Our future in her hands!

theresa may.jpg

Theresa May, or may not be, the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister. But I’m with Clement Attlee on this one. :  for the Tory party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation.

Attlee was, of course, fighting his and Labour’s corner. Trying to kick-start the NHS and Welfare State and wrestle the money to pay for it away from the gentry, who didn’t require either. The fifth-richest nation in the world (so we keep getting told) didn’t even have Foodbanks then. As a plucky little island nation now decidedly drifting away from our neighbours, we are in the oxymoronic position of a political leader leading us out of the European Union she campaigned and voted to stay in.

This brings to mind a conversation I had yesterday with an old woman that said she had stolen two things in her life. One of them was a single grape and the other…well, I wasn’t even listening. I told the old woman straight, ‘I’ve never stolen a grape, in my life’.

Theresa May, as Home Secretary, despite her posturing, and the fading map of the British Empire tattooed under her hair in red, has allowed more refugees into Britain, net migration, than before she took her current cabinet position. That’s the facts. Look them up if you don’t believe me. She’s on par here with that other fabulist, George Osborne, holding up a black briefcase for the press and telling them  what  our public-debt ratio needs to be and how it  will be wiped out before the Conservative Government will spend a penny. That’s a bit like when I used to boast I’d hit 180 with three darts and pull the arrows out of the dartboard before anybody noticed I’d hit treble 1, 20 and 5. If you’re more interested in what John Maynard Keynes termed the ‘dismal science’, William Keegan’s (2014) Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment: Austerity 1945-51 and 2010— makes a comparison with the real constraints faced by Attlee and the Labour Party and propaganda war waged by the contemporary rich carpetbaggers against the poor of which ‘there’s no money’ was a key prop. Osborne, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has since Brexit conceded that he can no longer meet his self-imposed ratio. Instead, he targeted a three dart finish, with two darts, and a bit of quantitative easing, and he hoped with the markets crashing around his Noddy-like ears, nobody was watching.  There was plenty of money, then as now – for the rich. Ironically, the best definition of that mindset comes from David Wilson’s memoir, Left Field, written by the co-founder of War Child and educated at Canford, public school. ‘Language and behaviour were codified to distance the Upper Class and middle class…they were non-U to our U.’  Osborne and Cameron are the chalk dust of history.

A terrible stench still lingers. The poor, ‘non-U,’ more easily defined by a hybrid word. Benefit – add cheat. Fling in an Eton spoon, mix in healthy dose of hatred. Those that start the day in debt and end the day in debt. Those that continue, despite the largess of the state, to live and breed in public housing. This is Jeremy Kyle land. Shorthand, in the rich man’s propaganda, for scum.

We were never all in it together, as David Cameron famously lip-synced for the cameras. In the propaganda war refugees also have a shorthand ‘swarm’. David Cameron didn’t need a script writer to think that one up. It was on the tip of his tongue. We’ve had Poems for Refugees. Remember that one, issued by War Child to alleviate the suffering of Afghanistan refugees. The pages fall open, the war to end all wars,  Dulce et Decorum Est.  The trumpets call of a different kind, Berthold Brecht, Concerning The Label Emigrant.

I always found the name false which they gave us, Emigrants

That means those who leave their country. But we

Did not leave of our own free will

Choosing another land. Nor did we enter

Into another land, to stay there, if possible, for ever.

Merely, we fled. We are driven out, banned

Europe on the move. Seven million Syrians displaced. Pastor Martin Neimoller’s warning of a different genocide.

First they came for the Jew

and I did not speak out –

because I was not a Jew

Then they came for the communists

and I did not speak out-

because I was not a communist

Then they came for the Trade Unionist

and I did not speak out –

because I was not a trade Unionist

Then they came for me-

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.

Joan Smith, ‘To Avoid Worse,’ in an anthology of writing on asylum seekers, A Country of Refuge, makes the point that Anne Frank’s secret apartment in Amsterdam became a shrine and her diaries were a critical and international literary success which inspired a Hollywood movie, but if that teenage girl presented herself at our borders today, she’d be turned away. ‘By the beginning of 1939, there were 300 000 on the waiting list for American visas.’ And a headnote from history that mirrors headlines and promises from the likes of Theresa May today, ‘Tragically, the American government had recently followed the example of some European countries, instructing US consuls to delay visa approvals on the grounds of national security.’

