Category: 2017

The Daily Mail is by far the most dishonest newspaper in Britian

In 2017 the Daily Mail was by far the biggest offender when it came to making up inaccurate content. They had 37 inaccuracy-based complaints against them upheld by the press self-regulator IPSO. That’s more than twice as many as the two next worst offenders (the Daily Express and The S*n).

It’s important to bear in mind that these 37 upheld complaints only scratch the surface of the dishonesty and inaccuracy of the mainstream press. IPSO only proceeds with investigations if newspaper content provokes a wave of public complaints. Even if numerous people do complain, it’s entirely up to IPSO whether they bother conducting an investigation or not.

Even though the complaints procedure is so inadequate, the number of rulings against inaccurate content paint a concerning picture of a right-wing dominated mediascape where cynical hacks working for billionaire propaganda barons (Jonathan Harmsworth, Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers) consider themselves free to make up reams of inaccurate content, safe in the knowledge that they’ll receive little or no punishment, even on the occasions that the toothless press regulator bothers to investigate and proves them to be liars.

Back in 2016 the three worst offenders were also the Daily Mail. S*n, and Express who racked up 43 rulings for inaccurate content between them. In 2017 the total between these three serial offenders has risen to 70, suggesting that the problem of hard-right propaganda rags spewing inaccurate/misleading/dishonest content is getting significantly worse.

In 2016 the Daily Mail racked up 17 rulings against their inaccurate content, but in 2017 a total of 17 adverse rulings was only enough for The Daily Express to secure a distant second place, after the Daily Mail managed to more than double the rulings against them to 37.

These figures suggest that the Daily Mail is by far the most dishonest newspaper in Britain. In fact their deluge of inaccurate, heavily biased, and misleading content was enough for Wikipedia to classify them as an unreliable source, yet millions of people still read this vile and demonstrably dishonest hard-right hate rag.

What you can do

If you see any misleading/inaccurate/dishonest content in the mainstream press, you should consider lodging a complaint with IPSO.

Yes, IPSO is far from ideal, and totally toothless when it comes to punishing newspapers that lie to their readers, but they work on a public complaints basis, and if people don’t complain about inaccurate content, they simply won’t bother to investigate it.

Save the link to the IPSO complaints form in your bookmarks, and use it to lodge a complaint the next time you come across a mainstream media article that you consider to be demonstrably misleading/inaccurate/dishonest.

 Another Angry Voice  is a “Pay As You Feel” website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.



OR

Theresa May’s message to Britain: “don’t get old, don’t get sick, don’t lose your job”


The 2015 General Election was an absolute disaster to any non-Scottish person with even remotely progressive social values. The Scots could celebrate their remarkable wipe-out of the neoliberalism-fixated Westminster establishment parties, but elsewhere there was little to celebrate after Ed Miliband squandered his golden opportunity to win a landslide victory by opposing ruinous Tory austerity dogma, because he chose to offer a disgustingly unpalatable and uninspiring prescription of austerity-lite snake oil instead.

One of the few highlights of the 2015 election was the people of Wirral West seeing sense and ditching their atrocious MP Esther McVey.

The ruthlessly self-serving McVey had spent the previous three years acting as Iain Duncan Smith’s merciless henchwoman at the DWP, and the people of Wirral West were rightly sickened and appalled at her callous attitudes towards the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed, so lost her seat, and her role in government.

McVey used to brag about how rising dependency of food banks is a good thing, and she also had a central role in promoting the draconian Tory sanctions regime.

The mainstream media rarely address the issue of the benefits sanction regime that McVey had such an important role in expanding, but even fleeting analysis reflects extremely badly on the Tory party, so it’s no surprise it gets so little coverage.

The first thing to note about McVey’s beloved sanctions regime is that despite a barrage of lies and denials (including from McVey herself), the Tories operated a system of benefits sanctions targets and league tables designed to incentivise Jobcentre staff into sanctioning quotas of people per month. The purpose being to drive down the unemployment figures by throwing people off benefits for the most trivial of infractions (people out of work and not claiming benefits are not classed as unemployed!).

The next thing to note is that the most likely people to get caught up in the Tory benefits sanctions regime are the most vulnerable. Just think about it for a moment. If you were a hard-pressed Jobcentre employee with a target of sanctioning let’s say two people a week, would it be easier to go after the minority of hardened benefits scroungers who probably know the benefits rules better than you do yourself, or to trick a few people with mental health issues or learning disabilities into committing sanctionable mistakes?

