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A (not quite as brief as I’d planned) history of recent UK politics

July 1, 2017

If I were looking at the UK political situation from the outside right now, probably the main thing I’d be wondering is, What the hell? How did it get to this? It’s a fair question, and after watching this surreal story play out, I felt I had to write this down to get it clear in my own head as well as record it for me to read back on in years as I sit in some burned-out wasteland of the future (which apparently still has wifi in this scenario). So here it is. Imagine.

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It’s 2010, and there’s a general election. The left-wing Labour are the incumbent government, but there is a lot of anger around, as the 2008 economic crash has happened, people have lost their money and their jobs, and the newspapers are pointing the finger squarely at the government for their inability to prevent any damage to the UK. The papers are running a business, and right now, anger and blame sells. Labour, having increased spending on public services during their tenure, is copping it. Also copping it is the European Union, those bogeymen across the Channel who have long been the scapegoat for governments to point to, positioned as the faceless autocrats running the UK against its citizens’ wishes. The newspapers are only too happy to continue stoking this feeling, as they’ve always hated the left anyway – the right-wing Conservative party is much more about cutting corporation taxes and giving grants, and the owners of these papers are billionaires who know what side their bread is buttered. Yes, Labour have their own issues as well, but this false narrative kicks off the chain.

The Conservatives win the 2010 election. David Cameron, the new prime minister, fills his cabinet with his old rich mates from back in his university days, so they can lounge about the Palace of Westminster together and laugh about the good old days when they used to burn money in front of beggars just to watch them despair.

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The Tories set out on an age of austerity. The reason the UK was damaged by the crash, they say, was Labour’s profligate spending. For the country to recover, the government has to pull back its spending. Cuts are made everywhere. Benefits are cut. Public sector jobs are decimated. Legal aid is all but scrapped. Local authorities have their budgets demolished, forcing closings of libraries and other centres. Defence is cut, with the numbers in police, the army and air force reduced. Safeguards in place for health providers are wiped out, causing many of them to have to close up shop or cease offering services. “Find work” schemes and centres for the young and disabled are destroyed. Parks, public transport, police, nurses, prisons, infrastructure, everything is cut. The Tories have carte blanche to strip funding from whatever they choose. “It’s time for the UK to live within its means,” the Tories say. “We’re all in this together”. And yet the tax rate for highest earners is dropped, and corporation tax is lowered to the lowest of any major economy in the world. Those who already had money are of course welcome to more of it.

This continues for 5 years. The Tories have promised that their strategy will bring prosperity back to the UK after Labour’s failure. And yet while the high earners and bankers who actually caused the crash see their salaries skyrocket, the majority of the country simply gets worse. So figures are manipulated. Zero-hour contracts explode into fashion, replacing real jobs to the order of four or five times more than in 2010. This is hailed as job growth, despite the number of people in stable work dropping.

Zero hour contracts

Despite constant readjustments of the targets, the Tories and their press collaborators endlessly send out positive vibes about how all this austerity is working, and making the country a better place – the Tories are reducing the deficit! they cry, while comparing it to the debt under the Labour government. Of course, when a government spends nothing on its people, then the deficit (a proportion of the money spent vs money earned) will naturally drop. Meanwhile, the actual debt – money borrowed – shot up the charts. It turns out starving most people of disposable income, making them unable to spend or be taxed, is not the way to stimulate the economy. Despite this, the Tory government and complicit newspapers employ doublespeak to show that Labour caused the crash by spending too much, and the pain people are feeling now is evidence that Labour can’t be trusted with the economy. This becomes received wisdom, despite Labour’s weak attempts to contest it. The Tories ramp up their desire to make things easier for business, easier for kickbacks, while ignoring the people. Not content with the deregulation of the banks that contributed in large part to the financial crash, they are deregulating anything they can get their hands on. They proudly boast about “one regulation in, two regulations out”. Big business no longer has to worry about pesky rules and regulations, and can get on with making big profits while the people working for them end up in jobs and situations that are steadily growing less safe and secure.

