Out and About in the Fourth Estate With Steven Gilfillan


Of all the achievements the grey-haired, and now bespectacled Joseph Nettexe may, and often does boast – all of it set out in a voluminous résumé – a first hard hour at the woolsack is not about to be one of them. Mr Nettexe plc is voluble in stating this himself, as often as public etiquette demands, and to as large a horde as he and his charming wife can muster.

I received my personalised if impersonal invitation to his private screening of Bizarre-ha on a bright sunny morning, at a moment when the newly applied décor of my little kitchenette was a dazzle of optimistic egg-yolk. The thing arrived in a luxuriating vellum, its crested frank a mock-up in meticulous gold leaf, which from the precepts of my humble pay scale must have cost the Nettexe stationery dept ingots to mail en masse. I broke its seal in a sense of sceptical wonder usual in my trade. ‘Dear Journalist,’ it read, ‘you are cordially invited etc.’

For those who don’t know, the anonymous Joe Nettexe – in his youth a Young Conservative – stepped out on a dull career path as High Street accountant. Grey and suburban it might have been, yet Joe (as people called him then) never lacked foresight. Small as his operation was, its place was in the Tory van, and that, to a certain kind of Englishman, has always meant the acceptable face of capitalism. An individual’s personal success spreads its succour in little waves throughout his immediate circle, so that a nation’s many Nettexes (a lot of Joes, not so many Josephines), are the essential fabric of economic life. Don’t ask me what business school he subscribed to.

The Nettexe expansion coincided with the Thatcherite emasculation of the trade unions, so that by the early ’90s his poky little High Street enterprise had shed its tweeds and donned its city pinstripe, with the move into shares, real estate, and a lively trade in God knows what overstuffed portfolio. By the late ’90s the Nettexe empire was lumberingly vast, and its figurehead (formerly Joe, but Joseph now) found himself consulted in TV studios as to what it took to regenerate a national psyche. That weeping ghoul, for so long laid low by the ancient curse of despair, formed no part of his makeup, though I’m afraid not much philosophy came in the observations he made – something like all must move with the times (and with News International). He was bold enough to align himself with Blairism, the rationale being that even to persons of conscience, that was also the acceptable face of capitalism – a smiling, evangelising face at that.

What had all this to do with my invitation to a private screening of Bizarre-ha? That was the question I asked myself on driving up to the gated hectares where the Nettexes, their staff and retainers were – a semi-castellated fortress done Disney-style, forbidding and foreboding. Before permitting me to pass, a flunkey in olive-green livery examined my invitation and checked its serial number against a computerised list of duplicates. He smiled politely and tapped the peak of his cap – ‘Ah yes’ – a motion synchronised with the whirr of an electric motor and the vast gates to Castle Nettexe opening inwards.

I drove what seemed the mile or so up the drive, and was met by another flunkey, who parked my low-economy Skoda with the more prestigious motors friends and associates in the Nettexe circle liked to show off. I was ushered in through the vestibule – a cavernous void – and formally announced in the marble ante-chamber where the other guests, huge in number, had been assembled, in the half-hour or so before we were shown into the theatre. Everywhere the fruit bowls were plump with oranges, and the decanters were brimful of single malt. The first bit of conversation I overheard was this, from the Italian contingent: ‘Costa molto la Ferrari?’ I imagine the answer: ‘Un pochino.’

And this was really the point of it, my being here, to circulate and overhear snippets of conversation. I began to deduce this when the sliver most often repeated was that, despite his lifelong interest in the arts, Nettexe had no ambitions to join his friends in the Other Place (the House of Lords) and spout on about the value of his Rembrandts, cultural or otherwise. For all his generous donations into Conservative coffers, and friendship with successive party leaders, it remains categorically so that no such honour is sought, and nor is it expected.

Finally I talked briefly to Nettexe himself, who was grey, bespectacled, portly, and who let it slip that the House of Lords was not the most effective platform from which to mastermind defeat of the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish, to punish the EU, and to ward off Labour, whether Marxist-led or not. Then what was, I asked him?

‘I will tell you…. Ah, but look,’ he said, and tapped his wrist. ‘Time for the film.’

PS Bizarre-ha is directed by Robert A. Nettexe, grandson to the Nettexe empire, and is a forty-minute documentary and brief history of American and English chat shows. It’s a film-school student-graduate showing, the centrepiece of this private function before entry into the festival circuit.

Peter Cowlam has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. His last published book, A Forgotten Poet, is available at Amazon Kindle. He is published in a wide range of print and online journals. Steven Gilfillan is his fictional spokesperson experienced in journalism and other forms of literary art.

