British politics like a Francis Durbridge thriller - nothing is what it seems
It’s just over forty years since British television first screened Francis Durbridge’s classic thriller The Doll, in which - much like Britain's present political system - few people and things are what they at first appear.
RT‘s motto is ‘Question More,’ while Francis Durbridge encourages us to question everything and everybody. Without giving away too much of the plots (and you’re in for a real treat if you’ve never see a Durbridge thriller before), the character you thought was the hero’s friend, often turns out to have been plotting against him and is part of some criminal conspiracy. The people you thought were the ‘bad guys’ were actually on the side of justice. The man who’s behaving very suspiciously turns out to have been a detective. But can we even trust the detective?
We can’t be sure about anything in a Durbridge series until the very final scenes.
Now here’s the irony: Francis Durbridge’s heyday was an era in which things generally were what they seemed in Britain: We had a Conservative Party that genuinely tried to conserve things; we had a Labour party that represented the interests of working people; we had Liberals that were genuinely liberal; political ‘moderates’ were actually moderates; people who said they supported free speech supported free speech and didn’t try to shut it down.
The world of Francis Durbridge may have been a confusing one where nothing could be taken for granted, but the same didn’t apply to the political arena.
We could be sure, for instance, that leading politicians of the time did have Britain’s best interests at heart. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time The Doll was first screened on television had, in the 1960s, stood up to American pressure to send British soldiers to Vietnam. Edward Heath, the Conservative leader from 1965-75, nationalized Rolls-Royce in 1971 when the prestigious company went bankrupt.
Neither Wilson nor Heath would have allowed vast swathes of the British economy - including our railways, our water, our gas and electricity - to have been bought up by foreign companies, as is the case today. Neither Wilson nor Heath would have lied us into the disastrous Iraq war, alongside a hard-right US President who somehow resembled a chimpanzee.
In place of politicians and parties and movements who acted as you’d expect them to act, we’ve now got politicians, parties and movements who do the complete opposite to what’s said on the tin.
The Conservative Party of David Cameron, as I argued here, should really be called the Destructive Party.
"The only thing Cameron and his multimillionaire chums want to 'conserve' is their wealth and the rule of international finance capital. Everything else can be destroyed."
I wrote that back in 2011, and the situation has only got worse since then.
The list of things the ‘Conservatives’ have destroyed, or are planning to destroy, is a long one. They sold off the Royal Mail, the national postal service which had been in state ownership since its inception in the 16th century. They’ve been gradually privatizing the NHS. Up and down the country much-loved public libraries have been closing, or being run by volunteers, due to government cuts. The ‘Conservative’ government wants to end the traditional British Sunday as a day of rest and reflection by abolishing the Sunday trading laws, a move opposed by trade unions and The Church.
Internationally the ‘Destructive Party’ has helped to destroy Libya- a country which had the highest living standards in Africa- and done their best to destroy Syria, where they’ve backed extremist rebels to overthrow a government which had protected Christians and other religious minorities.
Genuine 'conservatives’ who vote Conservative must feel as perplexed as viewers watching The Doll were forty years ago.
In February 2015, research revealed that almost 50 percent of Tory donors were hedge fund managers.
Labour too, in the neoliberal/neocon era, carried out policies which were the direct opposite of those it had supported in the past. Under Tony Blair it morphed into a party of capital, not labor. A party that in the 1970s had introduced a top rate of income tax of 83 percent, and which presided in the lowest levels of inequality in Britain’s history, went out of its way to pander to the super-rich.
Politicians who had served the national interest back in the Sixties and Seventies now served the interests of a rapacious global capitalist elite. Whether they came with a ‘centre-left’ or centre-right’ or ‘liberal’ label the policies they supported were the same: endless war and further privatization and outsourcing. Again, in another example of false labeling, the new system was called ‘the free market’ or 'the market economy’, but in fact it was a rigged market with enormous amounts of taxpayer subsidies being transferred to big corporations. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor continued to grow.
The dishonesty reached a new level with the Iraq war in 2003.
