Dear British voter,
As you are no doubt aware you are living in a country in the throes of an electoral quagmire; one which is probably the most confusing election the UK has ever held. Unfortunately I currently live in the United States and thus my relationship with this election cycle will be one-way, involving me yelling at the world service before sending off my postal ballot to begrudgingly vote against my local MP and then continuing to be angry.
As an expat I have a few requests for this election season to make the whole process much more fun and at least a little worth it.
1) Stop David Cameron being Prime Minister.
This isn’t necessarily a call to beat the Torys out of office, though these two things are interchangeable at the moment, and something I would also like to happen, I specifically hate David Cameron being the leader of my home country. This wish has nothing to do with policy it’s shit like this.
If you didn’t watch the video, David Cameron is responding to the insane claim by Fox News that Birmingham is a no go zone for non-Muslims. Whilst he has the substance of a good answer, being that the “expert” Fox used clearly knows nothing about the west Midlands. My problem is that he decided to begin this answer by referencing porridge and April fools day in the kind of clumsy, weirdly synthetic feeling way Cameron does everything. This struck a nerve because this answer was spread all over American Media, meaning this ridiculous parody of an English aristocrat took up the airwaves fixing the idea of Britain in the American mind as run by Bertie Wooster.
Say what you will about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, they never made my skin crawl in the presence of foreigners in quite the same way Cameron does now. This isn’t just because he’s a Conservative (more on that later), David Davis; the runner up in the last Tory leadership race, doesn’t have the same weird inhuman manner the prime minister conducts himself. For all his slimy spinning Blair at least knew how to talk on camera without sounding like he was failing to convince us he was human. Please stop this man being the person who represents us as a nation, it’s sad and weird.
2) Make sure the Green Party end up with more seats than UKIP.
If you haven’t left the UK in the last decade or so I need to break something to you; UKIP is an embarrassing party. I live in America, where the idea of Britain as a world power died a death around the time of Suez Crisis, at this point Americans i meet and talk to are confused that there is a movement to get Britain to leave the EU gaining traction. The idea that we would then be anything other than an insignificant island that sometimes turns up on the wacky section of the news from time to time if we left is equally confusing.
The biggest embarrassment surrounding UKIP however is the fact that they’re given so much more credibility than the Green party; an organisation with more members as well as a party platform without an unhealthy obsession with people who aren’t local. I don’t even want the Green party to get that many seats, they don’t even have to get more seats than they do right now, I would just like UKIP to have at least one less seat than the Greens on May 8th. I want this because whilst it may be a minor issue the idea of Nigel Farage’s gurning face filling my T.V. screen on election night makes me sad to be English and I really would like my homeland to prove they’re not crazy by either giving the Greens more seats or taking some away from UKIP.
3) Let’s have a coalition of the Nations.
There is a current worry being permeated through the media over the idea of the SNP having an influence over the next government. The narrative as far as i can tell goes that Ed Milliband will grant Scottish independence to get power. The way this has been manifesting has involved the Torys demanding that Labour promise not to be ‘propped up’ by the Nationalists. At time of writing whilst they haven’t quite taken the bate Labour HQ is edging toward ruling it out, I think this is a terrible idea. I honestly think that the best outcome for the UK in the long run would be a Minority Labour government beholden to the SNP and Plaid Cymru, two parties whose cores’ center around greater autonomy for the nations combined with social democracy.
Since Neil Kinnock the Labour party has had a tendency to take the left for granted and drifting to the right to gain the vote of the kind of person who reads the Times because they’re too embarrassed to read the Mail, this has been a source of frustration for many voters who have seen Labour run away from the center left the moment they get into a ministerial car. A government involving input from parties who reject the Neo-Liberal consensus would be so much more the antithesis of the aptly named ConDem government than a Labour majority government could ever be.
