Thursday, 2 November 2017

A very conservative revolution


Apparently I am a member of the Tory cult steering Brexit. It's amazing what you learn about  yourself by reading the FT. Once again, rather focussing on any particular substantive points made by this blog it is yet another sneer, picking up on one of my gloomier posts last month.

Typically for the FT, Simon Kuper's article is late to the party and completely unoriginal. Notorious sex pest Sam Kriss, did a far more entertaining job of it last month. One wonders if yet again the bottom feeders of the FT are not plagiarising the work of others.

As is always the case with blogging, it's never the piece you invest any particular energy in that goes viral. Had I known it would be seized upon by the media I would have made more of an effort to articulate my ideas. Instead, what what went viral was a Blossom Hill soaked screed written in a moment of intense boredom at 3am on one of those occasions where you feel obliged to write something just to keep the blog active.

However, one would note that I'm not alone in suspecting that not all is well with modern affluent Britain. Ironically, for a better articulation of what I was getting at we must once again turn to Vice and a piece entitled "Make Bristol Shit again" in which the author, Angus Harrison, laments the gentrification of my adopted home town.

Now I know it's hardly original for a maturing urbanite to bewail the creeping intrusion of prosperity onto hallowed land, eating into all the cherished creative spaces, but Harrison does have a point. As the developers and modernisers move in, they bulldoze a lot of the culture that make places distinct.

As much as Bristol is yet again being revamped, one notes that Bath, Exeter and Portsmouth have all had the same treatment, all now home to identical shopping precincts littered with the exact same street furniture. The latest developments have worked well for Bath but the mishandling of Bradford's redevelopment has pretty much gutted the old town while carving out the once thriving city centre community.

One by one our favourite haunts vanish. The developers get their way and sacred venues of yore fall silent to be replaced by glass fronted student accommodation or equally banal chain restaurants. They can can spruce a place up to make it less rugged but in so doing it sterilises and makes uniform everything it touches.

I am often told that we Brexiters are pining for long lost glory - fighting for a better yesterday. But what if we are and what if we are not wrong? What if the relentless march of "prosperity" is eradicating the best part of us? No misty-eyed tales will be told of sitting in a Frankie and Benny's while tapping one's foot to the generic tones of Shania Twain.

Though Sam Kriss (RIP) cocks a snook at my assessment of modern youth, what I see is well provided for brats with nothing to call their own and nothing of their own creation. Gone is the DIY ethic of radical students begging, borrowing and stealing to create things. Long dead is the art of making something from nothing. The very culture that should inspire them, as Harrison notes, has been displaced.

One thing one notes about modern British cultural history is that every recession is marked by a musical revolution. We had 70's punk, 80's metal, 90's rave and ever since, especially since the smoking ban, culture has gone into hibernation. The place you would have booked for your face melting techno all nighter is now a Debenhams complex. If there is one defining quality of modern progressive Britain then it is the relentless commercialised tedium of it.

As we have gradually sanitised our living spaces we have also sanitised our culture and one cannot help thinking we are now sanitising thought. This is clear from the onslaught of safe space culture so that our delicate metrosexual hipster children are protected from ideas that that may lead them to stray from the path of bovine leftist conformity.

Intellectually, culturally, politically Britain is spent. Our media is most certainly not fit for purpose and the fact the Tory ultra Brexiteers haven't been demolished already is a sign of the weakness in out politics. If we do go over the Brexit cliff, more than anything it will be down to the political inertia and lack of media coherence.

In that respect I do think Brexit might very well be the catalyst for change. For starters it will kick off the mother of all rows and politics will attend to itself. Meanwhile the subsequent hit to the economy will halt the bulldozers. Culture will reassert itself over commerce and reclaim civic spaces. Meanwhile it's not going to hurt academia.

One of the strongest collective whinges in favour of the status quo has come from our universities which have degraded to become grant chasing degree factories lacking any self-awareness whatsoever.

