Grenfell has shown the extent Britain has forgotten about its welfare state commitment in the intoxication of financilalsed capitalism in a Kensington dominated by luxury dwellings, with no hope of replacing any extra decent social housing ….. and the people are getting a bit angry.
It seems Thatcher was nearly right – there is almost no such thing as society in the UK. This anger’s got the mainstream in a twist.
When you are not watching mainstream news much it is striking what you see when you go back to it. I can only hack small amounts of Channel 4 News these days, but the Andrew Marr Show usually gets the big hitters, so it’s tempting.
What did we have today, though? Smoothy Spectator editor Fraser Nelson and Marr, who had blatantly conspired as Tory sympathisers now renouncing Mrs May as ‘toxic’, then a good dose of ancient cricket commentator Henry Blofeld and bit of Shakespeare with occasional shots of Bendict Cumberbatch – all designed to lull us all to sleep …. as if the nation wasn’t bloody furious?
It is clearly hypnotic propaganda from Auntie Beeb I am afraid. ‘There, there – no need to be angry, children, watch some nice public-school chaps and go to sleep.’
So I turned to the small screen. Comedian Frankie Boyle, interviewed by Owen Jones, has a knack of saying what we all know about British politics and why our separately ineffective leaders won’t be able to get ‘the best deal for Britain’ through their ‘strong and stable’ negotiations:
“The UK is a self contained culture that just doesn’t want to … doesn’t care to understand”.
Right, Frankie, you said it.
I am under no illusion that the extraordinary success of my 2014 Guardian article, re-posted a year ago with more than 200K Facebook shares, was down to my brilliant writing. I wish. No, it because I was offering a cogent explanation of the catastrophic leadership besetting British political life for much too long. Here Boyle says it better:
“They’ve got some of the worst people in the world. The whole thing that they are is a group of people pretending to represent a constituency that they don’t represent. They represent the interests of other people, they represent the interests of capitol, and they are the class enemy really of the people they say they represent. The sort of people that are going to go into that are broken sociopaths. You know there’s a whole public school system that’s designed to break theses people’s psyches to a point where they can spend their life lying to these groups of people, on behalf of these other groups of people. You know, and that doesn’t breed talented people who can connect with the public.”
And this is made worse by the mainstream media, who when they are not trying to put us to sleep, favour an absurd adversarial style, so bullying each other in public is routine and normalised. We do not know how to do coalitions or have reasonable discussions with neighbouring nations. We have regressed to political immaturity. And the people are getting fed up, chaps.
In political terms we see this immaturity daily – especially in the House of Commons, where it is taken for granted that members routinely and mercilessly turn on one another. Jeremy Corbyn had to survive many months of this kind of treatment, and, despite the fact that in Britain we like to think we are the champions of cricketing ‘fair play’, we are more addicted to this kind of hostile adversarial style in our debating chamber and media than anyone else, just like we are still more divided by class than any other European country.
What is the origin of this normalised bullying style? No question that it’s learned in the posh boarding schools where most of our traditional leaders were brought up.
These, and our elite universities, have a lot to do with maintaining our divided social class system. I believe that that this kind of education accounts for the terrible political leadership we have had in Britain in the last decades. Cameron’s government had over 60% ‘public-school’ educated people in the cabinet. While old-Etonians Boris and Cameron are the obvious examples, Jeremy Hunt, Liam Fox, Andrew Mitchell, Amber Rudd, etc., went to other elite boarding schools.
But the staggering add-on is that Britain is a ‘top-down’ society not a social democracy like European nations, so this boarding schools problem actually affects the whole nation! Even non-boarders adopt the mannerisms of those who did and appear totally trance-like. Is this why characters like Theresa May and Michael Gove, who did not board, seem so empty and duplicitous?
Before the war and before the welfare state, Britain’s leaders were traditionally drawn from such a class, but the routine duplicity and sense of entitlement was ameliorated by a kind of noblesse oblige. However, when neoliberalism took root in the 80s and Thatcher promoted rank individualism this went out the window. The fallacy that free-market ideology was anything but laissez-faire and constituted economic theory was unchallenged by the new breed of elites, particularly Tony Blair (same school as Marr).
Of course we know the economic story: From 1973 ‘real’ wages in the Western world stagnated and have declined ever since. The credit revolution hid the problem of wages and the financialsation and borrowing bonanza of the late 90s further disguised it. This created a massive bubble that burst in 2008 and was hastily put back together by bank bale-outs and austerity. The poor got poorer and the rich got richer.
Thatcher had destroyed the unions and the welfare society was coming down too. This is what the tower symbolises. Many people are very angry – finally. I’ll come back to that later … I am too angry right now.