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2015 comes around, and in many ways, it the country is much worse than it was when the Tories came in (except for the top earners, who are earning more than ever before. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has blown apart). Various EU countries are struggling as well, and as Germany holds their own economy together while taking a firm line on Greece, the UK capitalises once again on the opportunity to blame the evil EU for its dictatorial ways. Greece and Italy are held up as examples of what happens under EU rule, and only the Tories are saving the UK from such misery. Anti-EU feeling is growing, and the polls start to show the UK Independence Party gaining favour on the basis of their sole reason for being – to take the UK back out of the EU. The Conservatives are worried that their support might be floating away to UKIP, so to bring them back into the fold, they promise to hold an EU Referendum if they win in 2015 – comfortable in the knowledge that the vast majority of anybody with any sense can see that even if being in the EU is some trouble, it’s still a million miles better than being out of it. It’s a cynical vote grab for the EU-hating demographic, and they play it up as election time approaches.

dailymailralph.jpgLabour’s leader, Ed Miliband, tries to get the public to pay attention to the country around them, and notice that it’s the Tories who are making things worse. So the lead rightwing Tory-complicit rag, the Daily Mail, puts out stories about how Ed Miliband’s late father “hated Britain” in for no reason other than discrediting the opposition. When Miliband (alive) tries to call out the paper for its unprofessional conduct, the paper maintains that Miliband leads “an evil legacy” and refuses to blush: Chillingly the father’s disdain for freedom of expression can be seen in his son’s determination to place the British press under statutory control. If he crushes the freedom of the press, no doubt his father will be proud of him from beyond the grave, where he lies 12 yards from the remains of Karl Marx.” This is not some fringe tabloid, this is the most-read newspaper in the United Kingdom. The campaign settles right into the gutter, as stories emerge of Cameron’s uni days and his sexual fondness for dead pigs. Then Ed eats a bacon sandwich, and his greasy distorted face is plastered across every page of the national press for days (and even has its own Wikipedia page). Look at this clown! How can you take him seriously?! 

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It works, and the Conservatives win the 2015 election comfortably, with a majority. Previous Lib Dem voters, angry at their party for siding with the Conservatives in the previous coalition, move their votes to the Tories themselves in confused protest. Labour’s Ed Miliband vanishes in a puff of smoke and bacon grease, and in a leadership election, a random soft outsider called Jeremy Corbyn is put forward due to having been hanging around for decades and it seeming only fair to give him a go. To everyone’s surprise, and the Conservatives’ delight, he wins as the new Labour leader.

Jeremy Corbyn despairs at the negative campaigning, and says that he will create a “kinder, gentler politics”. He seems thoroughly uninterested in attacking the Tories’ policies or discussing the issues of the day, and instead spends a lot of time talking to women and minority groups about how they matter. The Labour MPs regret it instantly as the press on all sides, even those who are nominally left-leaning, rip into him mercilessly. The Conservatives can’t believe their luck and, unopposed, double down on their task of redistributing any vestige of wealth from the poor in society up to the top, while telling the public it’s for their own good. 

Soon after the election, people start asking about that EU Referendum, and Cameron decides he might as well get it out of the way. He schedules it for June 2016 and then gets back to scrapping benefits. Now that a date is set, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, throws himself into the spotlight at any given opportunity. An opportunity to leave the EU is all he’s ever wanted, and he makes damn sure everybody knows this is all the result of his formidable political sway. A few other Tory politicians see the opportunity for a bit of limelight and self-aggrandisement, and so Boris Johnson (the former mayor of London, now fairly well hated by that city for his inept and vain rule), David Davis and Liam Fox, among others, step forward to run a parallel Leave campaign. Leave will never win anyway, so there’s not much risk to the endeavor, but it never hurts to get your face out there. And then when Leave loses, Boris can rally all those dejected Leave voters behind his party leadership bid. Win/win. No such thing as bad publicity.

Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage

They’ve gone about as far as they can go with the deregulation within EU rules, so they entice businesses by promising to repeal all those EU health and safety regulations, tearing up the European Convention on Human Rights, and refusing to accede to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. And as the June referendum approaches, tempers start flaring strongly. They appeal to “Britishness” and patriotism in general. With fire in the belly and fists in the air, they tell blatant lies and make promises they know they will never have to keep. They emblazon a big red bus with a promise of an extra £350m a week that can be spent on the NHS after we stop paying EU fees. They talk about how much immigration will go down and how all those dodgy foreigners will stop taking proper British jobs. They talk about Turkey (and its friends)’s imminent admission to the EU, and all those Turks that will soon be flooding over the border, together with all those other Middle Eastern migrants filling Europe, and Nigel infamously unveils his giant Nazi-esque “Breaking Point” poster. Angry voters, disenfranchised by austerity and politics through the years, finally have a target it is acceptable to direct their hate at. The Leavers see the Remainers as a bunch of sneering, unpatriotic, servile, elitist Europhiles peddling “Project Fear”, while the Remainers see the Leavers as a bunch of stupid, flag-waving, xenophobic racists.

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Official Leave campaign propaganda

The press feeds off the clash, whipping up hysteria. Then one week before the referendum, the conflict comes to a head as a (leave-supporting) man murders his local (remain-leaning) MP, Jo Cox, shooting and stabbing her multiple times, while shouting: “This is for Britain! Britain will always come first!”. The murderer is roundly condemned for his actions, and there is some brief talk of reflection on the way the campaign is dividing the country, but the reflection is short-lived and on 23 June, the people of the UK narrowly vote to Leave with a 52-48% split.

Unnecessary referendum instigator and Remain campaigner David Cameron immediately resigns, with the timeless quote of: “why should I do all the hard shit”. Remain supporters around the country are dumbstruck, and there is a funereal vibe in the major Remain-supporting demographics, primarily the large cities and the younger voters. The pound takes its biggest one-day drop in history and goes to a 31-year low. The response from Leave voters is less uniform – some are regretful (“I only voted Leave as a joke/protest vote, I never expected it to win”), and even arch-Leaver Boris Johnson himself appeared on TV the following day looking like a kid who had lied to his school that his Dad was an astronaut before finding out Dad was coming to visit school. Some are ecstatic that the country agrees with them that “others” are bad, and hate crimes shoot up 41%, against such classic European entities as homosexuals and Muslims. “No more Polish vermin” notices are posted through letterboxes and foreign-looking sorts are told to “go home”, regardless of where they’re from (even if that’s the UK). The primary outcome though is confusion, and the second most common Google search the next day is, “What is the EU?”.

That very same day, the morning after the vote, the promises put forward by the Leave campaign immediately begin to collapse. There would not be extra money for the NHS (“I would never have said that”, says Farage, incredibly) (Boris stubbornly stands by the claim). Immigration wouldn’t go down. Turkey stood no chance of joining the EU in this lifetime or the next. We would likely stay in the customs union. We would likely need to retain free movement. This was never supposed to happen.

Needing a leader, the Tories hold a leadership challenge. All the candidates who put themselves forward (Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, etc) stab each other in the back and/or shoot themselves in the foot in an impressive display, meaning that by the end, there is only one candidate left who wins by default by being the only one not to have had her character assassinated, presumably due to having no discernable character to assassinate. Theresa May wins by default.

May stands in front of No. 10 Downing Street and talks about how she will run a government for the “just-about-managing”, then proceeds to double down on the previous austerity measures, making life much harder for everyone (again) except for the already-rich. To their credit, the Conservative party, which was in complete disarray with all the Machiavellian plottings in June, has managed to portray a united front by August, standing behind their new Prime Minister. David Cameron, the man who got us into this, retires from the spotlight and is never heard from again.

Despite actually having been a Remainer during the campaign, May has seen an opportunity for power and so is now an enthusiastic cheerleader of Brexit, which she claims is the “will of the people”, though nobody can say what it actually means. With all the complex arrangements, treaties and partnerships with the continent, what does “leave the EU” actually mean? May famously states that “Brexit means Brexit”, and won’t be drawn on it any further. She instead tries to distract by reasserting the good old British class system through antics such as lifting the ban on grammar schools.

