16 May 2019
Diary of a Corbynista
by Don Urquhart
Tonight’s Question Time came from Northampton. There were 5 people on the panel but discourse was dominated by a violent dialogue of the deaf between Anna Soubry and Nigel Farage around the B word.
Reality intervened near the end when an audience member described his visit to a Wellingborough GP surgery where people were queuing 16 deep in the rain to access an inadequate level of medical help. He was followed by a GP who highlighted the problem of retaining doctors in the NHS because the working conditions and service level were so poor.
A few weeks ago I was surprised to see Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on TV boosting a clothing company called Boohoo. Then I spotted that she was commending the company in a Spectator profile by Katy Balls.
Boohoo was apparently a paradigm for British products and entrepreneurship.
Truss sees the digital upstarts as the new heroes of radical conservatism. To her list, we can now add Boohoo, one of Britain’s fastest-growing online fashion retailers, in whose Manchester headquarters we meet.
In a move to combat factories like those seen in Leicester, a number of brands have created Fast Forward – an auditing system for suppliers to build ethical labour standards in factories and help prevent exploitation – and have promised not to work with those who didn’t follow the practices. A New Look spokesperson said working “ethically and sustainably” was fundamental to its business, and that it used suppliers’ feedback to “support them whilst ensuring alignment with our ethical requirements”. While New Look and River Island were among those signed up to Fast Forward, there are others like Boohoo that choose not to comply, making things harder to regulate.
It is surely a sign of the times that the Victoria Street offices of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministry have food banks on every floor, set up by the staff for people employed by outsourcing company ISS.
The Morning Star has the headline:
Food Bank appears outside Tory Minister’s office.
A Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union representative said:
These workers are on poverty pay — paid below what the independent Living Wage Foundation calculates you need to earn to live in London — and deserve a pay rise.
Sky News reports:
Anthony Wallersteiner, head of the £12,000-a-term Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, said schemes to help poorer students had “successfully driven down the number of Oxbridge places awarded to privately educated pupils”.
He also likened criticism of private schools to anti-Semitic abuse, saying: “The rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools. It was relatively easy for Hitler and his henchmen to suggest that the Jewish minority was over-represented in key professions: medicine, law, teaching and the creative industries.”
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of private schools and the chances of their pupils making it to Oxbridge, I would not consider sending a child to a school where the Headmaster paints critics of private schools as Nazis.
Surely it has to be hours rather than days until the cross-party Brexit talks conclude either in agreeing to disagree or a plan for indicative votes in the House or in a joint proposal for a Withdrawal Agreement/Confirmatory Referendum.
On Newsnight the Labour MP Mary Creagh described the atmosphere in the House of Commons as “The End of Days”. That’s all I needed having just watched the Mother of Dragons demolish Kings Landing and the Red Citadel inflicting indiscriminate loss of life. And now Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt says he will double the Defence Budget and project hard power reflecting Britain’s place in the world. Now is surely the time for Jon Snow,* the King of the North to assert himself and lead us in annihilating the Monster Austerity.
Or am I getting myself confused?
* Not the Channel 4 guy.
From the right of the Tory Party and from the mainstream media you will hear that both main parties are equally in disarray and there is an appetite for new alignments.
The Conservative Party is going through hard times. Crispin Blunt MP was on Newsnight a couple of days ago proposing a coalition of some kind with the Brexit Party. The European Research Group (ERG) comprising around 40 Tory MPs might find this acceptable, but the Lumpenproletariat of the 1922 Committee will be more inclined to sit out the crisis and go back to being happy regular Tories as soon as Brexit is done.
Newsnight last night attempted to perpetuate the myth that Corbyn’s politics are far left and that his party is out of touch with an electorate yearning for a Centre Party to represent them. With a frisson of originality they even co-opted a French intellectual, Bernard-Henri Levy to stigmatise the Labour Party as anti-Semitic.
The two major parties are having their problems but what’s truly broken is the integrity and the quality of political reporting in the media and particularly on the BBC.