‘Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job’ was a famous slogan as the Second World War came to an end. To be unusually vulgar at the outset today, we are not short of tools in the UK: there are 580 of them in the House of Commons. A new Tory leader and another General Election might change some of the nature of Westminster’s membership for the better. But if you analyse what really needs to be done, then the telling pressure is more likely to be of an ex cathedra nature.
Chuka Umunna was, until quite recently, a member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet. If things had gone better for Ed Miliband (they could hardly have gone worse) Chuka would by now have been holding a High office of State. A standard issue New Labour lawyer, he hung around in Corbyn Labour despite loathing all the folks around Jesus of Islington, and then – as farce degraded into purge – decided to leave and form a centre Party called Change UK. This having disintegrated in short order, he has now pitched up at the Liberal Democrats. There, he was effusively welcomed yesterday by Vince Cable (a chap who has more than amply demonstrated his utter disrespect for democracy). So far, nobody with any weight in the MSM has pointed out that Our Chuka got elected as a Labour Leave candidate, but is now in a rabidly Remain Party, having switched horses twice in three months.
The lack of self-awareness or judgement displayed by Umunna is staggering even to a cynical old warhorse like me, but clearly Vinny Livewire thinks he’s a catch. The lack of discernment in the media and polity today is mind-boggling.
I was alarmed (although not really surprised) to be sent a tweet put out by Gary Lineker, for example, referring to Rory Stewart as “the only one of the Tory candidates talking any sense”. Lineker is a pretentious and hypocritical moron, but I would’ve thought even he could’ve spotted that Stewart is the Parody Candidate – a sort of Westminster Jonathan Pie. Luckily, Salt n Vinegar has no influence at all, but it does make one think about the ever-present danger involved even in having a near-universal voting franchise. The thing that irks me more is the reality that, somehow, Rory Motions got elected to Parliament, and then promoted to Cabinet level.
But then, all one has to do is observe the two hard-bitten liars leading the major UK Parties to join up the dots re that one.
It takes a special kind of cynical inhumanity to fashion a political football from the remains of Anne Frank, but at the opening of last Wednesday’s PMQs, the leaders of both our “major” Parties stepped up to the machine and got to work.
Jeremy Corbyn and his coterie of admirers in the Labour Party and Momentum find themselves dogged by persistent allegations (and examples) of anti-Semitism. Just as with Hitler and his denials of Nazi political violence after 1930, they keep hoping the electorate will turn a blind eye to it….and focus the remaining one on screams of “racist!” every time some courageous soul speaks out against unsupportable immigration levels, gang-rape or electoral ballot-stuffing.
As a preface to his first PMQ for Theresa May, Corbyn drew attention to the fact that – had she led a healthy life and not been the hapless victim of genocidal anti-Semitism – Anne Frank “would’ve been 90 years old today”. The incorrigible old pro-Arab, pro-IRA, pro-Jew-hating bugger went to town and back, signalling how “appalling” her capture and incarceration were….and then turned to the newly elected Labour MP for Peterborough to congratulate her on a ‘victory’ that faces allegations of ballot-stuffing….and evidence of her past anti-Semitic remarks – for which she has been forced to apologise.
Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister rose to agree with Jeremy, then pointed out with club-footed irony how she hoped “every corner of this House would condemn aaaarrrrlll forms of anti-Semitism”, before offering her own equally sincere congratulations to the Labour victor in Peterborough.
The weekly clash then rose to a higher plane by living up to the normal level of debate about failure to reach all the wrong climate control targets, successes in creating hundreds of thousands of jobs that were little more than legalised survival-level slavery, congratulations for Theresa May for her campaign to stop modern slavery, and Mother Theresa trumpeting Tory support for “better mental health” that is (get real) a fiction wrapped in a signal about as virtuous as a birthday cake for Anne Frank.
An infamous old excuse many years ago on British Rail for the non-appearance of a train was “wrong sort of snow on the line”. We have the wrong sort of people in politics and among its associated bottom-feeders these days; that much is obvious, but what we can do about it is harder to define – let alone decide.
Here’s a starter for ten:
‘If you have the wrong kind of Homo sapiens engaged in the execution of a system (designed centuries ago to keep those very people away from any control over it) then that system is only as good as one designed by Stalinists to exclude the right kind of Homo sapiens from participating in it.’
People are not perfect. Econo-cultural systems are perverted by people so imperfect, no system could ever survive their attentions. Ergo sum, it is the job of every cultural engineer not only to screen out the psychos and megalomaniacs, but also to maximise the level of fully socialised Homo sapiens available to run it.
Clearly, what we want here is great engineers and pro-social citizens. And this is where the trouble starts.
What defines a successful cultural engineer?
Herein lies the first half of the oldest societal problem in the world: how do you stop the control freaks from playing Emperor of the Universe…..or (equally dangerous) the demanding, fluffy optimists from experimenting with their baseless theory that all humanity is capable of both improvement and perfection?
What defines a “good” member of Homo sapiens?
