Friday 29 September 2023

Cancelling the dissenting voices


I am at something of a disadvantage because for the last year or so I haven’t watched any TV. I’ve never watched GB News. But I do sometimes listen to the monologues by Neil Oliver online. I used to watch his documentaries about the history and geography of Britain and found what I watched to be unusually intelligent. GB News has given him a different platform and his is a rare voice. I don’t think he is always right. Sometimes I disagree. But he is trying to say something important about Britain. The thing that is important is that we are stuck in a stultifying rut without any possibility of change.

Britain since the Second World War has been dominated by a consensus between the Labour Party and Conservative Party. The Welfare State was combined with managed decline so that by the 1970s most of us were poor. For decades it didn’t much matter who you voted for. Wilson and Heath were much the same.

There was a very brief interlude where it did matter. The Thatcher Government changed everything, and we reached the 1990s with a Britain that had been changed as radically as it had been by Atlee. But since then, we have returned to consensus.

Blair and Brown gave us social democracy that hoped to use the market economy to produce higher taxes for public spending. David Cameron and the coalition did the same. But so have Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. The exception was Liz Truss who attempted to change things, but through a mixture of mismanagement and establishment opposition failed dismally.

The vote in 1979 made a difference as did the vote in 1945, but in between the only other time Britain voted for real change in 2016 it was thwarted. There are all sort of reasons why people voted to leave the EU, but the main one was that they wanted change. The UK did leave the EU, but did anything else change? No not really. The same consensus remains.

The situation I think is similar in Scotland. We voted for devolution in 1997, but it is hard to think of a single respect in which Scotland has improved. Scottish independence may have produced radical change, but I rather doubt it. The SNP has been in charge since 2007, but it has not made Scotland more prosperous, worse it’s model of ever-increasing taxation and state spending within the EU is not essentially different from that of Blair and Cameron.

The Scottish establishment is just as powerful as the British establishment. If you read the Herald or the Scotsman, then you find the same cosy consensus. The main political parties differ over independence, but not much else. I have the distinct impression that most SNP MSPs and MPs are concerned more about their salaries and keeping their pleasant jobs than independence. They accept that independence is not happening any time soon, but let’s keep pretending to the gullible that it is, because it gives us access to that nice bar in Westminster or that delightful Bute House in Edinburgh.

But the situation is no different in London. We will soon have a choice between Labour and the Conservatives again. Keir Starmer may be Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak, or successor will stand opposite each other pretending that they are saying something different, but the difference will be minimal.

We saw this during the pandemic. We now know that life expectancy in Scotland has fallen sharply due to lockdown. We know how many people died due to Covid. But we now know due to the fall in life expectancy that many more died due to lockdown. But no one will admit that lockdown was a mistake and they would do the same again.

I don’t think it mattered very much what we did. A certain number of people were always going to die due to Covid. It would happen quickly if we did nothing or slowly if we had lockdown, but we are as helpless in the face of viruses as we were in 1918. If Boris Johnson had told us at the beginning, I’m sorry there is a new illness, be careful if you are old, but otherwise carry on as normal, we would have saved huge numbers of lives.

But no one said this. There was as with everything else a political consensus. Dissenting voices were cancelled. We weren’t allowed to even think about the issue. We just had to do what we were told.

It didn’t matter if your leader was Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson or anyone else. The BBC went into full propaganda mode and grotesquely exaggerated the danger that for most people under fifty was relatively small.

Given this consensus our democracy becomes largely pointless. It won’t matter much if Labour wins the election, the civil service will tell it what to do just as it is telling Sunak what to do. It won’t matter very much if the SNP win or even if it won independence. The same Scottish establishment would be in charge.

Independence would merely be Brexit with kilts, because it is founded on a lie that the SNP is different from the wicked Tories, and we are still living in the 1980s when Thatcher closed down our pits and steel works. They would have closed anyway. There is no real ideological difference between Sunak, Yousaf and Khan. They are all social democrats. The hatred that is the foundation of Scottish nationalism is entirely manufactured between people who think the same.

But the cosy consensus won’t do. Britain is two trillion in debt. We are falling behind other countries in the far east and eastern Europe. Our economy is hardly growing and if we continue in this way, we will decline in just the same way as we did between 1945 and 1979. Our standard of living will soon be such that many of us won’t be able to afford a car or heat our houses or go on holiday.

The establishment solution is mass immigration. Brexit was supposed to give us control over our borders, but the Conservative Government does not want to control our borders. It pretends to want to stop people arriving in small boats and talks tough about the European Court of Human Rights or Asylum law. There is manufactured outrage from Labour. Meanwhile legal migration with visas to the UK approaches one million people a year.

But if mass immigration were the solution we would not be where we are now. We have been trying this experiment since 1950. Has it succeeded or failed? Thirty years from now Poland will be more prosperous than Britain and it will still have tiny levels of migration. The Poles will vote to stop it.

There is a concerted effort to cancel those few who are outside the cosy consensus. Scandals are manufactured or exaggerated. Media hysteria is always against those who dare to say the unsayable.

I don’t want to be overly cynical. Politics does matter and even if you cannot change the world, you can be a decent moral person and that matters more than anything.

The Brexit rebellion largely failed, but that doesn’t mean real change is impossible.

Thatcher and Atlee mainly succeeded and changed everything. Meanwhile we must focus on small battles like kicking out the SNP because of its corruption and incompetence.

There will be a bigger battle one day, but we will only win it if dissenting voices like Neil Oliver’s are allowed to speak.


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