Monday 19 February 2018

Lies, Damned Lies, and Tory Politics

Once upon a time there was a man called Paul. He was something of a simple sort, but got lucky in life. He lacked all qualities, and was a failure in his chosen endeavour. This vocation was politics. And then fortune smiled. From plugging the Conservative Party on Merseyside he got into bed with our friends the United Kingdom Independence Party. This gave him a certain prominence and a job carrying bags in Brussels. His run of luck continued when he was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 on a hefty salary and given a seat on the Nigel Farage bandwagon. But the luck ran out and the stories he told about having a PhD, having close friends at Hillsborough, playing football professionally and being a member of NSYNC were revealed to be fantasies. Exposed and utterly discredited, Paul more or less disappeared into private life after resigning as UKIP's leader in June 2017. He still draws his MEP salary.

What has this got to do with the absurd claims Jeremy Corbyn was a contact of the Czechoslovak secret service in the 1980s? Quite a bit. The former agent making these claims, one Jan Sarkocy, has a record of fibs that would make UKIP's erstwhile leader blush. As Matt Zarb-Cousin points out, he claims Corbyn gave him highly detailed reports about what Margaret Thatcher would be eating and wearing the following day(!), and reckons his operation out of the embassy provided funds for Live Aid. Complete Walter Mitty nonsense. And yet (and yet!) the political situation is such that someone like Paul Nuttall is a discredited has been, whereas Sarkocy is a source credible enough for The Sun and the Daily Mail to spin a smear on.

While it would be tempting to let these execrable rags stew in their idiot juice, there are serious consequences. As Matt notes the Finsbury Park murderer Darren Osborne wanted to kill Jeremy Corbyn because he saw him as a traitor, and it's not long ago since Thomas Mair gave his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" at his first court appearance for murdering Jo Cox. These views do not fall fully formed out of the sky. Killers are made, right wing terrorists are not born. Every bit of poison, every single lie that paints people opposed to the politics of divide and rule as "un-British", as traitors, as agents in the pay of foreign powers adds to the making of more terrorists, of more would-be killers fantasising about murdering groups of people because of their religion, their sexuality, their politics. This, as you might expect, is par the course for the hate factories of the gutter press, but something else for Tory MPs to jump on the bandwagon and repeat things they know aren't true. The calamitous Ben Bradley was forced to delete a defamatory tweet after solicitors got in touch, but he was only following the well trodden steps of Gavin Williamson. And there was Theresa May herself who refused to shut the story down by insinuating Corbyn has a case to answer, while announcing thee Tories' intent to degrade higher education further. To be absolutely clear, THERE IS NO CASE TO ANSWER.

Why do the Tories lie? They know this story is untrue. The Sun hacks who indulged Sarkocy - and undoubtedly gave him a few bob for his services - know he isn't credible, but ran it anyway. They know lies can frame perceptions. Throw enough shit and some of it sticks, goes the old saying. However their lies, their record of distorting opponents' positions, talking up non-existent achievements, playing fake politics, outright lying is not an aberration. The Conservative Party is an engine of privilege. Its parts are lubricated by the snake oil of entitlement, its combustion fired by the fuel of minority class interests, the vanishingly small number of people who own the press, profit from finance, grow fat on the labour of others, and participate - directly and indirectly - in the party. The Tory party exists to defend its class power and its class interests, all the rest is window dressing and flimflam. Lying then comes as easily to Tory politicians as the confetti of gongs shower upon its well heeled supporters.

Fundamentally, Toryism is a dishonest project. Socialism can come out and openly declare itself to be the movement of the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority. Conservatism has no such luxury. To declare yourself a party explicitly concerned with protecting minority power and its right to the unearned wealth made by others is suicidal politics. Instead, we're treated to a politics that talks highly and haughtily of tradition, a politics of individuality and freedom - though the Tories block the substantive realisation of either - it is suspicious of anything smacking of collectivism, arguing conservative politics are the natural expression of the human condition, and zealously guards property rights as the well spring of liberty. Each of these ideas make for nice fairy tales, but only the deluded believe them and the cynical affect their profundity. They are but cloth gossamer-thin shrouds wrapping around class rule, hiding its ugly aspect but increasingly unable to do so.

The politics don't work because what the Tories claim and what millions of people, particularly the young, experience are fundamentally at odds. If that wasn't bad enough, the organs of the press the Tories have relied on for so much throughout the 20th century are collapsing, and voters are making their own way. They're connecting their own dots. When politics is failing and their media is failing, so the dishonest core of Toryism burns more visibly. The lies cease taking on fancy shapes in conservative political theory and, that most moronic of oxymorons, conservative values. Common sense is no longer a useful accelerant - all that is left is outright falsehood. Lies, lies and damned lies, the dishonesty of the Tory project come out into the open, like a black sun emerging from a cloud, and everywhere it throws shade and chases away clarity. Some welcome the darkness and worship it, but when millions are on the move they are finding their way in spite of the murk. The Tories know this too. The decibels struck by their lies grows shrill in proportion to their mounting terror, and a dawning realisation there may be no way out.


Anonymous said...

Hear hear.

See also: the Zinoviev letter, and claims of Harold Wilson being a KGB spy.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article but could you replace the picture. It's inflamatory and could be harmful to Jeremy Corbyn.

Anonymous said...

I agree this picture is not appropriat.Its defamation of JC's character and should be removed immediately #JC4PM

Phil said...

It's a clear pisstake. If in doubt look at the headline.

Some people are so precious.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article Phil, you should always write like this, save the academic style of writing for your day job.