Just take the case of the former soldier David Clapson who was sanctioned and left penniless. He died at home from diabetic ketoacidosis after his electricity was cut off leaving his supply of insulin to spoil in the fridge. When opposition MPs questioned McVey over the dangers of sanctioning vulnerable people like David Clapson, she responded by accusing them of “inflaming” the issue

Just imagine the scheming callousness of a woman whose own policies have resulted in a man’s death, who refuses to accept any responsibility, but instead tries to play politics by posing as the victim herself.

Another important thing to note is that Esther McVey repeatedly talked out of her posterior claiming that the sanctions regime exist to “help” the unemployed. 

The reality is the exact opposite. Numerous studies have shown that leaving people penniless hinders their ability to find work. Just think about it. If you can’t afford to eat properly, clean your clothes, get a haircut, public transport fares, your phone/Internet bill, the cost of printing CVs … would you really be more likely to find a job? All the research says no you wouldn’t. Esther McVey says yes you would.

Then there’s the absolute kicker. It turns out that deliberately thrusting hundreds of thousands of people per year into absolute destitution actually costs the taxpayer more money than it saves in reduced benefits payments!

This means that Esther McVey’s draconian system of condemning hundreds of thousands of people per year to absolute poverty actually costs the taxpayer vast sums of money, making it a grotesque example of taxpayer subsidised Tory malice.

After she was rejected by the people of Wirral West the Tories handed McVey a ticket back into Westminster by parachuting her into the super-safe Tory seat of Tatton at the 2017 General Election. Now, within the space of a year, Theresa May has actually appointed this callous and scheming woman as the head of the DWP.

Make no mistake, this appointment is a clear statement of intent from Theresa May. She’s not going to reverse course and stop squandering taxpayers’ cash on the kinds of wasteful,  socially destructive, and downright malicious Tory impoverishment schemes favoured by Iain Duncan Smith.

In fact she’s decided to double-down on this kind of disgusting hard-right malice by appointing the cruellest and most uncaring of Iain Duncan Smith’s minions to carry on his work of punishing and abusing the poor and vulnerable.

You couldn’t really get a stronger indication of Theresa May’s absolute contempt for the welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society than the appointment of Esther McVey as the head of the DWP.

So be warned. This is Theresa May’s unmistakable message to the people of Britain: “don’t get old, don’t get sick, and don’t lose your job”.

 Another Angry Voice  is a “Pay As You Feel” website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.



OR

David Cameron with two of his children, Nancy,…

David Cameron with two of his children, Nancy, 13, and Elwen, 11, and two other runners, after running The Great Brook Run together in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, on 28th December 2017. Photograph taken from Twitter.

Nick Clegg and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez at a t…

Nick Clegg and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez at a technology conference in Boecillo, Spain, on 28th December 2017.

We’re being ruled over by a bunch of self-serving Tory cowards

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that Britain is facing its biggest and riskiest diplomatic challenge in decades in Brexit, as well as a catastrophic NHS crisis, and the ruinous economic legacies of almost eight years of toxic Tory austerity dogma and wage repression policies.

At such a crucial juncture it’s incredibly vital that we have political leaders with the honesty to explain the seriousness of the situations we face, and the bravery to stand up to the challenge.

Unfortunately we have exactly the opposite. We’re governed by a deceitful bunch of cowards.

The National Health Service has collapsed into its worst winter crisis in decades, with NHS England cancelling outpatient appointments and day case surgery, and deploying consultants to make up staff shortfalls in A&E units.

As this NHS meltdown is unfolding the Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt is in hiding.

This latest display of cowardice from Hunt is hardly unusual. In May 2017 he hid from the public during the massive WannaCry cyber attack on the NHS, and he’s spent the last two months pathetically hiding from the actor Ralf Little who challenged him to a public debate on the NHS back in early November.

Then there’s the Tory transport minister Chris Grayling who is hiding in Qatar to avoid scrutiny of the astounding mess he’s making of his brief (his successors are still desperately trying to clear up all the messes he created during his time as David Cameron’s Justice Minister long after he was moved on in 2015).

UK rail commuters have experienced yet another fare hike of 3.4%, meaning that season ticket prices have increased by 50% since the Tories came to power in 2010, and against a backdrop of collapsing real terms wages too.

Then there’s the astounding £2 billion bailout Grayling has handed to the Virgin/Stagecoach East Coast Franchise, allowing them to quit years early without paying what they owe the taxpayer under the terms of the contract they signed up to.

