Wednesday 25 January 2023


Is Jonathan Gullis the worst piece of shit sitting in the House of Commons? At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, in response to a question from Tulip Siddiq on the disappearance (abduction) of some 200 missing migrant children housed in hotels, he heckled "well they shouldn't have come here illegally". That's right, because they don't have a UK passport and didn't come here via the Tories' non-existent official channels these children deserve everything coming to them: slavery, trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, murder. It's a small consolation then that comments like this means there's no returning to his previous career in teaching when he finds himself out of office in 18 months' time.

As we saw last time Guliis made the news, his racism is central to his re-election bid. With his fellow Tories on Stoke-on-Trent City Council wedded to a regeneration strategy based on multi-storey car parks and his Tunstall patch having gone decidedly down bank, as we say around these parts, crude BNP-style race baiting is all he has in the tank. Like most of the political establishment who think the so-called Red Wall is uniquely racist, he's certain a few campaigns against asylum seekers and a bit of "truth telling" is all it takes to get elected. And if he needs proof of cut through, the frightful horrors infesting his Facebook page are encouraging enough.

Gullis acts like he's in a race to the gutter with the not overly blessed Lee Anderson and Andrew Bridgen, perhaps with a view to right wing grifting on GB News when all other employment opportunities are shut to him. But he is a creature of the discourse, and how there is a certain coarseness to it. By the time of the New Labour years, it was clearly established that how you said things mattered more than what was actually said. When you think about the horrendous things done under his Tonyness, such as extraordinary rendition, the demonisation of Muslims and asylum seekers, attacks on "problem parents" and the disabled, and the lies propagated in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, all were spun according to established and accepted euphemisms, civilities, and newspeak. Blair was a master at sounding sincere and polite while his activities were anything but, and he had to add his own innovation too.

But political fashions come and go in language just as much as ideas. When the Tories assumed power in 2010 they imbued polite discourse with so much cynicism and double think that the pretence could not hold, especially with the likes of Nigel Farage sniping from the Tories' right flank with bullets that, apparently, told it as it was. Add to this the polarisation of politics starting from the 2014 independence referendum, the Labour establishment getting their nose put out of joint in 2015, then all of the official establishment suffering catastrophic defeat in 2016, the near death election of 2017, and then the Brexit wars, Covid, and Boris Johnson's endless lying, we're now in a situation where saying the unsayable is very sayable actually. The rules of discourse have broken down, along with the rules of evidence and with it the collapse in what is true and what is false. Even "Mr Rules", Keir Starmer himself, while still affecting the proper manners is as post-truth as the rest.

Gullis is but a man of his time. No one forces him to be a no-quality nasty bastard, but dirt like him wouldn't be thriving were it not for the collective behaviour of the dominant factions of the Westminster parties. It's not enough to see Gullis sacked from the Tories and voted out of office because someone else will carry on where he left off. It requires something much stronger: a deep and thoroughgoing structural transformation of politics, and that is inseparable from the project of wider social struggle.

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