I have often used this blog to write about politics. I consider it important to write about politics; it is the map that shapes the direction our country and society. I haven’t written about politics for a while, for the very simple reason that I am knackered, and it makes me sad. I do not say this to invite pity – my position in life remains very much the safe one of a privileged woman in a wealthy society, and I am constantly grateful for it. However I also believe that this privilege gives me the opportunity, if not the straight-up responsibility, to behave with compassion and not turn a blind eye to things that don’t immediately affect my Thursday afternoon. It is frustrating how often the manifestation of the bare minimum of concern for the welfare of your fellow humanity is dismissed as “snowflake tears”. I am safe; I am not suffering. I also give a damn, and have spent many years fighting for causes I believe are good, urgent and needful. My privilege does not mean that I cannot also feel sad; the bare minimum of empathy would make it hard to feel much else at the moment.
Politically speaking, the last 5 years have been a stinker. Trump, Brexit, Johnson – to a leftie environmentalist, it’s just been bad news after bad news. I look to culture for hope – to films and books that are embracing diversity and talking about climate change, justice and equality – and I do begin to see signs of optimism there. I look to the young activists, the climate strikers and democracy activists, and they inspire me and I am so, so grateful for all they do. The election of Biden offers a thin slither of hope, but who didn’t watch the storming of the White House with horror in their hearts, or hear pronouncements of “stolen election” parroted by the very same Representatives and Senators who had just been newly elected by the entirely secure, thoroughly overseen election system? Globally there is a right-wing, chauvinist geo-political reality that is unavoidable.
China is ruled by a dictator who has tightened control over every aspect of political life, destroyed democracy in Hong Kong and is committing genocide in Xingjiang. Yet the UK government is currently pushing to huddle up closer to him, to buy more Chinese goods at a time when the world just needs less. Putin is an immovable fixture in Russia, merrily undermining democracy in the West and murdering his opponents; Turkey’s political leadership is set on nationalism and chauvinism, Hungary is ruled by a right-wing nationalist set on destroying the rule of law, Poland is much of the same and has just dragged women’s rights back to the 1930s, and Modi in India is a wannabe tin-pot far-right wing dictator actively engaged in disenfranchising millions of his own people in the name of Hindu nationalism. Tens of thousands of refugees died in the Mediterranean while the fascist government in Italy arrested their would-be rescuers, Israel continues to build in Palestinian territory and under Bolsonaro the Amazon is burning, the single most important heat-sink in the world.
Meanwhile, in the UK Boris Johnson is still leading in the polls despite us having the 6th highest death rate in the world, with over 123,000 dead. And what do people say about the Conservative government as we count our dead? “They did their best.” It just breaks my heart. Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Japan – just across the world so many countries with equivalent population densities, if not higher population densities, and equivalent economies and governments did so much better, took decisive action with decisive consequences, didn’t bluster and faff and flap and lie. And do not have 123,000 dead. These are not false equivalences. Children know that when you take an exam, you do not do so in a vacuum – you are measured against your peers. It is how you determine merit, and against our peers, we are a great big F for Fail. Our government blustered and lied, and in the process forked out millions and millions and millions of our money to pay their corrupt friends for PPE that didn’t work, for PPE that never arrived, for a Track and Trace that has failed, all the while talking about “following the science” and doing nothing of the sort. “Clap for the NHS” they said, after literally ten years of gutting the NHS, of doctors protesting in the streets, of abolishing grants to train nurses, of privatising services and destroying social care. They fed us patriotism and “Blitz spirit” while we paid their friends to get rich and our loved ones died.
Usually I link to data whenever I make these sweeping statements. I am too tired to do so right now. The amount of time I have spent trying to link to facts, to show my working and reach my conclusions based on as much data as I can, only to have people go “no, my opinion is you’re wrong” supporting that statement with links to propaganda and opinion pieces, an echo chamber or an immediate dismissal of “well, you can’t trust the BBC” – it wears you down. I am constantly bewildered by the voices that shout “LOOK A RABID OPINION PIECE” in the vein of Piers Morgan, as though that is somehow a valid analysis of provable data, but reject measured journalism in all is complexity as “left-wing propaganda”. I will as always point you towards organisations such as fullfact.org, as well as campaigning organisations such as the Good Law Project who, before you go “oh they’re biased” are not so biased that court after court of law has not upheld their complaints. Sometimes you can campaign… because you’re right. Truth matters. These things are provable and demonstrable, whether we like them or not.
