Our own Tony Jay, on “30 Days of Shite”:
Long, long ago, before the Sun first rose to challenge the Moon and when the screens were small and square, in that mythical period known to historians as ‘The Early Nineties’, noted political commentator and semi-professional Monopoly piece Linda Perry emerged lean and raving from sixteen gruelling months of contemplative isolation at Jan-Michael Vincent’s Nevada sweat-lodge to pen a searing admonition of the outgoing Bush Administration’s many foreign policy scandals entitled “What’s Going On?”, an obvious call-back to (and some might even say, straight-out swipe from) the identically titled brickbat of vituperative lyricism released eleven years earlier by hirsute urban troubadour Marvin Gaye in which he drew attention to widespread opposition to the Vietnam War, glaring disparities in the lived experiences of White and Black Americans, and persistent questions surrounding the pedestrianisation of Ludlow town centre. To say that these are all well-known facts that barely require checking up on (so you can put that Google search down, chum) is almost beside the point, because these familiar cultural touchstones are so firmly welded into place by the metaphysical glue of ur-memory that they obscure a greater truth, in that Perry and Gaye were only the latest in a long line of alternative spokespersonages to take up this particular idiomatic interjection and wield it as a performative goad to the consciences of their listeners.
For example, relatively few people are aware that before Gaye ever darkened the doorway of a Motown recording studio there had been ‘Dixie’ Van Beddows’ 1955 Rockabilly Classic “What’s Buzzin, Cuzzin?” demanding free white T-Shirts and a sensible nuclear strategy from the Eisenhower Administration, 1932’s Jazz standard “Blow The News This Way” from Mack ‘Mack’ Mackie and the Sweet Trumpet Chorus, which lambasted everything from Herbert Hoover’s economic policies to the shortage of olives for martini cocktails, and perhaps the least well-remembered of them all, “Answer Me This You Fragrant Swiss Miss”, the 1908 Music Hall singalong popularised by Little Dicky Owenwilkie and the Pink Petunia Twins that channelled general unease over the Tunguska impact’s lingering climatological effects into political pressure on Leopold II to formally relinquish his personal control over the Congo.
Going back even further in time we hear echoes of Perry’s bellowed confusion in the late 18th century marching song “Ce Qui Se Passe? Mes Amies”, author unknown, that inspired both the violence of the French Revolution and Pope Pius VI’s threat to excommunicate any Vatican occupant found drawing willies on the noses of Michaelangelo’s cherubs. Gaye’s sexually charged plaintiveness resonates in kind with the bawdy Baroque call and response chant “How Flows My Tide? Ebb-water, Good Woman, No Coin For A Ride” from around 1658, which many experts on the period would argue precipitated Europe’s most virulent outbreak of herpes oyster and the fall of the Cromwellian Protectorate, and only the most philistine ear could fail to pick up on the thematic similarities evident between all of the aforementioned examples and both the early Tudor protest anthem for the harpsichord “Verily, Indulge Mine Curiosity Upon The Roots Of Thy Present Circumstance” and “Tristis Temporibus Gor Dei Populus”, the medieval Gregorian chant popularised by Saint Simbo the Limbless, the first (and last) Christian missionary to visit pagan Ikealund.
What has any of this to do with the latest black-comedy catastrogasm being inflicted upon poor old Perfidious Albion? Not a lot, and yet everything. Sort of. Mostly it’s just a delaying tactic to avoiding actually talking about the situation we’re in because, quite frankly, it’s as depressing a scene as can be imagined without sepia-tinged commentary from an over-ketamined Ken Burns, and nothing leads me to believe there’ll be any noticeable improvement in the status quo in the near to middle future. It turns out that the near total lockdown on ‘politics’ that took up the end of September was actually the high point of this Third Elizabethan Age, and it’s been all downhill slalom with hungry wolf outriders every day since.
I mean, come on. Truss was gifted the opportunity to follow Flobalob Johnson’s ghastly show onto the national stage, a warm-up act that might have started off with gushing reviews and a lot of buzz courtesy of his chums in the Press, but eventually wore out its welcome with the audience through a series of off-colour pratfalls and not entirely accidental wardrobe malfunctions, all of which concluded with a humiliating exeunt Hard Right pursued by bears. Any functioning politician with the common-sense of a damp roof-tile should have been able to slide into that gaping chasm of credibility and, merely by virtue of not being a petulant gasbag of selfish dishonesty, enjoy a honeymoon period where they literally couldn’t help but appear reassuringly solid and capable in comparison.