jeremy-corbynOver on the other channel, Labour have been largely absent from this whole debacle. Jeremy Corbyn was never really that keen on the EU in the first place, so is fairly invisible during the whole campaign, and when all the dust settles, nobody is really that clear on which side of the fence he was sitting. He’s still mostly spending his time going to universities and talking to students of basket making degrees about how lovely their handiwork is. The parliamentary Labour party MPs quit one by one, in their frustration at having to work under a leader that they see as nothing short of completely ineffectual. The remaining gaggle of MPs declare a leadership challenge to fix this awful mistake, and only too late do they realise that they don’t really have anyone to else to put up against him. The fee-paying membership of the party surges, although it’s not entirely clear if this is support of Corbyn, or in protest against him. To be safe, everybody who joined after the start of the year is disqualified from voting in the leadership challenge. Not satisfied with that, the party actually goes to court to have Corbyn himself removed from the ballot options. Unsurprisingly, this fails, and Corbyn goes up against Owen Smith. There’s not much to say about that, and Corbyn wins. Half the remaining parliamentary Labour party quits in protest, leaving Corbyn to try to pick up the shattered pieces of his party and reform a shadow cabinet, while everybody inside and outside of his party, as well all corners of the press, scream about how he is destroying the party and guaranteeing the demise of the Labour party – the only saving grace is that the next elections aren’t for another three years so there’s time to get rid of him before then.

Any declaration of leaving the EU needs to be made by delivering a notice pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, giving the UK 2 years to sort out a crash pad before being turfed out. Since nobody has actually given any thought as to what is supposed to happen next, parliament says it needs to debate the timing and shape of that notice. Seems like a fairly reasonable request, so May, together with her close
Brexiteering friends, denies it, saying she will use the Royal Prerogative to make an executive decision. All sorts of ancient law books are cracked open and constitutional debates held, but given one of the main rationales for people to vote Brexit was “taking back control” to our own democracy, this dictatorial move by an unelected leader is seen enemiesofthepeoplewith suspicion by some sorts. This includes one businesswoman, Gin
a Miller, who argues that such a fundamental decision is too important for one person, and has to go before parliament. She takes the government to court, and wins. May, livid that someone would dare challenge her ultimate authority that she had won via default and held for a whole few months, appeals the decision, and loses. Parliament needed a vote on whether to trigger Article 50, and in what form. The newspapers, forgetting any last scrap of lessons that may have been learned about inciting violence after the murder of Jo Cox, scream treason at the judges from the front pages, for daring to insist that parliament should have a say in the way the country is governed. The Daily Mail places photos and personal details of the judges on their front page, with the headline “Enemies of the People” for daring to insist on proper parliamentary procedure. The Minister of Justice refuses to defend the judges.

Given the ability to have some impact, Corbyn pools his resources and promises to make meaningful amendments to the bill. Labour want better parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit. They want a guarantee that EU nationals currently living in the UK will have their rights protected. They want to maintain access to the single market. They want a vote at the end of the negotiations on whether or not to accept the final deal. Over the course of the next couple of days, all these amendments are proposed, and all are voted down. Faced with the resulting bill, completely unchanged, giving complete executive power to May, Corbyn inexplicably imposes a three-line whip on his MPs, forcing them to vote for it anyway. The vote on the bill passes in a landslide, and Corbyn crows about how “the real fight starts now”, apparently oblivious to the fact that it just finished and he lost. May triggers Article 50 in March.

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Rafts more MPs quit Labour in protest. Even Corbyn’s supporters are having a hard time figuring out what exactly he is supposed to stand for and how this is meant to be any kind of effective opposition. His approval ratings plummet, and May’s soar as she is portrayed as a strong and crusading leader, protecting British interests and the “will of the people”. Up in Remain-voting Scotland, where just a couple of years ago, the people narrowly voted against independence from the UK at least in part because splitting from the UK would mean ejection from the EU, the nationalists are furious and the leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, says she will look at staging a second independence referendum. Over in Remain-voting Northern Ireland, questions are being raised over their border with the Republic of Ireland, a separate country that will remain in the EU. Peace has finally been settled there after decades of Protestant/Catholic warring, and the walls have finally come down. Now it looks like they might be going up again, unless Northern Ireland finally leaves the UK and joins with the rest of Ireland instead. By splitting from the European Union, the United Kingdom itself is looking like it is breaking apart.

