“It remains to be seen how the Eurozone crisis will affect the long term health of citizens in the PIGS, who’ve typically been held up as doyennes of health, with their much vaunted heart-healthy Mediterranean cuisine. But if the Argentinian financial crisis and resulting heart attack rates, and now the spike in cardiac arrests in Kalamata are anything to go by, using the European south as a guinea pig for austerity is fatal, as well as economically illiterate.”
Bizarrely, despite you being the Welsh Secretary, and me being Welsh I hadn’t really seen anything you’ve done since assuming office hit the news. Until, today that is when you decided an unprovoked attack on gay families and carers was within your remit, as Welsh Secretary. You said in a TV interview that gay couples “clearly” could not provide a “warm and safe environment” to raise children. It’d be interesting to know where this “clear” evidence you came from. Academic research that has hitherto been hidden from public view? Or just deep-seated prejudicial views you hold about people whose lives don’t affect yours?
From the age of 13, I was brought up by my grandmother and her partner, and contrary to your claims, they provided me with a warm and safe environment when neither my mother or father could. They were able to do this because they are human, and contrary to what some in your party may believe, concepts such as empathy and love are not predicated on who you share a bed with, they’re basic human concepts that most of us are capable of. Being gay isn’t a neurological dysfunction, as much as you might like to paint it, with dog whistle claims that placing children in the care of a gay couple is not “warm” or “safe”.
So, being brought up by a gay couple did provide me with a warm and safe environment. I didn’t join the Tory party for a start, and have learnt such concepts as tolerance, and respect, so maybe I’ve benefited? But, call me cynical – I doubt you just misspoke. As well as attacks on gay couples, the Tories seem keen on attacking any family that is non-traditional. Gay couples. Large families. Single parent families. Poor families. Families are messy because human lives are messy. What you need to raise children is love and support from the community, your family and friends, and the state. Not to have your lifestyle and identity rubbished to make a cheap political point.
Originally published on New Left Project
As summer draws to a close in Greece, the latest opinion poll shows falling support for every party in Parliament. Except one that is – the neo-nazi Golden Dawn. From 6.9% in June’s legislative election, a Pulse poll for Pontiki newspaper puts the Greek fascists on 10.5% of the popular vote, 2.5% ahead of the centre-left PASOK, who previously polled 43.92% in Greece’s 2009 elections before watching their support collapse in the wake of the Eurozone crisis.
Golden Dawn’s signature mix of militaristic violence and public “goodwill” has been fully on display this summer. Though keen to downplay the apparent role of some of their members in the Srebrenica massacre (as noted here), the party still trades on its thuggish image, with party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos invariably flanked by skinheads in his public appearances. In the Peloponnese, Golden Dawn have called upon young men to join their “security brigades”, with their uniforms including black shirts, naturally. After the torture of an Egyptian migrant there, the communist KKE party condemned the government’s policies and actions on immigration for ramping up racial hatred, and fuelling the climate in which Golden Dawn’s brand of racially motivated violence has prospered. Human Rights Watch have compiled a report on the escalating Rates of attacks on migrants, documented and undocumented. The appointment of an MP from an anti-semitic punk band, whose lyrics included “Fuck Anne Frank” and “I want to piss on the wailing wall”, gives a sense of the mindset that accompanies this violent behaviour.
As for the purported acts of goodwill, these are little more than a thin veneer which, if anything, merely confirms the party’s true character. The attempt to open blood banks, but for Greeks only, is one example. Another is the setting up of food banks in Syntagma Square where before being fed, citizens had to show ID to prove they were “ethnically Greek”. Disturbingly, their identification details were then recorded by the party. Another part of the public service peformed by Golden Dawn has been the spreading of inflammatory disinformation about the Greek border agencies. All this from a party growing increasingly adept at using social media to promote its message.
