Britain: Hope, Glory & Bollocks

broken-britain2gc2Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on October 5, 2015

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The myth of 21st Century entrepreneurial Britain

Liam Halligan – one of the few hacks at the Torynaff I’m still prepared to read – offers a piece today in which he quite rightly argues that Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn is at his best deconstructing the Tory Party’s utterly mendacious version of how the British economy is faring. But in the midst of such wise thoughts, he drops a clanger like this: (my emphasis)

‘With the relatively moderate Hilary Benn having just been ousted, there’s now a pro-Corbyn majority on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee. Corbynites are wresting control of the party machine from the more sensible centre-Left

Liam thinks the soft Left more sensible because it buys into the ‘reality’ of the Thatcher economic sea change; and he adds this bubble-dwelling nonsense: ‘the UK today is by no means a place where people “take what they’re given”. The British, on the contrary, tend to go to work each morning, earn their money, often start businesses and strive to improve the lot of themselves and their families. Enterprise and self-reliance are central to this country’s identity, hard-wired into us.’

That isn’t true of the British and it never was; it was only ever true of a tiny band of post-agrarian aristocrats nouveaux in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the independent shopkeeper about whom Napoleon Bonaparte was so hopelessly wrong. The central myth of Thatcherism is that Britain is choc-a-bloc with folks just gagging to be the next Alan Sugar. Today, all the famous entrepreneurial and innovative corporate names from our industrial revolution are gone forever – either sold to unpleasant multinationals or rendered sclerotic by third-rate, third-generation management. If you can see any new mega-groups emerging from a standing start in vehicles, technology, media, banking, energy and all the other controlling interests in 21st century UK life, then you have better eyesight and foresight than I.

The overwhelming majority of Britons today take what they are given because they have no choice, or – even worse – zero discernment about what really matters in life.

The statistics are there for anyone to see: those at the very bottom of society have made a 1.0-2.5% gain in funds, those from the old skilled working class have lost 13% in the last ten years alone, a minority of merchant and retail independents have found lucrative niches selling to the Daft Rich ( but most others have gone to the wall), the old have gone backwards on almost every real measure, and corporations have vastly increased their power. Those individuals ripping off the old public sector and milking the capital research base of former nationalised giants and contemporary multinationals have rocketed into the standard 3 – 5% who spend more on lunch each day than most of those at the bottom get in monthly salary.

Britain’s tiny top slither of 1% shovers and makers have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest 55% of the population. Household wealth in the south-east has risen five times as fast as the rest of the country. Five billionaire families control the same wealth as 20% of the population. The bottom 50% of the country’s citizens own just 9% of the wealth.

Above all, the blindingly obvious piece of history that gives the lie to Halligan’s silly assertions is that Britain was the first nation in the world whose mass workforce of employees (not Grant Shapps clones) organised to create democratically elected socialist administrations with genuine power. France and Australia may offer historians the first Commune and the first socialist Prime Minister, but by 1924 Britain had a minority Labour Government – and the work of Attlee’s 1946-51 team created a State welfare and health system that became the envy of the world.

What has given Britain its stability since Cromwellian and Restoration times is a unique feature: the ability to learn – via various Reform Acts and Rule of Law continuity – how to avoid the mistakes of both revolution and privilege. From 1640 until 1979, it worked to the citizens’ advantage better than in any previous Empire or Commonwealth. Since then we have lost this.

The reality of such loss is apparent in the myriad symptoms we see in today’s far from United Kingdom: wealth inequality, extreme views about gender and equality ‘correction’, acceptance of socially irresponsible profit, the rise and rise of the unapologetic greedy arsehole, alignment with a blatantly fascist EU, wholesale abandonment of the Rule of Law, flagrant perversions of equality before the Law, tabloid cruelty, and above all the headlong rush towards sociopathic corporatocracy.

The only defence the repressed in society can fall back upon now is media-distracted apathy and the revival of extreme Left ideology that failed before. It failed for the same reason that extreme Right ideology will fail in the immediate-term future: denialism about the realities of Man the social animal – his frailties, wiring, bigotries, fears and preference for family life over corporate and State denialism.

I confess to tiring of writing about this. And I absolutely despair when a Conservative Conference tweeter tries to tell us that Britain is Great because there are no French Rolling Stones or German Beatles.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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