This Is Not A
"When The Demons Arrive, The Survivors Will Envy The Dead"
This is being written in instalments, so it may lack even the limited coherence which You, The Reader has come to expect of me.
I don't know why my subconscious self moved me to play Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of "The War Of The Worlds" when I was collating the election results on Saturday evening, but it seemed eerily appropriate, and at least provided me with that most difficult of things to obtain, i.e. a title to this piece...
(A brief digression: I found that the album still acquits itself well over forty years after its release; side one is dramatic (how could it be otherwise with Richard Burton narrating, although he has to compensate throughout for performances by David Essex which were of such a nature that you couldn't decide whether they needed to be accompanied by apple sauce or a tin of Cuprinol); side two makes me cry on the two main songs, Forever Autumn and Thunderchild; side three goes off the boil a bit, what with Phil Lynott trying to pass himself off as an Anglican vicar; and side four just about drags everything back on track, although Wayne's coda to the story seems more apt today than Wells' original somewhat less pessimistic and trepidant ending to the novel.)
...although in this case the grasping, clamping, suffocating weed is blue rather than red, and there is a sense that life as we knew it is never going to get back to what we had deluded ourselves into thinking was 'normal' prior to 2016.
I had, for reasons previously given, not done much more than glance with distaste at the results on Friday - having far more amusing and pleasant things to attend to - so it was Saturday afternoon before I really started delving into the results. The cries of "What the holy fuck!!?" which went up on a regular basis as I surveyed the rout of possibly the last chance of steering the Untied Condom from the Singapore-On-Thames fate determined for it by those with political, economic and media power would have disturbed my neighbours had they been in at the time.
But I'll start by giving some basic statistics as my embarkation point for further voyages through the sewer of what passes for 'democracy' in this part of the archipelago in 2019.
(I make no claim for hundred-per-cent accuracy in any of these; I may easily have mis-typed one or two figures)
- The number of marginal constituencies, i.e. those where the winning margin was 10 per cent of the total vote or less, was 143, or 22 per cent; this was slightly down from 170 or 26 per cent in 2017. A third of all 2017's marginals changed hands this time. There are now three three-way marginals this time compared to two in 2017 (one each in England, Scotland and Wales).
- The number of seats where the majority for the winner was fifty per cent or more of the total vote was 37, an increase of 2 on 2017. However, the percentage of seats where the winning party had more than fifty per cent of the vote actually decreased from 474 to 421. This may be ascribable to the number of ultra-safe Labour seats where the party's performance fell back below that threshold.
A few oddities before I get to the poisoned gammon of the main course:
- The two Dundee seats returned SNP candidates with exactly the same-sized majorities (in percentage terms) and share of the vote, albeit over different second-placed parties.
- The SNP has, as in 2017, two MPs with, phonetically speaking (which is, after all, the only way anyone can speak), the same name, viz. Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) and Stuart McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East). That's something else for Mr Speaker Hoyle to cope with.
- The last line of Half Man Half Biscuit's song Totnes Bickering Fair is, "Not long now before lollipop men are called Darren". There are now two MPs of that name, along with a Kelly, a Dean (though not yet a Dion), a Jerome, a Scott and a Holly. The 80s/90s generation seems to have arrived.
Now, on to what passes for analysis...
The first thing which struck me while I was entering the results onto my spreadsheet was the size of many of the Tory majorities, even in seats which they had just grabbed from Labour. Majorities of 20 per cent plus were not unusual in those cases, and ones in excess of 40 to 50 per cent overall seemed quite common too.
There are far-reaching implications for the future in this. The size of the Tory majorities in seats where Labour in particular were or are in second place are such that - barring a Blair-level landslide - it will take at least two elections to eradicate them. This means that we are almost certainly facing an entire decade of far-right government, with all that implies for everything else, be it the nature of trade deals, the survival of our public services, our legal protections in the field of work and beyond or the constitutional arrangements of the so-called 'Union'.
