“It’s not the greatest country in the world. That’s my answer…” Will says. Turning to a fellow panellist he adds;
“With a straight face, you’re gonna tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom! There’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”
“Now, none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are, without a doubt, a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! It sure used to be. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior.”
Will is talking about the United States of America here but he could easily have been responding to similarly bogus claims about Britain. The feeling that we have some kind of divine right to be world leaders prevails. Fifty-two percent of people voted to ‘take back control’ with Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum since when far right meatheads like Tommy Robinson have gained an alarming level of traction even if the other half of the population have held them up to the ridicule they deserve. The Tory leadership contest otherwise known as the race to become the next Prime Minister takes place against the backdrop of three years of this country tearing itself apart over the question of whether or not to leave the European Union. We are almost at the point of civil war and last night’s BBC TV debate between the leadership candidates, helpfully entitled ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ did the sum total of fuck all to allay my fears.
Will MacAvoy’s words are of course an entirely fictional dose of self-analysis. I cannot bring to mind any instance of any politician speaking with such disarming honesty about the state of his or her nation. Of the gruesome cast of this TV unspectacular only newcomer Rory Stewart appeared capable of anything but delusionary waffle. Emily Maitliss could not have been more out of her depth hosting if she had been presenting it under water, while hot-favourite Boris Johnson had clearly entered the whole thing determined to stick to his ill-conceived strategy of ignoring anything asked of him even or especially if it was a little bit awkward like….oh….I don’t know….do you accept that words have consequences after you compared Muslim women with letter-boxes? It needed a stronger personality than Maitliss to press this group of absolute frauds who have somehow managed to convince some that they are political heavyweights. Even when she pointed out that Johnson had compared the very sensitive Irish border situation to congestion charges in Islington he just chunnered on regardless, half-smirking the whole time as if appearing on the debate was just another public school jape. What time were we breaking for champers and a spot of rugger? Johnson could not have been playing the whole thing more for laughs if he had been filming another of his appearances on Have I Got News For You. If ever anyone should have stuck to comedy and left politics well alone it is this blathering buffoon. Prime Minister? Get directly to fuck and do not pass Go.
Coming into the debate Stewart was the only hope for anyone whose political leanings do not sit somewhere to the right of Steve Bannon. Yet having almost doubled his support in the latest ballot earlier in the day and so knocking Brexit-botching Dominic Raab out of the race the general consensus is that Stewart rather blew his opportunity. Displaying the kind of honesty not seen in a politician since Anne Widdecombe admitted she couldn’t dance Stewart spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Political Editor Nicholas Watt immediately after the debate and agreed that he had been ‘lacklustre’ and that he did not think the format worked for him. There was no live audience with questions posed by
The candidates apparently drew lots to determine the order of seating from left to right of the screen. For once finding himself on the far right (as we looked) of Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid Stewart looked uncomfortable throughout. He had the look of….well…..someone who had been forced to spend an hour trying to convince four self-important preeners that you can’t just ‘get on with Brexit’ and that there is something called Parliament. He was exasperated enough to remove his tie midway through the hour, while at one point the bizarre open-legged sitting position he had chosen was dispensed with so that he could put a hand to his face to express his dismay at wasting an otherwise perfectly good Tuesday evening. Five point seven million people watching on TV felt they had done exactly the same, no doubt.
If TV debates are any indication of which way the vote will go then the next Prime Minister is not going to be Stewart. So where does that leave us? Like Johnson, Hunt Gove and Javid all boasted that if they absolutely had to they would take Britain out of the EU without a deal. Even a question from a lady in Southampton about how a no deal Brexit could destroy her family’s livelihood did not deter them from their course. The trouble is they talk in terms of a little pain for long term gain when it comes to a no deal Brexit but they do so fully in the knowledge that they personally will not be affected one iota by any damage to the UK economy. These are the poster boys for the ‘I’m Alright Jack’ brand of politics that has prevailed since Thatcherism turned us all into total and utter twats.
That’s not just me, some lefty keyboard masher offering that opinion. Let’s take a look at their voting records shall we? Starting with Hunt, a man who as Health Secretary inspired the first strike by junior doctors in over 40 years. Terrifyingly, Hunt was Shadow Minister for the Disabled in 2005 when thankfully we did not have to suffer a Tory government. He once co-authored a book calling for the NHS to be replaced by a scheme which would involve paying into a personal health account with the proviso that those who could not afford it would have it funded by the state. All of which has the unpleasant whiff of a two-tier health system but anyway, what other villainy has this bug-eyed blert been up to?