This imperialist attack on an oil-rich, independently-minded sovereign state was justified by blatant lies about Iraq possessing WMDs which could be ready for use within 45 minutes. The ensuing military offensive was presented as something ‘progressive’, as indeed was the attack on Libya eight years later.
The most reactionary people in our society posed as concerned ‘humanitarians’ - keen to help/liberate suffering Iraqis or Libyans - in much the same way that Durbridge’s scheming villains always pretended to be on the side of justice.
The label ‘the decent left’ was claimed by ‘progressives’ who supported US-led wars, while those who opposed them were smeared as ‘extremists’ and ‘apologists for dictators’. But in fact, the genuinely ‘decent left’ (and genuine conservatives for that matter) opposed these wars of choice as they knew hundreds of thousands of innocent people would be killed and that life in the countries concerned was likely to be far worse after the ‘interventions’' as indeed proved to be the case.
The real ‘humanitarians’ were the ones who opposed the wars, not the so-called 'leftists' who wrote ‘Something Must Be Done’ articles targeted at ‘official enemy’ states for neocon propaganda sheets.
A pernicious New McCarthyism, every bit as bad as the McCarthyism of the 1950s, was deployed to smear and marginalize truth tellers. Free speech advocates were often the worst culprits when it came to attempts to silence dissidents.
To narrow the parameters of 'acceptable’ debate, we were told that politics had to be centered around a phoney elite-friendly ‘center-ground', which, on issue after issue, had no relation whatsoever to where majority public opinion was, and which was in a very different place to the center-ground of the mid-1970s.
Anyone who attempted to move politics away from this phoney center ground was attacked, particularly if they challenged the pro-intervention foreign policy ‘consensus’.
For those brought up not to tell lies, and who can remember the time when we had a proper left, a proper right and a proper center, and where the names given to things were generally accurate, this period of widespread deceit and deception in politics and foreign policy was a demoralizing one to live through.
Then in 2015, almost forty years on from the first showing of The Doll, a sign that perhaps a more honest form of politics in Britain was, at long last, on its way back.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, to the horror of Establishment gatekeepers, faux-humanitarians and the ‘let’s promote democracy abroad by air strikes’ brigade, represents a real threat to the Francis Durbridge-esque politics of the neoliberal/neocon era.
Labour was now being led by a man who wanted the party to go back to being what it was in the 1970s, a party that stood up first and foremost for ordinary people and did not support neo-liberal economics and illegal neocon wars of aggression. In fact, Corbyn has praised the record of Labour governments of the 1970s.
Corbyn’s victory was warmly welcomed not only by the genuine left - the left that had opposed the Iraq war - but by all those genuine democrats who had had enough of the politics of the last few decades where a fake-left and fake-right had dominated and political mislabeling was widespread.
Predictably, the attacks on the new Labour leader have been severe and unrelenting. This most mild-mannered of men has been cast as a dangerous ‘extremist' and even a ‘terrorist sympathizer'
By contrast, those Blairites who oppose Jeremy Corbyn within the Parliamentary Labour Party are referred to as ‘moderates’, even though almost all of them supported the far from ‘moderate’ Iraq war.
Whether we’re talking about his anti-war stance, his support for re-nationalizing the railways or cutting tuition fees, the fact is that Corbyn is more in tune with majority public opinion than pro-war Blairites and his laughably out-of-touch detractors in the ‘punditocracy' - which is, of course, why he won such a resounding victory in September.
Cameron praises Christian values at Christmas. And Christian values of course are chiefly love of the poor and a commitment to peace— NeilMackay (@NeilMackay) December 24, 2015
The main problem with Corbyn for his critics is not that he’s unpopular and unelectable, but that he’s all too popular and electable and could very well lead his party to victory on a ‘Real Labour’ program in 2020. Make no mistake: the bearded 66-year-old MP for Islington North is a dangerous man to those who want to maintain the status quo. These people want to keep it all like a Francis Durbridge drama, where labels don’t mean anything and things are often the very opposite as to what they appear: confusion, deceit and deception serves their purpose.
I for one, however, would much rather watch a Francis Durbridge thriller on television, than have it all played out live in the political arena.
Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66
(The Doll in German ('Die Puppe') and in English, can be purchased here).
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.