The recently departed chair of Theresa May’s National Infrastructure Commission Andrew Adonis has called on Grayling to quit over his grubby deal with Virgin/Stagecoach, and challenged him to a public debate over the absolute mess he’s making.

Grayling is hiding in Qatar.

This cowardice problem is clearly endemic within the Tory party, and it’s pretty damned easy to see where it’s stemming from.

During the 2017 general election Theresa May outright refused to debate Jeremy Corbyn, or any of her other political opponents. Her cowardice was so extreme that she even sent her recently bereaved subordinate Amber Rudd into a live debate to act as a human bullet shield for her.

It’s no surprise at all that senior Tories think that they can get away with such brazen displays of cowardice, because they’re simply following the example set by their own party leader.

Then there’s the fact that Theresa May is even still in her job despite slinging away the Tory parliamentary majority with an astounding act of hubris and one of the worst general election campaigns in British political history.

The Tories know that she’s a lame duck Prime Minister who is being forced to dance to the tune of the many of the most extreme influences in British politics (the headbanger Europhobes on the Tory hard-right; the DUP bigots she had to bribe into backing her government; right-wing propaganda barons like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre; and the ever-so-fickle blue-kipper demographic who she’s rendered herself completely dependent upon).

The entire Tory party knows that Theresa May is a weak and directionless leader with no room for manoeuvre, and that it’s clearly against the national interest to go into the Brexit trade negotiations with such a spineless and compromised leader, but they have their own self-interest to think of.

They know that forcing Theresa May out as leader would massively increase the likelihood of another election, and of Jeremy Corbyn storming to victory with scores of Tory MPs losing their seats.

So the Tory cowards would rather keep their lame duck leader in power to the obvious detriment of the national interest, just so that they can keep their ministerial cars and salaries, and avoid the loss of dozens of Tory seats.

The question shouldn’t really be why the Tories are such bunch of cowards, but why so many millions of British people are content to be ruled over by such a spineless, self-serving rabble.

 Another Angry Voice  is a “Pay As You Feel” website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.



OR

2017 out! Here are some of my personal favouri…

2017 out! Here are some of my personal favourite toons from last year, hope to do more topical stuff in new year.

Photo

Photo

Is there anyone less deserving of a gong than Nick Clegg?

The rumour is that Nick Clegg is due to be handed a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours.

Aside from the fact that the British honours system is an absolute affront to democracy, there’s surely nobody less deserving of such a politically motivated award than Nick Clegg.

If we think back to 2010 we’ll recall the fact that after decades of rebuilding and restructuring, the Liberals were a genuine third party, looking at securing well over 20% of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats were in fine form, with popular and engaging policies like their pledge to oppose any more tuition fee increases, and their determination to reform our outrageously outdated and unrepresentative political system.

In Vince Cable they had another apparent asset in someone who could talk about economics in an engaging and understandable manner. Before the General Election he cautioned against the fire-sale of public assets at below their true market value, and against austerity dogma with appeals for increased public investment in infrastructure projects.

By 2017 the Lib-Dem share of the vote has collapsed to just 7%, Nick Clegg is gone as party leader, and ousted from his Sheffield Hallam constituency too.

The reasons for this collapse in fortunes are obvious. 

 One of the main reasons is that Clegg and his Lib-Dem chums immediately betrayed everyone who voted Lib-Dem because they believe education is a right and a social benefit, rather than a privilege to be commodified and sold at the highest possible price.

By colluding with the Tories to increase tuition fees to £9,000 per year, with interest on the debts hiked to an absolute rip-off 3% above inflation, Clegg has lumbered hundreds of thousands of students with vast debts that over three quarters of them will never pay off, despite paying 9% of their disposable income in aspiration tax for their entire working lifetimes.

When it came to much-needed reform of the political system, Clegg betrayed that core Lib-Dem demographic too. 

Instead of making fair votes one of his red lines in the coalition negotiations, he capitulated and agreed to nothing more than a referendum on a worst possible voting reform called Alternative Vote. A voting system Clegg himself once famously referred to as “a miserable little compromise”

The referendum was lost and reform of the House of Lords wasn’t even attempted as Clegg actually sat by and watched David Cameron stuff the Lords with unelected cronies at a faster rate than any Prime Minister in British history!

Then there was Clegg’s economics spokesperson Vince Cable, who went from warning against public asset fire-sales and ruinous austerity dogma, to serving in George Osborne’s treasury, selling off the Royal Mail at way below it’s true market value, and helping Osborne slash Britain’s rate of infrastructure investment to the lowest level in the developed world.

