Frustrations and the #GE2015 UK election - blog by Gurdur


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Frustrations and the #GE2015 UK election
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Posted 12-May-2015 at 01:48 PM (13:48) by Gurdur
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It's not bad enough that the opposition failed to put up a credible election campaign in the British general elections, but after the full scale of the defeat became apparent, some decided to make it worse. First off, there were a few who decided to get violent at an anti-austerity demonstration in London - after someone had vandalized a memorial sculpture which was built in honour of women in WW2. There were a few Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members at the demonstration, which is what I assume (the Times being behind a paywall) led to the news report in the Times being headlined as, "Sex convict led revolutionaries behind violent austerity demo", a reference to the very sordid past of SWP leadership. The Daily Mail had a couple of field days lobbing provocations, not only on the demonstration, which was also reported on by the IB Times and other papers as well as the BBC, but the Daily Mail also found a target which had set itself up - Laurie Penny (@PennyRed).

I've Storified the full list of tweets in which Laurie Penny managed to put herself in an untenable position. In short, she was asked her opinion on the spray-painted desecration of the war women's memorial, and she showed a considerable lack of sense. She went off into irrelevancies about the austerity measures of the Conservative government (which just re-won power for another five years in this election), and when she was criticized for condoning the desecration, she brought up her grandmother who had served in Malta during WW2. Worse, she made a mistake about an award granted to her grandmother for her service. Penny claimed it had being the George Cross - the highest award you can win in Britain for courage when not actively serving in the military in direct action. However, it was not the George Cross, but instead a commemorative award based on the George Cross awarded to Malta as a whole for the courage of the population of the island during WW2. So of course the Daily Mail went with glee after Laurie Penny.

As far as I can see, it was an honest mistake on Laurie Penny's part, not any deliberate lie, but a mistake that exposes an arrogant ignorance of hers. Penny had no business excusing the desecration in the first place. Her condoning of it rested upon the fact she thought the austerity measures of the Conservatives to be far worse - yet of course you cannot make any such valid balancing. The desecration of the monument contributes nothing whatsoever to any fight-back against austerity; it actively detracts from such fight-back instead. That was obvious from the start, yet Penny ignored all that. Why is this important? Because Laurie Penny is a very highly visible opinion writer and contributing editor on the New Statesman; she claims to be left, and she is regarded as a leading voice of the left, especially on feminism. Other similar opinion writers have also been busily not helping in a similar way. Paul Mason, who has made a very high-profile career of making the news all about himself and his feelings, decided to write about how he does not want to be "English", and apparently thinks no-one else should be so either. Ally Fogg, another opinion writer who often writes on women's and men's issues, also condemned any rush towards Englishness.

Yet the fact remains, whether they like it or not, some sort of overall English identity is needed by many, as pointed out by Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4), who also belongs to the left. Voiding the issue and denigrating those who want to build an English identity is not only arrogant, it's also stupidly counter-productive, since it simply vacates the field to those like the English Defence League (EDL), who would build a very negative English identity. Being English does not equal being white - the population of England are very mixed. But an overall identity is needed, and any nationalist identity which is positively based and built also acts as a good tool against over-reaching corporatism, and for a better social democracy, one in which society looks after its most afflicted.

It is clear that many who call themselves "left" have huge problems tolerating national identity at home - even though they happily support some quite vicious versions of nationalism elsewhere in the world. This is not a recipe for productive building; this only alienates the general public - as can be seen in the election which just happened. Other commentators were even more childish; Alex Gabriel, a blogger on the same blog-portal as Ally Fogg, blathered about not having any problems with burning down Downing Street (the residences of the top members of goverment). Another such commentator, Martin J. Robbins (@mjrobbins), had been quite silently unhelpful during the lead-up to the election and the mess afterwards. All he contributed was a bizarre article about sexism in space a couple of days before the election, but that matter can wait for my next blog post.

What is seriously needed in Britain is manifold. Actions to support foodbanks for those most in want, actions to join and build up trade-unions, actions to reform some of those trade-unions, actions to reform the British Labour Party, to get rid of any last trace of any supporting electoral fraud, to build up a plausible mass party in opposition. All the commentators above, while claiming to be of the left, are not actually helping in any of that. Instead, they're grandstanding for themselves, and detracting from any such. Any move towards building up a better world, a better Britain, a better social-democracy, needs slow, steady steps. Despite Penny's chuntering about a radical coalition to take on the government (she merely damned the Labour Party), no such coalition of the tiny cliqueish would have any positive effect. Even worse was the narcissistic posturing of Russell Brand, way before when he advised people not to vote, and just before the election when Miliband made an ill-advised move to get Brand onside - a move which was trumpeted by the Independent in the most embarrassingly mistaken of hot-air. There will be no socialist revolution in Britain, because the people as a whole simply do not want one. The SWP and the other Jacobins such as above are only making careers for themselves; they're not helping the worst-off in society, nor society as a whole. Their very great influence in the leftish- and liberal-leaning side of the British press makes getting a better social-democracy message out to the public that much harder.

The monument which had been defaced with spray-paint (photo from Twitter; origin not known to me):

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    I haven't been following this deeply on twitter, only what I've seen here and the Storify. But my feeling is that Laurie Penny lost tactically rather than morally. The State is always rather hot on these 'to the fallen' type memorials, because they allow it to own the sacrifice of those who fought in wars, and use it to menace the living into the sort of patriotism which suits the state. But (appropriately during these centenary years) you only have to read a bit of the letters, poetry and private opinion of the people who fought in World War One to get a far more mixed picture of attitudes, which included cynicism, especially about patriotic jingoism. When that young man got done for swinging on the Cenotaph a little while ago, and excessively punished, I couldn't help thinking that the dead twenty and thirty somethings that the memorial overwhelmingly represents might have been more than inclined to let him off (or just laugh it off).

    There is a benign and socially and historically useful side to memorials too, and I don't particularly want to see them all thick with graffiti. But I can't say that I'm massively worked up about that particular defacement, and trying to make people say that they feel terribly affronted about it, feels more like an attempt at entrapment than a genuine attempt to establish shared values. Like Laurie Penny, I worry that our country's crossing plenty of red lines at the moment around the treatment of people. A bit of ill-considered spray paint is the least of our problems.
    Posted 16-May-2015 at 09:37 PM (21:37) by Unregistered
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