; which is what centrism is, in truth is no different than actual Conservative. In fact, as the New Labour years demonstrated, it can be worse; simply because when a Labour Government follows the rules of the consensus, there is no opposition within Parliament. There is effectively no alternative narrative given. This translates into no hope for those oppressed and suffering under the real world consequences of neo-liberalism; which in turn leads to disengagement and alienation from the political process. Many will simply drop out, refuse to participate in elections. People thus affected are more easily enchanted by the simplistic messages of the far right. With a focus offered for their daily sense of disenfranchisement and misery; and scapegoats such as East European migrants readily to hand, it is easy to see why BREXIT has become the nadir of the political left.
It seems to me that we, as in the Labour Party; are at a crossroads. We can either choose to follow the path of least resistance; which may or may not lead to Government under a centrist leader, or, we can choose a more difficult path; this being one that continues to offer a genuine alternative and challenge to the neo-liberal consensus. This is not, by any measure, an easy path to follow; for the full weight of the established interest will be deployed against the leadership of such a venture. The fight will be one that is won and lost within the community. We can and will inspire hope where hope has been lost; but this can not be done unless we as a movement have the courage and conviction to believe that there is a better way.
“Be kind to each other, help each other and be thoughtful of others. Everyone’s path in life might be different but that doesn’t make them a lesser person than you or I.” Charlotte’s words lifted from her latest bog post; an account of a few of the the people and their stories she and her team have encountered whilst trying to offer a little light in the darkness of their lives.
The UK in 2020 is a place of sharp contrast. At the top of the economic pile, wealth continues to grow with rising numbers of millionaires together with a swelling wealth management industry. As you allow your gaze to fall, economic and social insecurity mounts, the closer to the bottom end you reach. It really does never cease to amaze me to see just how inhumane our welfare system has become over the last ten years. It seems that however many suicides occur, children arrive hungry at school or families lose their homes, the system supposedly designed to help them, in reality, pushes them deeper into the mire with its complexity, sanctions and unjustifiable delays between initial claim and first payment. We all owe Charlotte and people who like her strive to shine a light in the darkness. Her record will stand and one day, I hope, might be used to call those responsible to account.
Please follow and share her blog and lend your support in every way you can.
Dear readers, it’s freezing cold out there and the wind chill certainly isn’t helping. Today I woke up to snow but it quickly melted and at the moment the sun is shining. We’ve had endless rain so it’s so good to see it.
As usual we handed out all the food parcels and we gave everyone help and advice to everyone that required it. We gave everyone a copy of our survival guide as well.
It was a strange morning, quiet at first, most likely because of the snow. Needless to say we still spoke to lots of people. Some needed help, others needed someone to talk to. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t see anyone to speak to from week to week.
The first conversation that I had was with a woman struggling with her housing benefit and the council. She was patiently waiting for her son to…
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