In 2012 he said he was in favour of reducing the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, another bloke who will never have to give birth who nevertheless feels he has an opinion worth listening to on what women should do with their bodies. Worse than that was his 2013 plan to charge foreign nationals to use the NHS. The mind boggles at what his definition of a foreign national might be, but having claimed that they cost the NHS £200million it was later discovered that the figure was closer to £33million, £21million of which has been recouped. Maths experts will have worked out that this leaves £12million, which is less than Hunt’s planned revamp would have cost.
Hunt has consistently voted against increasing welfare benefits at least in line with the increase in prices, against increases in benefits for those unable to work through illness or disability (that’s not me I hasten to add so no personal agenda there), and has generally voted against tax increases for the rich and in particular the bankers (with a ‘b’) that caused the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Victoria Derbyshire’s recent Freudian slip was about more than just the sound of this man’s name.
Then there is Gove, Education Secretary from 2010 to 2014 and currently the man responsible for ‘Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’. Like Stewart, Gove is a former Labour man who has had that moment of clarity that successful people enjoy when they realise that they can only become incredibly rich by supporting Labour politics. To become absurdly, pointlessly rich you have to rely on the Conservatives and their disaster capitalism.
Gove described himself in 2012 as ‘consitutionally incapable’ of leading the Conservative Party and yet here we are just seven short years later glued to our sets as he outlines exactly how totally different he is not from his supposed rival Johnson and the mirky, snake-like Hunt. Both think they can get Brexit ‘done’ as they would have it by the sheer force of their will. As Stewart put it earlier in the debate they are sitting in a room which contains one door to Brexit. The door runs through Parliament but instead of going through that door Gove and his ilk are sitting in the room shouting ‘Believe in Britain’. Exactly the kind of arrogant and baseless imperialism that Will MacAvoy was talking about in the opening scene of ‘The Newsroom’.
Talking of newsrooms another thing that Gove has in common with Johnson is that he has a background in journalism. He has transformed, Anakin Skywalker-like from the sort of person who goes out on strike with the trade unions in the 1990s to the sort who later describes evil overlord Rupert Murdoch as “one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last 50 years.” Gove is quite evidently someone whose opinion on any given subject depends entirely on what will be of most benefit to Michael Gove at the time. After this unedifying TV spectacle he laughably told Watt that he had won the debate, to which Watt retorted ‘how scientific is that? I have to admit at this point that I laughed out loud. Almost snorted. The kind of laugh I haven’t let out since 63 Up’s Paul fell flat on his face as a 7-year-old in 1964. Gove’s outlandish claim is about as scientific as Believe In Britain, I’d say.
There are some things that Gove is certain of and on which he will not be easily moved. Like Hunt, Gove has consistently voted against allowing European nationals to remain in the UK even if they had already been living here before the referendum. He has Hunt-esque views on what to do with welfare benefits and how much of them to distribute to the sick and disabled, and like Hunt he is rather fond of the idea of reducing social benefit to housing tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need. The bedroom tax is what Labour calls this policy. Gove wants that, but he doesn’t want an annual tax on expensive homes otherwise known as the mansion tax. The most worrying thing about Gove considering that he is the current man in charge of the government’s environmental policy is that he has often voted against the introduction of measures to prevent further climate change. He’s also not the man to vote for if you are a badger, as he has voted to have your lot culled on a couple of occasions.
Luckily for him, like the vast majority of us badgers have no say on who will become the next Tory leader. There have been many people who, quite understandably, have ignored the two television debates that have so far taken place because in the end the result will be decided not by the general public at large but by around 100,000-150,000 Conservative Party members. Aged, upstanding-member-of-the-community types who wear sensible sweaters and tank tops, go crown green bowling but never if their wives aren’t with them and think post-war rationing was the ‘good old days’. I can understand the view that none of this matters and so why don’t the television companies just leave them to sort out their own squabble and come back to us when they have come up with a new Prime Minister. I must admit that was my initial thought when I saw that the major television broadcasters would each be hosting their own debates between the ever-shrinking list of candidates (five will become four at the most later on today and, depending on how it goes, possibly even fewer). But on the other hand I don’t think it will do the rest of us, the people who wouldn’t vote Tory if our lives depended on it, any harm to keep an eye out and learn more about the men who aspire to take over from the absolute shit show that has been Theresa May.