I’m glad the SNP have stated that they wouldn’t join the Government if asked, but enter into a vote sharing deal, this would avoid the possibility of the Nationalists being co-opted in the same way the LibDems have been. This would lead to a solidifying of the Union as having to take Nationalist votes into account will mean Ed Milliband being forced to make good on the promises for greater autonomy laid out by the ‘No’ independence campaign last year; something that will have to happen in the next parliament anyway if Scotland is to remain in the union for much longer (something I would like), so bringing in the SNP who look likely to control the majority of Scottish seats in Westminster come May 8th will mean Scotland and Scottish voters will have more influence in their own lives than ever before. This will also mean Labour will have to extend similar options to English regions, something I don’t trust English voters to support until it’s in place. Whilst I quite like being English I’ve spent enough time amoung my fellow countrymen to know we as a nation are largely small C conservatives who won’t try anything new until it’s forced down our throats and we claim to have always been for it. I honestly think a minority Labour government with external pressure from the nationalist left will leave the UK a fairer and more democratic place than any other option this election.
4) Make spoiled ballots win a constituency or two.
I’m ambivalent about voting. I do understand the necessity of keeping certain parties at bay but this then involves giving power to other just as unsavory parties. I do however believe in turning up to voting booths and making marks. One of my pet peeves in political discourse is the manner in which people who do not vote are dismissed as apathetic or stupid or both. I have yet to vote for anyone in a European Parliamentary election despite the fact I am both informed about and care about the European Union. A reason I love paper balloting over the electronic methodology in the US is that it’s possible to spoil ballots. If you have no interest in voting for any parties, please go to the ballot anyway, write in yourself, or a friend, draw a comedy penis or a pair of breasts, a poem, anything. If everyone who didn’t want to vote for anyone, turned up regardless and spoiled their ballots. Spoiled ballots would win removing any real legitimacy from second place. Showing the political class that people who don’t vote care about the future of the country enough to turn up and demonstrate that they would give their vote to someone if only there was someone worthy of it.
5) Get at least one Class War candidate their deposit back.
For those not in the know Class war is an Anarchist organisation fielding candidates this campaign season to amplify their campaigning voice. I don’t seriously believe that Class War can or will come close to winning any seats (I don’t think Class war wants to win any seats) however the UK seems to be a country were all the parties jump to the right on immigration and race relations the minuet a Nazi gets five percent of the vote out of fear of losing out on those racist votes, so why can’t we get this to go the other way.
(PS, If you’re in Norwich North Vote for my mate, he’d be a great Anarchist MP)
6) Punish Nicholas William Peter Clegg.
Okay I admit this is pure id speaking, however that doesn’t stop the fact that in 2010 Nick Clegg stole my vote. I, and many people of my Generation, particularly University students voted for the Liberal Democrats that year because the party’s manifesto had stated that they would do everything in their power to end tuition fees for higher education institutions. Far from being wide-eyed and naive, the logic behind voting for Clegg’s party was that as the other two were for raising fees, thus the result of a coalition would most likely be a wash, keeping fees at their then $3,000 a year. The Smug ‘What did you expect, we’re politicians’ attitude that permeated from LibDem HQ is something that will make me hate Nick Clegg and revel in his failures until one of us is dead.
For me Clegg will always represent what is wrong with this parliamentary democracy; whilst I understand that politicians don’t have the power to change everything and anything, it’s hard to believe in anyone when the baseline reason for why they betrayed a keystone manifesto promise to shrug their shoulders and close the ministerial door, only to come out with a weak-willed apology far too late for it to possibly matter. Whilst I hadn’t been particularly sold on the idea that parliamentary democracy could work for me before 2010, Clegg’s betrayal of a large section of his voter base pushed that notion over the edge into a pit of bubbling despair with the whole thing. I don’t want Nick to loose his seat, in a perfect world I would love every Liberal Democrat except Nick Clegg to loose their seat so he was to walk into Parliament and sit at the back on his own. The idea of the Cameras lingering on him as he stares at his shoes, considering the terrible mistakes he’s made, whilst other parties do the business of government makes me feel warm inside.
7) Get the Torys out.
Seriously I don’t care how you do it. Labour-Liberal-SNP-DUP-Respect-Green coalition will do for me. This isn’t about specific policies or even an endorsement of Ed Milliband who will ultimately be Prime minister if the Conservative party are ousted; This is because I hate Torys. I hate them with a passion, they represent everything that is wrong with British society, they are the parliamentary manifestation of greed, bigotry and servile classism. Growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s meant I grew up in a country were members and supporters of the Conservative party were justly ashamed of themselves to the point at which there was talk of them becoming a third party.