What’s worst of all is that the Lib-Dems are rabidly pro-European, and only the most blinkered of Lib-Dem fanatics could possibly try to deny the vital role Nick Clegg played in creating Brexit.

Firstly he enabled the Tories back into power and then backed their ruinous austerity fetishism and wage repression policies to the hilt, thus eroding the living standards of millions and creating the ideal situation for a massive public “fuck you” to the political establishment.

Then there’s the way he normalised lying to the electorate with his absolutely brazen deceptions about opposing tuition fee increases. Watching Clegg completely get away with that extreme level of dishonesty surely emboldened the most shockingly dishonest Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel, and Iain Duncan Smith.

Then there was his refusal to press the Tories into electoral reform to make the voting system fairer and more representative. Had he made the introduction of a proportional voting system a red line in his coalition negotiations, David Cameron would never have been able to win a thumping majority with just 36.8% of the vote, and he would never have been able to gamble the entire future of the UK on a whim like he did.

Not only has Clegg wrecked his own party and rendered himself so politically toxic that his own constituency got rid of him, he’s also played an instrumental role in bringing about the Lib-Dems own worst nightmare in Brexit.

Anyone with any grip on reality whatever would look at a man who wrecked his own party, lied to the electorate, wilfully imposed ruinous Tory austerity dogma and wage repression on millions of people, played an instrumental role in delivering his own worst nightmare in Brexit, and even got dumped by his own constituents, must surely conclude that he deserves a badge of shame rather than a reward.

However the Westminster establishment club are so shockingly out of touch with reality that they can look at an incompetent, profoundly dishonest, self-defeating, and massively discredited charlatan like Nick Clegg and think he deserves one of the highest honours the nation can bestow on a person!

Nick Clegg’s reward for such abject failure actually tells us way more about the ridiculous bubble of delusion the Westminster establishment club exists in, than it tells us about the man himself.


 Another Angry Voice  is a “Pay As You Feel” website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.



OR

thnkfilm: “I wanna go home with Okja.”Okja (2…

thnkfilm:

“I wanna go home with Okja.”

Okja (2017)
dir.
Bong Joon-ho

One of my films of the year. Netflix thanks!

A Christmas Encounter

We walk along the lane for a while towards the old gate where we passed so many evenings in our youth. Matthew walks in the road while I take pleasure in crunching the frosty grass of the verge beneath my feet.

As we reach the gate he pulls the spliff from his pocket and passes it to me to spark it up. It’s been a long while since I smoked one, and almost two decades since we stood here together at the cattle grid getting drunk or high with whoever passed by and cared to join us.


The spliff crackles delightfully in the cold, and each exhalation produces impressive billows of smoke and condensation in the chilly winter air.


After a minute or so, and well before any real conversation has arisen between us, we hear the creaking of an old unoiled bike chain. “No way” my brother mouths silently, before Frank Scorton even rounds the corner.


Frank was one of the lads who used to hang out at the gate with us. One of the friendliest, and funniest too. This afternoon he’s off the local for a few Christmas drinks. He stops beside us with a massive grin. “Bifter ey lads?” he says, as if seeing us back here again after all of these years is a perfectly unremarkable situation.


Matthew passes him the joint and he takes big greedy drags on it, turning the previously neat round tip into a disaster of a sideburn, but nothing can detract from the marvellous sensation of the three of us reliving our youthful misadventures for a few moments.


After some casual chat between Frank and my brother about family and business, the spliff makes it back to me, not just sideburned, but with a horribly slobbered roach too. Frank has just about made it to asking where I’ve been and what the hell I’ve been doing for the last two decades when we hear the sound of approaching hooves.


They’re a long way off in the distance, but the sound is carrying through the still winter air. It seems we all have the same simultaneous thought; The Hobson sisters. My word they were magnificent. How our hearts raced when they stopped by the gate to chat with us for a while, and how our hearts broke on the occasions they passed us by like the silly stoned boys that we undoubtedly were.


But the Hobson sisters must be as old as us now. It’s obvious. Greying hair, ageing skin, and likely rotund atop their horses. The grace and beauty of youth hollowed out of them by the passing of the years. I feel a twinge of regret, not just that the Hobson sisters must have lost so much of their graceful magnificence by now, but that my own youthful aspect has been replaced with a rapidly greying beard and this fucking beer belly.


However what emerges around the corner of the lane is very much worse than the extinction of glorious youthful memories with the harsh reality that even the most beautiful of us have been conquered by age. It’s fucking Howard.

Beside him is another horseback toff. One I don’t know. A handsome chap no doubt, his posture proud and confident next to Howard’s slobbish slouch.


There’s still some left on the spliff but I hastily scrub it out beneath my foot, grinding it hard into the dirt so as to obscure what it used to be.


Frank was never the smartest kid in school when it came to academic things, but he was always lightning-quick when it came to covering. He whips out the tabs and passes them around. It’s been years since I smoked a factory cigarette either, but it certainly makes sense that we’re standing here on a cold winter’s afternoon to smoke cigs, especially since we were clearly shrouded in billows of smoke as the horseback toffs rounded the corner.


“Afternoon lads” says Howard, as if he’s the benevolent lord of the manner, and we’re his loyal and admiring serfs. 


A pretence for his toff friend? Or an act of pure self-delusion? Who knows?

Aside from the unknown toff we all surely know the truth of the situation.


Howard went to the same primary school as the three of us. He had to slum it with the oiks because there were no private primaries in the area. At 11 Frank and I went to the local comprehensive and the obnoxious little prig went off to join his elitist peers at an exclusive fee-paying private school. He never looked back, and neither did we. Glad as we were to be rid of the fat greedy sod.


Matthew opens the cattle grid gate for the horses to pass through, but instead of proceeding Howard’s toff friend dismounts and hitches the reins over the top rung of the gate in one graceful and seamless arc of coordinated movement. He then grasps each of us by the hand. The same performance for each of us. Firm handshake, disarming eye contact, and meticulously practiced smile.


I’ve met dozens like him before so his fake sincerity has no effect on me, but he’s clearly been well trained in comparison to fat Howard who remains seated up on his horse looking down at us as if his obdurate laziness is some kind of adequate substitute for the superiority he clearly imagines he has over us.


He quizzes my brother and Frank who both still live locally. Family, business, the November floods in the village, nothing of any real importance either to him or to us, but all the while his beady black eyes keep flicking back to me. I can see he’s spoiling for a fight, even after all these years. And I can see too that the slow-wit has forgotten that despite all of the expensive schooling that was wasted on him, he was always way out of his depth when trying to belittle anyone of substance.


“So you studied eco-noh-mics at uni-ver-sit-eee then did you John?” he said, pronouncing the words as if they were utterly bizarre alien concepts.


“Yeah.”


“So what do you think about eco-noh-mics then John?”


Everyone can see the fucker is trying to patronise me. My brother can see what’s on the horizon and he’s glowering. In contrast Frank is grinning from ear to ear. I’m his boy in this fight and he knows he’s backed the winner, even after just one word out of me so far.


Howard’s uber-charming toff mate can see something is up too, and some of his seemingly infinite confidence seems to have evaporated as he leans on the gate to create a perfectly deliberate façade of casualness.


“Well Howie” I say, deliberately using the diminutive form of his name that he always hated so much. “It’s complicated isn’t it?” displaying a massive false smile and handing him the opportunity to step back before it’s too late.


There’s a long pause as he figures out what to say next. It seems that even after all of these years he’s still pitifully unaware of his own slow-wittedness.


Perhaps he somehow imagines that he’s in possession of some kind of amazing rapier wit? But what comes out after the long discernible pause for thought is an even clumsier lunge than any of us could have imagined.


It must have been inspired by some long-forgotten argument between us, for I can’t even remember having explained my political position to him in the past. Or perhaps he’s just heard rumours about me through the ever-exaggerated village gossip.


“So now you know about eco-noh-mics you’ll have given up your communist delusions ey John?”


My brother’s glower has turned to resignation, Frank seems a bit taken aback by the accusation of communism, but he’s clearly eager to hear my retort, and the unknown toff has one eyebrow raised and a faint trace of amusement on his face.


“I’m not a communist Howie. I never was. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’d rather be a communist than a bloody Tory!”


Howie’s podgy face visibly quivers with outrage that anyone could dare to criticise his beloved Tory party as I continue talking.


“We’ve all seen how they’ve been screwing the economy into the ground for the last seven years, and all of us, even the ones who voted for Brexit can see what a God-awful shambles they’re making of that too can’t we?”


A long pause, and then:


“Well what’s the alternative? IRA-lover Corbyn?” Howie scoffs.


Unlike the painful drawn-out silences as Harvey dredges the thoughts out of his mind, the pause I leave in the conversation is deliberate. I don’t need time to grind a retort out of my brain. I leave the pause there to emphasise the sheer stupidity of what’s been said.


For a moment a look of immensely self-contented smugness on Howard’s podgy face displays the fact that he actually imagines he’s won the argument with this idiocy.


When I respond I don’t address Howard. I don’t address my brother or Howie’s companion either. I address Frank. “Did you see what he did there?” I ask. “He deliberately evaded the subject didn’t he?”


Frank nods.


“I was talking about economics wasn’t I? Just like he challenged me to, but he didn’t like what I said, so he just suddenly started jabbering about the IRA didn’t he?”


Frank nods again, smiling.


“Do you know what that’s called mate?” Frank shakes his head no to indicate that he doesn’t. He’s enjoying playing his part in the drama.


“Whataboutery”.


Frank mouths a silent “oh!” and puts on his exaggerated “tell me more” face.


“It’s a fallacious debating tactic” I say, turning to address fat Howie directly, still up on his high horse. “It’s used by people who don’t know how to debate properly when they’re losing an argument and want to change the subject … and it’s not very gentlemanly is it Howie?”


Howie is furious now. He couldn’t have looked more furious even if I’d lobbed my cock out and pissed all down his horse’s leg!


I leave a deliberate pause for Howard to wrack his brain for another slow-witted retort, and just as he’s about to open his mouth and blurt it out, I continue “… and besides, when Jeremy Corbyn was openly meeting Sinn Feín in Ireland, Margaret Thatcher was secretly negotiation with the actual IRA terrorists wasn’t she?”


“What was that thing she used to say Howie?”


Another pause. He doesn’t know what to say.


“We don’t negotiate with terrorists” I say, mimicking Thatcher’s tone as best I can.


“That’s what she used to say when us lot were young lads in primary school together wasn’t it Howie?”


He stares furiously, jowls wobbling, clearly indignant that I’ve made reference to the shared education he had with ordinary plebs like us, because it’s embarrassing him in front of his toff mate.


“So you condemn a guy who spoke openly and honestly with politicians on both sides of the conflict to ask them to find peaceful solutions” I continue “yet you won’t condemn a woman who secretly negotiated with actual terrorists whilst repeatedly lying to the British people that she would never negotiate with terrorists?”


I glance at the other toff, and to my surprise he seems to be enjoying this evisceration almost as much as Frank is.


I leave pause for Howard to compose another lame thrust, and when it eventually falls out of his mouth it’s extraordinary in its dim-wittedness.


“Well you can’t know much about economics if you like Diane Abbott, she can’t even count!” he scoffs.


I laugh. My brother momentarily breaks his grim countenance to let out an involuntary chuckle too. Even the unknown toff stifles a smirk, turning slightly so there’s no chance of Howard seeing it.


I turn to Frank’s beaming face, realising just how much I’ve missed his big genuine grin all these years as I do. “He just did it again didn’t he?”


Frank’s grin is so wide by now I just want to hug him.


“He didn’t like the economics stuff so he switched the subject to the IRA, and then he realised he didn’t actually like the IRA stuff either, so he’s switched it again to Diane Abbott’s maths!


I leave the same pause for Howard to dredge a retort out of his porridge-brain and suddenly interject again just as he’s about to speak.


“ … I’ll make no excuses when it comes to Diane Abbott’s brain farts, she made a fool of herself alright, but I didn’t see the same level of orchestrated hate aimed at Spreadsheet Phil when he accidentally knocked £20 billion off the cost of HS2, or at Michael Gove when he didn’t even know the cost of the Immigration Skills Charge, despite wanting to double it”.


A confused look from Harvey betrays the fact that he knows fuck all about either of the other incidents I’m referencing. In fact I have my doubts that the fat over-privileged Tory idiot even knows who Hammond and Gove actually are.


“There’s only one explanation really for why a black left-wing woman was bombarded with a tide of hate for getting her numbers muddled up, while white Tory males who made comparable blunders were let off scot free isn’t there Howie?”


Another deliberate pause for Howard to think of a reply …


“Well at least we’ve cut the deficit”


A quick glance to the other three is all it takes to register the fact that they’ve all clocked that he just did whataboutery again, despite having been schooled on it only moments previously, then I fire back.


“You’ve cut the deficit a bit have you?” I say in my best patronising voice.


“And you think that’s something to be proud of after almost eight years do you?”


Howard nods, somehow completely missing my patronising tone and imagining that I’m agreeing with him at last, rather than setting him up for another savage counter-punch.


“Didn’t your beloved Tories say they were going to eliminate the deficit completely within five years though Howie?”


A look of confusion from the fat entitled dolt.


“Yet here we are, nearly eight years down the line and it’s not gone, and the latest budget report is projecting that it’s not actually going to be cleared before 2031 … So that’s twenty one years to do what you said you’d do in five, and you’re championing that as some kind of success story are you Howie?”


Nothing but glowering indolence from Howard.


“ … And at what cost too Howard?” I ask. “The longest sustained decline in the real value of workers’ wages since records began; the worst productivity crisis since the 19th Century; catastrophic under-funding of the NHS and other emergency services; education cuts; soaring trade deficits; GDP per capita almost unchanged since before the bankers’ crisis trashed the economy; the lowest level of infrastructure funding anywhere in the developed world; massive increases in child poverty and in-work poverty; and 86% of the burden of Tory austerity dogma loaded onto the shoulders of women.”


“But we all have to make sacrifices or the country would go bankrupt” Howie retorts.


“You know as well as I do that Tory austerity dogma has been an absolute catastrophe for pretty much everyone in this country except for the mega-rich elitists.” I glower at him.


“They haven’t made any sacrifices have they Howie”?


“In fact the Tories have showered them in so many tax-cuts and handouts over the last seven years that they’ve literally doubled their wealth, while your beloved Tories have made sure the rest of us pay the price of it.”


I’m angry now, and well into the flow of it. My brother’s expression makes it absolutely clear that he thinks nothing good will come of berating Howard like this, but I can’t help continuing.


“It’s alright for people like you isn’t it Howie?” I glare at him “You’re so comfortably well off it it’ll never really bother you. You inherited so much wealth that you could live comfortably if you chose to not work another day in your entire life. But you’re also smart enough about how the world works to see that ‘let’s cut our way to growth’ is an insane economic strategy aren’t you?”


Howard looks confused. Why am I suddenly praising his intelligence?


“Just imagine your estate runs into financial difficulty Howard. You get yourself into a bit of debt and you need to find a way to pay it off.”


He nods reluctantly to accept the premise.


“Do you resolve it with across the board cuts in expenditure? 20% less on fuel, 20% less on seeds, 20% less on fertilizer, 20% less on animal feed, 20% less on essential maintenance, 20% less on vet’s bills, and then slash your labourers’ wages to boot?”


“Or do you think smart? Borrow a bit more cash at the currently super-low interest rates and invest in diversification projects. Maybe build some poly tunnels? Set up a small farm shop and café? Some kennels? Buy some rare livestock to breed? Take on a promising young apprentice?”


“You know that in the real world you have to spend money to make money, and that across the board cuts would be a disaster for your business, but somehow you accept this kind of economically illiterate gibberish from your beloved Tories when it comes to running the country don’t you?”


After the long pause for thought he always seems to require, a smug look crosses his face. “Well, there’s something you’ve forgotten” he says with a smug grin widening on his podgy face.


“What’s that?” I ask, genuinely perplexed about what he’s getting at.


“Subsidies” he says with a triumphant smile.


“What?” I snap in the tone of voice that outright demands an explanation.


“It doesn’t matter if I cut back a bit on spending on the estate because I still get my subsidies whatever happens you silly communist prick.”


Everyone is taken aback by the sheer randomness of the way he’s confused my simple farmer analogy for a genuine critique of his business model.


“Well, it’s ironic that you accuse me of being a silly communist prick Howie, because if anyone is the silly communist prick it’s you.”


A look of fury from Howard, a look of resignation from my brother, a tired look from Frank as if he’s getting tired waiting for the kill now because he’s beginning to pine for beer and the warmth of the pub, and a look of genuine intrigue from the unknown toff.


“In the late 19th Century” I begin “a guy called Henry George came up with the concept of a Land Value Tax. His idea was that if the value of land was taxed, then the idle rich would be forced to put it to better use, rent it out, or sell it, because only productive land would generate the income necessary to cover the cost of the land tax. And then the tax money raised could be used for social and technological improvements for the rest of society.”


“The land-rich establishment class hated the idea of paying tax on their unearned wealth so much that they ended up eventually implementing the opposite policy; A land subsidy to reward landowners simply for being landowners, whether they use their land productively or not.”


“An extraction of wealth from the landless, to be distributed to the land-rich.”


“A policy of forcing the poor and ordinary with little or no land to their names to actually subsidise a bunch of unproductive and often downright idle landowners.”


