A True Statesman

Mr Speaker, these are frightening times. Everywhere I go, I see ordinary people going about their lives gripped by a profound sense of insecurity, even foreboding. As Members of this House, it is our duty, indeed our honour to do something about that. I’d go so far as to say that the desire to improve people’s lives is why we went into politics in the first place. I know that’s why I did.

All my life, both before and since I came to Parliament, I have been guided by my belief that there are no trivial problems. No problem is trivial for those who suffer it. All people want and deserve solutions to the problems that plague their lives, no matter how small those problems may seem to those of us who can claim tens of thousands of pounds in expenses every month.

And just as there is no such thing as a trivial problem, I believe there is no such thing as a drastic solution. Solutions either solve the problem, or they are no solutions at all. All anyone wants, and all anyone can ask for, is a solution that does what it says on the tin.

That is why I, as a member of the opposition, am proud to stand in solidarity with our Government in their bold and innovative proposals to deal with the problem of young criminals nicking things out of shops. Trivial, you say? Then you must not be a shopkeeper.

I have disagreed with the Government on many things, and I am sure I will disagree with them on many more in the future, but when someone gets something right, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that. The Government recognise that the only way to deal with this problem is to strike at the root. The Government seek to cure the disease rather than just treating the symptoms by asking the obvious questions: Where do these criminals congregate? Where do they plan their attacks on our nation’s economy? Where do they find a safe haven when the deed is done?

I have in my hands the Government’s White Paper, which summarises the findings of their extraordinarily exhaustive review of the available evidence. I hope that everyone in this House, including those who disagree with the Government’s plan, has at least taken the time to read it, because it deserves to be read.

After months of investigation, the Government’s researchers came to the conclusion that these criminals hide and conspire in the very symbol of innocence itself: Our nation’s playgrounds. It is from these cradles of our children’s dreams that they launch their daily attacks on our economy and on the brave men and women on duty every day at our nation’s off-licences. Greater cynicism than this is hard to imagine.

I have yet to hear any opponent of the Government’s proposal deny any of what I have just said, and so I believe I am entirely justified in taking it as common ground. We are all in agreement that there is a problem. We are in agreement about what it is. We are all in agreement that it is serious and that something must be done. Am I mistaken?

I would like it noted in Hansard that not even the left wing of our party disagrees with the Government’s and my analysis of the issue.

Ah. I’ve just been informed that he’s popped out to the lav. Well, we can’t deny him that, can we?

So all of us – supporters and opponents of the Government’s plan alike – agree about the nature of the problem, with one possible exception. One cannot help but notice, however, the gulf between the well-reasoned, thoroughly researched proposals offered by the Government and the simplistic response offered by the opponents of the plan.

Do they offer any alternatives? No, at least they offer no alternatives that are worthy of the name. All they say is that it’s ‚wrong‘ to put landmines in children’s playgrounds. They question whether it’s ‚moral‘. They claim it goes against their ‚principles‘.

‚Principled objections‘ are what separates the pontificating moralist from the statesman. We should always be suspicious of these appeals to principle, because they eliminate options. Moralists may have no problem eliminating potential solutions from consideration based on their ‚principles‘, but statesmen have no such luxury.

Imagine where we would be if statesmen were guided by a politics of principles rather than one of pragmatism and possibility. It hardly bears thinking about, for it is a world where the Spanish royal family might even today be denied their rightful place on the throne, a world where the arts would forever be impoverished because Picasso would never have been inspired to paint his masterpiece Guernica, Shostakovich might never have composed his Leningrad symphony, and Churchill might never have had the good fortune to be Prime Minister in what might never have had the chance to be Britain’s finest hour.

Where moralists can see nothing but maimed bodies and ruined lives, statesmen see the enrichment of history.