Theresa May has already promised the party faithful that those children already here will be deported back to their homeland when they turn eighteen. Bravo, our brave Prime Minister in waiting. Joan Smith suggests that ‘Aylan Kurdi did not need to die any more than Anne Frank’. You’ve probably heard of Anne Frank and are wondering who the hell is Aylan Kurdi. But if I tell you his little body was washed up at the beach at Bodrum, red T-shirt, blue shorts, his face turned into the sand. His image flashed around the world. The Turkish policeman, Mehmet Cuplak, who gently lifted his body from the beach gaining, temporary, celebrity status.  Just think if Aylan had lived long enough we could have educated him in typical English language and values then deported him back to Kobani where a shell had blown up their house, or let him live his life in a refugee camp in Istanbul, without his drowned mother or brother, where his type belonged. Caring, compassionate, Conservatism.

As A.L.Kennedy, ‘The Migrants’ suggests, at that point the Paris bombings and shootings hadn’t happened. After Paris the face of the refugee was that of the Muslim bomber, a threat to our way of life. In fact, to our life.  Most decidedly, non-U, lower even than the working-class, non-U.  Kennedy calls the Home Secretary to account. In plain terms she calls the future Prime Minister a liar, but in mitigation, perhaps no more than say Boris Johnson or George Osborne or David Cameron. The best form of propaganda as Brexit demonstrates is fear and loathing. The Home Secretary received a standing ovation when she repeated those old favourites about immigrants stealing hard-won jobs, coming here to get treated for free by our splendid NHS and claim benefits. Theresa May has shown a clean pair of hands when dealing with the problem of immigration. I’m sure she’ll make a wonderful Prime Minister for the rich and privileged. No change there then.




Why do we do this to ourselves?

anthony homeless

Martin Reed, BBC 3 9pm, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?


Martin Reed found himself homeless as sixteen and was forced to live on the streets. He knows what it’s like. He meets other kids living on the streets, kids like him. Kids like me. I slept outside for a few nights. Crawled into bushes to bed down. Slept in doorways on cardboard, or the entrance to tube stations with tens of others. Got a carton of soup from the Sally Army.  But that was through choice. I always had a home. When I’m out walking beside the canal there’s a one-man tent squirreled in on the embankment near Radio Clyde buildings. It’s been there for months. A fragile thing. Then we had a welfare-safety net. Now we have the hidden homeless –those that are registered – growing at around ten percent per year.

What we see here is sadness best expressed by Vikram Seth’s poem All You Who Sleep Tonight.

All you who sleep tonight

Far from the ones you love

No hand to left or right,

And emptiness above—

Know that you aren’t alone.

The whole world shares your fears,

Some for two nights or one,

And some for all their years.

What we have here is the empty promises of Tory reforms. Anthony is the star of the show. The camera loves him. He has been in local-authority care, care homes, foster care. He looks and acts like a child. He’s seventeen and looks about fourteen. He isn’t technically homeless as he had, or has a hostel place, but he finds it safer living on the streets. Brad has a bust up with his mum. He hopes to get a college place. We see him losing out on the free sandwiches being handed out by volunteers. He’s philosophical. He’ll go hungry. Maybe tomorrow. Brad is friendly with Anthony. Most of those living on the street are. He shouldn’t be there, but is. They look out for him. Gary, twenty-six, lost his job and lost his home. But he’s lucky. He’s depressed enough to get £20 a week sickness benefit. The others are registered unemployed but are routinely sanctioned for offences like not turning up at the appointed time, or not applying for enough jobs online. This should be a Monty Python sketch, but it’s a lived reality.

David Cameron has all the answers. New legislation on those out of work for the under twenty-fives will limit benefits to six months with a compulsory element such as community service. It’s an offence to be poor. An offence to be young. An offence to be homeless. With the fight against austerity ongoing make no mistake this will be extended to those over twenty-five. Right-wing ideology in action. Pastor Martin Neimollor died in 1984, but his thought live on.

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out –

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists

and I did not speak out –

because I was not a communist.

Then they came for Trade Unionists

and I did not speak out –

because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then they came for me –

And there was no one left

to speak out for me.

There was a happy ending of sorts. Daisy aged twenty had dropped out of university and had nowhere to stay. She’d been couch-surfing. Sleeping wherever the friend of a friend would let her. She’d even got a job at one point, in a pub. Zero-hour contract. Young people’s wages have dropped by around 13% since 2009. She couldn’t quite work out what she was getting paid. But she went looking for a flat-share. It was quite reasonable, but needed a deposit and a job that paid reasonable wages. She was sacked. Or her zero-hour contract added up to zero. But the boy’s, her fellow students, came through. They put a mattress under the stairs and put a curtain up. Pasted little stars on the slanting roof above her make-shift home. That’s as good as it gets.

God help the young. Oktay Rifat, The Embrace, sums up the degradation of hope in experience.

Warm me the night,

O my trust in freedom

against my mattress thin and blanket torn

Out there is unimaginable cold and wind…

We’ve arrived at this place where children live on the streets and adults source food banks for their family. Great Britain. Aye right!