Out and About in the Fourth Estate With Steven Gilfillan

Under The Greenwood Tree

It was one of these evocative autumn mornings, so I was doubly shocked to hear that Borak Yesenin’s mother had died. It came as a surprise too when on behalf of him and the rest of the family I was asked to the funeral, and in the small parish church where the old woman had worshipped was requested to read a designated passage from the New Testament. The honour was great, but the milieu I try to escape is host to ruthless people, whose cynicism rubs off.

Interestingly, Alma Yesenin had chosen for her interment a woodland burial in semi-private soil, a good many versts from her husband, who having pre-deceased her had opted for cremation. His ashes were scattered on the Dover shoreline, that symbolic place of the couple’s first entry into the country that took them in as refugees. As has been said, by a previous commentator, whose division of the world is into Barbarians, Philistines, and the Populace—

…we are here as on a darkling plain / Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, / Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Those ‘ignorant armies’ I heard about from Borak’s nephew, Zbigniev, who as an assimilated Englishman stood up before me in that Surrey church and delivered his grandmother’s eulogy. Alma and Boris, I learned, were of aristocratic stock, but stripped of all they possessed in a previous revolution. They supported electoral reform, a redistribution of wealth, and were of an ancestry boasting a clutch of distinguished painters, physicists, ornithologists, military generals, political pamphleteers, and more recently a lyric poet (‘Had the pen really all that might, / With one dotted i I’d put all ideologues to flight’).

Boris and Alma’s second retreat was from the march of fascism all over Europe in the 1930s, their destination a damp poky basement somewhere in north London, and the arms of what was then the ‘natural’ party of government, a sort of after-dinner gentlemen’s club, dominated by principled Tories, whose veneer at least was moral and upright. From there the Yesenins dirtied their hands with trade, and arrived at a middling middle-class life, out of whose stable fabric son Borak was able to launch himself into the restaurant biz. He’d made money, of course, though that still didn’t lend him the right credentials to land himself on the present Tories’ A-list.

A great deal more I heard about this later in the narthex, where we drank tea and filled our plates with sandwiches, after the service. According to Zbigniev, no end of cosmetics applied by the party’s clownish leader would ever obliterate that intolerance and prejudice palpably emanating from the Old Right, which throughout modern European history remained poised, awaiting its opportunity. ‘Perhaps your uncle should stand as an independent,’ I suggested. ‘Ah no,’ he said, ‘that is not how the alien ever truly absorbs himself. You have only to look at those Tory grandees whose own parents were refugees, to know how inextricably woven into the tapestry of English life the real insider has to be.’

I considered these words, and told him I would try to report something of them through the papers I prostituted my pen for, bound as they are by their own rules of propaganda. He shook my hand warmly, and thanked me once again for the reading I had given, which before I forget was Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8—

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure…whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think….

Alma Yesenin, requiescat in pace.

Peter Cowlam has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. His fiction, poems and reviews are published in a wide range of print and online journals. Steven Gilfillan is his fictional spokesperson experienced in journalism and other forms of literary art.

Out and About in the Fourth Estate With Steven Gilfillan

Critical Alert

I have it on the best authority, Borak Yesenin’s in fact, that there was one presence ghosting through Felicity Brick’s news report that only he and a handful of others were able to recognise. Felicity as we know is multilingual – French and Italian added to her English – though that doesn’t necessarily indicate her intended destination, via Heathrow, when she found her holiday abruptly cancelled. More emphatic than that, she instead reported on that latest UK threat.

I’ve watched the footage myself, as doubtless had all my friends on the team. What they don’t know (and I do) is the truth behind that frail old babushka who totters in and out of shot behind Felicity, who with usual professional aplomb is telling us how ghostly has become the world’s busiest airport.

Borak, would-be Tory member for a constituency professional etiquette will not allow me to name, was following that fine example set by a previous leader. How so, and how do I know this? Well, I had the good luck to be home at a relatively early eleven p.m., or rather sitting on a padded stool in his recently opened wine bar, the place a society magnet for all things new and metropolitan. On just this wrong side of an English autumn, finer judges than Borak (and I too pressed the case) had urged him not to christen this latest of all his establishments In Luglio, the epithet he used all the same. I think I’ve already reported on that – all that champagne foam and the racket of party blowers everywhere.

So what was this fine example, I asked, a youthful prime minister past had set, and the stocky Borak Yesenin had followed? He insisted I finish my tomato juice and try a little harder with his wine and spirits list. ‘You journalists, eh! Noble association with la bottiglia….’

