Tuesday 23 April 2013

Tories. Nasty then. Nasty now.

Maggie may be dead and buried - but the spirit of the thoroughly nasty party is alive and well.

I should know better, but I fell of my chair when I read the extraordinary story about Sussex  Tory Councillor John Cherry. He's the NIMBY racist who caused a minor shit storm in his reaction to the news that a South London Academy was going to set up a boarding school - for inner city kids - in his little patch of Middle England.

In an echo of the Smethick by-election Cherry says that the prospect of letting these kids - who he says will be 98% Black and Asian - out into the local villages will create a 'sexual volcano.'

He does concede that it wouldn't be so bad if these bussed-in 'ethnics' were Chinese or Indian because apparently these groups have a hard-working academic ethic. But he is quite clear that he doesn't want any Pakaistanis - because that group are 'uncertain what hard work is'.

Sadly, the interaction of class, culture and institutional racism means that there is a grain of truth in his observations about the over and under achievement of various groups. Although if he did his homework further he'd have found that one of the most under-achieving groups of all is the  "white British'.

Councillor Cherry has swiftly apologised and resigned and the Tories are of course now desperately back-peddling.  Cherry's views certainly don't sit well with the metro-savvy Notting Hill-ite wing. But I suspect that Cherry  just said what many of the Tory loyalists in the shires actually think.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Ding Dong. Trafalgar Square.

Last night, like many other right-minded people  I was wandering around Trafalgar Square looking for a celebration that was never going to be truly adequate.

About thirty years ago I was planning a very different kind of celebration.The 1983 'Falklands election' was the first one I was able to vote in. I had just turned 18 and somewhat still naive. I was possibly one of the few who was confidently expecting a Labour victory on the night of 9th June. Even in those pre-Miners's Strike days, how could it be otherwise ? 

So we stayed up all  night at a friend's house watching the results come in, fortified by way too many cans of Carlsberg Special Brew as celebration turned to sorrow-drowning. For some reason we went into school the next day - looking very much the worse for wear -  and were advised by a friendly teacher that it would probably be in everyone's interests if we discretely went home.

So it was with a certain sense of closure - both melancholic and contented - that I was at Trafalgar Square, along with my own 18 year old daughter and her friends. If only it wasn't thirty years too late.

Monday 8 April 2013

Let's take a moment to rejoice

Having spent most of my adult life waiting for this moment - Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out has been ringing in my ears since I was 16 - now that it's actually come I feel a bit of an anticlimax.

As a historian I am certainly  not inhibited in talking ill of the dead. I enjoy the childishness of all that stuff on Facebook as much as the next man. Although I do think that Tony Benn hits the nail on the head with his characteristically sober and dignified epitaph:

"Mrs Thatcher was a politician that believed what she thought, did what she said she was going to do and that gave her a certain integrity. However, she used that trust to make war on the working class. She taught us the meaning of class war through campaigns against the miners and the introduction of the Poll Tax. We are still dealing with the effects of that 'Neo-Con' economic experiment".

'Integrity' I would add only in the perverse sense of an enemy that looks you in the eye before stabbing you in the guts. As opposed to the turncoat Blairs, Browns and Millibands who stab you in the back. 

And that's my sense of anti-climax. Thatcher may be dead but Thatcherism is all too much alive and well. Still for tonight at least - let's permit ourselves a bit of time to rejoice.