You see where I’m going with this?
In the person of Mary Elizabeth Truss, the writhing nest of ill-hatched wyrms and slimy parasitic ticks that comprise the Tory Party membership have managed to miss that mile-wide target by some kind of very large number of astronomical units (let’s call it the Musk Variable), saddling this country in the process with a Prime Minister of such intellectual vacuity that the combined weight of every single useful thought to have passed through her cranium over the last decade, if transmogrified item for item into lead pellets and stuffed into a sack woven from her most quick witted ripostes to policy questions, still wouldn’t be a burden sufficient to noticeably inconvenience a mildly arthritic ant.
It’s absolutely astounding to me how incredibly thoroughly the Tory Party has gone about October Surprising its own brand. They’ve been under new management for a grand total of 30 days so far, a good third of which were taken up by the ultra-slow-motion internment of Betty Windsor during which 24/7 coverage of our INTENSE AND SHARED NATIONAL GRIEF crowded out any talk of such mundanities as the lives and livelihoods of mere common-folk, and yet in that time they’ve managed to tank the pound on the currency markets, sabotage the mortgage market, trash the UK’s credit rating, compel the Bank of England to launch a £65 billion effort to rescue the pension market, align the UK with pro-Trumpian Christofascists over the location of Britain’s embassy in Israel, add about £100 billion to the national debt, promise lucrative tax cuts to the richest (partially) funded by brutal spending cuts targeting the poorest, refused to contemplate ‘hand-outs’ to help people deal with their energy bills, preferring to offer public money direct to the energy companies to guarantee their profits, threatened to break international law over trafficking asylum seekers to Rwanda, and a dozen or more other auto-mutilations I can’t even begin to stuff into this already swollen paragraph.
Twenty days. That’s all it took for them to make Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson look positively statesmanlike. Da Fuk?!?
And they did all of this, let’s not forget, just in time for Conference season. The one time of the year (other than any day that NuNew Labour’s authoritarians need a hand gaslighting the public vis-à-vis their ongoing Special Ideological Operation against British History’s Greatest Monster) that the national News Media are more or less compelled to give the Opposition some grudging coverage. Chancellor Kwarsi Kwarteng’s ‘emergency mini-budget’ of pseudo-erotic Randian fantasy triumphalism blew up in his vacantly grinning face just as NuNew Labour were stage-managing their mawkishly ‘patriotic’ celebration of everything Mittelenglisch and ringing the conference centre with bullet-headed securigoons tasked with keeping anyone on their ‘Too Lefty for the Daily Mail’ shitlist (i.e. the vast majority of the Party and 99.9% of Liverpool’s population) off the premises. Granted, Starmer’s brittle coalition of synthi-skinned careerists and lobbyists for Omnicorp have the combined political nous and reaction speed of Garth Knight’s Goliath sailing over the edge of a southern California cliff, but even they were able to cobble together a focus-group approved response that underlined the widening gulf between centre-right economic orthodoxy and whatever the hell it is Tory voters have unearthed from the Tomb of Kapitalizmahotep the Unchained.
Honest to Dark Brandon I don’t recall the Tories ever being quite this bad at the nuts and bolts of politics, and I’m old enough to remember the long, slow death of John Major’s sleaze-ridden post-Thatcher Government. In choosing Truss as their leader (against the wishes of a large majority of their MPs) the Tory membership have empowered the most extreme elements at the Rightward edge of their Coalition of C*#%s to take centre stage, with everything that implies for fangs out, hair on fire ideological policy making. Truss, Kwarteng, Raab, Braverman, etc, these nonentities are just finger-puppets for the Invisible Hand of those billionaire-funded ‘thinktanks’ (like the Taxpayers
AvoidanceAlliance and the Institute of Economic ChaosAffairs) who make 55 Tufton Street their home. This is their opportunity to turn the United Kingdom into a backroom slot-machine they can stuff pennies into for guaranteed multi-billion payouts, and quite frankly they couldn’t give two minuscule fucks about the state Britain is in once they’ve had their fun. The people behind the thinktanks will be richer for betting on the ups and downs of the UK’s collapse, and their placemen will be set fair for a lifetime of part-time executive directorships and overpaid speaking gigs at various international junkets for the temporarily useful, and if they leave the country a culture-war battlefield of cash-strapped regional militias when they take the last fuelled jet to Davos Island, well, it’s just shrugs and prayers, drone-stock, you clearly should have been less Woke and done more networking.