More troubling still is the fact that Greece’s neo-nazis do not find themselves isolated or out on the fringe. Victims of racist attacks have told of pressure by police to drop charges, deny Golden Dawn members were the perpetrators, and even to claim other migrants attacked them. In a way, this is unsurprising. The militaristic ultra-nationalism pedalled by the party constitutes a direct rhetorical and ideological link to the former ruling military junta, which had always treated the police very well. And though the zombie statistic from To Vima that 50% of police officers voted for Golden Dawn in the last election has been shown repeatedly to be false (most deftly here by Theodora Oikonomides) it’s undeniable that support for Golden Dawn amongst the police is far higher than amongst the general populace.
Is Golden Dawn’s increasing success a surprise? Not for anyone following the actions of the New Democracy/PASOK government, which has consistently pandered to, and thus lent credibility to, the fascists’ trademark xenophobia. Over the summer, in a period when many Greeks leave Athens, the police were ordered to stop and search foreigners and detain them while their domicile status was checked. When Golden Dawn threatened to form vigilante squads to, amongst other things, drag migrants and their children from hospitals and kindergartens, they were warned off doing so in parliament: “Raid brigades across the country, who trade upon national symbols, will not be tolerated. Any such phenomenon will be crushed” Public Order minister Nikos Dendias told Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris in response to an oral question. However, shortly afterwards, as dozens of undocumented migrants were transferred to a disused military base in Corinth, Golden Dawn members were there waiting with baseball bats, stern faces, and flags bearing the swastika homage whorl of their logo. Since the start of the “Xenios Zeus” campaign to crack down on illegal immigration the Greek police have detained over 15,000 and arrested more than 2,000 foreigners who didn’t meet legal conditions. Seeing their own policies enacted, with the added opportunity to portray themselves as protectors of Greece, is a coup for Golden Dawn, and one they can dress up as testament to their lobbying abilities in parliament and the press.
The violence of Golden Dawn is not merely limited to its lay members, however. Despite the new parliament only being sworn in two months ago, already the parliamentary ethics committee have had to convene following a complaint by SYRIZA. Dimitris Koukoutsis, a senior member of the party is accused of attacking three people as they left parliament: SYRIZA MP Vasiliki Katrivanou, ANTARSYA councillor Petros Constantinou and Javiet Aslam, the president of the Pakistani Community in Greece. Similarly, Golden Dawn MP Efstathios Boukouras attacked Corinth Mayor Alekos Pnevmatikos (PASOK) with a military whip during an argument about forest fires in the area.
Meanwhile, Ilias Kasidiaris continues his fight to get immunity from prosecution and the movement restrictions linked to a pending court case against him lifted. Prior to becoming an MP, Kasidiaris was arrested for allegedly providing a getaway car to fellow Golden Dawn members who attacked and fatally stabbed a postgraduate student at Athens Polytechnic in October 2007. Kasidiaris gained worldwide infamy for throwing water in the face of SYRIZA deputy Rena Dourou before repeatedly hitting Communist Party member Liana Kanelli in the face, on live TV. Where is he now? He’s Golden Dawn’s main spokesman as well as an MP, and being primed to take over from Nikolaos Michaloliakos as party leader.
Kasidiaris may be a thug, but he’s no fool. As the Eurozone crisis continues to push Greeks away from PASOK and the mainstream right/centrist parties, he’s positioning Golden Dawn as a legitimate, practical party, and taking full credit for the government crackdown on immigrants across the country.
Originally published in The Guardian
The best place to start is the internet. There are masses of bike blogs about, offering great advice. Think about what you’ll use your bike for, and how you’ll use it.
If it’s mostly for short journeys, a smart town bike may be the answer, rather than a zippy carbon bike. If you’re short on space, consider a folding bike like a Brompton.
The best sources of advice will always be friends who cycle – drag them to a park and have a go on their bike. Ask them where they got it, what they like about it and what they don’t.
Ebay is often a good and potentially cheap place to buy your first bike with minimal chance of its having been stolen – though always check a user’s history to be sure.
