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The New Topography of Hell, by Tim Barton

Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:26 pm
by Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart
reviewed by Tim Barton

Forward Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future
by The Conservative & Unionist Party
2017, available as a PDF online

A diatribe disguised as a 'review' of May's manifesto

We need to discuss the new topography of Hell. Back in the 80s a new iteration of the vampire demon of gloves-off capitalism was birthed. Rightly, no-one blamed Brussels: it was Reaganomics & Thatcherism wot did it. The nefarious new economic policies saw the ravishment of the structures supporting the economy of the post-war settlement. Mass privatisation, liquidation of much of the states (our) wealth, a casino economy... This was the new economic dogma, bolstered by a manipulating media and a short-term economic boost as the time-limited proceeds of raping our heritage showered down onto the lucky people. They even conned us into thinking selling council housing was a 'good thing', playing the 'Englishman's castle' card.

Even the Labour Party, first under Kinnock, then Blair, chased the allusive chimera of wealth for all through a 'free' market ideology: 'free' always sounds good, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, over the decades, attractive visions of inclusiveness were proffered. Under Blair it was 'The Third Way', under Cameron 'Big Society'. These utopian balms were used to hypnotise the unwary into supporting parties hell-bent upon easing the way for Thatcher's vampire demon. In Blair's case, a disingenuous promotion of Anthony Giddens ideas was laid out, whilst pursuing the subtly different 'communitarian' agenda of Amitai Etzioni, guided by his own born-again Catholicism – but all-in-all, he meant it.

Cameron's sequel was a horse of a very different colour: on the surface it sounded quite similar, in some ways, to Blair's. Reinvigorating local autonomy and thus individual control over ones life – on paper. He clearly did NOT mean it. It was a mask designed to camouflage an agenda to pass responsibility to local areas whilst denying them the tools to meet them. It was designed to allow a greedy and selfish elite to continue business as usual whilst looking innocent of local cuts.

Theresa May has disingenuously come to power, instead, in the guise of a true believer in her 'fairer society' – 'The Great Meritocracy', honestly appalled by the ravages of 'austerity', driven to service by her Christian convictions. Her manifesto was an odd mix of pre-Thatcher 'one nation' Toryism and purloined chunks of Corbyn's obviously popular policies, but dressed in an odd vocabulary best explained as allowing her wiggle-room to avoid anything 'socialistic' emerging from it. I predict a lot more of this hi-jacking in the next one, and hope people see right through it. But the signs so far aren't good: she is a complete liar, with no intention of easing off on the #fakeausterity programme of further enriching the rich whilst impoverishing everyone else.

Because, all these utopian social visions share in common a complete failure to address the elephant in the room. They are unachievable whilst the neo-liberal experiment is allowed to continue eroding our social fabric, resource base, and ecological sustainability.

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, is the first Labour leader since the early 80s to properly reinject socialistic mixed-economy measures into the ECONOMIC part of his manifesto, alongside the positive social goals. We have allowed a can't-get-there-from-here cognitive dissonance to go unaddressed for thirty years. May's manifesto cannot help us. Corbyn's could have. Let's give two cheers to Labour and hope for a rematch very soon. But not too hopefully, as the great British public are doing a great impression of that frog, popped in the cool pan, and very slowly boiled alive. Oops...