Many Tory MPs seem to be in genuine shock at the speed of their Party’s collapse and the size of the Loyal Opposition’s 30-percentish lead in the polls, but they shouldn’t be. This isn’t down to anything the Stamerstans have done, this is entirely their own work. It’s what you get when you’re so cringingly obedient to your own propaganda wing that you allow the lunatics to take over the asylum and act like a bunch of blue-pilled businessmen let loose at a pooch-screwing festival who’ve been told not to come back to the hotel until every canine is a micrometre flat and their wee-willy-winkies have been worn down to glistening nubbins. It wouldn’t be quite so bad for them if this was happening after a sustained period of smooth-sailing Government that had solidified the bonds that unite Tories together (money, xenophobia, bodily fluids) and built up a bank of unearned credit with the electorate via the establishment News Media, then they’d be able to look the markets in the eye and say, hey, don’t panic, we’re just indulging in a little mid-term beak-wetting, there’ll be plenty of time to purge the national memory archives of this wobble and reboot as the Party of Fiscal Probity once Election season comes around again.
But it’s not, is it? They’ve made this lurch to the outer limits and beyond after twelve years of ruthless austerity (350,000 dead and counting) six years of Brexitcide (which is a Nirnaeth Arnoediad and counting), three years of Covid (200,000 +, but who’s counting) and eight months of Russia’s madly overcompensating Tsar Rumpelstiltsputin fucking with energy prices while his army dissolves on Ukrainian soil. These disasters have all combined with increasing levels of Tory incompetence to plunge the country into an economic and social maelstrom where you don’t need to have a university degree in Practical Moneybusiness (IANAGOPMU) to see that we’re all pretty much fucked and the Conservative and Unionist Party was in the driving seat for ALL of it. Yes, the BBC’s loyal choir of castrato commentators can – and will -prettify things up as much as possible (I’m talking about you Chris ‘worse that Kuenssberg’ Mason and your “This is a newly hatched Government barely out of the shell” bullshit) but the simple fact of the matter is that the Tory Civil-War is now out in the open and can’t easily be papered over with bland assurances that all this recent unpleasantness is just the result of global economic turmoil and that massive tax-cuts for the wealthy are, in fact, a proven part of any Growth Plan.
On one side of the yawning divide you’ve got Truss and Kwarteng and the rest of the Glibertarian, ERG, Kulturkampfing Far-Right brigade, and on another Sunak and Shapps and the Not-Quite-As-Far-Right wing who would rather boil the frog slowly and at least pretend to care about the financial security of millions of traditional Tory voters once every few years. Then there’s the faction that are still loyal to Flobalob’s brand of ‘all things to just enough voters’ grifting bullshit, who blame the Brextremists for not sticking with him, the Traditionalists for betraying him, and the naughty, naughty News Media for not protecting him. In between them all are scores of horrified Tory MPs who couldn’t find their own arses with a compass and a helper monkey but who can read a poll well enough to see that the collapse of huge Tory majorities in recent by-elections could easily happen to them. All the constituency boundary rejiggering and fucking around with the electoral commission they’ve been doing can only go so far towards entrenching Tory rule, and they won’t mean diddley-squat if the Average Joe and Joanne continue to have their noses rubbed in the reality of what continued Tory Government – especially this kind of unhinged Tory Government – means for their chances of being able to light their homes and feed their families over Christmas. And rub their noses in it is exactly what Truss & Co have been doing.
We’ve had Tory Party Chairman Jake ‘I’m just bluff, I am’ Berry telling people concerned about the spiralling cost of everything that “When their bills arrive, they can either cut their consumption or they can get a higher salary, higher wages, go out there and get that new job”, which is… nice of him.
Higher Education Minister Andrea Jenkyns (she of the middle-finger gesture directed at people booing Flobalob as he left Downing Street) claiming that she would ban Universities from offering degrees in entirely fictional ‘Harry Potter studies’ (that’s the class where the kids are allowed to self-identify as Mandrakes) and stop students from “being fed a diet of critical race theory, anti-British history and sociological Marxism”, the latter of which is apparently that old standby ‘Cultural Marxism’ with the Jew-Hate scrubbed off, courtesy of whichever Heritage Institute pamphlet she cribbed that load of verbal rat-bedding from.
