Congratulations Losers–You Won!

Here we are then.  We’ve all sobered up, rubbed our eyes and taken stock.  Everyone still hates the Tories, the party that cut everything from aid for the disabled to the taxes of the rich.  But they won.  Eighteen months ago I wrote that the government, without a hint of irony, would come to us in 2015 and ask to let them “finish the job”; the job of decimating our public services, welfare safety net, health service, care for the elderly and disabled and working conditions.  I also said the scary bit was that with our track record as an electorate, we probably would.  Guess what?  They did – and we did.

The capacity of the British people to vote in large numbers against their own interests is mind-boggling.  If we thought zero hours contracts were bad, just give it eighteen months and we’ll be begging to get on one of them for some job security!  The jugular is about to be gone for, by a party that had to pinch itself to see if it was awake after the election result.  Despite struggling to keep a straight face, they’ve started their mission to deliver “A brighter, more secure future” (their 2015 election slogan).

To this end, the queen will today sit on a golden throne to announce:

  • Vicious cuts in support for some of the poorest members of society.
  • The abolition of the Human Rights act.
  • Draconian Legislation curbing the ability of trade unions to protect their members’ pay & conditions.
  • Tax cuts for rich people.

She will be wearing a hat made entirely of precious jewels.


The Thatcher Museum

This week it was again mooted that a museum be established to honour former PM.

The measure of any society, it is said, lies in how it looks after its poorest and most vulnerable members.  John Locke opined that when we decided that we wished to organise and call ourselves civilised, we had to abandon the rights we had against each other in our state of nature in order to live together without fear or destitution.  In effect, we subscribed to a form of  social contract, a usually implicit agreement among the members of an organised society or between the governed and the government, defining and limiting the rights, duties and responsibilities of each.  This is how we secure mutual protection and welfare, ensuring that those who fall ill or become unemployed can be helped, keeping some semblance of their dignity intact.  Quite simply, we all pay into the system when we are able through our taxes, and make ‘withdrawals’ in the form of services and pensions or welfare when we need them.  These ‘withdrawals’ are ours by right, but are these days referred to, bizarrely in my opinion, as ‘benefits’.  Of course, with the rights come the duties and responsibilities, such as respect for each other and the law, the education of our children, the well being of our elderly and so on.

Over the years, certain people have been chipping away at our perception of this ‘social contract’.  Most of it has been very gradual and very subtle.  The Tories have always been set against the principle of the state providing for the less fortunate and, more recently the Labour party, in a bid to be seen as ‘electable’ in the eyes of the rich owners of the press, has been shedding several of its core principles.  This gradual shift became an outright onslaught with the election of Margaret Thatcher, remained unaddressed under New Labour (to its eternal shame), and is now being viciously completed by the present rotten, corrupt coalition government.

The scale of Mrs Thatcher’s assault should not be underestimated.  In her determination not just to emasculate the trade union movement, but to completely stamp it out, she also attacked the heartland where they were at their strongest: the manufacturing industry.  The result, as we can see, was the complete laying to waste of this sector, along with a rapid decline in the living standards of the millions of decent, working people employed therein.  Where we once built ships and manufactured steel, machines and electrical appliances with tradesmen and women on proper wages paying proper taxes, we now sell each other mobile phones (manufactured elsewhere) or make coffee and burgers on minimum wages paying little, if any tax.  Mrs Thatcher and her friends in the elite-owned press convinced people by drip-feeding that the unions, which had achieved the decent pay and conditions that were now being stolen from them, were actually the villains, and that we should look after ourselves individually and not each other.

The Thatcher administration then proceeded to sell swathes of state controlled industries.  The eminently viable names (which could have been still delivering billions in income and duty to the exchequer) to be hawked off for private companies to trouser the profits included:

    • British Aerospace
    • Cable & Wireless
    • Britoil
    • Jaguar
    • British Telecom
    • British Gas
    • British Steel
    • British Petroleum
    • Rolls Royce
    • British Airways
    • British Coal
    • British Rail
    • Associated British Ports
    • Enterprise Oil
    • British Shipbuilders
    • BAA
    • The Water Board
    • Electricity

These all belonged to the nation, but are now in the hands of (largely foreign) private companies.  People are suggesting that we have a museum as a monument – to this?

The NHS is being prepared for total privatisation, care for the elderly is decimated, the ambulance service is collapsing, our children are being charged £27,000 to educate themselves – a birth right in my day, fire stations are closing, coastguard stations are closing, libraries are closing, police numbers are being slashed, the terminally ill are being told to find a job, people will be forced to work ’til they’re 70 and young people will be forced to work for nothing as interns.  Nixon bugged one office and was impeached; our government is spying on all of us and laughs in our faces.  To the people considering the Margaret Thatcher Museum I have a simple message:  Take a look around you. . . . .YOU’RE LIVING IN IT ! ! !