May drops on Sturgeon like a ton of English bricks, telling her without a trace of apparent irony that now is not the time to be playing politics and aiming to divide the country. The last thing the country needs is another election to sow further uncertainty. She also says that it wouldn’t be fair to ask the people of Scotland to make a decision without having the correct information of what the future consequences of their decision might look like. (Honestly, she says this all with a straight face, with a complete disconnect from what just happened, and what happens at the end of this paragraph. It’s amazing.) She refuses to allow Scotland any discussion on a second independence referendum, pulling rank to demonstrate to certain Scots exactly why they want to be free of England in the first place. After making sure she has rounded all the TV stations and press outlets and told everyone who will listen that now is not the time for uncertainty and further elections, she goes ahead herself and calls an election.

This 2017 election is seen as a deeply cynical and opportunistic move. The approval ratings of the Tories, and Theresa May in particular, as against Labour and Corbyn, have never been higher, buoyed up by endless praise from the right-wing press and a resurgence of patriotism thanks to Brexit. The approval ratings of Labour have never been lower, due to the press’s incessant string of demeaning and insulting stories and opinion pieces about Corbyn’s inefficiency and general “commie” leanings, combined with Corbyn’s own apparent disinterest in contradicting them through his words or actions. Corbyn barely has enough MPs or supporters in parliament to even put together a shadow cabinet, let alone organise and front a new election campaign, and there is a very real fear that the Tories will ride this wave to a crushing victory, and Labour may well be effectively wiped out entirely. Luckily, the previous government had enacted the Fixed Term Parliament Act, designed specifically to stop governments taking advantage of brief periods of popularity to call snap elections and add to seats in parliament when the wind is blowing in their favour – the majority of the house would need to support an early election, or else it needs to run its full term.

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Obviously, Jeremy Corbyn immediately comes out in support of the new election, and encourages his party to vote in favour. The Fixed Term Parliament Act is thrown in the bin. Having spent the entire period since the EU referendum insisting that a new election would be inappropriate, no other party but the Conservatives is ready or prepared for this. Despite May’s timing insider knowledge of the election timing, the manifesto they release is oddly devoid of any substance. It is a vague collection of chest-beating and statements about how great the UK will be under their “strong and stable” rule, as well as a few policies that have clearly been thrown in just to see how far they can push the crushthesaboteursenvelope against the common person – cuts to benefits, health and police, as well as the reintroduction of class-based grammar schools, and for surely no reason at all other than a dare, fox-hunting. Conversely, Labour puts out a manifesto that is surprisngly detailed for such a sudden affair, outlining a plan for a new society that works “for the many, not the few”, balancing modest tax rises on the wealthy (who can “afford to pay a little more”), against increases in social and public services. Everything is properly costed, however the media wastes no time in ripping into the figures, presenting them as thoroughly unworkable and raving about how this once again demonstrates Labour’s “financial incompetence”. The Conservative manifesto ticks along without a costed figure in sight, and they are never called out on it. Instead, the Daily Mail urges the electorate to get out there and vote for May to help her “crush the saboteurs” of the country: i.e. people who don’t agree with the Conservative party.

To May’s credit, she at least understands that she has zero personality, is thoroughly robotic, has no empathy, is incapable of answering questions, and that none of her party’s proposals stand up to scrutiny. So she announces right at the start that she will not take part in any debates with other party leaders. She will be too busy “meeting the people”, by which it transpires she means a series of stage-managed events up and down the country, where she hires out closed spaces (e.g. workshops after all the workers have gone home), and has the press record clips of her delivering scripted speeches to pre-selected audiences of Tory supporters who are bussed around the country to attend and applaud.

But the distorting lens of the media with its biased portrayals is harder to swing when there are live debates and rallies, where people can see and speak to the politicians directly. The Tories realise that with their continued cuts, they have a pretty bad brand at the moment, but Theresa May’s popularity is high. So instead of encouraging voters to vote for the Conservative party, they ask people to vote for “Theresa May’s Team”. They make their best efforts to run it like an American maysteam3presidential campaign. The media is full of clips and photos of May at these fabricated events, with that weird rictus grin on her face while people all around wave about placards with her name on them. As she has nothing positive to actually talk about, her entire campaign consists of her launching personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, and giving dire warnings about what a horrible state the country would be in were he in power. She avoids making any actual statements about what she intends to do, but just keeps repeating soundbites about “incompetent” Corbyn and her “strong and stable” self. Corbyn meanwhile is going up and down the country, holding rallies and talking to people, answering questions, and giving actual, sensible, and understandable answers to people’s concerns. His approval ratings begin to creep up, to the horror of the Tories and the press, who both desperately try to double down on their personal portrayal of him as someone who hates Britain.