‘No, Borak. Just another tomato juice. And do I get my story?’ His eyes looked distinctly tired and his face was blanched, but he wasn’t offended. He told me how that morning he had cycled to the gym. The cab he’d hired to follow on behind was piled on its back seat with his training gear, a towel, soaps and sprays, the various gels he used for the shower, and a brightly coloured health drink, purportedly teeming with just those vitamins and minerals the body must replace after a vigorous workout.

‘So what went wrong?’ I asked. Frankly, plenty, and an indirect intervention of the Home Office – that government department described by some as ‘not fit for purpose’. The whole party machine is recklessly bent on the ruination of everyone’s winter vacation, if the frenetically busy Borak is to have his say. He would certainly like to, having taken a call on his cell phone just as he got to the gym, which also coincided with that moment of critical alert. His ma, that frail old babushka who bobbed in and out of shot as Felicity delivered the news, was travelling back to the old country on her annual pilgrimage, and needed her son to come to the rescue, with all flights suddenly cancelled.

‘Ah, Borak, I do get the picture. So what happened?’ Yesenin was too busy to effect the rescue himself, and so supplied the cabby with his cell phone and told him to drive out to Heathrow and bring his mother back to town. A plan that went well, until, on the cabby’s approach to Terminal 1, an over-zealous plodder peered in through the tinted windows and – with what he saw – immediately had the car impounded. I’m told the gym shoes weren’t even forensically examined, but were hived off to a remote and secret place, and subjected to a controlled explosion.

‘So no gym for you today,’ I quipped. Yesenin thought hard, determined to pour me a Scotch. Then, deadpan, that was one thing, he said, but he couldn’t think why that explosive fruit drink he’d taken the trouble to pack – a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals – could have been of such interest to those laboratory technicians the Home Office had also placed on critical alert.

Peter Cowlam has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. His last published book, A Forgotten Poet, is available at Amazon Kindle. He is published in a wide range of print and online journals. Steven Gilfillan is his fictional spokesperson experienced in journalism and other forms of literary art.

Tick tock, tick tock . . .

. . . says the Doomsday clock

Zombie Apocalypse, 25 th July 2021

By Gordon Liddle

It looks as though the scientists who run the Doomsday Clock will be shaving another second off it sometime soon. The world is slowly going mad. Après Moi, Le Deluge. So, Parliament has broken up for the summer recess. I have no doubt many on the Tory benches and probably quite a few on the Labour side, will now be off on expenses paid jollies to their donor’s villas and yachts, or else spending a little time with their families instead of the secretary or staffer (we all know who you are!), setting aside the heavy weight of office and chilling. Because, after all, we aren’t in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse, the NHS isn’t creaking, and the supermarkets aren’t suffering shortages. Nothing to see here, go home and chillax. Oh, and just before leaving, Williamson the fireplace salesman announced funding cuts of up to 50% for art and design courses because of course, we don’t want people wasting their time on these trivialities when they could be training to become a cog in the capitalist treadmill. Cultural suicide. So, ‘we are off on our hols, toodle pip, fend for yourselves till we get back!’

Tick tock, tick tock!

The Media have at last noticed supply chains and deliveries have slowed since Brexit and, due to a combination of reasons; the supermarkets are running out of ‘stuff’ in their aisles. The government have invented a new word to cover the embarrassment of Brexit losses and have given it the cosy name ‘pingdemic’, partly to cover their incompetence and partly because the British public are gullible idiots, used to a diet of simple buzz words and short slogans. It’s really weird that the rest of Europe, who have the same virus (brewed in the UK, cheers Spaffer) and who are not running low in their supermarkets, don’t have the same problem. That’s because it has nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with Brexit and wages.

All the excitement and enthusiasm generated by Corbyn has been allowed to run into the dry ground.