Once you’re sure cycling is for you, you can always invest in a more expensive bike, and many workplaces will have a cycle to work scheme to help spread the cost.
Baskets are handy for slinging a handbag in when you’re in a rush. However, they also run the massive risk of making you look a bit of a pillock. Bread in a basket immediately marks you out as someone desperately trying to ape a Zooey Deschanel-style character from a terrible romcom. Avoid. Among cyclists opinion was torn over whether it was worse that Andrew Mitchell had allegedly called police officers plebs or that he’d done so atop a bicycle with a gigantic basket.
Don’t go in for masses of expensive kit – unless you’re cycling for miles, a quick change of T-shirt at the office is sufficient. Comfort is the key to making sure your bike doesn’t end up languishing in your hallway. I swear by jersey dresses, ankle boots and tights, because cycling’s fun, it’s a way of getting from A to B and it’s rarely dangerous.
Two things never to skimp on are lights and locks. Buy cheap lights and they’ll break. And they always break at 1am, when it’s raining. Good lights will last forever. Similarly, a good lock, like a Kryptonite, is a must. It’ll protect your beloved bicycle as well as it can, because losing a bike is a unique heartbreak. I have never wept in the street over a man, but I have over a stolen bicycle. 80S Raleigh Shopper, I will never forget you.
I’m writing in an airport, alone, having spent the past five days on holiday, alone. I flew out alone, mostly wandered alone, and have come back alone. And it was brilliant, and I’d do it again instantly.
Firstly, I hate travelling. Not going to different places, but the actual transit. If I have to catch a bus or train in the UK, no matter what happens, I always only manage it with seconds to spare, so flying stresses me out immeasurably. On the way out, I somehow managed to book my airport transfer the wrong way round, then lost the ticket on the train, then arrived at the airport to find they charged £1 for those pathetic plastic bags for hand luggage liquids and of course I only had Euros. On the way back, I nearly had a meltdown when I spent an hour in Thessaloniki at 6am trying and failing to find the bus stop to the airport. And at moments like that, when I’m stressed, flustered and utterly convinced I’ll miss my flight, having people around me is the last thing I want. I can remember scores of arguments and silent resentments springing from train, plane and bus journeys, and know far too many couples who’ve returned from holidays after breaking up in airports. When it all comes together, being alone in quiet relief is far preferable, too.
But once you arrive, it’s different. You’re in a foreign country, where hardly anybody knows you, and you don’t have to be anywhere. After a while, the timidity wears off. On your second or third meal alone, your shoulders relax and you stop worrying what everyone else in the restaurant is thinking about the strange lone woman. For some reason, when men eat alone, it’s automatically assumed they’re on a business trip. Women, conversely are thought to have been stood up, hoping to be approached, or just heartbroken.
So you get bolder, quickly. Not just in your decisions, but in your movements. You stride more purposefully, you stand up straight with your head held up. And like the first few days at university, you can reinvent yourself, and the image you convey. No one can tell you’re an ultimately hopeless, disorganised ball of nervous energy at home if you’re composed and reading a studiously impressive book by the seafront, sipping a frappé.
But best of all is the fact that time is yours: you can sleep and wake when you want, eat and go where you want and not once do you have to submit to the angry worry that you’re annoying your friend, they’re not enjoying themselves, or that they’ll be offended if you’d just rather read a book than talk. You can contact local friends at your leisure, and email when you fancy, but you’re not at the behest of anyone else. You spend so little time speaking, and so much time thinking, you wonder how you manage, day in, day out, going from office, to pub, to home, chatting to people every step of the way.
And then there’s the singular pleasure of that weird, liminal space – the airport lounge. A kind of holding pen where you’re suspended in time, with little to do except enjoy a rare sense of comforting boredom. Nothing pressing to do until your gate number is announced. Seats and peculiar shops everywhere. And no reason for anyone to attempt to talk to you.