“It’s an outrage and a perfect example of communism for the rich, yet there you sit on your taxpayer subsidised horse trying to make out that I’m the greedy communist intent on robbing you!”


The red mist has descended. Howard is blind furious. For a moment I think he’s going to actually attack me with his riding crop from atop his horse, but in the end he just points it aggressively in my face and yells at me “you always were too clever for your own good John Reeth, but look at you, you’re nothing, you’ll always be nothing. Don’t think we don’t know that you had to leave the village because you can’t even afford to rent a house here. I own half the houses here and I’d never rent one to a commie like you, so fuck you!”


I have no intention of explaining that inheriting half of the houses in the village was never my objective in life, and that escaping the oppressive atmosphere of this sad Tory-infested village was the main focus of my attention since the age of about 12.


But even if I had intended to put him right, he’s already yanked the reins and jerked his poor unsuspecting horse into action.


The over-confident toff reacts to the sudden furious departure of his companion by treating us to another well-polished smile, and bidding each of us a “Merry Christmas” in turn. Then he unhitches the reins and mounts his horse almost as gracefully as he had dismounted earlier.


Before he eases her into a canter to catch up with Howard he turns over his shoulder and aims a genuine smile and a knowing wink right at me, a move which goes unseen by the other two.


We wait in silence as the horseback figures disappear into the descending twilight mist, then Frank erupts with laughter. “I aint seen fat Howie throw a wobbler like that for many a year, you should come back more often John”.


And then he’s mounting his knackered old bicycle and switching to a much harder Yorkshire dialect. “Well t’ beer in’t gonna drink issen” he says “mebbe ah see yer down thear lay-ah lads?”


“Mebbe” we reply in unison, and he’s off too. “silly communist prick” he laughs to himself as he gets into his stride, creaking and clanking up the hill and into the mist as I close the cattle grid gate.


“Dickhead” may brother snaps at as we turn for home.


I give him a quizzical look in the half-light.


“Fucking know-it-all dickhead”.


I say nothing and wait for an explanation.


“You know Howie and his fucking hunting mates are customers of mine … and you know Frank works for Howie’s cousin Edward up on the manor farm. You can’t humiliate the fat prick like that and expect there to be no consequences John.”


He’s genuinely angry with me for standing up to the fat Tory prick.


“You’ve been away for a long while, but you know as well as I do that these people have all the power. They always have and they always will.”


“Well that other toff didn’t seem to mind” I say.


“That other toff” he retorts in a mocking voice. “That’s Lord Knaresborough you dick”. “You’d better be glad he enjoyed your little display because you definitely wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that one.”


“Ah well” I say. “How about a walk down the local later then?”.


“I haven’t been there in ten years John, and you haven’t been there in nearly twenty.”


“About time we showed our faces then eh?” I laugh as we make our way back into the warmth of the house.


Epilogue


Millions of us this Christmas will have to deal with a Howard: A father or grandfather. A Husband or an elderly uncle. A domineering boss at the work Christmas party. A sozzled blowhard down the local pub. The obnoxious Tory voter who believes they’re some kind of political expert with the right to belittle and deride anyone with contrary opinions just because they’ve diligently rote learned all of the right-wing political and economic tropes that pervade the mainstream media.


For too many years these belligerent blowhards have arrogantly trampled down anyone else’s right to speak about politics by furiously regurgitating the right-wing propaganda narratives that they’ve never even thought to question for themselves.


All it takes is a bit of basic political or economic education and the will to stand up to them, and you can corner them into performing the most absurd acts of mental gymnastics in order to defend their mindlessly rote-learned right-wing propaganda tropes.


Of course this is easier said than done. These over-privileged right-wing blowhards have become accustomed to browbeating other people into silence. If anyone ever disagrees with them they expect us all to bite our tongues and leave politics out of it, because more often than not, they hold the power to demand silence from others.


Standing up to them is easier said than done because these vindictive right-wing sods can have us sacked from our jobs and blacklisted from our professions, turn the local community against us, or make the family environment utterly toxic whenever we show our faces.


For far too long the older over-privileged  right-wing male has had his own way, browbeating women and younger people out of the political realm with their furious hard-right rhetoric, and the threat of real life repercussions for those who refuse to bow to their political bullying. 


But until more of us have the bravery to stand up to them, they’ll continue to dictate this toxic political atmosphere in Britain.

So if you have to deal with a Howard this Christmas, as so many millions of us will, good luck to you if you intend to stand up to them.

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