And, if you query my use of the term 'far-right' in the preceding paragraph, consider this: even at the high-sewage mark of evangelical Thatcherism, the old fruitbat did still have some in the Cabinet and on the back benches - Hurd, Prior, Kenneth Clarke, Richard Shepherd, even Heseltine - to provide some sort of ameliorating effect against the more swivel-eyed insanity of Keith Joseph, Norman Tebbit, et al. There are no such countervailing forces likely to be in Bloody Stupid Johnson's Cabinets, nor on the back benches as the new intake of Tory MPs are almost to a man, woman and bot from the True Believer wing of the party. With a sufficient majority to ram just about anything through the Commons, and with their leader's insouciant disregard for either constitutional tradition or, indeed, the law itself, the 'elected dictatorship' of which Fatty Hogg warned us decades ago may be about to be made creeping flesh.
The big surprise to many (although only if they hadn't been paying enough attention to what was going on outside the Westminster/media/City bubble, i.e. the punditocracy) was the way in which the Tories picked up seat after seat in areas which, even in 1983, would never have considered voting for them for a moment. South Yorkshire, East Lancashire, even the former Durham coalfields; all of them now have several Blue Meanies claiming to represent them.
It wouldn't astonish anyone who cared to look. These were, after all, areas which voted most strongly for B****t, and the same motivation almost certainly applies in 2019 as it did three and a half years ago; namely, a revolt against being ignored by a political establishment (particularly the Labour part of it) which had come to appear remote not just geographically but psychologically from its supposed 'heartlands'. Added to the hammering that Labour has taken from the press (and, slightly more obliquely, from television news outlets), this perception of being out of touch has proven to be lethal and people voted in the only direction in which they could in order to - so they believed - effect immediate change. It's much the same impulse which got Trump into the Oval Office.
The results of last Thursday have seen, in my view, the end of class-based politics in England (the same process started in Scotland over a decade ago and has now reached something of an end-point); when there is no longer a 'working class' in the way in which the term was understood and identified with for so long, then there must be an inevitable re-alignment along other grounds; some still socio-economic it's true, but far more frequently so geographic or even ethnic.
For we seem to have passed from one sort of class conscious ness to another, only this time it is the thoroughly bogus notion of 'the white working class', a nonce usage coined by the extreme right and - natürlich - picked up on by that portion of the press which wants to appear to sympathise with 'the common man' without actually having to experience the 'common man''s life at first hand, and therefrom passed into common parlance. There is, of course, no such thing, but that has never stopped the scribblers from promoting such chimeras in pursuit of a click or two.
Now this is one hell of a turnaround (imagine the Cuckoo Party winning Midwich Central), but if you think that these results are disturbing to your notion of progress, ponder this (and it's another thing the professional analysts and scriveners seem not to have picked up on):
That the Brexit Party (sic) is a vanity project of Nigel Falange is, of course, a given, and even he must have been aware that his company would be unlikely to pick up a single seat, which is probably why he decided not to stand as a candidate himself for fear of landing himself an eighth defeat in as many attempts to get into Westminster. But the candidates who did stand were put up in constituencies where they would at the very least threaten the prospects of the Tories (and remember what I said about their candidates being True Believers?). Whilst that may not in the end have snatched away a majority from the Johnsonites, it is sobering to consider what would have happened had the Faragisti not stood. In seat after seat in the north of England, they gained just enough votes to stop numerous other Labour seats from being turned dark blue.
Assuming that most of the BP vote would have transferred to the Conservative candidate, both Barnsley seats, Batley & Spen, Wansbeck, Blaydon, all three Sunderland seats, City of Durham, Hartlepool, Stockton North, two of the three Hull constituencies, both Doncaster ones, and quite a few more besides would have gone over, leaving Yorkshire, Teesside and County Durham looking like the English midlands did in the 1980s; masses of blue with just the occasion island of red.
