The Million Mask march in London shows the activist, anti-austerity Left in all their incoherent, intellectually contradictory glory. But if these modern-day pseudo-anarchists want to put on silly costumes and whine for more Big Government once a year, nobody should stand in their way
Ever wanted to watch under-occupied and over-privileged young people stick it to the Man, railing against austerity while calling for anarchy, ranting about evil government while simultaneously demanding lots more of it – all while unironically dressed in a costume popularised by a big Hollywood movie?
Ever wanted to watch pumped-up social justice warriors demonstrate their enlightened, compassionate credentials by tearing around central London setting off fireworks at police horses and smashing up cars and property without a thought for the consequences of their actions?
Then November 5th is your lucky day, last year, this year and apparently every year for the foreseeable future. Forget Guy Fawkes and bonfires, the fifth of November is now all about the annual worldwide Million Mask march organised by that self-appointed moral minority, Anonymous.
After spending the entirety of the general election campaign and the months following Labour’s defeat screaming hysterically about the Evil Tories and their supposed persecution of “the vulnerable” (funny how almost everyone in Britain is now in a state of permanent vulnerability, according to the Left), some of those protesting the Conservative Party conference in Manchester are now taking matters into their own hands.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at lunchtime near to All Saint’s park on Oxford Road to protest against the Conservatives as the the party conference kicked off down the road.
As the rally reached Portland Street, a breakaway group surged to a fence that had been erected to close off Oxford Street and screamed ‘Tory scum’ repeatedly at a small group of delegates standing on the other side.
One of the delegates was speaking to the protesters when he was hit by the egg.
Bear in mind: this was not a government minister. This was not a Member of Parliament. This was not a fat, self-serving member of the hated establishment. This was a young person doing something which more of us should be doing, quite frankly – taking an interest in the future of his country, and participating in our democracy by joining and being active in a political party.
In May, the Conservative Party portrayed the election as a choice between Tory competence and Labour chaos; Labour’s spending and borrowing compared to the Conservative “long term economic plan”. The electorate made their choice and the current government received a mandate to cut the budget deficit and fix the economy.
Britain is now purportedly on the path to economic sanity, but you can be forgiven for having some moments of doubt. In the year 2015, after nearly six years of “austerity”, we will still spend £70 billion over budget. Should we redefine what the word “austerity” means?
The economic madness really began when Gordon Brown and Ed Balls implemented their plans for a high tax, high spend, much enlarged state with a continental-style economy. As we know only too well, it grew completely out of control.
The current government has the opportunity to reshape the British state permanently, and when ideas are floated about “thinking the unthinkable” and slashing budgets by 40% there is a flicker of hope that they might grasp it with both hands. Sadly, there is too much evidence to the contrary to believe anything serious is really being done to end the public spending spree and return to a sensible, sustainable fiscal situation.
By most accounts, the SNP’s Mhairi Black – Britain’s youngest MP in several hundred years – gave a great and powerful maiden speech when she finally spoke during the Budget debate this week. And so it was, if you lower the bar for greatness so far that it encompasses earnest, occasionally witty, wide-eyed socialist babble.
Certainly many Labour MPs were enthusiastic, as the Guardian reported approvingly when the speech went viral:
In the anti-austerity speech where Black called herself “the only 20-year-old in the whole of the UK who the chancellor is prepared to help with housing” after the age limit imposed on housing benefit, she also called for a healing of relations with the Labour party.
“I have never been quiet in my assertion that it is the Labour party that left me, not the other way round,” she said in the speech where she also praised the lateLabour grandee Tony Benn. “I reach out a genuine hand of friendship that I can only hope will be taken. Ultimately people are needing a voice, people are needing help. Let’s give them it.”
Several Labour politicians seemed receptive to her call for cooperation. Praise for Black’s speech was tweeted and retweeted by Labour MPs including Tulip Siddiq, Diane Abbott and Sarah Champion, as well as Labour’s Madeleine Jennings, the parliamentary researcher for MP Stephen Kinnock.
This blog disagrees with almost everything that Mhairi Black believes in, but has no personal animosity toward the twenty-year-old parliamentarian. In many ways it is refreshing and long overdue for someone so young to be included in the makeup of parliament, especially at a time when government policy (and state largesse) so overwhelmingly favours older people, with their selfish attitudes and non-means tested benefits. It is only a pity that Mhairi Black doesn’t represent a serious political party but rather a group of zealous, moralising fantasists who would tear up a three hundred year old union in a fit of pique over ten years of Tory Lite rule. But so be it.
As their uninspiring leadership contest rumbles on, the Labour Party is in the process of missing a massive opportunity, an existential moment which could very well determine whether the party of Keir Hardie exists at all in fifty years time.
Tristram Hunt – one of the real intellectual and political heavyweights who realised that Labour’s renewal could not be completed in time for the 2020 election, and decided to keep their powder dry for the next leadership contest – admits as much in a revealing interview with the Guardian today.
Rather than developing detailed policy on childcare, housing, or education, Labour’s debate should be about how government can help people to tackle massive economic, technological and social change.
“The party should be arguing for a progressive and interventionist state to support citizens and communities in confronting the challenges of globalisation. What are we for? We are for giving people the capacity to deal with a period of incredible socio-economic change and the advent of digital technology, migration flows, global capital flows.”
As the Tories trim back the state, they fail to address such questions. “Representing Stoke-on-Trent, you see the seismic change of the last 30 years. It is almost anthropological in terms of the taking away of traditional systems. The role of a Labour party and social democratic parties is to help communities get through that and thrive on the back of it.”
Here, in a nutshell, is the leadership contest which the Labour Party should be having, but is not. Watch any of the hustings or listen to the bickering between the candidates and their badly behaved proxies and you will soon see that (with the partial exceptions of Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn respectively), and you will be struck by two facts about the conversation taking place in the party: