Now More Than Ever 142

I have been a political activist my entire life, though not always necessarily in the party sense. I have been deeply interested in every Westminster election since 1974, campaigned hard in many of them and indeed stood for parliament myself twice, markedly unsuccessfully. But I do not think I have ever been so emotionally invested in any election so much as this one. I really care about this.

Why is that? It is not connected with Scottish Independence, because I am entirely confident we shall get that shortly, whatever happens on Thursday. No, it is more that I care deeply about what is happening in England and Wales. I was born there, and am after all half English.

But England is no longer the country I grew up in. It has become nasty and intolerant, turning its back on the world, of which the deeply harmful decision to leave the EU is but a symptom. Racism has become commonplace. It should not be forgotten that Enoch Powell was marginalised politically for his views on immigration, but he would be comfortably within the Tory mainstream today.

Britain has turned its back on the United Nations. Ministers claim openly that consent of the Security Council for military intervention is no longer needed, because Russia can veto – ignoring the scores of vetoes exercised by the UK and US, especially on behalf of Israel. The judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is simply brushed aside as Britain did not like it, when historically we have pressed other countries to follow the rulings in hundreds of cases. It has also become a major aim of government to leave the jurisdiction of the excellent European Court of Justice, which Britain led the way in founding. Britain is effectively repudiating the very concept of international law.

Added to this extreme xenophobia and loss of identification with the whole world of mankind who are not “us”, we have the abandonment of empathy and social solidarity at home. Government spending plans will reduce state spending over the next three years to below 35% of GNP. Which would be the lowest in the EU, except we will no longer be in the EU. Yet as our NHS shivers as it is starved of cash, as schools tout for funds from parents, as the disabled and dying are denied benefits unless they haul themselves into work, the country still spends £220 billion on Trident missiles to stoke a collective militarist ego.

The massive cost of Trident is best illustrated by this figure. At constant 2016 values, the total net UK contribution to the EU budget over 44 years 1973-2017 was £157 billion. Compared to £225 billion to renew Trident. That is a measure of how irrational the UK has become.

Wealth inequality has grown to astounding levels. An entire generation of young people are going to spend their lives paying rent to make the landlord class still more wealthy. The generation which got their education for free – Thatcher’s children – have forced those coming after to pay, pulling up the ladder behind themselves.

Finally, we have massive state surveillance, and an extraordinarily biased state propaganda machine and mainstream media, not just during the election, but all day and every day. This morning, on BBC Radio 4 a dreadful person named Andrew O’Hagan was allowed a ten minute unquestioned diatribe on the need for government to employ “battalions of thousands of people” to scrutinise and censor the entire internet. Amber Rudd was saying something similar shortly afterwards. And as I pointed out, the essentials of the Tory manifesto are extraordinarily similar to the BNP manifesto of 2005.

So continued Tory rule represents a political direction which appals me. This government is far to the right of Thatcher. The battles of the 1980’s represented a fight for survival of industrial communities, but this has a still more desperate feel. It is a fight for the very concept of public sector provision.

In Scotland we have the SNP to defend the values of basic communal decency. Now in England we have Jeremy Corbyn, a man alongside whom I have spoken and who gives the first real chance in a generation to voters in England and Wales to reject neo-liberalism.

This is why this election matters more than any other. The ultra-wealthy elite had succeeded in diverting the popular discontent at the wealth gap and falling standards of living for many, into xenophobia. Immigrants have successfully been scapegoated. The establishment have kept people sufficiently ill-educated, and sufficiently misled by the mainstream media, for this ploy to work.

The great question is whether the anti-establishment mood in the country has been irretrievably captured by populist xenophobia masking the intentions of the neo-liberals, or whether a return to an older tradition of genuine social radicalism under Corbyn can halt this trend. So on both sides of the equation this election is pivotal. Britain will become a nasty, uncaring, closed country to an extent I would never have believed possible. Or it will adopt policies of communal solidarity and public provision which I had almost lost hope people would have a chance to vote for again.

This is not any election. This one matters more than ever. This time, we should all really care.

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142 thoughts on “Now More Than Ever

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  • Jonathan Oates

    Evening Craig,
    Interesting as usual.

    Can you clarify paragraph below? Suspect bn not mn.

    The massive cost of Trident is best illustrated by this figure. At constant 2016 values, the total net UK contribution to the EU budget over 44 years 1973-2017 was £157 million. Compared to £225 million to renew Trident. That is a measure of how irrational the UK has become.

  • Republicofscotland

    It’s Hope Over Fear all over again, only it’s in England this time.

    • defo

      Fear, being the over-arching human emotion usually wins. Usually.
      Scare them into quiescent acceptance of established authority.

  • Geejay

    I agree Corbyn would be preferable to any Tory, but I can’t see that making all that much difference. Labour is still stuffed full of Blairites, or pink Tories, they won’t scrap Trident, they’ll be opposed by all the Establishment forces of media, big business and even, I suspect, supposedly impartial servants of the State.

    Our only hope is Independence, which could be a radical new beginning, with proportional representation, universal income, land reform, equity in taxation and welfare and a movement towards getting rid of professional politicians who are the problem and not the solution and the establishment of a citizens’ deliberative democracy.

    • Roobs456

      I’m hoping we can edge the Blairites out, Maybe some retroactive deselections

    • SA

      Please consider that Scottish independence will leave England purely at the mercy of the Tories. This will be dangerous for Scotland to have such a bully as a neighbor

      • Shatnersrug

        Correct pscotland stands no chance against UK/USA none it’s unrealistic without a complete reform of the British state and that could only happen with Corbyn

        That’s the choice here, getting Tories out must be prioritised above independence this election.

        • Muscleguy

          Indeed, as the Scottish Parliament met to pass the Act of Union and become in Burns’ immortal words ‘such a parcel of rogues in a nation’ Two regiments of Dragoons and two of Foot were poised on the border to invade and ravage should the vote not be in favour of the Act.

          Yes the rogues sold out the nation for gold, but they were also under the bully threat. Remembering that Scotland had been subject to the Rough Wooing and General Monck. It was known what was being risked.

          The Auld Alliance with France was a realpolitik necessity.

  • Cyril Wheat

    I heartily agree with all of this piece. The importance of this election cannot be overstated.

  • Roobs456

    Hi Craig,

    do you believe refusing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia would be a revolutionary act (if others also did so)? I feel it could change the nature of the Middle East by giving a boost to democratic movements and will be a blow to jihadism both through a loss of funding and loss of support as democratic movements become more prominent. I feel it’s a very courageous proposal

  • Alistair Granham

    I agree with all my heart. My first general election was 1983 – which is the last time I feel I was offered any real choice. This election will be my son’s first, and he is just as eager to vote as I was back then. But he is scuppered because he is studying abroad at the moment, and his postal vote has not arrived. On enquiry at his local authority, he discovered that all their postal votes were not sent out until 30 May – only 7 working days before polling day (he is in America). He is told that he is not eligible for an emergency proxy vote.
    Anything he can do? Anyone got any ideas?

    • eccles

      Apparently not – that’s one of the beauties of holding a “snap election”. If you’re not present, you’re SOOL.

  • fwl

    Even if you consider the welfare state to be a failed experiment, you would love a flat tax and believe in freedom for the sheep to graze with the wolves without a pesky shepherd. Even if your favourite investments are oilers and miners hedge funds tobacconists and casinos think about British foreign policy. Think about President Richard Head and how easy it was for the Saudis to give a gong and point at their small partner in terrorist funding and think about what we have contributed to in Iraq, Libya and Syria. See through the bollocks and even if your uber right wing don’t like Muslims or Russians just remember your a human being and vote Corbyn.