As Corbyn’s warm, personable, and surprisingly competent and authoritative presence impresses people, May’s robotic, scripted, baseless statements begin to lead to frustration among the electorate, despite the media spin. She hides from the big televised debate with the other leaders, making people wonder how she is “the only one” who is capable of negotiating a deal with the EU. She reluctantly starts agreeing to one-on-one interviews with journalists, who get frustrated with her inability to answer simple questions instead of just repeating irrelevant rehearsed lines. The prospect of this government leading the country is so disturbing that those who are not diehard Tory fanatics start to put tribal preferences aside, and go for “tactical voting”: instead of splitting the anti-Tory vote, vote for whoever in your constituency has the greatest chance of defeating the Tory. Polls start to show a decrease in the expected Tory wins, and an increase in the others, which May and the press deride as a “coalition of chaos”, as opposed to their “strong and stable” leadership, which is crumbling by the day. The Maybot starts to malfunction and changes her position daily on various topics, including a high-profile U-turn on the “dementia tax”, somehow trying to spin it as “scaremongering by Jeremy Corbyn“, showing Trump levels of disconnection from reality in an incredible interview where you can just about see the cogs spinning off. She tries to re-stoke the fires of patriotism by accusing unnamed European press and politicians of issuing unspecified threats in a deliberate attempt to influence the election.

Then about a week before the election, there is a terrorist attack in Manchester. May immediately says that she is stopping campaigning out of respect for the tragedy, and the relief is palpable. Other parties are forced to follow suit. May then uses her position of incumbency to get in front of any camera she can find and declare her strong and stable response to the attack. The country is immediately placed under a state of emergency and the streets are filled with military personnel. As the bomber is already dead, this achieves nothing except panic citizens further. Swathes of arrests are made, and people dragged off to jail in a desperate show of power. All are ultimately released. Anyone daring to suggest that responses to this, and the next two attacks that happen over the next couple of weeks, could have been better prevented and/or dealt with had Theresa May not slashed the budget and numbers of emergency services in the last few years as Home Secretary, is blasted with accusations of trying to politicise the tragedy by May as she delivers speech after speech to the media.

The latest election occurs on 8 June 2017 against a surprising backdrop of renewed interest, as voters on all sides have become invested in the result of an election offering two very different choices. Turnout is the highest it has been since the mid-1990s. The exit polls indicate that the votes are perfectly evenly split between the Tories on one side, and the “progressive alliance” on the other. Despite calling an election that nobody else wanted, at a time most beneficial to her, and controlling the media during the campaign, somehow Theresa May manages to end up in a worse position while Labour gets a huge boost. The Conservatives lose 13 seats, and Labour wins 30. The Tories still win, but the gap between the two parties is 2% of the total vote, and now the Conservatives have lost their majority. We have a hung parliament. 31 Tory MPs who are now out of a job are furious at May for calling it unnecessarily and costing them their jobs. May gives an unrepentant victory speech that ignores them entirely, infuriating them further, forcing her to come back and make a second apologetic one.

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After their aggressive, arrogant and harmful prior rule, crystallised in this campaign, the party has become so toxic that nobody is willing to go into coalition with them. Given the chance, it looks like Labour will easily form a working “progressive alliance” with the other groups, so May desperately casts about for a way to block it, and lands on the previously unheard-of Democratic Unionists Party of Northern Ireland: a fringe group in NI with 10 seats – if all members of both parties vote on any given Tory motion, they will have 50.3% of the vote. A majority, but a wafer-thin one. However, the DUP are making no promises that they will actually support the Tories. It turns out they are a heavily religious group with strong ties to the Northern Irish terrorist groups that caused all that trouble through the 80s. Their members variously don’t believe in evolution, don’t believe in climate change, and believe homosexuality is a sin. Theresa May is desperately trying to give them the chance to have the deciding votes in our parliament.

