Picture the package

It seems lately that the government’s standard response to any attack on its policies is to highlight their “package”- as in: “this policy might be crap, and in fact, all the others might be crap, but together they make a lovely little package – just imagine it wrapped up with string, next to a kitten”. When tax credits are criticised, we are pointed towards the benefits of the new National Living Wage: very much a polished turd I’m afraid, in that it is only a living wage in so far as it is called a living wage, will not affect under 25s, and will not compensate for the tax credit changes for thousands of families in poverty.

It’s a principle of political showmanship that has become more and more common in Cameron’s response to almost anything: displayed abundantly during Prime Minister’s Questions, interviews, or indeed any situation where he is challenged. He is asked about one thing, and points towards another, allowing him to sail though PMQ’s as unmolested as a pastry hors d’oeuvre that has been unthinkingly imbued with coconut essence.

There was much talk of his so-called “honeymoon” following his election victory: but the reality is that he enjoys something of a honey moon everyday. Our media manages to totally fail in it’s seemingly simple job of pointing out his failures. There are looming examples of his failure everywhere you look, on everything from the economy to attempting a semblance of morality.

Blatantly lying is something we flatter ourselves happens very little in our politics, but the Tory party has managed to weave it effortlessly into their speeches. Their only real defence is that they didn’t know any better. But that’s hardly an excuse when you’re running a country.

This government lurches from blunder to blunder, shielded from the consequences of their policies

The angry former Tory voter’s interjection on this week’s question time was a rare example: it doesn’t happen often. For the first time I can remember, a Tory minister was genuinely confronted by someone at the receiving end of one of their policies; their anguish was honed, their message was blunt, and their anger totally justifiable and impossible to compare to the whimperings of Labour MPs or guardian columnists. Nothing can be substituted for the effect felt by a politician, having their fantasy-imaginings of how the world should work shattered so mercilessly and with such passion by exactly the kind of person whose vote they need.

I have no personal dislike of Amber Rudd, I think she’s a fairly good MP, it just do happens she’s been put in charge of her party’s indefensible policies regarding renewable energy. Although the subsidies for nuclear energy and fossil fuels will remain, the subsidies for renewable energy are being slashed, leading to a general collapse of the industry.

It’s all very well to have free market principles; the trouble comes when those people find themselves in government. Because economic reality seldom reflects the imaginings of Friedrich Hayek. When jobs are threatened, politicians have a moral duty to do all in their power to protect those jobs, it is not just their role as representatives, to do otherwise is electoral suicide. Besides this, despite the Tory pontifications of individual freedom, once in power those ideals are rarely carried with them into ministerial offices: given the chance, they are just as keen as their statist rivals to “change lives”, and use their power to remake the world in their ideological image. The only real difference is that in the case of Labour, that ideological image is an image where community spirit blossoms; the Tory image is one of naked self-interest and primitive, Darwinian struggle, which to them is not just a fact of life, it is something to yearn for.

It’s one thing to say that self-interest is an unavoidable aspect of human nature – most people would agree – it’s quite another to relish the prospect of hunting benefit claimants from their hideouts in Shinewater with bugles and hounds. Equally, it’s one thing to say that renewable energy is a costly way of dealing with climate change – it’s quite another to say that you’ll cut funding for it, whilst prioritising funding for those industries that will kill the planet.

Tax credits will be the downfall of this chancellor. I think history will remember him as one of the cleverest political operators in British history, but if it has any sense of justice, it will not remember him as a committed public servant. Time after time he has outmaneuvered his Labour rivals, humiliating them with political traps like his fiscal charter (which has no worth as an article of law, and further degrades the respect politicians of any party have for the nonsense they decide to burden the statute book with) but he has also damaged the British economy – and the livelihoods of millions – by inflicting his hardcore Thatcherite ideology on a country that clearly doesn’t want it. When, in 2011, after his omnishambles budget, he realised that austerity wasn’t helping the British economy, we can identify a change in thought at the treasury. He abandoned austerity as a driver of the economic recovery, but retained it as a political message.