  • Stephen McKinnell

    I very much feel the same way Craig. This election presents the stark choice between, dare I say it, ‘good and evil’. For me that is not an exaggeration of the real choice we have, in England at least. I really hope that the consciousness of the voters of England is high enough to choose wisely, or enough of them do, to give hope for our following generations. If the Tories return a large majority, bringing misery and suffering to large numbers of our population, I fear that I will feel palpable unease living in this country for the first time.

  • J

    Many thanks Craig. On the whole you have been a bastion of fairness. (If that is a qualified phrase, I’m only thinking of your difficulty in distinguishing between Brexiters. Wrong or right, there was a principled case for Brexit as a strategic shock to the EU system, just as there is mitigation for those who wished to say fuck you to TPTB.)

    • sentinel

      Germany’s relations with Trump appear to have reached a new low, especially after he failed to explicitly endorse Article 5 during his recent NATO speech. Germany must be reappraising whether they can rely on the US for their defence, e.g. Merkel’s “Europe must look after itself” remark. Therefore, in your considered opinion:
      1. Do you think Macron – to get his EU reforms through – would agree to share France’s nuclear secrets with Germany in order to develop an independent EU nuclear deterrent?
      2.If so, do you think that would lead to HMG rethinking Brexit?

      • Muscleguy

        If Scotland leaves and become Independent it would instead be more like the Hundred Years War. rUK would instead become Airstrip One and a new Tepid War of diplomacy and overt threat would develop with the US and its rUK poodle on one side and the EU on the other.

        Also Germany’s method of dealing with Russia is to increase trade links and tie them too close that way to think of military options. Which is why the Germans are so cool on Russia sanctions. They are heavily engaged in Jaw-Jaw.

        Going nuclear with France would not be in keeping with that. A tacit agreement to in effect put themselves under the French nuclear umbrella instead of the US one would be as far as they would likely go.

  • Sheryl Anderson

    Thanks for caring, Craig. A very sad time for many of us in England who have waited a whole lifetime to see a Socialist Labour party with any real chance of changing things in the UK. I fear it is all too late, we lost Scotland a long time ago and it’s tough going trying to reason with the xenophobes. I despair!

  • Jane

    Andrew O’Hagan used to seem OK. A Glasgow boy made good, he became part of the London literary scene. He was the ghostwriter for an autobiography of Julian Assange and wrote about the experience in an article entitled “Ghosting,” published in the London Review of Books. It sounds as though he has been co-opted. All that London living can’t have done him any good.

    • Sam C

      I was quite shocked to hear what O’Hagan had to say, knowing him chiefly through what he writes – usually intelligently and compassionately – in the LRB, but on reflection I don’t think what he said was demonstrably wrong-minded, as far as it went. It’s not monstrous to think that the internet might benefit from some sort of control, it’s just that when you get to working out the nitty gritty of who decides what can be said and how the decisions are arrived at and implemented, it isn’t long before the costs seem to outweigh the benefits.

      • Muscleguy

        The worry is more that since direct human oversight is just not possible, let alone practicable that Net Nanny software and algorithms would be deployed instead. Which would make posting some things impossible. It would be a bit like being in China behind the Great Firewall.

        Sites like this one would have to migrate to Icelandic servers and we would have to learn to tunnel to them and their readership would drop off and everyone going there would be subject to MI5 scrutiny.

        I’m in Dundee RIC, a committed Yes campaigner on the Left AND a fully paid up member of Scottish CND. Considering the cuddly protestors known to have MI5 files someone pledged to split the country asunder and deprive the state of its prestige weapon system is a shoe-in. I’m under no illusions on that front. But what the hell, what does it matter. I’m doing what I consider to be the right thing and doing it democratically and peacefully. If the Spooks want to monitor me instead of real threats then they can.

        I just set up my electronica to make it as hard as I possibly can.

        BTW Craig, ta for the hat-tip to TunnelBear from a while ago. Most useful.

  • FranzB

    CM – “It has also become a major aim of government to leave the jurisdiction of the excellent European Court of Justice, which Britain led the way in founding.”