Moving on, just look at this map of England's First Colony:
I mean, would you just look at it! Fourteen Tory MPs? The same number as in the landslide of 1983?
But don't just look at the number, look at the distribution of them as well.
Apart from areas such as Pembrokeshire and Monmouth, which go Conservative nine times out of ten anyway, the others share one important feature in common; they are the areas of highest English immigration. Be it the racist 'white-flighters' who have been infesting Powys for the last twenty years or so, or the residents of that extended dormitory suburb which constitutes the so-called 'A55 corridor' in the north, they are all areas whose Welshness (however defined) has been in retreat for a generation. And so it is made manifest that we are - literally - being 'Englished out' of our own land; if we're not actually in a numerical minority in those areas, our influence has dwindled to such a degree that the incomers now dominate. The Latvianisation (*) of our land is becoming complete.
(I'm aware that this is a controversial view in the eyes of many, but the evidence on the ground is now indisputable, and I do not resile from my opinion one centimetre).
There's more: the one seat which Labour did hang on to north of those fabled Valleys was held by a very narrow margin, and it and at least half a dozen constituencies in the southern belt would also have likely turned blue but for the presence of a Farage franchisee. The myth of 'Labour Wales' has now been comprehensively debunked.
Not that that helps at all when the party which calls itself - increasingly risibly - 'The Party Of Wales' cannot take the slightest advantage of the old order's crumbling. Plaid flatlined again, as they have done in every election since 1999; indeed, they never managed even so much as one second-place finish in the 32 seats they didn't already have (and where they could be bothered fielding a candidate: see here). That is what putting independence a distant second behind the posturings of identity politics and allying yourself to colonialist parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greenpartyofenglandandwales (so-called because, in mid-2018, the members thereof voted by 2:1 not to follow the example of their Scottish counterparts and become independent of London) in the ludicrously self-righteous 'Remain Alliance' will do to you if you decide completely to ignore your party's stated purpose.
If things are dying with Dai, then at least things are a bit more jake with Jock. A vibrant and effective Scottish party with a broad ideological base (although occasionally hampered by the same wokeist nonsense as their Welsh counterparts) once more dominated the results. A net gain of 13 seats again reduced the unionist parties to a withered rump; the Tories lost more than half their seats, the LibDems lost their new leader before she'd had the chance to partake of Bedtime With Boris, and the North Britain Branch of the Labour Party was - as in 2015 - reduced to one man and his election agent. The unionist tactical voting and comparative apathy which cost the SNP 21 seats last time was in short supply in 2019 (although the former was the probable cause of the Conservatives holding on to three of their 2017 gains in the north east).
The scene is therefore set for a battle of wills between a hard-right régime in London with no mandate over Scotland and a Scottish national movement which has all but no leverage in a Westminster system which doesn't require acknowledgement of Scotland at all. What may move things is the growing realisation - finally - on the part of some substantial figures in the Labour Party's Scotland sub-office (and Kezia Dugdale) that the policy of The Union At All Costs has been an utter catastrophe for them, seeing as those of their voters who were either in favour of - or at least open-minded towards - independence decamped to the SNP and the Greens long ago, and the dyed-in-the-wool sectarian Unionjackoffs decided to cut out the middleman and pin their sashes to the Tory mast. The Labour Party in Scotland is as dead as canasta, at least until it decides to take down the old Red, White and Blue Flag for once and for all.
Northern Ireland being Ulster (or, rather, two-thirds of Ulster), little analysis will avail. Suffice it to say that something may finally be moving in an interesting (as in 'times') direction when North Belfast elects a Shinner.
So - as our local management always says to us when we complain about the position we've been put into by senior management not listening to anyone who knows what they're talking about - 'we are where we are'. But how did we get here, to a situation whereby Labour is now reduced to a party of the metropoleis (†) and the Conservatives have re-invented the 'Essex Man' of the 1980s and exported him to Esh Winning and Edlington, where his boorish braying just about drowns out the noise of coal-miners long dead rotating furiously underground?