I don’t know why but somehow the phrase shit show has just reminded me of our final contender, the boy Javid. Sajid Javid is currently the Home Secretary but he is an outsider for the top job. He received the lowest number of votes possible to survive (33) in Tuesday’s ballot and many think that as a result of that and his performance in the TV debate that he will quietly fall away and throw his weight behind Johnson’s campaign. Similar noises are being made about Stewart who has admitted to holding talks with Gove about some sort of alliance, although such a move looks unlikely given that Stewart still insists that he would only enter into an agreement on condition that it was he and not Gove leading the challenge to Johnson. For now all of that is speculation and conjecture so we have to assume that Javid will continue in the race. So what do we know about him?
Some would describe him as a class traitor. He was born in Rochdale in 1969, the son of a bus driver. His family moved to Bristol and lived in a flat above a shop, even though he was one of five brothers. He’s certainly a man who knows what it is like to go without, if he can remember that far back. And in any case, can there be such a thing as a class traitor when the whole idea of social mobility is to make it possible for someone to move between the different classes? Nobody is advocating that people should refrain from self-improvement. It is the gluttony and the who-gives-a-shit attitude to those left behind which sticks in what used to be termed the craw.
Javid’s election as Tory leader would be quite a social breakthrough. He would be the first Muslim to hold the position and of course the first to be Prime Minister. This might very well make the Tommy Robinson fans on Twitter illuminate with rage and could well lead to all kinds of milkshake-related rioting on the streets of Thanet South and Warrington. It might be worth grinning and bearing a couple of years of Tory rule until another General Election just for that. Tellingly all five candidates were adamant that there would be no General Election in the immediate aftermath of the Conservative leadership vote. Even Johnson, who Maitliss pointed out had demanded that Gordon Brown face the public vote when he took over the Premiership from Tony Blair in 2007, managed to cobble together some lame explanation about how circumstances are different this time because Brown was not taking over in the midst of a crisis like Brexit. Yes Boris, a crisis which you and your crony Gove went most of the way towards creating. Is anyone seeing an evil plot forming? It all seems to be transpiring exactly how Emperor Johnson has foreseen it.
He might be a Muslim but Javid is scandalously not above the perverse practice of racialising the issue of grooming. He has been in very steamy waters for tweeting about Asian paedophiles, the argument being that focusing on the ethnicity of the perpetrators does nothing to ascertain how and why the victims ended up vulnerable to these types of predators. It is also a type of prejudice which ignores the equally and maybe even more vast numbers of white British people who commit heinous sex crimes and other violent crimes in our society. The systematic abuse of children is not a race or religion issue and in any case, Islam is no more repulsive as a belief system than any other type of religion, all of which should be reserved purely for the hard of thinking. If there was a God, do you really fucking think he would have made this world? And put fucking me and you in it? Fuck off.
The irony appears completely lost on Javid that if the kind of immigration policies that his party wishes to introduce were in place when his family came over then he would not have been born in Rochdale and would not be in the privileged position in which he finds himself now. Like the politicians who benefitted from free higher education before voting en masse to introduce tuition fees Javid is a drawbridge-puller. Taking the passage offered to him and then doing his best to ensure that the opportunity is denied to countless others. Some might call him a Hunt.
The truth is actually that there isn’t a decent one among this group, described by several newspapers and wags on social media as the worst boy band ever assembled. No Direction. Even Stewart’s voting record is completely at odds with his on-screen nice-guy persona. He’s against the same welfare reforms and increases that Johnson, Hunt, Gove and Javid find so disagreeable and he is very much in their camp also on the issue of who gets to stay in the country post-apocalypse-Brexit. The single and only reason to hope that he comes out on top is that he isn’t one of the other four and, beyond that, appears to hold each of them in the same amount of contempt as most of the rest of us do. Throughout the hour he tried to distance himself from the others especially over Brexit and lowering taxes. Yet all that seemed to achieve was to make it easier for the others, self-appointed high-flyers of British politics, to gang up on him and make him look as out of touch as James from Oxford suspects he is. As a side note James from Oxford didn’t get much screen time but in the few minutes he had he came across as instantly unlikeable.
By the time you read this the list of candidates may have reduced by one or more. Even then we will be nowhere nearer to establishing ourselves as the ‘greatest country in the world’. Which is bad news for the growing number of imperialists who still lament the fact that we no longer rule countries several times bigger than our own.