Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, palsied, pulseless lot that make up England.
Casting one’s vote for the Conservative Party, it seems, is the love that dare not speak its name. It is an act so base, so sordid, so lacking in the most elementary decency, that the present writer, Mark Conlon, has encountered no one in recent weeks willing to own up to it. And yet, on the morning of 8 May 2015, in defiance of all the polls, prognostications and tight-lipped prevarications of intent, we awoke to the dawning reality of a Conservative parliamentary majority. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing in The Social Contract of the ephemeral sovereignty allotted the English people during elections, commented that “by the use they make of their brief moments of liberty, they deserve to lose it.” Rarely can his prose have resonated with such mournful truth. Those inclined to grasp at straws can take consolation in the ejection of the putrid Esther McVey from her Wirral constituency, but otherwise the Tories are back, 331 of them, emboldened that they have a mandate to “finish the job” of eradicating the last vestiges of the post-1945 social democratic settlement. Henceforth neoliberalism will reign uncontested, its victims judged unworthy of life or remembrance.
How did the catastrophe come to pass? By means of coalition, the Tories have adroitly manoeuvred the Liberal Democrats, who before 2010 stood for some residual values of social justice, into irrelevance. Deservedly, the bulk of Nick Clegg’s abject Petainists are out of their lucrative jobs in the House of Commons, though it’s improbable they’ll need to visit the food banks to which their treachery has condemned a million of their fellow citizens. Maladroitly, through an obstinate refusal to countenance coalition with the Scottish National Party, Ed Miliband has steered the Labour Party in Scotland into oblivion, while doing nothing to ignite enthusiasm for it in England. The Party under his stewardship, aside from half-hearted flirtations with rent controls and living wage legislation, remained doggedly wedded to what Tariq Ali calls an “extreme centre” ideology, whereby exponents of hard-right economic policies posture as centrists in the hope of fooling inattentive electorates. Were there an afterlife, his father Ralph Miliband would be looking down – or perhaps up – attempting telepathically to din chastening passages from Parliamentary Socialism into the head of an errant son. It’s too late now, however, to heed the call of Miliband pere to veer leftwards; already the Blairite vultures will be circling, orchestrating a return to the verities of New Labour as Thatcherism en travesti.
During the election campaign, I read Danny Dorling’s Inequality and the 1%. The book documents, in exhaustive and enraging detail, how that 1% have enriched themselves fabulously at the expense of everyone else. It is a mindboggling account of the rampant greed that, with the abetment of Westminster parliamentarians, has made the UK the most divisive polity in Europe. One wonders, if the 99% have even a dim awareness of the scale of wealth sequestration, how they possibly could have voted for politicians whose very raison d’etre is to accelerate the process. The electoral “roar of Middle England” may have been eulogized by the Daily Mail, but the vociferation of the petit bourgeoisie might have been muted if they knew quite how petty their assets are by comparison with the riches of the elite; as for those further down the social hierarchy who assented to having their pockets picked, seldom can false consciousness have breached such outer limits. At a Pathways meeting recently, Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land came up in discussion, and the forlorn leftist is tempted to take the title of that novel as self-descriptive. Has a form of mass psychosis taken hold, or a virulent strain of Stockholm syndrome infected the populace? Mutatis mutandis, substituting Katie Hopkins for Ann Coulter as virago of reaction, and disability benefit claimant for food stamp recipient as governmentally targeted folk devil, has the UK – or, more specifically, England – transformed into a simulacrum of its boorish transatlantic cousin?
To forestall the urge to launch into a Lawrentian invective against the country of my birth, I should of course note that the election results were skewed to a ludicrous degree by an indefensible voting system. Douglas Carswell, a Tory defector to UKIP, correctly identifies first-past-the-post as “dysfunctional” now that his currently favoured comrades have racked up 3.8 million votes but, with the exception of his own Clacton constituency, no seats. The SNP garnered barely 300,000 more votes than the Greens, yet the former is hegemonic in Scotland, the latter confined to a lone enclave in Brighton. The Conservative tally was 36.9% of those who voted, equating to 11.3 million persons out of a total population of 64.5 million, or in other words a proportion that confers zero legitimacy by the criteria of Tory trade union laws. Fully one third of those registered to vote abstained. Clearly, it is risible to suggest that this constitutes “democracy” in any meaningful sense of the term, though it dovetails well enough with Tory avidity for the reins of power, and will do so all the more when boundaries are redrawn to the advantage of Conservative candidates. Add in the influence of a press and broadcast media that are overwhelmingly hostile to progressive politics, and you are left with something closer to farce than an apotheosis at the ballot box of possessive individualism.
Porcine vulgarian Eric Pickles, local government minister in the coalition and reelected to his Essex seat of Brentwood and Ongar, tweeted that a “perfect day” had been had by the Conservatives on 7 May. It hardly requires adding that the divinely personified “markets” concur. Triumphant Prime Minister David Cameron promises that “something special” is in the offing from his administration, while Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, with utter predictability, vows to press ahead with an economic plan that thus far has cut an insufficiently harsh 10% from the wages of British workers. The “special” ingredient, rather than any Elysian Fields of prosperity situated at the distant end of an Osbornian budgetary canard, is likely to be a financial crash, of a still more shattering magnitude than that which convulsed the world in 2oo8. Meanwhile, millions will suffer grievously as intensified austerity hacks away at the NHS, social care, subsidized housing and anything else that renders life tolerable for those at the bottom of society. I fear that members of the Pathways group may be among them. None remotely deserve it, but then indiscriminate collective punishment is the whole point of waging class war from above.