Two things stand out for me.
The first is the sheer bloody idiocy of so-called 'tactical voting'. The idea is stupid to begin with because - at least in theory - no-one can possibly know within even reasonable doubt how the forces line up on the battleground in any constituency. So the whole thing is predicated on nothing more than a guess; a slightly sophisticated guess, it's true, but a speculation all the same.
All that it will ever end up doing is splitting the vote on the centre/centre-left and - just as it did in 1983 - that merely allows the right to stomp right through the middle to victory. I haven't had either the time or the inclination definitively to count how many seats Labour lost (or failed to gain) because of an increase - often quite small - in the Liberal Democrat vote. My clear impression, however, is that it may have been enough to prevent B.S. Johnson having any sizeable majority. Add to this the fiasco of the so-called 'People's Vote' campaign, which fell apart in thoroughly predictable fashion part-way through the campaign, and the dangerous, self-righteous, self-serving fatuity of the whole concept becomes clear.
People should vote for the party they actually want to win, not have to choose their second favourite in the belief that it will do anything other than provide success and succour to those parties they would never want to triumph. It may be inevitable under the cockeyed electoral system which we have to endure, but that doesn't mean that it is practically or ethically supportable.
The second is (or rather, are) the media. To mention this factor, even now, gives an invitation to those ever eager to believe (contrary to the available evidence) that our media are - if not devoid of their blemishes - comprised of decent chaps and chapesses who are eager seekers after the truth and holders of power to account, to jeer at 'conspiracy theorists'.
But the fact has solidly to be faced; the media which we have to endure in this land are appallingly bad at seeking the truth or holding power to account. In the case of the papers, this should scarcely need to be pointed out; when four-fifths of the daily and Sunday press is owned and controlled by billionaire tax-dodgers, they will use their organs (and seldom could a word be more appropriate in more than one of its meanings simultaneously) to peddle the line they wish the public to take.
(When that ogre Beaverbrook was asked at a Parliamentary committee hearing what he ran his papers for, he replied unabashed, "Personal propaganda"; his heirs and successors are no different. Indeed, when the journalist Alan Brien wrote a piece in which he described Aitken's attempts to write not merely the first but all subsequent drafts of history by having all of his outlets follow the same line, in order to hoodwink future historians into thinking that that line was how things actually were, 'The Beaver' sued him. Brien was saved from penury only by the fact that the old rogue dropped dead before the case came to court.)
But still and all, newspapers are private ventures and they can print what the hell their owners choose to. The same liberty should not - can not - be permitted to supposedly public broadcasters which take public money to produce some form of information service.
And here we come to the conduct of the State Broadcaster.
That the BBC's News and Current Affairs department has been deficient in rigour - in terms both of the factual content of its output and its previously much-vaunted 'impartiality' - for some years must now be taken as a given. Ever since the publication of the Hutton Report in 2004 - at the end of a process designed by Blair, Mandelson and Campbell at the diseased heart of the New Labour 'project' to inflict the maximum damage on the Corporation - the self-identified 'leaders' of the BBC in general (and the news section in particular) were either cowed into a self-flagellating acquiescence to power - the intended effect - or have gradually been replaced by representatives of the same proclivities and biases as their paper counterparts.
The consequences for the BBC's reputation as being not merely a reliable source of information but an authoratative one have been catastrophic. The tendency has been there a long time: anyone who was involved with - or observed, even at a distance - the indepdendence referendum campaign in Scotland in 2014 could have seen - if they chose to - the depths of partiality to the point of outright dishonesty to which the State Broadcaster sank in its presentation of events (and I recommend the film London Calling, which outlines the myriad examples of malpractice by the Corporation's news department). The complaints which arose from that time - if they were noticed at all - were dismissed by the media élite in London and their relay stations in Scotland with the usual jibe of being "conspiracy theories". But it has now been made manifest in a context in which few outside BBC management could fail to take seriously; the suborning of 'journalism' as commonly defined into a form of PR on behalf of establishment interests is now so clear and so total as to constitute an existential threat to the whole concept of fair reporting.
