It’s not just me

It really isn’t just me. I had begun to think that I was the only person seeing this. The New Statesman is seeing it too. As I said last week, UKIP seem to be calling the tune and David Cameron’s government is dutifully dancing along.

How did we get here? Where is here? Is there a way back? Have we lost all semblance of decency?

Well, here’s my theory:

We got here as a result of the economic downturn caused, mostly, by gigantic banks lending recklessly to people who could never hope to repay and then betting billions on whether or not they could (does anyone remember Credit Default Swaps and the fact that entity A was taking on a CDS for a loan that entity B took from entity C?). So the US mortgage market imploded and took most of the rest of the world down with it. Banks failed. The UK government bought some of them to stop them from failing.

Then the coalition government was formed in 2010 and “austerity” was the new black. Billions of pounds of spending cuts rolled along. Mr Cameron’s big idea at the time was “big society” which seemed to mean “cutting funding to essential local services and hoping that someone else would provide the service for free”. Great idea that.

Then university tuition fees happened and the Lib Dems sealed their own coffin. In 2015, they were virtually wiped out: the final cruelty being that Nick Clegg kept his seat, so he gets to sit in the Commons and watch what is left of his noble army being thoroughly irrelevant for the next five years. To top the Yellow Party’s woes, UKIP got a whopping 13% of the popular vote. Our ridiculously disproportionate electoral system means that they only actually got one seat. This, I believe, doesn’t condemn them to the sidelines of politics: it merely makes for four million annoyed voters. If they get a little more support next time, their slice of the Commons could rise suddenly and dramatically.

UKIP’s popularity forced the pre-election debate onto the issue of immigration and of how the swarm/tide/torrent/redeployment of desperate people from some of the most dangerous places on Earth is bringing trillions of people to our shores to simultaneously take our jobs and claim our unemployment benefit. Combine this with continued brutal government spending cuts targetting the poorest and a continuing rise in the use of food banks and you find that you’ve created a situation where a huge number of people are feeling worse off (in spite of statistics showing that the economy is growing) and threatened. A proven method for redirecting public rage away from government is to find an external scapegoat to point at.

Enter the migrants.

It is best if your scapegoat can be portrayed as faceless and scrounging, massed and threatening. At some point, “asylum seeker” became a synonym for “illegal immigrant”, which has, in turn, become a synonym for “dangerous criminal.” It doesn’t matter that every body sinking slowly in to the Med is that of a person whose life is valuable by the very fact that it is a human life. It doesn’t matter that the lucky ones who make it to Italy or Greece alive are people too, with parents, friends, children, families, skills, aspirations, and value. Oh no. What matters is that these filthy, foreign beggars are showing up at our door, presumably drawn here by our stunning economic might (because Greece is full of that right now) who would be better dumped back in their country-of-origin where the local situation will take care of them so much more efficiently than our own.

Right now, my Englishness is an embarrassment to me. Mr Cameron’s government is pushing schools and nurseries on an anti-radicalisation agenda and promoting “British Values”, in spite of the fact that promoting ourselves is about as anti-British as you can get (except, possibly, for the colonial fervour exhibited by that certain class of upper-class empire-builder that Roald Dahl met on his ship bound for East Africa, chronicled in volume 2 of his autobiography: Going Solo). But no. Under the heading of democracy, the rule of law, and personal liberty and religious freedom, we are denying people representation in parliament, spying on our own citizens without cause or warrant, and deciding that one of the great world religions is just a front for international terrorism.

Is there a way back? I don’t know, to be honest. We are going to need senior politicians to speak up about this. Just now, Labour are headless, voiceless and pointless. The Lib Dems have been pummelled into near-non-existence. The SNP aren’t getting any air time at all. The other Opposition parties are being as ignored as always. This leaves the government, who have a vested interest in us blaming the powerless for the consequences of the decisions made by the powerful.

Have we lost all semblance of decency? Actually, I think we have.

From a Christian perspective, the Old Testament says it better than I can: You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21).

In spite of what UKIP and the Conservatives want us to believe, the migrant crisis is a human crisis. They are people, and they need our decency more than they need fences and dogs.

3 thoughts on “It’s not just me

  1. Richard B

    Interesting article, and an interesting analysis of the the party politics in the UK. Shame on UKIP and the virtual UKIP Tories for demonising massively vulnerable, suffering people. Check out the link below – whatever anybody’s opinion of the last parliament’s coalition, UK politics needs a liberal voice more than ever.

    And yes, I became a member of the Libdems a few months before the general election, fully knowing the virtual wipeout that was to come precisely because I do believe that Britain needs a liberal voice, and one which is part of politics rather lobbing in random opinions from the sidelines. I didn’t want the party with whom I identify most closely to to disappear in a puff of tuition fee smoke, through a combination of mistakes made by the Libdems themselves (Tuition fees!!!), the Tories chewing them up and spitting them out, 360 degree hostility from the media, and a stubborn refusal by any voter to acknowledge that coalition government (for better or worse) cannot possibly work in quite the same way as single party government.

    Tuition fees – introduced by Labour, increased by Labour, increased again by the Conservatives with the Libdems powerless to prevent it but managed to contribute to the coalition policy to improve on what the Tories were offering alone = It’s all Nick Clegg’s fault.

    The mistake was to promise something undeliverable in the first place with opinion polls suggesting a hung parliament for months. That’s life – that’s politics – shame.

    1. PGR Post author

      From my perspective, I think that Nick Clegg’s biggest mistake there was in appearing on the telly and trying to sell the idea of tuition fees. I think that he should have said “we are the junior partner in this coalition, and there’s only so much we can do. Sorry about that.” Instead, he made himself look like Cameron’s puppet, and the electorate never forgave him.

  2. Richard B

    Agreed. Nick Clegg’s priority was to prove that The Libdems were a serious party of government, who could make the tough choices and wouldn’t bring the government down over coalition disagreements; he was desperate for party to appear credible and tough, and insisted that the Libdems should stand by coalition policy whatever the cost. Going too far in that direction and losing his liberal identity was his mistake to me, and the public perception was that it made him look like a two-faced puppet. The Libdem’s actual positive contributions (of which there are good examples) over the last 5 years may as well be a puff of smoke.

    I don’t completely disagree with his sentiment about toughness, government is a tough business, but you have to know when to be tough to make the unpopular decision on one occasion, and take a stand against such a decision on other occasions. As national politics is often a glorified popularity contest where mud sticks, the tuition fees debacle became an albatross that was never going to be shaken off. I do think that the punishment meted out to the party post-coalition was still entirely disproportionate though. Mr Cameron now has his loony right Farage-a-likes calling the shots, and persoanlly I’d still prefer Mr Clegg.

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