HP Source: Do as I say
We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing, 1st October 2020; Do as I say
‘History will repeat itself
Crisis point we’re near the hour…’
Whilst they approached the pandemic in different ways, the governments of Italy and Sweden both took responsibility for the threat to public health.
They followed the advice of experts, and then chose the strategy they deemed more suitable to their population. Both governments communicated this strategy to the public and told them how they were expected to act.
Italians were told we had to stay at home. It was not advice it was the law. Anyone not complying faced a fine or being taken to court. The public complied mostly because of the responsibility the government took for giving these instructions.
Sweden applied a quite different strategy which was still based on the advice of the experts, and presented it to the public in an accountable, consistent way.
The important point is the relationship and trust between government and the public; if this doesn’t exist citizens will not take heed of their proposals.
It doesn’t matter what formal measures governments announce if people don’t adhere to them.
‘The important point is the relationship and trust between government and the public’
How you present something makes a big difference to how it is received. It also helps if government advisers are not treated as being above the law and able to do as they please whilst the rest of us are locked down.
Our issue is that Johnson and his mob have never truly taken the threat seriously, even though he was in ICU that British tradition of going down the pub was sacrosanct.
Last week Johnson praised the way ‘we pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and community’ during the first lockdown, whilst bemoaning the fact that ‘while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected’. Dominic Cummings, perhaps?
Naturally these breaches were not caused by badly thought-out government advice, or the loss of trust caused by his own aide disobeying the government’s own measures but by those who continue to flout the rules’ – just as earlier, in his statement to parliament, he had talked of people ‘brazenly defying’ them.
His solution: fines of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate enforced by more police, and the army if necessary.
‘even though he was in ICU that British tradition of going down the pub was sacrosanct’
This is not how you win public support, Johnson would be better served listening to the way Nicola Sturgeon delivered her message in Scotland.
Sturgeon avoided pointing the finger of blame, especially toward young people often viewed as culpable for rising infections: ‘Let me say to teenagers in particular – I know how miserable this is for you and you have been so patient. We are trying to give you as much flexibility as we can. In return, please work with us and do your best to stick to the rules, for everyone’s sake.’
She said that the role of government is not to lecture the public about their responsibilities but to support them and make it possible to do what is asked of them.
In comparison to Johnson’s accusatory approach, she acknowledged how hard self-isolation is for some: ‘It asks a lot of people,’ Sturgeon said, ‘and, for some, the financial implications make it even more difficult.’
Accordingly, she offered clear information on the practical support (such as food deliveries) and financial support available.
If people don’t comply she reserved judgment, stating: ‘Our judgment at this stage – particularly given the spirit of solidarity that is so essential in our fight against this virus – is that supporting people to do the right thing is more effective than threatening harsh punishment if they can’t.’
‘supporting people to do the right thing is more effective than threatening harsh punishment if they can’t’
The difference is simple, in England the government sees the public as a problem, whereas other governments view them as a partner. Compliance will be greater if government is seen as being on the side of the people, not set against them. The public will take their responsibilities seriously when the government is seen to do the same.
There is no better summary than that offered by Nicola Sturgeon concluded: ‘Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.’ It would be best for all of us, and secure far more buy-in to the measures necessary to suppress the virus, if the four nations of the UK agreed on this, too.
‘I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found..’
The governments handling of the pandemic is shown by their fall in the latest survey by Opinium for the Observer
- Labour 42%, Conservatives 39%.
- Starmer 36% compared to 32% for Johnson.
Out of bad comes good, we have a hero, Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 committee, who is winning support for MPs to be allowed to debate and vote upon any new measures before they are implemented.
This reflects mounting anger at the way Johnson and his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, ignore parliament, which has festered since parliament was prorogued by Johnson last year.
This is a theme this column has continually highlighted, well done to Graham for standing-up for the sovereignty of parliament.
Grahams’ intervention is timely as, last week, parliament’s joint committee on human rights published a report about the implications of the government’s response to the pandemic.
The committee, which includes peers and MPs from all the main parties, said; ‘It is unacceptable that many thousands of people are being fined in circumstances where … the lockdown regulations contain unclear and ambiguous language.’ There are references to ‘evidence that the police do not fully understand their powers’, and ‘a significant percentage of prosecutions’ that have been shown to be wrongly charged.
‘mounting anger at the way Johnson and his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, ignore parliament’
Undeterred the iron fist was flourished firstly by Kit Malthouse, the crime and policing minister, who advised R4 listeners to shop anyone seen breaking the group of six rule, and by Priti Patel saying that people talking to their friends on the way to a local park is ‘absolutely mingling’.
The government is using the pandemic to increase its powers sowing mistrust and punishing, while failing to understand that nurturing protective responsibilities are a much better solution.
They are grasping the opportunities presented by the pandemic to reduce civil liberties and increase the totalitarian grip, whilst continuing their pursuit of the holy grail, otherwise known as Brexit.
This will undoubtedly delight the 59% of voters in Kent who voted ‘leave’.