Even before this crisis hit, lorry drivers were leaving due to time away from home and crap wages. Our EU migrants filled the void, as they do with short-term farm labour and fruit picking etc. but now, they have all gone home, leaving our fruit and veg rotting in the fields as it can’t be picked and, even if it could there is no-one to transport it for processing or delivery. What a result. So, faced with this crisis what does the government do? They ‘allow’ lorry drivers to work longer hours. Not more pay, or better conditions? Oh no, they have to sit in that forty-tonne juggernaut for longer, making them more tired and frankly putting their lives and the public at risk. Now we have to sit and wait for the first sleep induced, child crushing pile up and the inevitable crucifying of the unfortunate driver. You know it’s coming.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Meanwhile, Sir Rodney Woodentop has busied himself by proscribing more and more left wingers (socialists) and left-wing groups from Labour, whilst meantime bankrupting the Party into the bargain. While Labour wallows well below the Tory Party in the polls, despite the Tories laying waste to the economy, allowing grannie to die in her own fluids and pursuing herd immunity by allowing all our children to catch it, Rodney doesn’t seem capable of putting two ideas together to take the fight to the Tories. As members leave Labour in their thousands and now some Unions are looking to break from Labour, he seems to have locked himself in that Blairite Westmonster bubble, content with sitting in the corner with his hands over his ears chanting ‘La, La, La!’ It’s embarrassing how feeble the Labour Party is now. All the excitement and enthusiasm generated by Corbyn has been allowed to run into the dry ground.

A brief period when the Party was fertile with ideas and youthful energy has become a moribund, desperate B Team for the Tories. No-one can convince me Rodney wasn’t a plant. He has broken the Party and spaffed the money away. Imaging how the electorate will judge him if the Tory press ever turn on him.

‘How are you going to run the economy when you couldn’t even look after the finances of your own Party?’

This week he took to sacking a load of staff from Party HQ and replacing some with temps from an agency. When did fire and rehire become policy? He then did a puff piece for Newsnight with Laura K in which the ‘guest’ hand-picked normal ‘working class voters’ at and asked him a few mild questioned. One hadn’t even heard of him. Big impact there Rodney, really making a name for yourself. Big smiles from Laura K who could barely hide her contempt when interviewing Corbyn, and he ended the interview with something about not wanting to sit in a warm bath. It was excruciating to watch. His days are numbered, it can’t come soon enough.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Yesterday we had the Freedumb demo in London, as well as a coordinated echo in afew other cities across Europe and the US. All the usual suspects were there, David Icke,Piers Corbyn, Kate Semirami, Mike Steele (with an e) and others, etc. Also there was KatieHopkins, fresh from her expulsion from Australia (I mean, how bad do you have to be to getexpelled by the Aussies?) although large parts of the crowd had to turn their backs and look back at her through a mirror to stop themselves from turning to stone. And yes, there was a large crowd, Trump flags here and there. They have slipped from protesting about lockdown (which barely existed) to now protesting about the vaccines as well as 5G and LED’s. I kid you not.

I mean, how bad do you have to be to get
expelled by the Aussies?

Mark Steele ranted on about 5G and LEDs as being so dangerous your streetlamp outside your house is going to kill you, whist simultaneously standing in front of a giant LED screen which could be seen from space. Batshit crazy. Big applause from the crowd, dying to hear the main act. Next was the Covidiot Barbie, Kate Semirani, whose own son came on BBC radio4 this morning to say she was in fact, batshit crazy. Kate ranted on and on about how the vaccine was going to kill thousands of us and we should be having a Nuremberg style trial after which we would be hanging doctors and nurses, none of whom heard this condemnation firsthand, as most were ether exhausted resting at home or manning the pumps in the busy ICU’s up and down the country.

Kate, who was an actual nurse until she was struck off last year for being batshit crazy, has built up quite a following and seems tobe at every demo and public opportunity of late. I’m sure she’ll make an appearance on GBnews soon, probably interviewed by Farage if he takes time off from boat spotting in Kent. Idon’t understand how she gets so worked up about the vaccine, as, judging by the pictures on her social media pages, she’s obviously no stranger to the needle as she looks as if she’s had enough Botox to stop the oncoming plague of rats.

David Icke, who came on stage to a hero’s welcome and left them all singing Karaoke, with lizards.

Then came Piers of course, listing the great dangers that face humanity, the great climate change lie, the vaccine danger, the fact the virus is only a mild flue, a hoax propagated by Bill Gates and George Soros, and of course 5G. Which lead up to the rock star himself, David Icke, who came on stage to a hero’s welcome and left them all singing Karaoke, with lizards. Great entertainment but with the added potential for violence.

Now it is all very well to laugh at these people, but it would be a mistake. Fake news is the ocean the lies and disinformation swim within, slithering like eels in the Sargasso Sea. Too slippy and elegantly pulsating to grab and identify. The MSM amplify and codify the message to suit those in power who own them and Facebook and other social media platforms spread it like a mycelium. These people are channelled funds from well-heeled and dangerous disaster capitalists, such as Charles Koch and others, to ferment disorder and distraction to hide their real agenda, which is rampant resource extraction and accumulating wealth.

The virus sweeping the planet and doing the real damage is not the Saars/covid one, it is Capitalism.

They will stop at nothing, even the destruction of the planet in their quest for more wealth and assets. They are psychopaths and some how, they have to be stopped. The virus sweeping the planet and doing the real damage is not the Saars/covid one, it is Capitalism. Eventually the current virus will be brought to heel, despite the best efforts of the idiots in governments, but the real virus is still at large, destroying ecosystems, toppling mountains for new mines, poisoning the oceans and depleting the stocks of insects and micro creatures that feed whole ecosystems, including humanity.

The problem is, as Frederick Jameson said, ‘it is easier to imaging the end of the world than the end of capitalism!’ The people who run our systems and who feel born to rule, entitled to power, they actually believe this is the end point of history, that all roads lead to where we are now and that Capitalism is the destination of humanity, the culmination of all our previous history and cultures. It may be viewed as slightly imperfect by liberal critics, but it is the best we have and there is no alternative. There is an omerta code among our elites that will not let business as usual be disrupted at any cost, even at the cost of the earth itself. Any alternatives are quickly stamped out.

Greta Thunberg keeps reminding us to ‘mind the gap’ between the words and actions of our
political class. The gap is widening.

Biden himself, an alleged liberal, will keep that punishing blockade on Cuba, keep bombing Somalis, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, will let his CIA format coups in any Latin American country which does not toe the line, which does not allow US corporations to go in and plunder the commons, will support Bolsonaro to extract the last log from the last tree in the Amazon and turn it into wasteland. They do not see the point of any dialectic with Nature. Any understanding that does not square with their inalienable belief that Nature is a free resource to be used and dumped as garbage and pollution cannot be contemplated.

But they are wrong. Whilst we could have a dialectic with the natural world, we are choosing to treat it like a slave, to be used freely until it dies. But Nature is not our slave, and it certainly does not need us. The bear will shit in the woods whether we are there to see it or not. Greta Thunberg keeps reminding us to ‘mind the gap’ between the words and actions of our political class. The gap is widening. As the floods continue across the EU and India, and the wildfires consume huge areas of Siberia and the North West of the United States and Canada, we will have to brace for what is still to come as we miss every chance to slow down or stop the destruction.

The demo’s are just one example to show the depth of the poison that is being drip fed into our civilisation. It will inevitably lead to violence as a somnabulant population is suddenly awakened by the jolt of catastrophic events heading our way very soon. Hopefully the disappearance of a Twix and a pot noodle from our supermarket shelves will open a few more eyes but the depth of ignorance in society is deeply distressing. It isn’t going to end well. We need those in power turfed out as soon as possible. Those who purport to govern are not fit for purpose, they never were. Quite how we do it I am not sure, but the tinderbox is getting dryer and could ignite at any time. We will be losing a few more seconds off that clock very soon.

Tick tock, tick tock…………….

Gordon Liddle, artist and poet

Gordon Liddle was born 1956, Horden, County Durham, United Kingdom Married, lives and works at his Derbyshire studio. BA Hons, Sheffield Psalter Lane Art College Gordon has had numerous positions and travelled extensively through the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Africa and Europe, with particular interests in religion, democracy, politics, economics, MMT, and culture. The results of these studies form the basis of the series of works now under way. Numerous works bought by private collectors #Madonna Victorian Mood Bought by Andrew Cavendish the 11th Duke of Devonshire is owned by the Chatsworth Collection. ‘Celestial Teapot’ was exhibited at La Galleria Pall Mall in London for one week in 2013, 4 days at Art Basel in 2014. Currently working on Gaia, The Sixth Extinction Series, of paintings, woodcuts and hopefully etchings soon. Also writing two books and a book of poems and rants. Gordon is on Twitter @sutongirotcip and his website is pictorignotus.com 

“Though cowards flinch…”

If not Labour, then who?

In football you write off teams that miss open goal after open goal, and that is precisely what Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has done for the past year. Remember the centrists’ mantra during the Corbyn years, “with the Tories making such a mess of things Labour should be at least twenty-five points ahead in the polls.”?

Just consider the Tory shenanigans over the past twelve months: botched Covid response, multi-billion PPE scandal, Dominic Cummings scandal, record-breaking inequality, Carrie Symonds’ Marie-Antoinette impersonation, below inflation wage rise for nurses, Robert Jenrick property scandal, Brexit bungling, Priti Patel, Gavin Williamson, Liz Truss, Dido Harding, Matt Hancock… The list of disasters could go off the bottom of the page, yet Labour has failed to make any capital from them.