I might be won over to the idea of travelling alone forever. For my good, and for everyone else’s
Originally published in The Guardian
I’m in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, which nestles on the coast next to Halkidiki’s three peninsulas, snaking into the Aegean sea like tentacles. The peninsulas are an understandable tourist spot in Northern Greece, with their expansive beaches, street cafes and pine forests. Unfortunately, I can only visit two of them, Kassandra and Sithonia, because the third, Mount Athos, has banned all women for the past thousand years.
Athos is a monastic peninsula, but also a state within Greece, with carefully secured ports and borders, preventing all women, and men without the necessary permits, from entering. Women aren’t banned purely because their natural charms are prone to distract the monks from their prayer and study. Hundreds of years ago after several monks reported visions of the Virgin Mary, it was decided that the Athos monks should devote themselves to her, and that no other woman should be allowed to outshine her.
All women were duly banished, from the peninsula, and with them all female animals. Sows, cows and ewes, even chickens were expelled. It was conceded that female songbirds and insects were allowed to remain, purely because it was impossible to keep them out. It’s unclear exactly how plausible the danger of a chicken outshining the Virgin Mary is, but still. A rule’s a rule.
Nonetheless, women have managed to make it to the peninsula: the Orthodox monks harboured women and female children during the Greek civil war, in addition to men and boys. In 2008, Ukrainian smugglers dropped four Moldovan women on the coast of Athos, who were quickly apprehended by monks and police. The women were apologetic, but must have been cursing their bad luck at being dropped at the spot least likely to permit surreptitious entry into Greece.
Not all interlopers were so innocent, though. Maryse Choisy, a French writer and patient of Freud, claimed to have undergone a double mastectomy in order to sneak into the monastic republic and pose as a servant boy. Suspicions grew, and Choisy was ejected after a month. A handful of women, including Syriza MP Litsa Ammanatidou-Paschalidou, scaled a fence and broke into Mount Athos in protest over a long-running land dispute with the monks. There’s a long-running history in Greek political protest of hurling yoghurt at politicians to make them look ridiculous. Hurling women over the fence of a male community loth to pay their taxes is a fitting adjunct to this fine tradition.
Plotting to get on the peninsula doesn’t get me very far. In order to enter Athos, you must apply for a pilgrim’s pass, or “patriarchal privilege”. I’ve spotted a fancy dress section in a shop at the top of Aristotelous Square, selling ostentatious fake beards and moustaches. Could this work? It seems not. I need to show my passport, and there is a very authoritative black “F” under the “Sex” section of mine, giving me away. I could parachute into Athos. But I lack the time or money to rent a helicopter and learn to parachute. Besides, I’m having horrific visions of landing chaotically, taking out a few monks and having to explain that I did it for feminism.
After boarding a bus, and trekking to Ouranoupouli, the departure point for ferries to Athos, I approach the harbour. Yiannis, who works in the harbour and is easily bribed with a takeaway frappé into speaking to me shakes his head when I ask him if it’s possible to get to Athos. “Why would you want to?” I like a challenge. He laughs again. “The boats will take women no closer than half a kilometre to the beach. Some people say women have swum there, but I have never seen them”. Swimming! Of course. Apparently there are men patrolling the shores of Athos, watching for this sort of stunt. Though if the EU parliament presses ahead with legislation that will force Athos to admit women, having declared in 2003 that the republic “violates the universally recognised principle of gender equality”, they may need new jobs.
Just before Yiannis finishes his coffee and heads off, leaving me to ponder the distance and whether my front crawl is strong enough, he has one more question. “What would you do once you got there?” He has a good point. Probably revel in triumph for a few minutes before realising that I had to find a way back; then feel increasing guilt that my symbolic stunt had caused a considerable amount of distress for any monks I happened upon.
I decided to leave the monks in peace. Besides, their outfits are nearly as hot and uncomfortable as burqas. Why should a feminist punish them any more?