Yes, there have been silver linings. The vaccination roll-out is going well, despite everything, and I am grateful and relieved for that. Surprised, given how everything else the government has done in the last 12 months has been incompetent and corrupt, but still – very grateful. The furlough scheme is a life-line to many people, though innumerable freelancers were left behind, and I am thrilled that corporation tax is going back up – albeit still to the lowest level in Europe. All we need now is to raise income tax on the top earners, and maybe even poke around the edges of a wealth tax damnit on the basis that no one needs to have a spare £500 million in savings, or even bolster HMRC so they can actually tax Amazon and Google properly. A girl dreams.
But are we really so short-termist that we can look at these few good things and go “yay good news let’s cling to that that’s all that matters lalalala”? Humans hate bad news. We constantly seek for the good. But alas the bad news is important. The bad news is vital in shaping our choices. And the bad news is legion.
Scotland is looking at declaring independence. Last time this rolled around, I was against it on the generic principle that peoples should find ways to draw together, not pull apart. That we are stronger working together, and that collaboration is not the same as cultural assimilation, and we lose nothing of ourselves by being a family. This time round, after ten years of Tory government in Westminster… I totally get it. If Scotland wants to go, I salute them. Wales is beginning to join that conversation too, and as for Northern Ireland… the shit-show that is the Brexit deal – a deal which has cost us billions and destroyed businesses across the UK – is already reigniting old flames in NI, with the first groups starting to renounce the Good Friday Agreement that has held peace in the country for 23 tenuous years.
We’ve had ten years of Tory government, going on for eleven. Yet people still say “Labour left it in a state!” as though the Conservatives have not had nearly as long in power as Labour did already. And what’s the legacy of ten years of Tories? Economic and social injustice up – the rich are richer and the poor are poorer – NHS waiting times up, food bank use up, homelessness up, salaries stuck where they were in 2008, the Union shattering, racist rhetoric, the judiciary under attack and a level of political discourse that is happy to lie. Just lie. Our politicians lie to us. “They’ve always lied,” people say, and sure, politicians have always been mealy-mouthed and obfuscated and blustered. But now they lie in parliament, they lie to the press, and there was a time when they would get sacked for that. There was a time when that meant something. It should mean something. Accepting the idea that we are sheep to be fibbed to, manipulated and fobbed of, is unacceptable to me. Is it really acceptable to you?
And now the Tories intend to introduce voter ID. This is pure gerrymandering designed to disenfranchise the poorest in our society – those least likely to be able to pay for ID. Poor people. Minorities. People who feel the weight of austerity. Non-Tory voters, to put it another way. Here I will do a link, ‘cos it’s important: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/upgrading-our-democracy/voter-id/
There is no reason for this other than to cement Tory hegemony. None. It is pure corruption and undermining of our democracy. Meanwhile, with the attempt to appoint Paul Dacre as head of Ofcom and go after the BBC, as well as go after the Supreme Court and judiciary, the Tories are also in full swing against journalism that doesn’t just parrot whatever the hell they say, and judges who uphold the law. “Activist lawyers” says our Home Secretary, in response to lawyers… literally doing their jobs. Literally doing the jobs the law commands them to do. “Biased media” they say, in response to journalists literally asking them questions. Literally doing the jobs we need them to do.
I haven’t blogged about politics for a while, because it makes me sad. On the right of politics, people rail against “cancel culture”. You are no longer at liberty to use huge media platforms to be racist or sexist. You can still go be racist and sexist on your own time, sure, but ITV doesn’t need to broadcast that shit. Yet the noise and the hypocrisy and the lies are just so overwhelming, and I am overwhelmed. I am knackered.
A lot of this is pandemic exhaustion, I know. As I said at the top of this, I don’t actually feel that sorry for myself, despite the epic rantiness of this blog. I am human, so do need to vent occassionally because of my human-ness; I miss hugs, sure, but on a day-to-day basis I’m doing ok. But my heart goes out for the generations that are going to have to pick up the pieces of a world divided, of people divided, of a legacy of lies, of destroyed services and gutted institutions, of a climate running wild, of poverty and injustice. I have a responsibility as a member of society to give a damn about my brothers and sisters on this planet, and about the generations that will come after mine, and with the bare minimum of empathy in my head, I cannot think about it and not feel sad.
That said, it is bad form to write a rant and not also look at some form of action. So here’s some bits and bobs below!
Electoral Reform Society Petition against Voter ID: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/upgrading-our-democracy/voter-id/#action-cta-anchor
World Wildlife Foundation guide to taking climate action: https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-can-i-do
How To Save A Planet – a wonderful podcast about combating climate change, for the listeners out there: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/howtosaveaplanet
The Green Party UK, just in case you feel like getting involved with a small party with big ideas – https://www.greenparty.org.uk/?q
Fullfact.org for all your actual data-led needs – https://fullfact.org/