Then there’s the ever reliable source of drawling class-war clickbait Jacob Rees-Mogg, Truss’
Emissary to The Endless Darkness Beyond Mortal KenBusiness Secretary who has been enjoying his latest opportunity to trigger outrage in the sane majority who don’t aspire to someday inherit one of the Nine Rings of Men from their Great-Uncle Dwimmerlaik Rees-Mogg by proclaiming both his eagerness to let frackers frack themselves silly in his spacious back garden (much to the displeasure of his NIMBY constituents) while rejecting the possibility of allowing local referendums on the issue (because of the displeasure of his NIMBY constituents) and dismissing all opposition to fracking in general as “hysteria” generated by groups “funded by Russia” (by which I assume he means the Tory Party itself, because many of its MPs are dead set against any fracking in their constituencies and it’s stuffed with more roubles than a babushka’s mattress) while simultaneously being outed as exploring ways to evade public scrutiny of the approval process for new fracking opportunities. Don’t ever change, Jacob. [he won’t – Ed]
The new Home Secretary, lunatic barely-lawyer and serial liar Suella “I’m not brown, you’re brown” Braverman, was filmed ranting at the Tory Conference about how seeing asylum seekers forced onto planes and renditioned to Rwanda was her “dream” and “obsession”, for which clear evidence of mental illness and sociopathic tendencies she received a partial standing ovation. Partial, only because the other half of the audience had already spanked themselves into drooling lassitude at the very thought of shipping all the darkies back to Africa, even and especially the ones who thought to outwit the Bulldog British by coming here from Asia. Not so inscrutable now, eh, Johnny Foreigner? Harrumph.
And last, but also least, Truss herself, filling up much of her incredibly short maiden leader’s speech (they’re usually around an hour long, hers was just over half that length and included testimonial video from the team at Cyberdyne who constructed her from dough and old spoons) with sneers about people simply not being willing to understand that “with change comes disruption” and the creation of a new Enemies of the State list christened the “anti-growth coalition” which includes environmentalists, other political parties, militant Unions, anti-Brexit forces and some unnamed thinktanks, but not, as you might expect, Weight Watchers or the Pym Foundation. Missed opportunity there, Diz Liz.
It’s no great surprise that multiple Tory MPs have been running to friendly journalists to give (anonymous, natch) statements decrying the bonkers direction Truss & Co are dragging the Party and giving her until Christmas to pull her head out of her arse and become an entirely different and more capable person (uh huh, yeah) before the knives come out. Tory leaders are supposed to be immune from leadership challenges in the first year of their reign, but there’s rules and then there’s ‘rules’, in particular the Golden Rule (Do as thou wilt, but fucketh not up our electoral chances) and none of these rules were ever designed to deal with a leadership team so amateurish they’ve had to perform a series of U-turns on their very first policy priorities because they hadn’t even bothered to find out if their 71 seat majority in Parliament was united enough to get highly contentious legislation passed [it’s not – ED]. Cabinet ministers are already on record making statements in direct contradiction of what they know to be Government policy, which is supposed to be a sacking offense, but has now seemingly been downgraded to something Foreign Secretary James ‘nominative determinism lies a’mouldering in its grave’ Cleverly is dispatched to bullshit about on the morning News round because there’s simply no way of enforcing Cabinet discipline when the Tory Party is this fractured and self-destructive.
That’s not to say that the Tories are dead certs to lose the next General Election, far from it. Truss herself is absolutely, definitely, undeniably, a cast-iron certainty to get booted sooner rather than later, but that’s a different matter. She’s simply incapable of doing the job and lacks the ability to fake it. Every interview she does, even the soft-soap cuddle-ups with Tory loyalists like Kuenssberg and Robinson, quickly devolve into the robotic repetition of stock phrases delivered from behind a series of uncomfortable approximations of human facial expressions while her eyes remain as dead as a zombie rat’s. There’s an interview with a nameless Tory MP out there where he or she bemoans the fact that every single thing Truss says on any topic is always preceded by a static pause during which she retreats to her mind-palace (well, mind cottage, maybe) and goes over her list of “Things that sound like something a Tory Prime Minister might say” until she lands on the selection of mouth noises least appropriate to the question at hand. They could program an Alexa to do that, and it would probably come across on TV as warmer and far more on the ball policywise.