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A journalist.” “Oh, you don’t want to do that. If you like words, you should be a teacher or a librarian.” So I ended up at my local library for my first day of work experience, thanks to a school careers adviser firmly committed to crushing the dreams and ambition of teenage girls. Bloody Aled, a boy whose sole purpose in life was shouting “TITTIES” at you as you ran for the bus, was sent to the local paper, because he lived next door. I’m definitely not still bitter (I am so very bitter).
Carys, the weary looking junior librarian immediately told me to make everyone tea, then head to the room marked “Store” at the very back of the library. Internally grumbling as I squashed the tea bags against the sides of the cups, I pictured a week spent organising stationery, wiping snot off picture books and making endless cups of tea for librarians who hadn’t asked my name yet. I headed back to this “Store” I’d been told about, expecting to be met with boxes of library cards, elastic bands and those stupid annoying plastic book covers. Instead, I’m met with a different sight. Floor to ceiling pink book spines, with the occasional red cover peeking out. Thousands of well thumbed, dog-eared Mills & Boon novels. What is this?
“The store room for our ladies’ mobile library,” Amy explains, before talking me through the system I am to follow for the week.
Every woman has an index card, on which the numbers of books she has read are listed, along with her likes and dislikes at the top. The preferences are as diverse as the women. A typical list read “Likes: Italians, nurses, heiresses. Dislikes: virgins, marriage”. Some of them were outright racist. One woman’s card said “ABSOLUTELY NO BLACKS” in giant red capital letters at the top. This was added to underneath “Likes: painful sex, BDSM, dogs”. But for every “No blacks” card, there were fifteen begging for raunchy tales of mixed race shagging. A whole seam of British society that dream up elaborate and filthy fantasies involving Arab sheiks carnally coupled with them in picnic areas in exotic locations was opened up to me.
So my job, for a week, was to sit in this room, flicking through books, checking the women hadn’t read them, and that they successfully fulfilled 74-year old Margaret’s penchant for massively violent bonking. Day after day, I read passages of books, checking the attributes of characters, working out the ratio of dialogue to raunch and assigning them to a library member. Each morning after coffee, I immersed myself in a world of timorous virgins, callous yet rugged doctors, mysterious Spanish magnates and tragedy turned sexy. Watching Corrie with my nan each night seemed incredibly tame afterwards. Even when Kevin was tupping Tyrone’s girlfriend behind whinge-machine Sally’s back.
Once I’d bundled up a week’s reading for the women, we hopped in the van. Or the Porn Mobile as I liked to call it. With a city full of housebound OAPs awaiting their bodice-rippers, we had to assign each woman a day of the week so they’d know when to expect us. In scenes reminiscent of the women waiting for Father Ted’s virile milkman, the ladies were expectant and answered the doors instantly, with huge smiles, or the occasional remonstration that they’d finished all the books in two days and been bored and randy all week. I took to keeping a carrier bag in the van for the various foodstuffs given to me as thanks. Often, these were unwrapped pear drops or squares of chocolate, though one woman gave me a potato. “It’s better for your teeth”. Oh, thanks.
What seemed at first to be a baffling service to a fourteen year old girl was revealed to be an absolute lifeline for the women. Most of them were widowed, frail and rarely got out. They were lonely, as shown by the long conversations I had on the doorstep, where they told me their life stories, and let slip snippets of their younger sexual escapades. Most of their friends had died, or were also housebound, and their incomes were too low to afford much by way of entertainment.
At the end of the week, I was sad to leave them, with their noses deep in smut. So the furtive 50 Shades of Grey readers on the tube aren’t engaging in anything new: they’re learning from their elders.
