Friday, 27 February 2009

The ugly new face of socialism in Barnsley

Zzzz..pffgh...bphff...nudge....NUDGE...huh? wah? hahh? Your correspondent was slumped on the precipice of catatonic vegetation at a local services committee in Dodworth, South Yorkshire. 'Any more questions?' Ripped out of this stupor by a panel of grinning nudge-nudge crony-socialist councillors, he for some reason felt it appropriate to blurt something out about the BNP's worrying surge at the last local elections (they'd come second in near every ward round here) and what exactly are you planning to do about it, eh? More fool you, the panel seemed to say - this geriatric slumber-party was strictly forbidden from discussing party politics (angers the blood you see) and besides, monotonous droning on the subject of what's allowed in which recycle bin and what to do about 'loitering' kids is far more interesting.

Anyway as it happened, one of the female councillors was quite keen to speak to me about this issue after the meeting. Turns out that at the very moment my mouth lept into auto-pilot on the BNP there was a member of this curious band of political mutants sat right behind me. Tosh, I thought. They know what people think of them and they should bally well be reminded. Naturally though Comrade 'Race-Hate' Porter felt the need to treat me to a passionate defence of that unique conflagration of idiocy and prejudice that so characterises the mind of homo nationalus.

What followed, as Porter oozed at indefatigable pace with seemingly no end was utterly bizarre. But like most things bizarre it was also utterly fascinating and really quite insightful. In one phrase Porter unshrouded the peculiar myseries of the BNP's success in threatening centuries of one-party Labour rule in Barnsley. While he was coughing up bile about the councillors present, your reporter chanced upon a diamond in the jetstream of slurry. Comrade Portly proudly, and with not a trace of irony touted inbetween his repeated and really quite annoying commitments to democracy that the BNP were 'more like old Labour'. Aha. Suddenly it began to make sense...

Anyone living in Barnsley will know exactly why the people round here have always voted Labour. Since the nineteenth century the town has been a predominantly mining borough, with a homogenous and heavily working class culture. In the '80s and '90s this appeared to be threatened as the remaining pits were closed under the Conservatives, which I can tell you has left a very real and lasting bitterness. The female councillor mentioned earlier seemed to think that the BNP's success was due to the recent trickle of immigrants into Barnsley (and I mean trickle) and what she called our more individualist and sectarian society, with people selfishly pursuing their own interests without regard for wider society. Now, this is typical and very familiar Labour windbagging of course, but in this case it reveals a particular weakness for Labour politicians - their inability to see that the working classes are beginning to feel abandoned by them. If anything, the truth is probably closer to what Captain Race-Hate said himself - that the BNP are indeed 'more like old Labour' in the ways that seem to count to folk round here.

For, what many people overlook is that the BNP are a staunchly anticapitalist party, and this is what makes them so dangerous. Take this festering nugget for instance, taken from a BNP magazine and posted on the Barnsley BNP blog

In its opposition to the global capitalist society, our rejection of free trade and call for tariffs on selected imports that can damage our remaining manufacturing base, all necessary steps to give some insulation from the worst aspects of unstable world markets, the BNP has again been proven right.

That of course could've been straight out of the mouths of the Socialist Worker's Party and no-one would have batted an eyelid. And, as anyone who has ever dealt with socialist groups before will know, if you oppose the entire economic and social composition of society as it stands then you can promise people pretty much anything. Combine this old-fashioned socialism with an almost ravenous opposition to political correctness and a good dollop of race hate and you have the uneducated working-class vote in the bag. Like the socialist parties, they can capitalise on what many people now see as there being no difference between the Conservatives and Labour. Indeed, in their insipid literature, they frequently refer to the 'Lib-Lab-Con' parties as one entity, with themselves as a revolutionary element representing true democracy.

All this presents a very serious challenge to both the Labour and Conservative parties in Barnsley. For Labour the lesson is clear - don't take your electorate for granted. Decades of guaranteed victory has made the party arrogant and distant from their voters. For the Conservatives, a more confidant, open and implicit approach to policy needs to be taken, specifically targeting and countering BNP campaigns. The nationalists thrive, unlike most parties, from targeting voters on both sides in their campaigns. The insidiousness of this multi-faced Medusa must be fought vigorously and in concert by all those who oppose prejudice and ignorance for it to be vanquished. For Labour and the Conservatives, this will entail putting aside their differences and working together in defence of our common values.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Oh, Pooh...

I've been thinking lately that this little archive of practice rants and digitised scribblings needs to change dramatically from now on in light of the highly unlikely, but nonetheless disconcerting possibility that there's anyone out there actually bored enough to actually read any of it. If you are indeed out there and not, in fact, a fevered figment of my imagination then I salute you. For your patience and, of course, for your muffled giggles. Because let's face it, if you are out there, you deserve better.

And as you, this possibly fictional reader will no doubt have noticed in some perhaps Schrödingerean assessment, too many of these articles resemble essays and suffer greatly from a very academic tone. This, of course, makes me very popular with examiners but just doesn't cut the proverbial mustard in the world of witty, on-the-pulse column journalism. They are also few and far-between if I were, for a moment, to be extraordinarily understating. There's simply no rhythm to them. No voom to their vocabulary, no rich sensory soliloquies with off-the-cuff and serendipitous similes.

Okay that's a bit much, but you get the gist. Of course, recent reading of Boris Johnson's hack compendium Lend Me Your Ears has influenced this seemingly sudden revelation, but then so has your author's simultaneous delve into the Complete Collection of A. A. Milne's one and only Winnie-the-Pooh...

Yes, it's true. It's taken not one but two blond, honey-craven and slightly overweight ursidæ to bring home the bitter fruits of my neglect of English literature over the last few years. Don't judge me too harshly. Peering meekly over an enormous in-tray of academic textbooks and historiographical tomes your plucky narrator felt he had no other recourse than to tell prose 'to bollocks' in the face of such an apparently superior truckload of factual and utilitarian knowledge.

Well no more I say! This blog shall be fluid, it shall be frequently updated and what's more it shall be readable & read! It shall also, for some reason, vaguely resemble Fisher Price packaging in its appearance. Perhaps the sharp, restrained lines and points of Times New Roman were too indicative of the old blog's failings for your author to merit retention and are, in any case, clearly not as groovey as a font once used by Pulp...

I shall leave you then with my, to date, most favourite passage of Pooh by that Wodehosian giant of children's literature, A. A. Milne. It comprises, funnily enough, the very first words of the very first stanza of the very first volume of the very first Pooh, first published (for the very first time) way back in 1926.

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

Keep that dream alive Pooh.