the apathetic nation

light man people art The country is sinking deeper and deeper into a pained but apathetic morass. Photo by RockTree Photography

ARE WE A NATION BEYOND CARING?

By Paul Halas

They partied and broke their own rules; they’ve been rumbled but will there now be a reckoning? The whitewash is already underway, Allegra Stratton is the blood sacrifice and an inquiry, of sorts, is to be held – led by someone who allegedly attended one of the parties in question.

Social media is buzzing with tweets by disaffected lifelong Tory supporters swearing they’ll never vote for the Conservatives again, the Fib Dems even stand to win a by-election or two. The political landscape is shifting, the penny is at last dropping that the current shower in charge make the scammers trying to con your gran out of her life’s savings look like Mother Teresa. Or is it?

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Never has the nation been saddled with such a mendacious, morally bankrupt ruling party. The only area in which they excel is funnelling vast sums of public money into the private sector, most specifically the very richest corporations and individuals. The majority of the Cabinet have the excuse that they’re of very limited ability (how the *%~# did Raab, Williamson and Truss ever gain responsible posts, let alone make it up to big school?), but to achieve all the mayhem they’ve wrought they have to have some brains behind the scenes making sure they don’t inadvertently achieve anything beneficial.

There is something grim and sinister driving the Tory Party. Their policies are designed to make the less well off poorer, to deny the young a route to meaningful work, to suppress lower-end wages, to erode working conditions, to make education unaffordable, to make housing unaffordable, to drive inequality ever upwards, and, when people decide to express their anger at all the ordure they’re expected to swallow, to criminalise dissent – with absurdly Draconian penalties. By any marker, we’re several furlongs down the track to fascism. Many of the prerequisites are already in place: a rocky economy, a government that has realised it can get away with rule by edict, a widespread willingness to attack designated scapegoats, and a general air of helplessness and apathy.

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close up photo of skull
There is something grim and sinister driving the Tory Party. Photo by Mitja Juraja on Pexels.com

Public trust in politics has been lost. People have always complained that politicians are all the same, and it doesn’t matter who you vote for. But mostly such sentiments were simply venting. Whatever your political allegiance, there was a feeling that governments and opposition were expected to conduct themselves with a certain degree of decorum. It’s not that skulduggery and dishonesty in high places was unheard of, but at the very least, when you were found out, you fell on your sword.

That no longer happens. British party politics has lost any semblance of shame. Johnson and his cronies are constantly being rumbled. They defraud the public, lie, cheat, shag, snort, boogie and blunder without a care in the world. Sometimes an acquiescent media actually reports on their shenanigans, but it makes no difference. A mild slap on the wrist here and there, but nothing that means a damn. And the public has grown completely blasé with it. That’s just how it is. Let them get on with it. Screw politics anyway. People just don’t care any more (apart from a small minority whose voices are increasingly being silenced). Politics more than ever has become a happy hunting ground for the very worst people in public life and their backers.

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I’m not alone in seething with rage, but I recognise my rage is impotent – emasculated. How to affect matters, effect change, is beyond my ken. Of course, if the country had an effective opposition, a serious alternative to the toxic status quo that’s been in charge for the past generation or three, there would be a shard of hope to cling to – but there isn’t.

Much as I despise Johnson and his ilk, they are what they are and one wouldn’t expect anything different from them. They’re the enemy, always have been. But my real venom is reserved for Sir Keir Starmer. He has done more than anyone to destroy whatever hope I once clung to.

Sure, for most of its existence the Labour Party has been fronted by centrists, self-seekers and establishment stooges, but there was always a healthy leftist faction within it that frequently managed to make its voice heard. The Atlee government achieved great things, the Wilson governments had their moments, and even Tory Blair and his gang failed to silence all the left wing voices – but Starmer… oh boy!


Sir Keir has been the death of Labour as a serious political alternative, and for that I can never forgive him

The only real alternative to the ever right-ward march of the nation was Labour under Corbyn – even if the PLP and the majority of the party apparatchiks conspired with the establishment and media to bring the party leader down – and with him the chance of a Labour government.

Corbyn has gone, but had the policies he put before the nation been retained by the Labour Party people would’ve had the possibility of a real alternative – something to inspire some real hope. The Tories have become such a rank cesspit that sooner or later people would opt for genuine, radical change. That option has been denied to us. Starmer has broken all his promises on policy and is conducting a witch hunt of the left, which must have Tony Blair purring with a mixture of admiration and envy. Sir Keir has been the death of Labour as a serious political alternative, and for that I can never forgive him.

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The country is sinking deeper and deeper into a pained but apathetic morass. Many of those worst affected by the Tories’ evil policies are either too immersed in the day to day to bother with politics or have been suckered into taking their frustration out on the sanctioned scapegoats. Those somewhere in the middle strata, those who are just about getting by but are keenly aware that things are getting progressively tougher, just don’t see how anything will change. And those doing rather well just close their eyes and hope that things won’t change because they’re Thatcher’s children and they’re all right, Jack. We’ve become the apathetic nation. “If voting changed anything they’d ban it.” Hell. I’m starting to agree with that. How do we prevent what is effectively an elected dictatorship from lurching into full-on fascism?

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong about Johnson and maybe he’s toast. Maybe the Tories are. (Though I doubt it.) Maybe Starmer will become our next prime minister because people finally tire of Tory sleaze and maybe we’ll avoid the final descent into fascism. The trouble is, I can’t see how Starmer’s Labour would dramatically improve many people’s lives. The sleaze would probably be a little less in your face, but the oligarchs, hedge funders and magnates would still sleep soundly in their beds, the money launderers would still launder, the gig economy workers would still be exploited, the utility companies would still favour shareholders over customers, the NHS would still be fragmented and flogged off and the homeless would still be homeless…The current neoliberal system breeds inequality, and that won’t be challenged under New New Labour.

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On a personal level, I’m afraid I’ve fallen into the national malaise. Not through acceptance of the status quo, but because I can no longer see an effective way for me to challenge it. In the Corbyn era I could, with bells on. My activism of the past six years, which had been pretty full-on, has dissipated, my energy drained. And I don’t blame Johnson and company for that. Kier Starmer, J’accuse.


Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.