And so the policy that made him so hated that he was booed at the olympics became his badge of honour. He had made the hard choices, (as Tories always do) and as a direct result, Sky News says there has been a slight improvement in the economy, and major falls in inflation. Never mind that his economic recovery has been dragged out over five years of his political maneuvering and five years of daily misery for millions; never mind that the drop in inflation is entirely down to a fall in international oil prices, as far out of George’s control as was being born a Gideon. Sky news isn’t saying that. And neither is the Telegraph or the Times.

And so you begin to see how elections are won, and political legacies made, by sleight of hand and the success of soundbites, faithfully relayed by a media with such double standards that it’s astounding they haven’t gone cross-eyed like Mayan babies.

That’s all for now.

Trident, the Trade Union Bill, Trump

Firstly I’d like to talk about trident. It’s intiguing that Corbyn has come to be seen as an extremist, for his desire to get rid of Trident, with his more moderate shadow cabinet and the “middle-ground” Cameron distinguishing themselves by their willingness to see the eradication of the human race. Why has no-one asked him: please, Prime Minister, hypothesise for us, if you would, a situation where you would actually use Trident?

If we are going to spend billions of pounds over the next few years basing our defense policy around hypotheticals, then what reason could we have for not exploring them? Because the simple truth is this: there is NO situation in which a British prime minister would ever have call to use nuclear weapons. If you use a nuclear bomb after having been hit by one, then it was never a deterrrent to begin with, not to mention that the deaths of millions in Moscow or Tehran would only balance out the lives of Londoners in the mind of a mad man. Further tragedy compounds rather than eliminates prior tragedy.

Is threatening the use of an atomic weapon ever a sound foreign policy move? Or is it simply dehumanising both for those making and responding to the threat, as well as being transparently a piece of bluff; a game of brinkmanship, toying with the lives of millions. But surely the crux is this: is there really a potential prime minister out there with the “iron” to see such a policy through? Is there really anybody who could bear to have millions of souls weighing on their conscience? Yes, Truman did it, but the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like child’s play compared to our modern nuclear armoury.

I henceforth issue a challenge to the right-wing commentariat. If anyone wants to rubbish trade unions and diminish the work they do; to write inflammatory, ungrounded articles about the disruption they’re causing and the so called “militancy” of their leaders, and the way that they and the teaches and nurses they fight for somehow represent “vested interests”, please go right ahead. But in the interest of honour and chivalry, please renounce your right to stay home from work on weekends.

Donald Trump. What can I say?

I watched a Trump rally this morning whilst ironing my shirts, and feel emotionally and intellectually exhausted. It stopped being funny after about half an hour; and let me tell you, when he has control of the world’s strongest military, it’ll stop being funny much sooner than that. Much of his rhetoric consists of this desire to “make America great again” (of course nothing we haven’t heard before) but there is something new: a strange, twisted sense of self-pity. The burning conviction that America is being taken for a ride, and that it shoulders the responsibility for world affairs without reaping any of the benefits. That the leaders of Mexico, Japan and China are too “smart” for Barack Obama, and have conspired to put America in trillion of dollars of debt, as well as an outstandingly large trade deficit, and to steal all their jobs. But what’s so strange is that this feeling isn’t constricted to the demented Donald Trump; you see it flaring up again and again in the annoyingly liberal West Wing, which I think will be the subject of my next post.

It’s a feeling that can only come from seeing world events through an entirely different prism from everyone else. Where news of the outside world is filtered through those sharp minds at Fox News, and where America’s bombing campaigns, carried out through the 70 years or so that they have been the world’s superpower, are just the inventions of terrorist-sympathising journalists and communists.

Trump has no understanding of the countless civilian casualties, all over the world, that have ensued due to the Pentagon’s desire to see left-leaning tyrants replaced by more market-friendly butchers. His supporters don’t understand that the people working long hours in awful conditions in Mexican sweatshops aren’t the victors; they are every bit as much the loser as a redundant car manufacturer from Detroit. They are both equal victims of an academic, cultural, world consensus that says: “Trade must be free. The movement of capital must be free. Government is always the problem. Your freedom is inextricably bound up in the freedom of corporations to exploit you.” And how could Trump supporters know this? For that matter, how can Britons, or Frenchmen, or Bulgarians be expected to understand it? When they have a media that is blind to the world’s ills, and is as much in thrall to market forces as anyone.