    Did you mean the European Court of Human Rights? The ECJ was founded in 1952 as part of the founding of the Iron and Steel Community.

  • K Crosby

    But England is no longer the country I grew up in. It has become nasty and intolerant, turning its back on the world, of which the deeply harmful decision to leave the EU is but a symptom.

    Bollocks, England still civilised, despite the class war that the boss class intensified in the mid-70s. It is the fascist electoral system that guarantees minority rule; Britain has never had a democratically-elected government and won’t get one on Thursday. Boycott this squalid pantomime.

  • eccles

    Great article. But I hardly dare to hope… no election (other than Corbyn’s to Labour leader) has gone the way I would like in some considerable time.

    I do notice how desperate your detractors on this blog are getting, and I marvel at your willingness to tolerate them.

  • Ayrshirelass

    It does look as though people in Engalnd have finally woken up to the shenanigans of the media and politicL class.
    Thats what comes of blatant lies and deception. Though I like to think that the political awakening which started in Scotland in 2013/ 14 has also helped
    I hope people in Scotland who voted SNP in 2015 have not forgotten the deception of the unionsit parties in the Scorttish referendum and the voting down of every single amendment made by the SNP who had just won 95 percent of Scottish seats.
    An SNP vote is needed now more than ever. I refuse to believe that people in Scotlamd are so stupid as to believe the conservative lies and propaganda and that we have not forgotten Thatcher’s attitude to Scotland which is magnified in the other little Englander of Theresa May. She intends to rob Scotland of our parliament and I think this election has been called for that express purpose and we need to be fully awake to deal with this threat.

  • Robert Crawford

    It’s make your mind up time!

    Jonathan Pie.

    Must say he is spot on.

      • Robert Crawford

        Thanks for putting up the link, Shatnersrug,
        I don’t know how to do that.

        Here is another Scottish one, Jeremy Bernard Corbyn what was done-video-

        • defo

          Left click to the right of the web address in the wee box at the top Robert (it should highlight the whole link blue)
          Then Right click on the blue highlighted area. A menu will appear. Left click on ‘copy’ on the drop down menu.
          Go to wherever you want to add the link (comment box) and Right click again. Select ‘paste’ from the menu…
          .. and the jobs a good un.
          Happy linking !

          • Robert Crawford

            Thanks defo, it is great when people help one and other, just magic.

            Thanks to you Maxter for showing me what can be done with defo’s instructions. Just great.

            Now I would like to see that video I found on Stephen Paton’s twitter feed,— Jeremy Bernard Corbyn- what was done-
            video -on

            It will take me a wee while make this work for me, so, if any of you can link it here I will be most grateful as I think it sends a good message to the voters. And it is SCOTTISH.

  • Stu

    It is strange how this election can create so much pessimism and optimism in us simultaneously.

    The popularity of this horrible government is depressing but seeing so many people challenging it has been fantastic and personally I’ve spoke to so many people who are disgusted by it and want to build a better society. The most inspiring thing has been hearing from so many people with physical disabilities, mental illnesses and learning difficulties who have spoken without shame about their conditions and the suffering austerity has caused them.

    The most confusing thing about the election is that Corbyn receives a warm welcome everywhere in the country while May hides away from the public day after day. Yet there is no doubt she has many millions of supporters. The only conclusion is that they themselves are hiding away and that the Tory vote is built a base of voters who may or may not be doing okay financially but are embittered and isolated by the competitive, consumer society we live in.

    The Tory party has nothing to offer. If they win on Friday they will launch a last ditch spree of theft and deregulation as it will take a miracle for them to win after another five years of austerity.

    • Shatnersrug


      My friend is gay, he has a very close relationship with his mother, in the last few years she has got a tablet and been using the internet, when he saw her a few months ago he discovered that she was about to sign over the control of her savings to some shyster from a physhing email. He just caught her, she told him she thought it was going to mean they’d never need money again. He hit the roof, and called the police and changed her banking password, he says over the last four years she has become very suggestible over stuff she sees online and finds it hard to tell between fake and less unbelievable news.