If We Shot Ourselves in the Foot, We’d Miss.

unions make us strongThere’s an old joke about a Martian landing on Earth and seeing someone walking with their dog before scooping up the ‘poops’.  The joke ends with the Martian leaving under the impression that dogs rule the Earth, with humans as their lackeys.  First impressions count for nothing, eh?  Or do they?  That same Martian landing today would get a much more surreal view of things than that.

Picture the scene: millions of people struggling to survive, wondering where their next meal is coming from.  Queueing up in their thousands to clamour after five low-paid jobs.  Some relying on handouts, food banks and the generosity of people who can’t afford to be generous, whilst the few hundred very rich people they elected to represent them strip away everything that could support them in their hour of need, including their human dignity.  The disabled and terminally ill are pronounced fit, their entitlements stopped and they’re told to stop whining and get to work.  Taxes are spent instead on warships, rockets, bombs and other weapons, which are used to force ‘democracy’ down the throats of people around the world who’ve seen it in action and don’t want it thank-you-very-much.  Then, instead of staging a concerted movement to take back their lives, the people elect, in a slightly different arrangement, these same, rich few hundred to represent them again for another five years.  The Martian would go away scratching one of his heads and think that the world is inhabited by a population of barm-pots, who had no idea what was in their best interest.  And this time, he’d be right.

It would seem that the populace has fallen victim to the nationalist card on several issues.  This wily, though simple ruse merely requires enough people to be convinced that the misfortune about to be visited upon them, however unpalatable, is for “the good of the country” and that people who protest or argue against it are feckless, “red”, socialist wasters trying to bring the country to it’s knees.  If this can be achieved, then said populace will be persuaded to vote against it’s own interests for policies which actually damage their lives.  How is this achieved?  Well, having the ear of the editors of two of the largest circulation “newspapers” in the country is a good start.  People read the same message day after day, drip, drip, drip, and hey presto!  They’re ringing radio phone-ins quoting the sound bites from these papers and informing us that every immigrant arriving at our border is given a four bedroom house and the keys to a Bentley; that everyone on benefits is a serial fraudster bleeding the country dry; and that because we couldn’t deport some manic extremist to a country which may torture either him, or the witnesses to be used against him, the human rights act in its entirety needs throwing out!

This claim “for the good of the country” needs a bit of qualification, in particular the phrase “the country”, for in this context it can actually mean different things depending where in the food chain you sit.  In most cases, when a politician says “the country”, or “our country”, you can usually safely substitute the words “unscrupulous employers” and the actual meaning becomes clear.  The finest example of this, and perhaps the best incidence of people being tricked into backing policies which are clearly damaging them is the current attitude to unions.

It is no coincidence that in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, when the unions had record memberships, were able to organise properly and use industrial action when employers tried to take advantage of people, that wages were at their best and health & safety was revolutionised.  Employers had to pay the proper rate for a job and the unions also saw to it that every workplace had to comply with the highest standards of safety. It is also no coincidence that at this time, Britain was booming.  Because of the decent wages, people had money in their pockets and, unlike banks, when people have money they spend it – business was thriving.  Employers were making good profits, but, capitalism being what it is, they were aghast at what they were paying in wages and safety.  This outgoing represented extra profit that they were losing, and they couldn’t get their hands on it until the unions were either out of the way or emasculated.

And so the drip, drip, drip began; unions were “holding the country to ransom” (if we make our substitution, this becomes holding unscrupulous employers to account).  Eventually it was felt enough people had been convinced that, despite the relative prosperity they were enjoying, the unions were actually bad for them and should be curtailed.  This was the go-ahead to take the unions on head-to-head and, with a Tory government in place from 1979, their donors felt free to wage war.  Disputes were deliberately engineered and, as we’ve discovered with the release last week under the 30 year rule of contemporary documents, the government lied to the public so that the miners could be defeated.  The unions were targeted in their strongholds: the mines, shipbuilding, printing and manufacturing.  Industries which are now all but non-existent.  We used to make and build things: now we merely sell each other mobile phones and coffee (which incidentally, are made elsewhere for even lower wages).

Even today, after the brutal anti-union legislation of the 1980s (followed by Labour’s shameful failure to modify it) and the decline in union membership which resulted, one of the right-wing papers or politicians will casually refer to the bad old days “when the unions were holding the country to ransom”, just to keep the drip-feed going.  Amazingly, people are still ready to accept this comment, despite the appalling attacks on pay and conditions that legislation has allowed employers to perpetrate with impunity in the absence of any organised union resistance.  We also accept lots of other things the big, bad unions would have protected us from: zero-hours contracts, pay freeze after pay freeze, frequent changes to terms & conditions and the privatisation and exploitation of essential utilities.  We accept all this and more, whilst we watch the people who control our lives and keep us in a permanent state of insecurity and worry award themselves multi-million pound bonuses.  They don’t even bother trying to keep a straight face any more.

With all this in mind, what will happen in 2015?  Revolution?  Rebellion?  Redistribution?  No, the same few hundred rich people who maintain this state of affairs will be re-elected to govern us once more.  Our Martian friend will be left scratching both heads.