Let’s not repair parliament


The Palace of Westminster needs £4bn in repairs, and will probably get them. It’s another reminder of the thoroughgoing rubbishness of the case for austerity.

For years, the message beamed down from Whitehall has been that past governments spent too much. The country was in too much debt, and, as a result, there had to be massive cuts in public spending.

In fact, austerity has always been about the neoliberal power elite restructuring society in its own interest. The cuts overwhelmingly fell on services ordinary people depended on – and that rich people could make a lot of money out of if they were privatised.

The much-banged-on-about ‘deficit’, the gap between what government spends and what it brings in in taxes, is about £69bn. That sounds like a lot of money. But between 2009 and 2015, the wealth of the richest thousand families in Britain rose by 112% to £547bn. ONS figures from 2014 put the UK’s total private wealth at £11.1trn – and estimated the richest 10% of households owned about half of that. The same year, Bank of England economists estimated UK corporations were sitting on £500bn that they were refusing to invest. Continue reading

Neck-ache nation: what elite sport, elite politics, and elite worship says about us

elitism collage.jpg

If you like substance and things that matter, it’s not been a very good few months to be alive. Feudal-revivalist royal birthday celebrations. The eye-bulging jingoism of Euro 2016. An abyssal new low for establishment post-truth politics with the EU referendum. False-start leadership elections, grubby will-they-won’t-they political coups. And then the Olympics, where grotesque, mind-mangling amounts of money and resources get blown on a hyper-nationalist willy-waving competition.

But at very least, in its abundance of rubbishness, the summer has left us with some fairly big clues as to what’s gone wrong. We are, after all, hurtling towards a point-of-no-return ecological tipping point, having done more environmental damage in 150 years than any other species has managed in three billion – all to build a civilisation where the richest 10% own half the wealth, use 60% of the resources, and 20,000 people starve to death every day.

Why is the world so cataclysmically shit? I think the summer we’re having points towards one big contributing factor. In fact, all the recent events listed above, the Queen, the football, and so on, are arguably symptomatic of the same underlying phenomenon – a giant, normalised, and, as such, near-universally ignored problem afflicting civilisation as-is. Continue reading

How the Beeb marked May Day


Theresa May is now Prime Minister, and the coverage was predictably nauseating. Bereft of internet a few days into life at new digs, I sat and watched it on News 24.

Neutrality means offering as broad a range of viewpoints as possible, and not favouring any of them. The BBC always claims it’s neutral, but that’s not what it does at all. Instead, for decades, it’s consistently done something very different: portray anyone or anything conforming to the neoliberal-authoritarian post-Thatcherite consensus in a favourable light (being mildly critical at very best, fawningly biased at worst), and relentlessly undermine anyone who deviates from it. Being pro-establishment and anti-dissident, after all, is basically the default setting of British public life. Continue reading