Leave aside the fact that Starmer has by and large supported most Tory measures over the past year (or otherwise abstained), one would think that just not being the Conservatives would be enough to gain support after the pigs’ breakfast Johnson and his chums have made of running the country. But a look at current polling shows that Labour are slipping further and further behind the Tories, and Sir Keir’s personal rating is also in free-fall.

Whether Starmer is setting out to destroy the Labour Party on purpose or whether his poor showing is down to a mixture of misguided personal ambition and muddled vision I don’t know, but the party’s lurch to the right clearly isn’t having the desired effect. My own opinion is that Starmer is probably simply power-hungry and morally bankrupt rather than a deep state plant (in spite of belonging to the Trilateral Commission), but his leadership has only exacerbated a trend that was set in motion in 1979.

A recent poll has shown that among working class voters over fifty percent back the Tories while only twenty-seven percent are for Labour. Among middle class voters the split is nearly even, with a majority of Labour supporters being graduate level city-dwellers. Even taking Brexit into account, this is a shocking reversal of the demographic that existed prior to the 1980s.

Created to further the cause of democratic socialism, and borne of the trades unions’ struggles, the Labour Party oscillated over the decades of the Twentieth Century between democratic socialism and social democracy, carrying the working class with it. Its mandate was to serve the interests of the working class and promote greater equality. As a rule one’s politics were determined by one’s class. Of course there were always exceptions: working class Tories in the Alf Garnett mould, and upper class socialists such as Tony Benn (not to mention my father). But if you were working class you probably voted Labour.

So what changed all that? I would suggest the influence of neoliberalism is the chief factor, with Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair as its figureheads. Wrecker Thatcher destroyed industries, blitzkrieged unions and devastated working-class communities. At the same time she dangled the carrot of a stakeholder society (a word she detested) in front of anyone with two brazoos to rub together in the form of shares in the public utilities that were being flogged off. She also began the selling off of council houses. The grand plan was to create a nation of shareholding homeowners, each clamouring for their little portion of crumbs from the proceeds of Great Britain plc. The exponential expansion of Little Britain. And if you couldn’t afford take part in the clambake, tough – you didn’t matter anyway.

Traditionally the Labour Party had always (supposedly) represented the interests of working class people. Thatcher said you too can aspire to more – believe in better – and plenty did. Many of the old communities either no longer existed or became neglected backwaters of no consequence. While still considerable, Labour’s working class base was shrinking. And while Thatcherism created victims – by the million – it succeeding in creating a more aspirational, materialistic Britain. The price of everything and the value of nothing.

With the shrinking of traditional working class support, Tony Blair and the New Labour architects rumbled that in order to take power Labour needed to woo a new demographic. The nation had tired of the Conservatives, the wheels had eventually fallen off a party that had run out of ideas. With shiny teeth and slick publicity Tony Blair, and his seductive brand of social democracy, wooed the middle classes. The message was: we’ll create a better society, and what’s more we’ll do it without redistributing your wealth or upsetting the City oligarchy. For all those who found voting Tory a bit of an embarrassment, New Labour was a godsend.

We all know Thatcher regarded Tony Blair as one of her proudest achievements. Under New Labour inequality continued its relentless rise, and the shift from manufacturing to service and high-tech industries continued unabated. And in the process Labour became the servant of Capital and continuously ignored the needs and aspirations of working-class people. In the areas where industry had once flourished and provided real jobs, there was a shameful and myopic lack of investment and regeneration. No longer could it be said that Labour was the party of the working class.

As stated at the beginning of this piece, polling shows that 27% of working-class voters are still loyal to Labour. In recent years I’ve canvassed for Labour in three very different constituencies – Stroud, Swindon, and Newport West – and that statistic is borne out by my personal experience at least. Brexit had an effect on voting intentions in 2019, but the number of people who stated that they no longer voted Labour because they felt it was a middle class party was startling. I often met real hostility, only slightly tempered by the fact that I’m an old man with glasses. And although there was always a core of working class socialists, most of the Labour supporters I met were middle class.

(Mea culpa. While canvassing in Newport West I earned the nickname Champagne Sherpa. Sherpa because I was happy to ascend the steepest hills to knock on doors, and Champagne because as soon as I open my gob it’s very easy to place me. I’m an idealistic Corbynista – shoot me.)