      Well he phoned her today to ask her to vote labour and she told him she’d already voted conservative with a postal vote, that a man had come round and convinced her that that was the best thing to do to prevent terrorist attacks.

      She’s clearly at the beginning stages of dementia, this man, I can only assume was a Tory rep, must have seen that, and exploited it.

      That is what the Tories are.

      My friend is heartbroken.

  • John Goss

    Couldn’t agree more. Boris Johnson was on Channel 4 News blustering about how Corbyn had opposed all the anti-terrorism legislation. It is this very legislation which has made each of us more vulnerable to be banged away without charge (not just Muslims). Habeas Corpus is already in its grave.This is the US version. As we copy everything our Yankee masters instruct us to do it is, with slight variations, equally applicable

    “Then They Came for Me (A New Twist)

    By Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer and President of the ACLU of Southern California. Adapted from the original by Rev. Martin Niemoller (1937).

    First they came for the Muslims, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim.

    Then they came to detain immigrants indefinitely solely upon the certification of the Attorney General, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an immigrant.

    Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a suspect.

    Then they came to prosecute non-citizens before secret military commissions, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a non-citizen.

    Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced “sneak and peek” searches, and I didn’t speak up because I had nothing to hide.

    Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn’t speak up because I had stopped participating in any groups.

    Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America’s enemies, and I didn’t speak up because…… I didn’t speak up.

    Then they came for me……. and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

  • Ishmael

    I see things differently.

    What we are seeing isn’t anyway near extent of historical racism. Visceral hatred with clearly defined epithets was in the open, particularly among the upper clases in the 50s. It’s a clear echo but to say Enoch Powell would fit right in is untrue. I’m sure some TORYs by themselves would be ok with him but not the same. Though a hidden cult is clearly the direction of travel.

    We are seeing is the same scapegoating of the “other” that prays all kinds of prejudices, insecurities etc. But within a far more “multicultural” (i don’t like to draw lines) reality. And with many other changes, Media etc.

    Being “half” something is absurd. It’s abstract fantastical association with an imaginary objet. Why I need a shield for politics else I start imagining in these terms where id otherwise not. It’s just totally removed from what anyone needs to or in most cases (unless thus politicised) does in everyday living.

    And so much generalisation here. eg “WE” …I don’t know where to begin so I think it best end before I do.

    The last thing I imagine us practically needing in the future is the mental/emotional/physical frameworks these systems of control put us in. And they are not our liberation.

  • Hieroglyph

    The first election I was able to vote, I did not. I had a good reason: it ended up being Bliar’s first term. I just couldn’t vote for him, and eventually never did. I voted for devolution, and for Tommy Sheridan’s lot, but never Labour. Now, I’m no longer in the UK, but would happily vote Labour, and be proud. It could still go horribly wrong of course, and I do hope this isn’t just another Prague Spring, but I’ve no fears at all for a PM Corbyn. He’s not perfect, and I suspect he isn’t all that great with his colleagues (who, in fairness, are mostly total dicks), and he certainly isn’t a grinning hand-shaker and charmer, but he’ll do fine. How much of the manifesto they will be able to get through is a moot point, and many difficulties arise – but that’s not Corbyn’s fault.

    I am also hopeful that Corbyn will do what cannot be said publicly: scrutinise the security lads. This will take courage, of which Corbyn seems to have plenty. And one more thing – this election could lead to the arrest of Tony Blair. Maybe he can take Assange’s place in the embassy? And Blair should be arrested, of that I have no doubt. For many, many things I suspect, much of which we do not yet know. Vote Labour everyone. It’ll be fun, and you get to moan about the nationalized railways again, but this time somewhat fondly, like in the good old days.

  • giyane

    I totally agree. The revival of commonsense with Jeremy Corbyn is very unexpected and very welcome.