Or as one Twitter user put it: ‘Kent voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU and now it’s basically a French car park. Tremendous.’
‘Kent voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU and now it’s basically a French car park. Tremendous.’
Come January, as we triumphantly take back control of our borders, truckers will, as Michael Gove announced, need a ‘Kent access permit’ to get into the county. A passport?
It is anticipated that there could be up to 7,000 lorries queuing in Kent, equivalent to C.100 miles of traffic, and two-day delays on both sides of the Channel.
The pollution allone is terrifying, as Rosie Duffield, MP for Canterbury, said; We’re supposed to be the garden of England, but we’re going to be the car park of England.’
Kent, like many parts of the UK has a wealth gap there is trendy Margate or ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’, whereas Thanet has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the SE. Reports of hate crime in Kent have quadrupled since 2013-14, and, in Whitstable, Nigel Farage helped local fishermen burn an effigy of Theresa May in protest at the Brexit negotiations in 2018.
‘The British boots go kick them
Got ’em in the head
Police ain’t watchin’
The newspapers been read..’
And from the garden of England we turn to the land of the free. Well, so long as you aren’t black, Hispanic, etc. etc.
Despite this social unrest, and over 200,00 deaths from the pandemic, sorry I meant ‘unexplained’ as, according to Trump, there is no virus, he still enjoys the support of 42-43% of the electorate.
Many others want him gone; by next week, more than a million Americans will have participated in early voting. In North Carolina, 20% of all requested mail-in ballots have already been sent back.
The pandemic has seen an increase in requests for postal balloting which is expected to favour Biden. Trump maintains that this will lead to a rigged ballot, and continue not to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses, His intent is to make the results appear illegitimate, and then use legal challenges and Republican enablers in swing states to subvert the results. In other words, an authoritarianism dictatorship.
Yesterday I asked a colleague who lives in the US could this end in civil war, her response was, ‘it has never looked more likely than it does now.’
‘Could this end in civil war, her response was, ‘it has never looked more likely than it does now.’’
This weeks’ televised debate showed Trump at his bullying worst; for much of the so-called debate, Trump refused to let Biden, or even the moderator, complete a sentence without an interruption or insult. When Biden did manage to talk, he ‘talked to Americans, Trump talked to his base.’
Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the Niskanen Centre in Washington, said; ‘This was the worst presidential debate in our history and a grievous national embarrassment. I can think of no reason to hold another such event so long as Trump is on the stage and the moderator lacks a mute button. But if the ‘debate’ showed anything it is that we are a nation in decline, united only by our contempt for each other. ‘
Derecka Purnell, the Guardians US columnist, said: ‘The presidential debate did not demonstrate a decline of America’s government, but a manifestation of America’s government. Trump yelled and cheated his way through, even attacking the moderator in addition to his opponent. He lied often and loudly.’
‘the worst presidential debate in our history and a grievous national embarrassment’
Lloyd Green, who served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992, said; ‘This debate was a poor advertisement for our democracy. Sadly, it may portend what comes after election day: a four-alarm dumpster fire.’
Art Cullen, the editor of The Storm Lake Times in Iowa and winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, said: ‘Trump was belligerent, absolutely horrible, upbraided repeatedly by the Fox News moderator Chris Wallace for shouting over Biden. Trump embraced white supremacists. Those few yet undecided could not have been favorably impressed. Biden smiled while Trump scowled at the close. That sort of said it all.’
‘But Heaven forbid, she’ll take anything
But the freak, and his type, all for nothing..’
Whilst this column was initially dedicated to Brexit, when I considered the reasons for voters embracing ‘Leave’, one of the prime drivers was the government induced policy of austerity.
From there, the column has investigated the inexorable rise of the right and fascism, disguised by the cloak of populism. I regard this as a clear threat to society and the way we live.
Undoubtedly many will scoff at the alarmist comments, the use of emotive terms such as Fascism, but if the US can fall under the jackboot so can we. An example of the pernicious spread of right-wing politics is Italy.
‘Europe is watching us’, declared La Nazione newspaper in Tuscany, the only Italian left-wing stronghold that the centre-left managed to retain in the 2019 European elections.
Two weeks ago, it was on the verge of having its first ever right-wing governor. Tuscany, is a ‘red region’ so proud of its role in the antifascist resistance that its Pegasus emblem is borrowed from the partisan flag highlights the underlying issues in Italian politics and society, years in the making, which have parallels across the world.
Italy’s parties of the right-wing have similar policies to Johnson and Trump. Small government; as part of a ruling coalition the League’s privatised management of the health system in Lombardy, a decision cited by many for the intensity of a crisis caused by the pandemic.
Other regions have fallen to the right as voters felt deserted by the left’s failure to protect workers against the losses of jobs and industry. In 2015 the right controlled only 3 out of the 20 regions, 5-years on it controls 14.
The right continues to mobilise as the left splinters, e.g. radical left and centrist contenders stood against the centre-left in Tuscany and Puglia.