The wheels should have fallen off the Conservative Party bus by now (not the least because of that big red bus), but this time it isn’t happening. Keir Starmer is making his pitch at the middle classes because one thing he has got right is that working class support for Labour is poor. But it isn’t working a second time. His more Tory than the Tories strategy has gone belly-up. His boast that he’d unite the party is deader than a kipper. His purge on the left has been so toxic that floods of members have torn up their cards – including me.

See the source image
Steve Bell nails it.

Those of us in our various political bubbles are frequently out of touch with what the rest of society is thinking. That’s why canvassing and running street stalls is such a valuable insight into what people really feel. Again, Starmer has half understood problem, insofar as he appears to rely very heavily on focus groups. The trouble is, his apparatchiks only seem to draw the most crass conclusions from the results. What his focus groups won’t tell him is that what people are missing is vision, the prospect of a society that doesn’t just meet their aspirations, but which is fairer too.

The Tories hold sway by appealing to people’s more selfish instincts. It has worked for forty years, and Starmer’s instinct to buy into the same mindset offers little cause for optimism. If that’s the best our two main political parties can offer us then we’re in deep trouble. The Project for Peace and Justice understands the problems we face and offers a range of non party-political solutions. But surely Labour should be better than it is now, surely we should have a major political party that actually offers some hope. Under Corbyn the party was blitzed by a hostile media and subverted by many of its own MPs and party workers. The cunning plan to lead it back into the “safe” centre ground is failing miserably, and probably condemning it to many more wilderness years.

I’d be interested to know more about the idealogical make-up of the party membership, ie, what is the proportion of genuine left-wingers? It’s easy to lose perspective when one’s in one’s own bubble, and to complicate matters further some people have a distressing habit of telling fibs. Is a member-led revolt remotely possible (not me any more, sorry), or would it be stillborn in the face of lumpen party machinery control-freakery?

The country is in the hands of the most morally corrupt brigands to have ruled since Henry VIII and it appears there is no real party political opposition. Labour in its present incarnation is impotent, but if not Labour then who?

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.

Why Did the Working Class Vote Tory?

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

by James Tweedie, Plymouth, May 6th 2020

The one-word answer is: “Brexit.”

The Labour Party backed the losing side in the 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU, despite then-leader Jeremy Corbyn’s 40 years of opposition to British membership of the trade bloc-turned superstate.

Labour came within a hair’s breadth of winning the snap general election in 2017, when it campaigned on a promise to respect the will of the people on Brexit.

But at its 2018 and 2019 conferences, branch and trade union delegates voted explicitly to disrespect the result by forcing the people to vote again – and presumably over and over until they ‘got it right’. There is no greater sin in party politics than being at odds with the majority.

Corbyn cited party democracy and unity as his reasons for going along with this betrayal of the very people Labour was founded to represent, the working class. But those excuses rang hollow.  Labour MPs, including the party leader, are not bound by conference resolutions. ‘Unity’ with those, such as shadow Brexit secretary (and now leader) Sir Keir Starmer, who’d stabbed him in the back over and over was a joke.

There is no greater sin in party politics than being at odds with the majority.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Conservative Party dumped Remainer PM Theresa May as soon as they saw the newly-formed Brexit Party was going to win the EU Parliament elections last spring. There was never any doubt that Brexiteer Boris Johnson would succeed May as Tory leader.

Labour immediately switched tactics from demanding an election once a week to colluding with the other opposition parties, Tory Europhile rebels, partisan Parliamentary speaker John Bercow and the megalomaniac law lords of the abomination of a supreme court in an attempt to create political anarchy and engineer a return to the disastrous National Government of 1931.

But Johnson outmaneuvered them all, first peeling off Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats to support his Brexit deal with Brussels, thus forcing the Scottish Nationalists and Liberal Democrats to vote for another snap election in a last-ditch bid to stay in the EU.

Johnson’s election strategy was to turn every speech and journalist’s question back to Brexit. It worked. On election night last December 12th, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, an ultra-leftist who’d also sold out his Euro-sceptic principals when leadership beckoned, admitted to the BBC that maybe the electorate wanted to ‘get Brexit done’ after all.

Class Betrayal

If Labour’s stance on EU membership was its only problem, it would have a fighting chance of winning the first post-Brexit election.  But the rot runs much deeper than that. Quite simply, the Labour Party is no longer a party of labour. Even under Jeremy Corbyn, the great white hope of the Left, it drifted further away from its core constituency.

Labour has a long history of abject class betrayal. The party was founded in 1906, and eight years later supported the bloodbath of the First World War, sending the flower of Britain’s working class to be killed and maimed in the trenches to defend the spoils of colonialism.

