There’s something darkly comical about Michael Sheen’s intention to abandon acting in favour of defeating the far right. An esteemed actor, deeply immersed in the world of theatre and art, jetting off to Port Talbot to tell working class Welsh people, caught up in a wave of revolt against the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, what to do. It couldn’t be any more counter-productive if the embodiment of this elitism, Tony Blair himself, had made the journey — although I suppose someone who has played him is good enough.
by Chris Jarvis
Content warning: this article mentions xenophobia and racism
Last week, reporting and rhetoric on the ongoing migration crisis reached new lows. The Daily Mail, The Express and others ran inflammatory stories first casting doubt over whether or not child refugees were children after all and later calling on them to carry out dental checks on asylum seekers to ascertain their age, irrespective of the ethical abhorrence and scientific inadequacy of such a policy.
How has it come to this? How, as a society, have we got to the point where people fleeing conflict, living in makeshift camps and trying desperately to find a better life receive this as their welcome to our country, are referred to in these terms? When did we stop being a nation that offered help and support to those in need, a nation that welcomed migrants, a nation with cities built on the principles of multi-culturalism and melting pot? Don’t we have a long and proud history of granting refuge to those who need it?
by George Laver
On 13th March 2016, a rally took place in support of the ‘kill the housing bill’ campaign, aimed at confronting governmental attacks on council and social property and redressing our attitudes towards it. Since then, numerous student-led rent strikes have also ignited. The cause for anger in both of these movements stems from different stimuli, but both address issues of rent and property.
The first, from the legacy of Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme, which initially undermined council housing; the final blows were to come from this Housing and Planning Bill. The second, from the frankly ridiculous cost of rent that is borne by students in London — although this could extend across the UK, as many students will readily testify to the advantage-taking circus that are landlords. Geared towards annihilating social housing, the Housing and Planning Bill in particular aims at increasing the rent payments of council house tenants in wealthier areas. A natural product of this would be the forcing of people out of their council houses and into the arms of another set of robbers — or, private landlords.
In response to this, the demonstration of March 13th attracted thousands of protesters, targeting their motions towards the fact that sharp increases in rent would facilitate an eviction of council tenants in all but name. These issues should be labelled for what they are: the government taking control of people’s very lifestyles. By increasing rent prices, they are forcing movement; it seems to bear many similarities to a covert attempt to stimulate the private housing sector. Once again, their interests lie in private property — we are merely pawns on the board.
Corbyn’s first week shows direct democracy is essential to empower his supporters, and keep his enemies at bay.
Watching the Andrew Marr show the morning after the Labour leadership election felt like waking up in a fictional alternate history; people like that never get into positions of power in the real world. Along with coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s win was an interview with the cyborgified brain of Adolf Hitler, who criticised Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, followed by Keith Richards on what his coven of deathless vampire musicians thought about the resurgence of Britain’s left.
The prompt media attack on Team Corbyn has been equal parts predictable and absurd. Within hours of his appointment as shadow chancellor the internet was plastered with the irrelevant factoid that John McDonnell once whimsically commented he would, were he a time traveller, return to the 80s and assassinate Margaret Thatcher — a premise I’m hopeful Chris Mullin turns into a feature-length tv drama.
For a political analyst who swears by the idea that only parties on the centre-ground can win elections, Labour may just be about, to coin a phrase, to write the most-signed suicide note in history. Jeremy Corbyn, an opponent of the Blair-Brown ‘modernisation’ project and staunch advocate of socialism, is the front runner to become the party’s new leader, with odds that started as 100/1 becoming so short that Paddy Power has already paid out bets made in his favour over three weeks from the announcement of the result.
A #Labourpurge and a legal challenge notwithstanding, the Labour that emerges from this election will be a very different beast. Top-down party management will be eschewed for the empowerment of the, now, huge number of members of the party, foreign policy will drastically change and, perhaps most importantly, Corbyn’s Labour will break the austerity consensus that has set over Europe.
Left-leaning politicians and political commentators tend to only invoke the name of our first woman to be Prime Minister in two ways: with the deafening thunderclap of pure evil or with a conciliatory tone; expressing the validity of many of her arguments. If the left truly want to be in a position to change the country for the better though, we need to begin thinking about Thatcher not just as a towering, transformative ideological figure, but also as an astonishingly talented political strategist.
Last week saw a 24 hour strike by London Underground staff, with commuters and tourists left to make their own way across the city. The dispute centred on a new, much-heralded night-time service, which unions claim would impose changes to the working conditions of Underground staff without proper consultation. Union members voted overwhelmingly for strike action, with concerns about safety on the Underground voiced.
Watching people’s responses to the Tube strike is an exercise in forced deja-vu, with the same arguments repeated across the web: ‘plenty of people work harder for more hours and less pay’, ‘if they adon’t like it they’re free to find another line of work’ and the classic ‘they should suck it up and work harder like the rest of us’. The common denominator being that because the striking workers already have better pay and conditions than many of the city’s commuters they aren’t justified to take action to stop these conditions changing without their consent.
There is actually already a term for this: ‘crab mentality’ (although I happen to think ‘crab logic’ is a bit snappier).