The right is malleable, appealing to voters’ sensitivities; in Tuscany rather than campaigning on policies of immigration and low taxes, they campaigned to reverse healthcare cuts, for investment in infrastructure and social housing.
Though the outgoing governor, Enrico Rossi, responded to the pandemic with the free provision of face masks, blanket testing and measures of protection for care homes, healthcare cuts across the country have left it with fewer hospital beds than 10 years ago.
EU-mandated austerity has been particularly harsh in Italy, and along with high debt-interest repayments, has resulted in huge underfunding of infrastructure, working against the incumbent left administrations, which even admit that the cuts they implemented were wrong.
‘austerity is often blamed not on those who made the decision but those local authorities that carry it out’
As the Labour party in the UK discovered last year, austerity is often blamed not on those who made the decision but those local authorities that carry it out.
As with Brexit, Italians earning less than they did a decade ago, faced with crumbling infrastructure, provide fertile ground for the right.
Why then is this important to our little island utopia?
Firstly, we are already half-way there. The Johnson administration continues to privatise even the most important tasks, e.g. Covid testing, track & trace. It continues to strengthen its totalitarian policies, whilst, at the same time, side-lining parliament when and where it can.
Secondly, our love-in with the US shows no sign of abating. As in the US many white over-50s continue to overlook BLM, and we continue to delude ourselves that there is a special relationship between our two countries.
This is an America close to becoming ungovernable, an America that can no longer be relied on internationally, defined by its inequalities, violence, fundamentalism and racism, a model we must reject.
‘an America that can no longer be relied on internationally, defined by its inequalities, violence, fundamentalism and racism’
Many ‘Leave’ voters believed the loss of the European single market could be replaced by a transatlantic alliance. But that was pre-Trump. America is a different place and becoming more so. Is this incarnation of America one we want to be tied to?
The America of Trump is America first, we can’t say we weren’t warned.
In the UK we treasure the independence of our judiciary, whereas, in the US the supreme court is a political tool. This highlighted by the rushed appointment of Judge Barrett the sole aim of which was to create a conservative 6-3 majority, with which to overturn previous progressive legislation in deference to the increasing influence of the ‘bible-belt’.
A more immediate ‘benefit’ is a majority that could rule on and overturn the result of the November election itself, mandating an authoritarian dictatorship. No different to the Nazi’s in 1933
In the UK Johnson, along with his sidekicks Cummings, and Gove, already has the judges in his sights as punishment for overturning his prorogation of parliament last year.
His government has purged senior civil servants, and plans to install conservative ideologues to govern the BBC and the independent regulators.
If Trump prevails there is little to stop us sliding into the abyss with them.
The young understand this. For older readers ask yourself this; why, after our parents fought to stop Fascism, are we embracing it?
‘I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax..’
We return to some familiar themes this week – inevitably Covid, Brexit and the car-crash US presidential debate, but also that of the rise of the far right; somehow this feels very measured and different in tone – no less powerful than previously (all archived articles can be reached by clicking the link below) – but in the way that Morse pieces together his supporting evidence as he brings his case together.
Most of it is not pretty; the lack of trust in Boris to do the right thing may go back to Barnard Castle, but Pop was seen out stocking up on fois gras sans mask with impunity this week. Compared with his administration’s threats, Nicola Sturgeon’s empathetic engagement shone through as a beacon of good leadership.
In comparison with countries such as Italy and Sweden, pretty much the only country that has handled things as badly as us is the US, where trust is at such a low ebb that having announced that Mr and Mrs Trump have contracted the virus, Twitter lit up with allegations of Fake News.
Would a President manoeuvring to reject the result should he lose, be so cynical as to falsely claim to be afflicted in order to destabilise the campaign? You bet your sweet bippy.
A recurring theme too has been pointing out how people may not always like what they get as a result of their vote to Brexit – its motto of Invicta may proudly proclaim Kent as ‘unconquered’ but being turned into a car park seems even more ignominious than getting turned over on a battlefield.
A takeaway for me is that wherever they are applied similar forces or circumstances elicit a similar response, and both the UK and the US are displaying the shift to the right that Philip has talked about for so long; ugly and likely to get uglier if we end up relying on a US trade deal to see us through.
Cracking lyrics this week with a generous 26 pts up for grabs – 3 pts for the artiste and 3 for each of the first four track and 1/1pt for the ‘gimmie’; electronic entries only please, government guidelines may apply.
First off the rank ‘UK 80s electro and a political conscience’ Heaven 17 with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Grove Thang’; then, out of left field, ‘was there ever a better vocal performance?’ Simon and Garfunkel and ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’
Next ‘fear not, usual service is resumed, proving the anger didn’t dissipate’ The Clash and ‘This is England’ – scary video; fourth ‘where he went, we followed, we were all soul boys for a short-time’ David Bowie and ‘Young Americans.
Finally, and an excellent choice, ‘stripped-back NY new wave at it’s spikiest best’ Talking Heads and ‘Psycho Killer’.
With 90 days until the end of the transition period and 32 days until the presidential election, I sense one track that will not feature is Buzzcocks’ ‘Boredom’; enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s
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