And so we have had to endure the manifestly partial and tendentious 'reporting' of the Corporation's 'Political Editor' Laura Kuenssberg, salivating (if not becoming somewhat moist elsewhere) at every remark from 'sources' within the Conservative Party and tweeting outright untruths about the opposition. And getting away with it.
(A small but important point here: I have no problem at all with one ex-University Conservative Association alumnus becoming chief political hack (Andrew Marr); that's fair enough, turn and turn about, and all that. However, when the job goes to two such figures in succession (Nick Robinson), the kindest way of describing it would be as a failure of imagination. But when the post goes to the third such in a row (Kuenssberg), it looks - and smells - like a policy).
Perhaps Kuenssberg has been targeted as much because of her sex as anything else; but bad hacks can be female as well and - if you believe in equality - should not be exempted from justified comeback because of that.
But it isn't just her (and, to be fair, it isn't just the BBC either; the performance of her ITV equivalent Robert Peston has frequently been equally egregious, if not downright credulous). The insistence of the Corp in continuing its daily 'press review' during the election campaign was a clear breach of the spirit if not the letter of the regulations intended to protect the public from unfair or slanted coverage. For, if eighty per cent of the press which is being 'reviewed' is controlled by the far right, and when you compound that by inviting hacks with a similar perspective to do the actual 'reviewing', you don't get clarity or explication; you get an echo chamber. With a megaphone attached.
And so - to go back a few paragraphs - if Beaverbrook believed (not without good reason) that pumping out the same biased coverage of events from a number of apparently disparate sources was going, in effect, to give that slant on things authenticity, however superficial, then we have reached the apogee - or rather, the nadir - of that strategy.
It is therefore not to be remotely boggled at - despite clear and unambiguous evidence to the contrary - that the majority of the population (who still, remember, get nearly all their news from the 'traditional' sources rather than social media) think that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semitic Trot and that Boris Johnson is - as one prole in Grimsby put it when interviewed - "an ordinary working-class bloke like me".
None of this is to exonerate the opposition parties for the inadequacies of their own campaigns, mark you: Labour was confused and timid where it should have been (and had every justification for being) consistent and bold, and the Liberal Democrats were confused and bold where they should have been (and had every justification for being) consistent and humble, if not shamefaced. But the Tory campaign was only superior in the way that it knew, as it has known for a long time, that All You Need Is Soundbites. Anything which could be expressed in three or four words ("Let's Get Brexit Done" is the classic example from this election) was expressed thus, thereby recognising the simple truth that the modern Great British Public™ doesn't 'do' complicated, and anything which will fit comfortably into an excerpt on the evening news will 'get the message across'. Social media will not cut it in elections simply because most people don't use it, and all you end up with is a lot of rather earnest people talking to themselves, so the whole thing about Faecesbook ads is a pongy old red herring, designed in part to distract from the power of existing media.
(It's the same process as described by John Peel when he said that he had thought that everyone had bought a copy of a particular LP because everyone he knew had bought it, only to realise subsequently that they were the only ones who had).
So this is where we are. But where will we be?
It is almost certainly too much to hope that - now that they have their majority safe for five years - there might be some amelioration in the arrogant cloddishness of the Conservative Party. For one thing, not only is the cabinet packed with True Believers (or, as in the case of Nicky Morgan, those who can fake it and who have no sense of shame), but the government backbenches will be full of similar acolytes, including in roughly equal proportions the Alan B'stards and the Piers Fletcher-Dervishes of this rising political generation. And it's not as if the Tories need to get their hands dirty with the rough stuff of burgeoning prejudice in society in general; as we have seen in the last three and a half years, there are enough willing volunteers to play the Blackshirt rôle, all of them plausibly deniable. The best we can expect is that the Johnson régime will combine the studied nastiness of the May government with the equally ubiquitous incompetence of The Major Years.