There’s an excellent interview with the NYT’s Paul Krugman on the Guardian’s site at the moment, as he skirts around the UK showing Conservatives who’s boss on Newsnight, and other tricks. This section on how we’ve ended up in this economic catastrophe resonated particularly with me since reading:
If we divide the period between the second world war and 2008 into two halves, “the first half is a really dramatic improvement to living standards, and the second half is not.” It was certainly dramatic for the top 0.01%, who saw a seven-fold increase in income; in 2006, for example, the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers in America earned $14bn, three times the combined salaries of New York City’s 80,000 school teachers. But between 1980 and the crash, the median US household income went up by only roughly 20%. “So it’s a total disconnect.”
Why would economists claim ordinary people were getting much richer if they weren’t? “The answer, I think, has to be that you need to ask: ‘Well who are the people who say these things hanging out with? What is their social circle?’ And if you’re a finance professor at the University of Chicago, the people that you’re likely to meet from the alleged real world are going to be people from Wall Street – for whom the past 30 years have, in fact, been wonderful. If you’re a mover and shaker in the UK, you’re probably hanging out with people from the City. I think that is the story of the disconnect.
And when you’re governed by that bubble, and they forget there’s a society outside that bubble, that economics and austerity immediately affects people outside that bubble, there are problems. It’s telling, that the Conservatives in the Newsnight clip view austerity as something slightly abstract, not something that has direct consequences on people’s lives. Something tells me that those in the social circles the government mix aren’t affected by austerity measures. Just a slight inkling, but perhaps they won’t know people who rely on subsistence benefits, or have had the DLA on which they rely cut, and are now destitute. I do, and I know of towns and cities that are seeing their already fragile economies take a hit as austerity bites.
It’s natural, though not necessarily healthy, to surround ourselves in our spare time with people who are similar to ourselves. Nearly all of my friends are left-wing, and university educated, though their main interests lie in various sciences, media, politics, medicine and art. Most of them are middle class, so I spend a lot of time mentally making notes of books they all remember reading (then later having panic attacks when I get waves of impostor syndrome and wonder if I’ve been let into my social circle on a widening participation scheme just like in university oh god oh god oh god). It’s probably not a problem David Cameron faces at dinner parties. But they’re not all middle class. There are varying degrees of poverty and wealth in our backgrounds, from my bottom-of-the-rung Shameless-style upbringing, to a friend who went to private school. Most of us went to “comp”. Some went to grammar school.
But when the similarity that exists in your friendship circle then spills over into the workplace, it becomes unhealthy. A friend is a nurse, so spends all day speaking to all sections of society. One’s a solicitor and deals with legal aid cases. Another spends all day interviewing people from around the country for different stories. I might work for a left-leaning paper, but all day, I read articles we carry that I disagree with. Some furiously. There is variety. But if there wasn’t? If you spent all day dealing with privileged people who reinforced your beliefs? Then came home and drank wine with people who did the same? Many of whom you’ve been to school with?
I worry then we’ll be in a position where the government make decisions that affect not lives of people because they are people, but their idea of people. And the idea of people requires a bit less empathy. Especially when the idea of people is constructed mostly from reports, files and briefing notes. And when a lot of the problems are caused by wealth inequality, and the very people who’ve benefitted from wealth inequality surround you every day, we’ll see more energy expended defending those people than lifting people out of poverty. Oh, but these people didn’t choose to be educated at Eton as children. No, nor did other children choose to be born into poverty, yet somehow this government sees fit to scapegoat them for all manner of social ills. Unemployed? You’re probably lazy. Nothing to do with the austerity drive. It’s hard to see a more fitting metaphor for this government than some unemployed people, forced to sleep under London Bridge, then work for free in the pouring rain as Brits waved at an extremely wealthy woman in a display of highly policed, organised nationalism. You’d think it’s indefensible that people should be made to work for 14 hours, unpaid, in the freezing rain, made to change their clothes in public, then steward in front of a bastion of wealth. But they will try.