    • giyane

      I’ve got two votes this time because my wife’s on holiday. You’ll never outstuff the Tories in an election. The satisfaction of outstuffing David Cameron unfortunately has the flip side that we are no longer in the EU. Can’t wait to see May’s face when she loses. The second instalment of revenge against Thatcherism will not satisfy my repugnance with the Tories. Forget Blair. He was and is a brainless puppet of Zionism.
      Tally ho! Who says hunting Tories is cruel?

    • Brianfujisan

      Hi Sharp Ears

      There was no reply button on your post @ 2213

      Ta for your input.

      the subs have 16 tubes as evidenced in fotos.. But if a sub has 40 warheads – not 40 per missile – of 100kt each,
      this would be the firepower equivalent of four Megatons of TNT, more than 250 times the firepower unleashed on Hiroshima. This is more than the total firepower of all the bombs dropped during wwll, including Both Hiroshima, and Nagasaki – All on a single sub.

      Then we have Russia’s Satan ll of 40 mt Hiroshima was 15 kt.. and they and US are always wanting them ever more powerful, and Deadly to life on earth..well some teeny wee things might survive.. but we on the Clyde are FKD

      • nevermind

        My word, that came from the heart, I owe you a Wiski, Craig, hope you don’t mind its from Norfolk….

        They will try anything that is not in the book of Electoral Commission rules.
        THIS ELECTION SHOULD BE MONITORED BY THE OSCE, because the incumbent Government, almost like Kabila in Congo, wants to cling on to Government and power using every trick in the book.

        I have no confidence that this election will be fought fairly, going by past experiences, but I have hope that new young blood will sweep away sad alliances and self servers of the past.

  • Sharp Ears

    Where else?
    ‘Hundreds of postal vote papers for the general election have gone missing in Plymouth.

    Around 580 ballot papers issued by the city council have gone missing, said BBC South West’s political correspondent Martyn Oates.

    Both the local authority and Royal Mail have launched “urgent investigations”.

    The council covers three constituencies including two marginal seats won by the Conservatives at the last general election.

    It has issued 370 replacement postal vote packs to those who have contacted it as polling looms on Thursday.’

  • laguerre

    I entirely agree. I have real fear if the nasties get in again with a mandate.

    I was astounded to hear on hear on R4 6pm news this evening how they were pushing a conservative vote.

  • Michael McNulty

    I don’t believe the Tories are as popular as they’re trying to say. Let’s remember it’s the lying media telling us the Tories are invincible but I think it’s no more than Hitler’s keep the lie simple, make it big and tell it often. We can’t be complacent of course but these claims are meant to sow hopelessness amongst Labour voters so enough don’t bother to vote and that swings it to the Tories.

  • Ishmael

    The way I look at things (what I place importance on) is not the results in forms.

    Think. What happened with mubarak? All the social forces come back into play and will even within just the labour party. I think there are definite lessons to be learned if people are to assure themselves to the extent we can. I’m emotionally invested as little as I can and hopefully moving forward regardless. Determination while not keeping score, energy effectively stored.

    Again to me it’s all so much significance and emotion on things so removed, And iv always seen the process reflecting in part the fascist history of statehood. The abstract historical imaginings. Emotionally potent simplifications. Mass crowd psychosis, Spectacle.

    Reducing everyone to the most simple of measurements. It’s safe to say iv never been enamoured with voting in any capacity.

    • Ishmael

      There is something to treating things of great importance lightly and little with serious regard. For me.

  • philw

    Very eloquently put, Craig.

    “The great question is whether the anti-establishment mood in the country has been irretrievably captured by populist xenophobia masking the intentions of the neo-liberals, or whether a return to an older tradition of genuine social radicalism under Corbyn can halt this trend.”

    I dont think anything is irretrievable yet. There certainly seems to be an appetite for social radicalism, to a degree which seems quite remarkable given the behaviour of the press over the past couple of years. The people seem to be awakening.

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