The prospect of not forming a government for at least a decade will mean that the minds which need to be concentrated will not (from their point of view at least) need to be. That the party will now edge rightwards again can scarcely be in any doubt (Andrew Adonis - living proof that it is possible to be officially clever whilst simultaneously being spectacularly dense - has already stated that the party's upper echelons need ruthlessly to have removed from their ranks anyone remotely connected to the outgoing leadership; 'Stalinist purge', vicar?). This will lead to most of the people who have joined it in the last five years voting with their feet, possibly to set up a new grouping (thus perpetuating further those fissiparous tendencies on the left which has led to the dominance of the right over decades). Like in the US, the Continuity Labour Party (or CLaP, for short) would most likely triangulate back towards the centre-right, thus rendering them of no earthly use to anyone outside of the Bubble.
The Liberal Democrats? If the existential conundrum of "What the hell are they for?" was not previously evident enough, then it is now flashing in bright orange helium lights. Their place on the centre-left - which they vacated to all intents and purposes once the Orange Bookers (Continuity Thatcherites, or ConTs, for short) had grabbed control - being taken by a rightwardly-migrating Labour Party, their only chance is to position themselves as a Not-Quite-As-Bad-As-The-Tories Party (seeing as that party is not going to be moving an inch leftward any geological era soon).
Once B****t is 'done', then whither Farage? Well, he's already hinted that his next pyramid scheme will be to transform his current business into The Reform Party (in that peculiarly modern meaning of the word 'reform', which may be defined as pouring gravy into the bowls of your chums whilst pouring liquefied shit over the heads of everyone else). He isn't going away, and he will no doubt continue to clock up appearance after appearance on Question Time, "because he's such good TV!", such is the way that show has replaced substance in our society.
And that society in general? It's going to be a tough time, especially if you are not wealthy or healthy, and if you are of a non-white disposition - or clearly not really 'British' because you have a funny name and can speak at least two languages - it will likely be worse still (as it already has been for one British Asian woman in Newcastle whose neighbour knocked on her door on Friday morning to announce, "Boris has won, so we'll soon be rid of you"). Inequality will worsen, the state of our public services will decline still further, and everything, but everything will be up for grabs during desparate 'negotiations' with the Untied Stoats of Amnesia for a trade deal in which Greater Gammonia will be little more than a supplicant before the big tribbled-haired giant. Indeed, there is a line of thought that the two states are locked in a mutual death spiral whereby they decline into failed states (a view expressed cogently in this essay by Umair Haque (with a tip of the wig to P.Z. Myers for the link).
But there will be no uprising. I repeat: there will be no uprising. There will be no disillusionment with the way that Johnson is taking us all which will not be defused by flag-waving or, as a last resort, using the police and courts as arms not of society as a whole but of that élite which Joe and Patsy Dupe voted to remove by voting for. After all, we have been here before; any meaningful resistance to austerity was crushed in 2010-11 when people of altogether public-spirited mien were put on a judicial conveyer belt and railroaded through specially-convened courts to be handed sentences of singular and gleeful viciousness. That will show them (again).
If you are not already in a position of advantage in what is left of 'society', forget about a better future; the 'sunlit uplands' have been sold to a Chinese businessman for a golf course and the golden future is solely for those whi have the gold already.
Stay strong, everyone, and let's sing along with good old Uncle Jarvis:
(* when Latvia was thrown into Stalin's lap in 1940, the murderous bastard forcibly transferred a large proportion of Latvians to other parts of his empire, replacing them with an equal or larger number of ethnic Russians in an attempt to destroy Latvia's identity. Those Russians (or their descendants) have proven to be a constant pain in the Baltics to Latvia since its self-liberation from the Russian empire).
(† this is the original Greek plural, and I rather care for it).