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At some time around midnight, the London Mayor was declared to be Boris Johnson again. Given how late it was before the results were announced, one might say that Boris became our night mayor. In fact, the count took so long that it was starting to look like France might get a new President before we got a new Mayor in London.
The re-election of Boris was certainly disappointing, especially given the massive gains that the Labour Party made across the rest of the country. Labour taking over eight hundred council seats from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats; the British National Party saw its utter annihilation; Labour taking control of the London Assembly; all of it was good news for Miliband’s party, still reeling from the Bradford West by-election. Boris’s victory was a surprise to me in a way; Boris is another one of the Public School-Oxbridge-Thatcherite cabal who currently run the Conservative Party that was broadly so widely rejected; and yet Boris bucked that trend – even in some London areas where the Labour Party won the Assembly seat, Boris won as mayor. Charisma, perhaps? – Or maybe all the mud that was thrown at Ken stuck in people’s minds. Boris’s record seemed to be obscured by his personality, and by the kind of pantomime politics; the vaudeville act that’s gripped London for years.
Really, one would think that Boris, like Cameron and Osborne, would just seem to be another elitist old toad whose only aim was to further advance a system best characterised as a tangled mess of ideas and policies aimed solely at shoring up the position of the class elite. Boris, like the rest of the current Tories is all spin and image; even Boris isn’t really his name. And yet that’s not how it played out; when the Conservatives are suffering nationwide, and they sit ten points behind the Labour party, it’s surprising to see a traditionally Labour city vote for such an odious old Etonian. While Boris’s victory puts pressure on Cameron to move away from his agenda and toward more traditionally Tory policies, it’s probably really a relief for Cameron, and not just for being good news on an otherwise bad night. He probably feels that now Boris has won (and committed to another four years as Mayor), he’s less likely to make a grab for a seat as MP in Henley on Thames (as was rumoured a while ago), and even less likely to – at least immediately – mount a serious challenge to Cameron as Tory leader. Though I would imagine that at some point we will see Boris try and live out his thinly veiled fantasy of being Tory leader. Perhaps it really is the return of the posh that died when Doulgas-Home stood down, and the Tory party internally reformed along more democratic lines.
Ken stood down, which will probably be a relief for the central Party, but I think really, I’m sad to see Ken go; he’s one of an increasingly small number of working class, street fighting politicians – I’m thinking John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Dennis Skinner here. All three parties now, it seems, are run by the same little groups of Oxbridge educated political careerists who – I fear – are in it for little more than themselves. The professionalization of politics, to my mind, can only really lead to the entrenchment of class division; and to a system where, even more than ever, a tiny elite is able to run our entire country. I didn’t – and don’t always agree with Ken on policies, or in how he chose to run his campaign; but compared to the rest of the candidates, and increasingly the rest of the Labour Party, he was able to offer some real alternative to the neo-liberal thinking that seems to infect everyone who does PPE at Oxford. What we will – and are ending up with is a political class trapped in its own silly world, and whose assumptions and world view will be coloured by the dreamy spires of Oxford and Cambridge, rather than by the lives of working people – and politics will and is suffering.At some time around midnight, the London Mayor was declared to be Boris Johnson again. Given how late it was before the results were announced, one might say that Boris became our night mayor. In fact, the count took so long that it was starting to look like France might get a new President before we got a new Mayor in London.
As a side, one fellow socialist joked that Boris was the mare of London. Hmm, I’ll leave you with that.
So the news is out, the Government plans to impose VAT on hot takeaway pastries. It is, of course, no surprise to see the Tory party’s pathological hatred of the poor knows no bounds, and that the party will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to punish the poor for being poor. They won’t even leave us, unfettered, to consume a pasty and throw a brick at something on May Day. Whilst I forsee problems imposing a tax on hot takeaway pastries – most obviously that the average temperature of a Gregg’s sausage roll can’t be more than about 25C, and therefore they could only be taxed as hot food when the ambient temperature was significantly lower than 25C (as if the tax laws could get more complicated) – I rather feel that the best thing about this is seeing the cultural differences between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
The serious political heavyweights and economists of the Treasury Select Committee, who grilled Osborne earlier on why his budget leaked like a Victorian water main, briefly put aside their graphs and calculators to ask Osborne the last time he’d had a Gregg’s sausage roll. I rather suspect they put it nicely, and would’ve done just as well to ask Osborne if he’d ever eaten a sausage roll. The response was telling, and the Chancellor’s thought process clear; his face grimacing as he imagined the grease getting onto the cuffs of his suit and the pastry covering his shirt and tie (I’ve always thought he must be a messy eater…). No, the Chancellor has never eaten a sausage roll from Gregg’s, indeed, I have good reason to believe he only eats the eggs of his fellow lizards. He looked at pains trying not to ask if sausage rolls were available from Fortnum and Masons (they’re not, I can confirm). He did however clarify that ‘If it’s cold when you buy [the hypothetical sausage roll], it will not be VAT-able.’ (Seriously, dear readers, has politics come down to this?)