Summer’s finally arrived, we’ve been less promised more ordered to have street parties this year. The shops and high street windows are festooned with bunting. The high street shops that is, that are still open. So UKUncut decided to have a little street party of their own. Where better to do so than outside Nick Clegg’s house? So they pitched up with picnics, bunting and blankets. They knocked on neighbours doors to explain what they were doing and why. The neighbours we’re perfectly friendly and understandable: some found it hilarious. Then they sat down and engaged in a “Great British Street Party” in protest at the cuts Clegg has been implementing.
Because UK Uncut is about “bringing to the doorstep” the face of the cuts. When Clegg is sat in Parliament jeering at an opposition bench alongside Cameron, he doesn’t ever have to really consider the day to day life of the disabled kids and vulnerable adults lives he’s cutting. If someone asks him a “difficult question” on Marr he can pull a face that is designed to look like “human empathy” but is in fact closer to “drawn out constipation” then blame either Labour or the Greeks, whichever we’re riffing on this week.
Then, as the Uncutters were doling out potato salad, Westminster’s Ayn Rand tribute act logged onto Twitter. Rather than seeing it as an amusing protest on a summers day, and a five minute diversion should Miriam decide to pop to the Co-op for some pasta, she started mashing the keyboard. Ah! A situation! An opportunity for a vox-pop! What shall my position be? She stopped short of calling them DAMN REDS AND COMMIEZ but did call on her followers to donate to the Lib Dems to redress this heinous wrong. At this point, Tim Montgomerie pointed out telling people to donate to your political opponents might not be the wisest move.
Twitter was alive with people squawking “Oh no, what if his children see!” See what? A street party? Well christ alive they’ll be fucking terrified next weekend. The entire country will be off limits. Or that a lot of people are very, very displeased with their father? Well, that’s a fact of life. And when you’re trying to teach children why we don’t lie, perhaps the consequences of your lies being on your doorstep isn’t a bad lesson. There was talk of banning peaceful protest from outside politician’ houses. We already have to apply for a permit to protest outside outside the seat of democracy, and if the expenses scandal taught us anything, it’s that our MPs have a glut of houses. Ironic really, considering young people like me will never be able to afford one.
But, his children didn’t see the peaceful protest. Because they weren’t there. Possibly because they were at one of his two other houses, or the grace and favour mansion he shares with William Hague. My siblings on the other hand, have to see the effects of his austerity programme every day. What happens when you cut benefits. Just like I had to the last time the Tories got in. Luckily privilege affords you the luxury of avoiding being confronted with the every day face of your actions. Do we really think that holding a street party is an “extreme reaction” to slashing benefits to thousands of individuals and families across the country? People struggling to even survive? We know how inequality works: this isn’t a short term measure, the effects of poverty will send ripples through generations to come. I think I know where my sympathies lie.
As some light relief on election day – here’s an extract from Sonia Purnell’s excellent biography, Just Boris. The 4th June 1983 edition of the Etonian newspaper The Chronicle carried an interview with the then leader of the Greater London Council, Ken Livingstone. Ken didn’t hold back on what he thought about Eton and Etonians:
I think your school system should be integrated into the state system, because I don’t think you should have the right [through] what your parents can buy [to] a privileged start over the rest of society. I look at the people who have emerged from Eton and Harrow, Oxford and Cambridge and I think you’re a load of bloody wallies.
One student decided this couldn’t be allowed to pass unremarked. In the same issue, a 16-year old Boris Johnson responded:
I tell you this. The Civilised World can ignore, must ignore entirely these idiots who tell us that by their very existence the public schools demolish all hopes most cherished for the Comprehensive System. Clearly, this is twaddle, utter bunkum, balderdash, tommyrot, piffle and fiddlesticks of the most insidious kind. So strain every nerve, parents of Britain, to send your son to this educational establishment (forget this socialist gibberish about the destruction of the State System). Exercise your freedom of choice because in this way, you will imbue your son with the most important thing, a sense of his own importance.
Some things never really change.