And whilst there are no trivial problems, there are always trivial obstacles, and statesmen do not allow trivial obstacles to deter them from great solutions. Great solutions like the Government’s Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

I do not wish to seem heartless here. The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative do not hold a monopoly on humanity. I, too, feel strongly that innocent lives must be protected, and I would not support the Initiative if the Government had not gone to such great lengths to craft safeguards in order to do just that.

Because I trust that everyone here has read the proposal, I note merely for the record the scientifically tested fail-safe mechanism that is built in to the proposal. According to the proposal’s safeguards, the mines will be used according to a strict formula, and will be laid in playgrounds in direct proportion to their proximity to council estates and comprehensive schools. But it does not stop there. The proposal further provides that not a single mine will be laid in playgrounds belonging to estates in  a council tax band higher than F.

This is how statesmen show humanity, not by closing doors, but by opening the window to opportunity.

The opponents of the Safe Playgrounds Initiative, or, to put the matter more bluntly, the proponents of inaction in the face of the plight of our great British shopkeepers, seek to terrify us with spectres of limbs and lives lost, and have even soared to heights of alliterative wizardry to deem the Safe Playgrounds Initiative the ‚charnel house of childhood‘. This pathetically pornographic, petty pusillanimity, Mr Speaker, is synonymous with siding with those who are sullying the sanctity of our stores. They have decided to take up the cause of our enemies. Shame on all of them.

It is time that we all came together and did our bit to make Britain once again safe for shopkeepers, and that, Mr Speaker, is why I urge this House to support the Government’s motion and implement the Safe Playgrounds Initiative.

Your Suffering Isn’t a Bug – It’s a Feature

I still see claims that ‚austerity‘ isn’t working. This is problematic in two respects: For one thing, the term ‚austerity‘ itself is an utter lie. This isn’t about everyone having to tighten their belts in a time of generalised scarcity – it’s about robbing workers (employed and unemployed) of basic necessities in a time of highly concentrated opulence. ‚Austerity is a dangerous euphemism because it conceals what is actually going on.

‚Not working‘ is no better, because it accepts the official narrative that the purpose of these murderous cuts was to bring about an economic recovery and all good things. That’s nonsense. You don’t bring about an economic recovery by putting more and more people out of work, forcing millions of unemployed people and people with disabilities to go without anything at all because they didn’t look hard enough for jobs that don’t exist, and then making those same unemployed people available as an unpaid forced labour pool for private industry. If the idea were to bring about some sort of genuine economic recovery, these policies would have been abandoned the minute it became unmistakably clear that that isn’t happening.

And yet the consensus of all the major parties is that the cuts must go on. If there’s such broad agreement amongst the ruling class that something must go on, obviously it’s having the desired effect. It’s just that they haven’t been honest about the desired effect, which wouldn’t exactly be the first time the ruling class ever told a porkie.

Plus, haven’t we been hearing that the economy is much better now, that catastrophe has been averted, etc. etc.? If these were measures put in place to deal with a current crisis – and not the logical continuation of policies going back three decades – surely the reaction to this news would be general celebration and an abandonment of policies that did what was needed, allowing us all to return to better times.

And yet that’s not happening. In fact, the reverse is the case, the Tories are proceeding to deepen the cuts, as the Labour Party had also promised to do. Clearly, then, the ruling class are well chuffed with the effects that ‚austerity‘ is having, and want to continue.

This is not just an issue because ruling class propaganda happens to be false. This has created an utterly inaccurate framework of debate that often goes unquestioned by those fighting against the cuts. The kind of fightback that is needed will not be achieved by accepting a framework that implicitly assumes good faith and benevolent intent on the part of the ruling class, but only by framing the issue with language that makes it clear that working class suffering isn’t a byproduct of these policies, but the intended goal.

Ed Miliband: Unconscionable, Rubbish, or Unconscionable Rubbish?