Our esteemed Prime Minister, on the other hand, (who we are reliably informed used to mock Osborne as an ‘oik’ because whilst Eton is £27,000 a year, St Pauls is a mere £20,000) told a press conference earlier that he loves pasties and dreamily reminisced, as if remembering those sunny days on the playing fields of Eton: ‘I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or large ones, and I have a feeling I opted for the large one and very good it was too.’ Unfortunately for call-me-Dave’s latest attempt at pseudo-plebbing (as it shall surely be known to posterity), there isn’t a West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet in Leeds Station, so I’m sure you’ll forgive my skepticism. I was initially suspicious that Cameron would even travel on trains, though I suppose one does now need to be an aristocrat to afford a train to or from Leeds, the last time I tried, I was told it was £250 for a day return – suffice to say I didn’t want one of Leeds’ famed Cornish pasties that badly.
It surely can’t only be me who appreciates the irony of a Tory professing to be a lover of a food traditionally consumed by miners.
It’s something of a cliché to declare that the Conservative Party is once again the same vile and toxic party that it was under Thatcher; and it’s always the easy game for left-wing columnists to write that they’ve found the one measure that has recontaminated the Tories. Well, I might step up to that mantle and claim that this week has been the week in which the Tories committed something resembling electoral suicide.
In the past week, the Tories have destroyed the NHS – a subject on which I can barely bring myself anything, but they also gave the richest taxpayers in this country a tax cut of 5p on the pound; reducing the perennially popular 50p tax rate to 45p. Osborne claimed that the measure would be self funding; that now that we’ve cut the tax rate, more people will pay it – the Laffer curve, basically. But that’s fundamentally not true; it’s not simply that people who were paying the 50p tax rate left because they could pay 47p somewhere else, and now these patriotic millionaires will come back, to pay 45p on the pound. No, their money is in the Isle of Man (10p on the pound) or further abroad, like Sir Phillip Green’s Monaco based fortune, or Lord Ashcroft, paying no tax at all in a country (Belize) where his personal fortune is larger than their GDP.
Labour already hit home on this; and there was nothing more satisfying than watching the Tory front bench squirm and laugh as Ed Miliband (on top form for once) mocked them ‘raise your hands if you personally benefitted from this’. It was a cheap point, but a pertinent one; a government of millionaires handed out a tax cut to millionaires. There wasn’t much more to be said in response to the budget, except the old war cry of ‘same old Tories’. What the tax cut amount to is really quite staggering; the 300,000 highest paid people will get an average of £10,000 a year tax cut, and those on £5,000,000 a year will get a tax cut of well over £200,000. I never really thought we were all in it together, but if there was any dignity left for the Liberal Democrats, then there’s not any more; those bastards desecrated William Beveridge’s legacy, and now they will vote through tax cuts for the richest.
The Tories also cut corporation tax again, which I just find absurd, seeing as it’s one of the biggest earners for the government. Again, they rolled out the Laffer curve, and claimed that now more companies will choose to pay tax, but they simply won’t. Government after government promises to close loopholes, and to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion by big companies, but they really never do, and probably never will. Recently, Vodafone owed around £6,000,000,000 in unpaid tax, and instead of paying it, they sat around and waited for what must be the world’s most inadequate negotiator to call from HMRC, where they talked that tax bill down. The fact is that in this country, if I didn’t pay my measly bit of tax, I’d be in court and slapped with fines and interest, but when a big company doesn’t, well, then HMRC comes around with a begging bowl.
The destruction of the NHS and the cut in tax to both corporations and the richest 1% of tax payers ought to tell us something about the current Tory party; that they simply don’t give a fuck. There’s never really been a plan to reduce the deficit, just to decimate our public services, to make the rich a bit richer, and the poor a bit poorer. The Evening Standard tried to spin it for the Tories claiming it was ‘George’s give and take gambit’. Yes, it was. Giving to the rich and taking from the poor. If anyone thought the Tories had changed, well now they know they were wrong; the Tories have thrown away any vestige of Cameron’s compassionate Conservatism in order to revert back to the 1980s. Same old Tory scum.