And that first half dictates the challenge of the second half: for to a dictator, a good citizen is an obedient citizen….”Jawohl mein Führer, sofort!”; but as far as the mass perfectionist is concerned, Everyman is a self-fulfilling saint……”If I give everyone a house and a garden, they will look after it for the good of the community”. In short, how do you stop idée fixe ideology from dismissing empirical pragmatism?
Hitherto, our species has gone through several formats, but really only two stages of approach. The first was, “Me chief, big muscles, get best women, club anyone on head who suggest otherwise” (tribalist subsistence stage). The second was, “I’ve figured out how to make villages, cities and even bigger groups work best” (socio-political economic trading stage).
Social anthropology (the study of humans interreacting in groups) is quite clearly there in both stages. Indeed, the ideas of American indians, aboriginal Australians and various Mayan cultures in South America show very clearly that some sophisticated philosophies were developed in each of them on conservation, non-ownership and the role of women respectively.
Among the 650 MPs in the current House of Commons, by contrast, nobody has a degree in social anthropology. Not one. So it’s hardly surprising that nothing whatever of any professionally judged and empirically tested genuine good for society emerges. The dogooders think they’re doing good of course, but 95% of everything 85% of them push for is (variously) discredited already, based on Whitehall mythology, ideological claptrap, trendy virtue-signalling, a pointless vote-winner, a Downing Street vanity project, not what the electorate asked for, not what the citizenry needs, quick-fix bodging, the result of corrupt lobbying, and at times all of the foregoing.
I’m not suggesting we need 650 anthropology professors. Off the top of my head, I can’t imagine anything worse – except perhaps 650 Gary Linekers. What I’m observing is the complete absence of somebody in a position of power saying, “Stuff the catechism, what can we do that will represent an investment in the People, and have a lasting beneficial effect on the vast majority of them?”
I’m talking stuff like: more eclectic education embracing civics, health, diet, culinary skills natural aptitude and self-respect; a Health Service that makes the better-off pay more, and the bottom quartile healthier; a shift in economic balance from services overdependence to agricultural self-sufficiency and high-margin artisan exports; a dead stop to all immigration right now; a huge reduction in the emphasis on bourses for commercial capitalisation; the pioneering of more mutuality in utility provision; the root and branch reform of our whole approach to taxation; the adoption of a written Constitution over which Parliament and Whitehall have little or no control; the depoliticisation of the civil police; a judiciary completely separate from the legislature; Lords abolition followed by the formation of a new Second Chamber chosen rather than elected; the immediate adoption of proportional representation designed to give every vote more powe; laws to enforce appointment and promotion based solely on merit, not quotas; the abolition of University fees; a programme underwriting massive impetus behind medical training for general practice; and obligatory Social Service for all citizens between the ages of 14 and 16.
Now, I like all of those ideas – but then, I would, wouldn’t I? I thought of them. I suspect a lot of Sloggers would agree with most of it, and just as many would be wary of at least half of them.
But there’s one thing I can categorically predict, and defy any of you to prove me wrong: the House of Commons elected by the next General Election will not contain a single Party prepared to countenance – let alone carry through – any of them.
This, I would submit, quantifies the size of the problem every genuine British reformer faces.
So let’s revisit the two earlier headings about cultural engineers and better citizens. I wonder if you’ve spotted the fatal flaw in my construction of an argument? It is this:
In order to arrive at trustworthy engineers and more civically aware citizens, we must first of all pass at least half the sweeping reforms I just suggested….using only the muddled ideological dilettantes and ignorant conformist voters we have to hand.
As Mervyn King once remarked, “You wouldn’t start from here”. We need to pass reforms that the unreformed gargoyles don’t want to pass. It is, if you like, a much bigger and many-headed form of Brexit Not Happening.
Or let me put it another way: if a solution is to be found to the seeming eternity of sclerotic politics, then only extreme revolutionaries or idiots would try and achieve it by political legislation. You could, by the way, restate the identity of those two personality types as Corbyn Labour and the Conservative Party respectively.
Sorry about this, but I’m returning via a slightly different route to the same theme The Slog has been boffing on about now for nearly a decade: only a socio-cultural movement outside the lesiglature is going to change the constituency inside it.
I’m not talking about some kind of Common Purpose – secretive, hidden and pernicious. What I envisage is a national pressure-group alliance for reform that works openly and legally to force the political class and its allies to reform for their own good.
‘Force’ seems like an ugly word to use, but it has a long and glorious tradition in British history. It doesn’t mean violence, it means leaving the buggers in a corner with no money and/or options, civil disobedience, and using intelligent tactical votes at every opportunity. Without embarrassing them, there’d have been no 1832 Reform Act, no women’s suffrage, no Plimsoll line. Because they haven’t been pushed hard enough, there are today no pension monies for 1950s born women, but plenty for fat controllers in Brussels. How disgraceful is that?
In conclusion, let me reiterate a recurrent theme in this week’s Slogposts: I don’t think Boris is going to make much difference (and I doubt if Farage will make any discernible difference) to the chronically profound nature of our cultural problems in Britain. But they are a start. And every journey begins with the first step.
Do try and enjoy the weekend despite this incredibly wet and cool global warming and planetary desertification we’re all suffering.