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Then Grenfell Tower catches fire. The 24-storey apartment block housing poor people in England’s wealthiest borough roars into a towering inferno, killing at least 80 people at the time of writing, with that number expected to rise as investigations continue through the burnt-out shell. In the aftermath, people turn from terrified to angry as there is a noticeable lack of any kind of coherent response from government or the local council. With no central cohesion, charities are left to provide food and shelter. Public figures arrive at the scene of the tragedy, to hear the complaints of the people and provide reassurance that they would be looked after. Jeremy Corbyn, and even the Queen herself, make it there. Theresa May refuses, on the grounds of her own safety. It turns out that tower residents had for years been complaining about the very obvious fire-safety deficiencies – from expired extinguishers to missing fire doors, to a total lack of any sprinklers – and had been routinely ignored. Recommendations from experts that sprinklers be fitted had also been ignored, as the government – the one currently in power – had sat on reports and done nothing, under their “no regulations” rule. Businesses were happy, as they could pocket more of the profits. Instead, £10 million of public money had recently been spent on refurbishing the tower – not for the benefit of the poor people inside, but to clad it in more “attractive” materials so the rich people on the outside could have a better view. The new cladding was highly combustible, and apparently contrary to EU and UK laws, a cheaper alternative that meant the contractors could pocket the difference. The investigation is ongoing, but there is a palpable air of anger amongst the public that, yet again, those with the money and the connections will walk away scot-free while the poor are left to die.

Back at the EU, negotiations have finally started. On the first day, the UK capitulates on a large number of the positions it had said it would demand. May finally puts forward an offer to grant EU citizens already living in the UK some protection. This is rejected by the EU. It is revealed that back under the Cameron government, Theresa May was the only person who had previously blocked an otherwise unanimous government position to safeguard the lives of existing EU nationals in the UK. More and more people begin to wonder whether the government actually has any kind of clue what they are doing, or even what they want. Andrea Leadsom, somehow now the leader of the House of Commons, chastises the media for not being “patriotic” enough in the way they are broadcasting the details of the negotiations. Fascism deepens.

And now, here we are. Three months into the 2-year EU negotiations, with nothing agreed and no clear vision from the UK government as to what they want from it. No discernable outcome other than a further deepening hole for the UK to sink into. The EU can’t quite figure out what the UK wants to achieve from all this, and the UK doesn’t seem sure either, but is making desperate threats that look like they’ll only make the UK worse off, like withdrawing from agreements to share security intelligence, or turning the whole country into a tax haven.

duptoryThe DUP has finally said they will support the Tories for now, for a bribe of £1 billion. Despite all the shouting at Labour for their promises of a “magic money tree”, the Tories have once again managed to find one of their own. Despite weeks of incessant propaganda about how Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist supporter because he spoke to the IRA while brokering a peace deal in the 80s, the Tories are now going into open alliance with an extremist group currently in hock with terrorists. There are also immediate concerns that this threatens the peace deal in Ireland, by abolishing the neutrality towards the Irish governing bodies that was a central tenet of that deal. The Daily Mail etc keep quiet about all this, of course. The country has no faith in the government, and the Tories dropped many of their manifesto promises by the time of the Queen’s speech. Their manifesto was deleted from their own party website, presumably to limit embarrassment at it being abandoned by Day 1 of government. Public, security and emergency services, as well as health services and social care, are stretched to breaking point as a result of years of Tory cuts, as terror attacks increase. Even the press is starting to call off the cheerleaders as at least 149 other towers have been uncovered with similar combustible cladding and evacuated, being 100% of the poor-people towers so far examined. The head of the council has just resigned, though he is moaning about being “forced” to, and will still collect a 6-figure payoff for doing so (much more than sprinklers would have cost).

Meanwhile, a report has just formalised another fact many people knew to be true: Tory privatisation of national utilities has led to imbalances like increases in electricity and gas of 72%, while wages have only grown by 19% in the same period. People are increasingly unable to both eat every day and heat their homes in winter, while the executives of these companies walk away with million-dollar annual bonuses and the government continues to spin this growth in “the economy” as a good thing.

The UK is bitterly divided like it hasn’t been in many decades, personal security is at a record low, we’re at the highest level of risk it’s been in many years with the most stretched services, the country has the least stable or competent government it’s had in many years, and is embarking on the most self-destructive act it’s probably ever undertaken. And the finger of blame can be pointed squarely at one very specific political party for the whole damn lot. The only hope is that this time, people finally start to notice.

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