Now, I ought to declare a pretty obvious interest before we begin; I’m going to be a university student in October, and according to student finance, I will have a grand total of £0.00 for going out, having fun, and yes – that ubiquitous student pastime – drinking a tiny bit too much. So obviously, I’m not hugely in favour of legislation that makes alcohol more expensive, which is exactly what David Cameron is proposing.
Unfortunately, I can’t actually ever take David Cameron seriously when it comes to his pontificating about youth drunkenness – he was, of course, a member of the hyper-privileged Bullingdon Club dining society whilst at Oxford University, and as such, spent three years drinking port, hiring strippers, trashing Oxford’s restaurants and laughing at the poor. So when he talks about youth drinking, I don’t picture the local youths and their plastic bottles of Strongbow; I picture David Cameron, George Osborne, and about half the Tory front bench in their velvet dinner jackets and yellow silk ties, drinking like hell, and throwing up in the quad of Brasenose College, Oxford.
It’s an image that leads me to the obvious point about a minimum price on a unit of alcohol: which is essentially that this is a way of stopping the feral poor from getting drunk so often, but the rich can still get slaughtered as and when they please. This was something that was reinforced watching good old Alistair Campbell, who presented a program about middle class alcoholics; those with the cash to spend £15,000 on a rehabilitation program. But it adds to the point – alcoholism isn’t a pursuit of the poor, and making drinking more expensive won’t solve the problem, just shift the focus. Perhaps we ought instead to ask what kind of culture we have where it seems necessary to get so damned drunk so often.
Anyway, the point seems to me to be that if Cameron’s measures go through, the basic message being pushed is that you certainly aren’t allowed to get drunk if you don’t have a butler to clean the vomit off the flagstones of your Oxford college.
P.S. What the hell is wrong with you Tumblr? I just scrolled through the Julius Caesar tag, and I find people are ‘shipping’ (dear gods I feel dirty using that word) characters from the play. As Cassius said: ‘Oh ye gods, must I endure all this?’
What? A major opportunity to poke fun at the Conservative Party and Euan wasn’t there, blogging about it? Nay, I’ve spent the week looking at trade tables for Britain and its Empire between 1860 and 1960, and I still haven’t properly decided whether the hypothesis that Britain’s Empire expanded and changed due to trade is a tenable one. And now it’s the end of half-term, and I still haven’t finished that essay, or written any of the other ones I was supposed to. But it now seems like I may as well stop moving deck chairs on the Titanic and therapeutically mock the Conservative Party, instead.
So here we go. Apparently the Conservative Party is ‘united like never before’ on Europe, despite the fact that around 80 of their MPs rebelled against the Government, defied a three line whip, and therefore scuppered their political careers for the time being. And of the 15 MPs who abstained from the vote, I hear that 13 of them were down in Dover, bricking up the Channel Tunnel. So let’s be frank, the Conservative Party is not united like never before, though I suppose this is hardly the first time it’s been divided over Europe. John Major really had a fun time, trying to control the Tory party’s Europhobic fringes. I say fringes, but, you know…
Anyhow, I was glad to see the referendum sink. Seeing the photos of the inbred UKIP protesters outside Parliament, singing Rule, Britannia made me certain that it was a good thing that the referendum sank. As long as those racist imperialists, nostalgic for splendid isolation and Pax Britannica are furious, then I’ll live with not voting on the EU, and the fury of those UKIP idiots is my reassurance that we’re taking steps in the right direction. Though actually, there are some parts of the EU I’d like to be shot of - EU competition law basically means that once Cameron and Co. are done slicing and dicing the NHS, it would be impossible for any Labour administration to pull it back into a nationalised entity.
On that latent Imperialist note, Cameron also resurrected the British Empire Medal, that old classist dog. The medal was introduced for those of lesser social standing who would otherwise have got an MBE or an OBE, but it was abolished by John Major (The Prime Minister with 6 O-Levels and not much else) for being overtly classist, and oddly, it’s been reinstated - allegedly without it’s classist overtones - by David William Donald Cameron (The Eton/Oxford educated one - the first since Douglas-Home). The question as to why, more than 50 years after most of the Empire came crashing down, Britain still feels the need to hand out honours referring to them Empire still remains unanswered to me. Let’s grow up and move on, eh?