Suddenly, I’ve become a threat to National Security.
I’m not sure how that happened, really. I was just minding my own business, getting on with my various bits of work, paying my taxes, trying to be a useful member of my community, and then go on Twitter and find out the most powerful man in the UK now sees me on par with ISIS. I mean, I don’t even own a balaclava.
Considering that the Government now feel fit to kill it’s own citizens when they consider them a threat, even when the nature of the threat is misguided, then I’d like to apologise in advance to my neighbours – there might be a drone strike on my house, and it might be a bit noisy. You might even get hit yourself, these things are not known for their accuracy. Collateral damage, I suppose. Sorry. Try to be a good neighbour, take the bins out on the right day, don’t have parties, keep the garden weeded. I have cats. Blofeld aside, do terrorists have cats?
It only cost me a few quid and ten minutes of form-filling to become a Threat To National Security. Back in May, after the election, I decided that I was sick of watching the limp response to the Tories breathtakingly nasty attacks on the poor and vulnerable, and join the Labour Party, where I could get my voice heard. The media consensus at the time was that Miliband had been too left, too radical, and thus turned voters off. This was evidently a pile of balls: they were beaten for being indistinct, spouting the same tired lies about the causes of the 2008 financial collapse (a rotten financial system, not building hospitals). Scotland had shown that there was a real hunger for anti-austerity. I was sick at voting for a party I didn’t really agree with. It thus made sense to engage in democracy and join Labour, and try and force some change from within. I didn’t realise that in doing so I was setting myself up to be undermine the security of every family in the UK.
The elevation of Corbyn to Labour leader has thrown most media commentators. They can’t really understand why this bearded peace-loving veggie could have engaged and energised such a swathe of the public. While the right-wing press have tried desperately to paint him as a crazed trot, hell-bent on scrapping the army, destroying Israel and resurrecting Osama Bin Laden and installing him as ArchMullah of Canterbury; the left-leaning press has failed to challenge these lies, and at times been complicit. ‘He’s unelectable!’ they explain, as Corbyn gets the most resolute mandate of any political leader in the UK, ever. ‘He won’t unite the party!’ they cry, as an outbreak of consensus breaks out in every Labour area, except the Parliamentary Party.
There has been a huge problem with the relationship between politics and media for many decades, which has recently reached a head. On the right, Cameron and Rebecca Brooks
were sharing lovey-dovey text messages at the same time she was being investigated for phone hacking. Andy Coulson skipped from the Sun into Number Ten without a beat (and then, with rather more of a beat, into Wormwood Scrubs). Gove, Johnson and many more are former journalists, while MPs in turn make a smooth transition from the Commons to a cushy columnists role. The Left is little better: the London based journalists mingle and swop jobs with the professional parliamentarians; both MPs and SPADS. They have created an ulterior, hermetically sealed reality where everything is dandy. In the outside world, politics dies a death. When an MP comes along who doesn’t play that game, an unclubbable, off-message guy driven not by focus groups but conviction, there is apoplexy. We’re the experts here, we are the elites, how dare these awful people who prefer holding a constituency surgery than attending a sport-event junket.
Smelling blood, the Tories decide to pounce. It’s not just the likes of me that are the targets. The Nasty Party have long hated the BBC, knowing that having an independent broadcaster is a threat to them. Much easier to have ones ran by oligarchs who prefer profit over objectivity. Plus, the BBC, with it’s nods towards culture, it’s lack of profit, and above all, it’s collective values; are everything the Tories hate. So the attacks are plenty: withdrawing the Foreign Office subsidy towards the World Service (despite it being by far the strongest weapon of ‘soft power’ in our arsenal’); to forcing the cost of free TV licenses off the Treasury and onto the License Fee: an unprecedented case of the BBC having to take on social policy. Each time the BBC tries to show editorial independence and criticise the Government, a minister will make threats(a technique that they’ve used for some time, as this clip from 2002 shows) Stay in line, report what we want you to report, or the knives will be out. Hence a BBC which is right now pretty much emasculated in it’s criticism of the Tories excesses, while complicit in the ever more frantic attempts to smear Corbyn.
As methods of free speech become broader – blogs, social media etc; so do the attempts to silence them. I’ve been on the wrong side of this, when a piece I wrote about how Anna Soubry’s partner, Neil ‘Davison’ Davidson instructed his lawyers to sue me when I wrote a piece linking her supposed love of the Greenbelt to his former employers, shonky builders Persimmon. A letter demanding immediate payment of £1,500+ VAT followed, plus threats that they would silence me completely. I stood firm, and repeat again that Persimmon are shonky builders; that they exploited situations when councils had their development plans removed; and Anna Soubry was forcing that situation onto Broxtowe.
When Broxtowe Labour recently retweeted an article from the ever-excellent Political Scrapbook, with a request from the Honorable Lady for a comment; instead of engaging with the question she made faux-legal threats:
Dozens of people have been blocked on Twitter by her, and, as I reported a couple of years ago, kicked off her mailing list. When a constituent mentioned, quite reasonably, that she hadn’t received an answer to an email she’d sent, Soubry publicly denounced her as a liar. When it turned out that Soubz HAD failed to response, no apology was forthcoming.
Pulling the focus from Broxtowe, this is something happening all over the UK. Councils – Broxtowe included – are closing down their scrutiny committees, allowing themselves carte blanche to behave how they like. Bloggers, journalists and users of social media are regularly intimidated and legally threatened by elected representatives. The arrogance is staggering. Yesterday, it was revealed by the Independent that a unnamed UK General was openly considering a coup should Corbyn get in.
In Francis Wheen’s peerless book on the society and politics of the seventies, Strange Days Indeed, he tells the true tale regarding the boss of global mining corporation Rio Tinto, Sir Val Duncan, who held a dinner with retired military brass and other captains of industry and discussed a military-industrial putsch to kick out the government. There, also, were the editors and chief correspondents of the national press, who were told by Sir Duncan:
“Obviously, we will have to close down all the newspapers so they don’t sow dissent but we will have to have a newspaper to reassure people to go about their normal business and not to panic,”
You’d imagine that this would have been a golden story for the gathered journalists, who included the BBC’s Peter Hardiman-Scott; the Times Bill Deedes and the Mirror’s Mike Molloy; yet it’s only mention in print before Wheen published his book was a tiny piece in the Telegraph’s business pages, merely stating that Rio Tinto:
“is also in a position to furnish a coalition government should one be required”
It sounds crazy now, but are we reaching the same level of crazy now? Is the ‘Establishment’ so terrified of this break from the tired consensus of identikit politicians devolving power not to the people, but to corporations, banks, and whoever has the fattest chequebook, that it is now fair game to paint any real opposition as National Security threats? With Unions being subject to laws that would look at home in a 1980’s South American banana republic, is all dissent being effectively outlawed? I’ve always steered clear of the tin-hat brigade, the conspiracy-theorists, ‘believists’ ‘denialists’ et al, because who needs baroque theories when it happens right in front of your eyes?
Cameron and the Tories have been briefed to use the word ‘security’ as many times as possible when they communicate. Soubry did it, Priti Patel (rather hilariously) did it.
Right now, there is a series of events and shows on at Nottingham Playhouse under the banner ‘The Conspiracy Season’. The centrepiece of this season is a superb dramatisation of 1984. It’s a cliche to wheel out Orwell whenever one senses a little bit of Big Brother seeping into the political discourse, but in all my years of reading, writing and being involved in politics I can’t think of a time when it feels more apt.
Now, anyone fancy knitting me a balaclava?