What did Labour’s election manifesto last year offer the workers? After losing their jobs in a environmentalist fire-sale…

Ramsay McDonald made his bed with the Tories and Liberals in his National Government. Clement Attlee’s 1945 government turned its back on our wartime ally the Soviet Union to join NATO and send troops to fight in the Korean War, when such things still mattered to a more class-conscious electorate. Neil Kinnock betrayed the striking miners in 1984, while Tony Blair realigned Labour with ‘Middle England’ and the City of London.

Labour’s membership has become overwhelmingly metropolitan, university-educated, middle-class, ‘woke’, Guardian-reading liberals. Most leaders of the Labour-affiliated trade unions are the same, and have never had a job outside the labour movement or been on the front line of a strike.

What did Labour’s election manifesto last year offer the workers? After losing their jobs in a environmentalist fire-sale, they’d get a bit more in benefit payments, paid for out of the remaining workers’ taxes. Oh, and free home internet in ten years’ time.

As someone who was excited by Corbyn winning the leadership in 2015, four years on I was disgusted to see him become another soft-left Judas goat like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I’d rather have an honest enemy than a false friend.

The same Labour members who elected Corbyn as leader twice have now chosen his nemesis Starmer, a knight of the realm and the arch-Remainiac, as his replacement. It’s like they want to stay in opposition forever.

Identity Crisis

Labour long ago abandoned class politics for identity politics, taking the workers’ support for granted while they focus on winning the female, black and LGBT vote. And it’s the self-styled ‘socialists’ and ‘Marxists’ on the Left of the party are most guilty of this.

This has become a feedback loop: the more Labour’s northern and Scottish heartlands slip through its fingers, the more the party falls back on the inner-city seats where its most reliable voters are Afro-Caribbeans and poor Asians.

This explains the rage provoked among Labour MPs when Johnson named the most racially-diverse cabinet Britain has ever had. Shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis told fellow Afro-Caribbean and Tory party chairman James Cleverly that ‘black members of the cabinet had to sell your souls & self-respect to get there’.

It’s worth noting that three of the top government jobs are held by MPs of African-Indian descent – Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney-General Suella Braverman. Whether or not you like their politics, they are members of a diaspora of a diaspora, which was central to the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, who were oppressed under colonialism then too often despised for their supposed ‘privileges’ by some misguided African nationalists since independence.

After accusing every black Tory of being an Uncle Tom, Lewis abandoned all sense of irony by calling Johnson, a foreign-born citizen with Turkish and Russian Jewish ancestors, ‘racist’.

Working-class white Tory voters and the ‘Blue Labour’ faction trying to win them back are derided as right-wing, racist or even closet fascists by this politically-correct clique, echoing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election-losing ‘basket of deplorables’ speech. Labour MPs and councillors helped the police cover up Asian paedophile grooming gangs, and called the whistle-blowers racist too.

The danger of populists is not that they might be demagogues, but funnily enough that they’re popular with the masses.

In the end though, ‘intersectional’ ID politics devours itself. In Birmingham, Muslim parents were told their children had to learn about same-sex relationships in reception year to stop them growing up to be religious extremists. Every woman running for Labour leader or deputy leader this year signed a pledge to expel thousands of feminists and gay rights campaigners from the party for being ‘transphobic’.

Those leaders who used to be called ‘dictators’ and ‘autocrats’ are nowadays dubbed ‘populists’ instead, a subtle but ultimately meaningless change of language. The danger of populists is not that they might be demagogues, but funnily enough that they’re popular with the masses.

Johnson  is neither blind nor stupid. After snaffling Labour’s lunch and smashing its ‘red wall’, he acknowledged that the workers had ‘lent him their votes’ and promised to do right by them. If the Tories can do social democracy better than Labour – like paying everyone’s wages during the lockdown – and speak the language of the people better to boot, they could stay in government for decades to come.


James Tweedie

James Tweedie was born in Hammersmith, West London, in 1975. He grew up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud in the time of colonial liberation, being taken to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament  and Anti-Apartheid Movement events by his mother and father respectfully.

James has lived and worked in South Africa and Spain. He has worked as a reporter and the international editor of the Morning Star newspaper, a foreign reporter for the Mail Online, an online journalist for RT.com. He has appeared as a commentator on BBC Radio 4, RT’s Crosstalk, Turkey’s TRT World and Iran’s Press TV. He currently works for Sputnik.

James maintains an occasional blog (http://ositorojo.blogspot.com/), describing himself as “one of the most deplorable purveyors of fake news about populist strongmen (and women) around the post-truth world.”

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