Who would replace her? God alone knows, or failing that you could ask His opposite number, who is probably considerably more in the loop regarding the average Tory’s innermost desires. Braverman obviously fancies her chances, hence the deep dive into Culture-War rhetoric and the manic grin she sports whenever she talks about hurting the people her lily-white audience don’t like, but she went out of the last leadership race in round two and would have to go toe-to-toe with Kemi ‘B-List Begbie’ Badenoch and Priti ‘Pure Venom’ Patel for the “Brown on Brown violence is the only thing that stirs my loins” vote, a fight I don’t see that chinless cheerleader coming out of in one piece. Michael Gove has returned from his summer of soul-searching on Mykonos to throw a little chaos into the mix by speaking for the average Tory MP in threatening to vote against her in Parliament, but it’s obvious that he’s only carrying water for some other Murdoch approved candidate, who may or may not be Rishi ‘D’ya like me now?’ Sunak. The other losers from the last leadership race are still there, ready to forgive and forget as long as their fellow MPs belatedly acknowledge their suitability for high-office, but given the hole Truss is driving the Party into, it’s possible a majority of them would rather wait until after the next Election to stake a claim to the smoking wreckage of the HMS Conservative Party.
Frankly, who cares. Whoever it is that leads the Tories into the next Election they don’t have a hope in hell of repeating Flobby’s 2019 victory margin, since most of his artificial advantages have already been squandered or simply slipped away with the passage of the years. The country is, basically, falling down around our ears, and there’s no unifying lizard-brain oriflamme like Brexit for the moronic minority to coalesce around, no simple three-word slogan like ‘Get Brexit Done’ to take the place of a policy manifesto, and while the News Media will certainly do their part to drag the Tories as close to the winning post as they possibly can, Starmer’s spineless kowtowing to the Right Wing Press and unwholesome embrace of Saint Anthony the Liar’s creed of ‘The Rich Know Best’ ensures that he and his handlers won’t face even a hundredth part of one percent of the concentrated barrage of lies and slander unleashed against his predecessor by the News Media and half of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
In fact, I’d hazard an almost-informed guess that the most prominent and successful axis of News Media attack on NuNew Labour won’t be from the Right at all, but will instead target the rift between its leadership’s aims and centre-left/minority voters. Once an Election is in the offing the BBC and the Press will suddenly wake up to the avalanche of documentary evidence sitting in their in-boxes proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the Labour Right are a bunch of racist, misogynistic, bullying shitbirds up to their fat necks in hock to very dodgy donors and desperate to avoid scrutiny of their alliance of convenience with the Tories that cost Labour in 2017 and 2019. Sure, that might be just the dating profile to appeal to the racist, misogynistic, bullying shitbirds (by which I mean people who devour Right Wing Media) they’ve been chasing after for the last two and a half years, but if the Tory Party continues collapsing in on itself at this rate it will be increasingly hard for NuNew Labour to play the Mandelsonian “Who else are you filthy trots going to vote for?” card at the ballot box. It would be blackly comical indeed if the ruthless Liebermanisation of the Labour Party pioneered by those Power (For Us) At All Costs ideologues surrounding Starmer combined with Tory self-implosion to cost the Party a majority because their backstabbing antics circa 2015 to Whatever Day It Is Today finally got the Breaking News coverage it deserves, and this drove millions of left-wing voters into the arms of the Greens, local ‘Real Labour’ alternatives and/or whatever the Enough is Enough movement morphs into.
But anyway, that’s a long way off. Tories don’t call Elections unless they think they can win them, and while they’re so far behind in the polls they’d be insane (the other kind of insane) to take that risk. I foresee a longish period of stalemated Government as Truss’ faction of hyper-ideologues ram face first into the cold, hard political fact that they don’t have the votes for their more extreme legislative priorities (ending child-labour laws, banning non-Government approved Unions, removing all taxation on corporations and the mega-rich, etc) and lack the institutional muscle to strong-arm truculent MPs without blowing the Party apart, but they will do a shit-ton of damage anyway by repealing as many of the regulations, labour-protections and human rights laws they can while cloaking it all under the worst kind of Culture-War division.
Eventually, the Tories will have to face a reckoning with their foreign-sponsored Far-Right or morph fully into a New British Union of Fascists, the only question is whether the country can survive long enough for them to collapse under the weight of their awfulness.
I haz me doots….
“What’s Going On?” indeed. Anyone got that sweat-lodge’s number?