I miss those days, I miss regarding the Torys as relics of a by gone era. I miss conservative supporters feeling embarrassed and having to explain themselves to skeptical listeners, I miss William Hague leading a redundant party with little or no influence to a slightly less devastating second place. I’ve realised this could possibly come off as wanting to persecute Torys. That’s probably because I do, I miss the days of the post war consensus when Labour politicians openly mocked and berated Conservatives for their beliefs, I want to get back to a time where the likes of Nye Bevan casually called Torys cowards and idiots whilst disparaging anyone who might consider compromising with them, and claiming the mantel of social progress that should be what the Labour party does.
I understand this probably says more about me than David Cameron that there is absolutely nothing Republicans can say or do that enrages me more than the pathetic bleating of the current occupant of Number 10. I however urge you, dear British voter; please find a way to end the systematic destruction and grotesque rebuilding of our society into something harder and meaner before I, and others like me have nothing familiar to come back to.
A concerned ex-pat
When I was 14 part of my English GCSE was an oral presentation of my own devising. The title I came up with was “Discworld is a superior to Lord of the Rings”. Bare in mind this was 2003; peter Jackson was finishing up the trilogy and there was influx of people to Tolkien fandom and my teacher at the time had been a fan of middle earth since she had been a child. The presentation itself was an explanation of why Terry Pratchett’s charters are more believable and well-rounded, siting the fact that the people of Gondor are weirdly accepting of some random hobo claiming to be the true-born king. Particularly because wandering around the Forrest with a sword isn’t an activity that qualifies you to run a country. I got the only A I every got for English for this academic nerd rage, which is something I’ve always been proud of. I tell this story to try to explain why it is that this morning, when I found out Terry Pratchett had died; I cried for losing someone I’ve never physically met.
I’ve been a fan of Terry Pratchett since I was eight, when Channel 4 broadcast cartoon versions of Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music, (by the way if you’ve never heard of these two cartoons stop reading this and follow the links provided, you wont be disappointed) on seeing my enjoyment my big sister lent me her copy of Mort which is the first book I can remember reading all the way through and enjoying. As a Dyslexic person, reading fiction has always been hard for me, Pratchett’s writings are the sole exception to this rule, whilst almost every other book is somewhat of a challenge for me, his style as well as his compelling narratives were what made it easy for me to fall in love with reading and storytelling; I have the same feelings about Sam Vimes, The Librarian and Granny Weatherwax that other people of my generation have for Harry, Ron & Hermione. Discworld Novels provided me with a way to cope with being a weird, awkward teenager who felt very disjointed from the rest of the world by providing me with stories about people who didn’t fit their pre-ordained narratives.
It’s hard to explain exactly why Terry Pratchett’s is such a formative element of my childhood, a good place to start is this quote from ‘Hogfather‘;
This is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it’s all true you’ll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn’t then you’ve lost nothing, right?” When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, “We’re going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts…’
Someone took a paragraph in a YA novel parodying Christmas to explain the premise of, and then the fundamental flaw in Pascal’s wager. That’s why Terry Pratchett is an Amazing author. His novels are at a fundamental level social commentary. They discuss; racism, community policing, feminism, economics, industrialization, class warfare, LGBT rights, Fat shaming, nationalism, Darwinian evolution, football, art, theater, folk memory, diplomacy, governmental corruption, privatization, religion, orientalism, science and a host of metaphysical and philosophical concepts; and they do it all in a pre-modern fantasy land populated by wizards, witches, Dwarfs, Trolls, Vampires and Werewolfs. Terry Pratchett didn’t just introduce me to reading he introduced me to life. He taught me skepticism of ideas whilst simultaneously empathy towards other cultures and peoples. The fantasy genre was ruined for me by Terry Pratchett because my attempts to branch into Middle Earth or Narnia always ran up against one-dimensional villains with little motivation beyond being evil fighting equally flat heroes hellbent on doing nothing other than being good – this is something that doesn’t stand up very well to complexities of Lord Vetinari or Death.
I wouldn’t say Terry Pratchett is the reason I write, he is however the reason I write the way I write. I wish I could say another author has had anything close to the impact on me that Sir Terry has, but that just wouldn’t be true; I’ve tried to love other writers as much to be more rounded – George Orwell got close but never quite took the number one spot. The best part of being this in love with Discworld novels and the host of other Pratchett writings, is that as I grew up I discovered that I hadn’t’ been alone, friendships have been secured and I’ve bonded with so many strangers over our mutual love of Ahnk-Morpork. Terry Pratchett didn’t just give me a fun fantasy world to camp out in every so often, he gave me an identity as well as a groundwork to craft my own ideas about the world and he did it by making the ordinary profound and the fantastical relatable. For this I will be forever grateful.
It is fashionable among a certain kind of leftist to denounce Nigel Farage and United Kingdom Independence Party as fascists these days. It is equally fashionable among a certain kind of rightist to denounce those denunciations of UKIP as ludicrous for as no one in UKIP has (publicly) run around in black shirts Sieg Heiling everywhere. Residing as I do outside the UK and watching the upcoming election develop as it is, I think we should start talking about the fact that both those opinions are wrong, UKIP aren’t fascists; what they are is a Conservative nativist party, something that makes them unique in the history of British politics and much more dangerous than a communal garden fascist.
Britain is one of the few countries in Europe that have never elected fascists its national legislator; A major factor effecting this is historical differences in the way popular politics came about. The Conservative Party is a good example of the unique nature of Britain. Unlike it’s French and German counterparts whose founding was a response to a religious or economic need; or just a direct response to liberal-democratic movements, the Conservative and Unionist party of Great Britain is simply the parliamentary Arm of the British Aristocracy; Though the modern party was founded in 1834 it was a restructuring of the Tory Party (why we still call them Torys) who had gained the original insult from their more liberal opponents in the 1700s, in reference to the Irish Soldiers who had fought for the Absolute Monarchy of James II in 1690, who was trying to reverse the powers Parliament had won during the English Civil war. In this sence the British Conservative party is unique in being able to draw a more or less unbroken line from Cavaliers to themselves.
This is relevant because it’s important to note that British politics is not primarily about Ideology as much as it’s about interests. Ed Miliband is leader of the Party of Labour not the party of Social-Democrats, This has meant that parties in the UK have a wider appeal, dealing with identity and self-interest much more than ideological tenants. This has meant that the two major parties, the conservative party in particular, have historically been very good at absorbing most of their political fringe and driving what remains into political irrelevance.
This, I would argue, is behind the fact that Britain has never come close to electing fascists or indeed electing any fascists to Parliament, If we imagine politics as a sliding scale from left to right, until UKIP came along there was a genuine gap between the Conservative party and the various incarnations of British Fascism. This was because the Conservative party had been able to appeal too and lock down the demographics that typically populate a Fascist coalition; lower middle class, rural poor and the landed gentry. They have managed to do this because unlike their European counterparts, the British gentry have never been under any serious threat of destruction, and thus never fell into the kind of reactionary politics taken on by the European ruling classes at the start of the 20th century, which is arguably why the British aristocracy is still here. This meant that the only demographic available to British fascism was working class kids disaffected with the failures and/or collaborative attitude of the trade union movement, as a result fascism in Britain has taken on a distinct working class identity; distasteful to the upper and middle classes in most cases. This is why if you’re from an English-speaking country and you think of Nazis, you think of shaved heads and football shirts rather than dueling scars and riding crops. As a result fascism in the has never really had a significant group of people who advocate for any of their ideas that – for want of a better phrase – respectable people would and will listen to with a degree of seriousness. Until now that is.
The UK Independence party, along with the Green Party are the symptom of a new kind of politics, ironically much more European in nature, ending the de-facto internal coalitions and moving toward actual coalitions of a balkanized political class. Whilst, on the one hand this has the potential for a wider, more varied political discourse. This however does mean that the kind of people whose support has been withed from fascism in Britain are now freed up to empower the political far right without the shame of being associated in the popular mind with the decedents of Oswald Mosley. This is why organisations like Britan First and the English Defense League have been campaigning for UKIP, whatever the actual intentions of Nigel Farage, The party he leads represents the respectable end of British fascism, and need to be treated as such during the upcoming election, and beyond.