We are told that there is a bias toward remain among graduates - the subtext being that on the whole it's just the thick, racist plebs who voted for Brexit. In actuality, it is only in relatively recent times has a degree become a necessity. As everything has gradually bureaucratised, a degree has become a prerequisite for what would otherwise be mundane jobs that a trained monkey could do. All the while we are churning out graduates lacking even basic literacy skills.

Far from being the citadels of academic rigour they imagine themselves to be they're in the business of rubber stamping mediocrity for a fee. Demolishing this dynamic not only reboots education, it also changes the culture of work where we are no longer pigeon-holed according to whatever teenage qualifications we hold.

In effect I see the natural consequence of Brexit being what Cameron imagined as the Big Society, where ideas like free schools and "CareBnB" can take root. In the absence of state provision people can and do fill the void. All these ideas have been tested but not allowed to take root because they are a threat to various blobs who are well served by ossified state structures.

One thing the left is adept at is manufacturing outrage. The scare over free schools would lead to unqualified teachers and then we were told care by way of social enterprises would lead to unqualified care staff.

This overlooks the fact that unqualified people have been teaching for twenty years now. Teaching assistants became a thing in the early nineties where they were virtually dragging people in off the street paying them £11k a year. Meanwhile care homes are massively dependent on illegal immigration.

All the while, we vastly overestimate the value of qualified teachers. If we want role models to inspire kids the last thing we want to subject them to is dullards who have never spent a day outside of the formal education system.  

We are constantly told that we live in some kind of neoliberal dystopia but health and education are still under the choke hold of old fashioned post war socialism. The total refusal to evolve or adapt is why the system is falling apart and failing to deliver.

The tend in recent years has been toward the state freezing out public participation and making health, education and care exclusive domains for heavily unionised professions. When Brexit hits, thus depriving social industrial complex of funding, local authorities will be forced to once again enlist the public to make it work. I can only see this revitalising communities and local democracy in the process.

Now I understand all this in the eyes of some this makes me a pound shop Ra's al Ghul, but I can live with that. Because look who's sneering. The Owen Jones's, Abi Wilkinsons, Sam Kriss's and the thieves at the Financial Times. The products of the socialist orthodoxy. Thick, self-centred, spoiled, snobbish bubble dwellers largely isolated from the consequences of the political deadlock they enforce.

For years these petulant brats have whined about austerity. Sorry, kids, but when we're paying out £800 a month in housing benefit for people to live in Kew and Kensington, that's not austerity. That's unbelievable privilege - and look what it's turned you into.

One of the reasons I was a fan of the "bedroom tax" was because it forced a lot of people to re-evaluate their choices; to live within their means or to move to where there are jobs. It was necessary. Of course, the left wailed about the edge cases, but on the whole it is a successful policy.

Currently we have a political settlement which is failing to deliver. Look where the Brexit vote comes from. The left have convinced themselves that this is a backlash against austerity. I make no comment on that. What I will say is that their proposed solution is yet more of the same. More spending, more big government.

Despite all the evidence that triple lock pensions and the NHS is unsustainable, under-performing, and dangerously dependent on a fragile financial sector, they propose more of the same and use their institutional control of the establishment to thwart any reform. If Brexit calls time on that then that is the one useful thing that it does achieve.

You will get no argument from me that the Tories are making a pig's ear of Brexit, and if FT hacks could be bothered to check they would see I'm well ahead of the game in calling out their motives and their tactics. Had they linked to those pieces in good time (or more likely plagiarised them) we might be getting somewhere. If, however, we go over the cliff edge, then I can live with it. All the while FT hacks will live to regret their lazy, fact free attacks on the Norway option and publishing Simon Kuper's low grade toss.

It is still my preference that Britain retains its membership of the EEA. A drastic Brexit is unnecessary and it will cause considerable harm. All I've really said is that a cliff edge Brexit looks inevitable and that is a consequence of the terminal decay in our politics. It does not, therefore, seem especially controversial to say that we might very well deserve our fate, and that the thing that kills us may also cure us.

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