With regard to Ed Miliband’s repeated declarations that he’d rather let the Tories back in than reach any kind of pro-worker accommodation with the SNP, there are essentially two possibilities: Either he’s serious about it, in which case it’s unconscionable, or he’s bluffing, in which case it’s not only unconscionably dishonest, but breathtakingly pathetic strategy.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What everyone who’s been paying attention knows is that the next parliament is going to be so well hung it will probably be used in those revolting knit cocksock adverts that keep showing up in my Facebook feed, and Labour and the Tories are going to be remarkably close (which isn’t surprising, since politically they’re remarkably close).

In other words, Labour are going to need to reach some kind of accommodation with other anti-Tory parties, principally the SNP, if they want to form a government and have it survive more than five minutes. Obviously, assuming that he’s bluffing, Miliband would like to go into those negotiations with the strongest hand possible, which means maximising the number of seats Labour hold on to in Scotland (stop laughing) and trying to gain some ground in England and Wales.

To this end, Miliband announces that he’d rather see David Cameron back in Downing Street than reach an accommodation with parties that happen to be somewhat to the left of his own. Now, what’s the likely outcome of this gambit? For one thing, he’s basically told Scottish voters to get knotted and confirmed all the worst things that people have come to believe about Labour in Scotland after all these years of malign neglect and active attacks on working-class living standards. That’s hardly going to endear people to a party they already have every reason to feel abandoned by, and, indeed, every time he starts speaking in this vein, yet another safe Labour seat turns out to be built on a sinkhole.

Meanwhile, in England and Wales, the only real reason most people vote Labour anymore is tactical, to keep the Tories out. However, that only works if the Labour leadership are in fact committed to keeping the Tories out. The minute Miliband announces that he’d rather see another Tory government than make a deal to keep the Tories out, the whole rationale for that tactical voting collapses, meaning that anyone who is considering voting Green or TUSC, but is afraid of letting the Tories back in, now has no reason not to simply vote for what they want rather than voting for a party who are openly announcing that they’re willing to let the Tories back in.

In other words, the only possible effect that these pronouncements can have is to weaken Labour’s hand in the eventual negotiations, both in terms of the number of seats Labour will need to make up through a deal with one of the parties to their left, and in terms of the level of humiliation that will be involved in admitting it was all a bluff. Neither of which outcomes I have any complaints about, personally, but I still have to wonder what the fuck Miliband & Co. were thinking.

The White Flag

The Labour flag is brightest white,

it’s raised without the slightest fight.
It says ‚We’ll beat the Tories yet
at scrapping all your benefits.‘

(CHORUS): So wave the white flag without shame,
for we’re Tories in all but name.
See traitors sneer and cowards wince,
at this year’s Labour conference.

In their graves, Merthyr martyrs turn
so fast that half the Rhondda burns.
Tho‘ plebs may rise and make a fuss,
that lot are nowt to do with us.

(Chorus)

In Tottenham we’ll ne’er be seen
till gentrifiers wipe it clean.
The Scottish worker we’ll ignore
(those jocks are such a ruddy bore)

(chorus)

It waved above the PFI
when the NHS was left to die.
It draped the coffin of BR
and welcomes fracking near and far.

(chorus)

It well recalls betrayals past
and brings the hope of profits fast.
The flag of fright, a symbol plain
of endless, unremitting pain.

(chorus)

It suits today the sycophant
who only stands for parliament
to fill with drink the rich man’s cup
and raise our party banner up

(chorus)

We’ll fully claim ev’ry expense
whilst others work for zero pence.
They’ve only got themselves to blame,
for morals are a muppet’s game.

So wave the white flag without shame,
and soon they’ll call you Sir and Dame.
And should a whistleblower talk,
you needn’t ever fear the dock.

Labour Conference in An Alternate Universe

A sombre mood descended over Manchester today in the shadow of this year’s Labour Party conference. Faded reddish hoardings, apparently pre-distressed, adorned the area around the conference site of Manchester Central bearing the Labour Party emblem and the laconic message: SORRY. Continue reading →