Posts Tagged ‘London Olympics’

Joe on Boris’ Johnson’s Massive Failure as Mayor of London

July 23, 2019

Boris Johnson and fans prepare for government.

This is another video from JOE, a YouTuber who’s made a number of videos parodying and criticising Boris and the rest of the Tories. In this one he uses Boris’ colossal failure as mayor of London, and particularly his wretched vanity projects, to show what we can expect from the Eton educated blond moron if he got into power. Which he now has, thanks to all his single-helix inbred mutoid followers. Joe walks around the capital as he talks, showing Johnson’s various projects.

Joe begins by asking if, despite his cartoon clownish exterior, Boris can take power seriously. His legacy in London has been to turn it into a playground for the rich. When Johnson announced his candidacy for Prime Minister, he mentioned his record as mayor on poverty, crime, affordable housing and road deaths. But the statistics he used were difficult to source and, at times, exaggerated. Which is why Joe talks about his physical legacy in London’s built environment. These include the conversion of the Olympic Stadium to West Ham’s football ground, at the cost of hundreds of millions of public money and the Arcemittal Orbit, which features the world’s longest tunnel slide. That was Boris’ idea, and was meant to raise £1.2 million a year to help pay for the upkeep of the Olympic park. It instead cost the taxpayer £10,000 a week because entrance to the Park was less than half of what was expected.

There’s also the fleet of new buses Boris ordered, modelled on the classic ‘Routemaster’ design of the 1960s. However, Transport for London was forced to recall them and retrofit them, because the windows on the top deck didn’t open. Because of this the Routemasters were nicknamed ‘roastmasters’ and in one bus, the temperature a 41° C was recorded. This is higher than the permitted temperature for transporting cattle. The changes cost £2 million, and it wasn’t the first redesign. The buses were originally to have a hop-on, hop-off open back and a conductor, but they were phased out because of expense.

And then there’s the Emirate’s Airline, which was supposed to ferry commuters between Greenwich and the Royal Docks. In 2012 the number of people using the cable car was 16. In 2015, nobody used them. The airline initially believed 70,000 people a week would use it. That’s now dipped to 20,000 and its estimated to cost the taxpayer £50,000 every week. It is the most expensive urban cable car in the world.

Boris also intended to build a garden bridge, somewhere between Waterloo and Blackfriars. But this never got beyond the conceptual stage, and cost Britain £43 million.

Joe then appears on the Tube, saying to the camera, ‘He had nothing to do with the Tube. The Tube’s pretty good’.

He then goes on to talk about Boris’ most significant contribution to London – cycling, including his ‘Boris bikes’. The scheme now covers most of the centre of London. It was supposed to cost the taxpayer nothing, but the public ended up spending over £200 million for it over the course of Johnson’s period as mayor. This makes it the most expensive of its kind in the whole world. Johnson’s dedicated cycle lanes increased congestion while he halved the area of the congestion zone.

Then there’s the Peckham Peace Wall. After the 2011 riots, people wrote messages of love on post-it notes and put them on the plywood boards covering Poundland’s smashed windows. After the damage was repaired, the residents didn’t want to lose this record, and so it became a mural. But at the time London was engulfed in rioting, Boris was on holiday in Canada. It took him three days to decide whether or not to come home.

And that, concludes Joe, is London’s legacy and Britain’s future.

The video then ends with a few more shots of London, accompanied by a piece of Jazz-Blues, and couple of out-takes.

Yep, this is the man the Tories have just decided should be our prime minister. And his record as a government minister has been just as abysmal, as various other bloggers and YouTubers are showing.

As the Ferengi used to say on Star Trek, ‘Ugleee! Very ugleeee!’

 

 

 

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Musical Satire: Tweezer Sings about Arlene Foster and the DUP to the Tune ‘Jolene’

November 21, 2018

This is a bit of Cassetteboi-type fun from the YouTube channel Joe.com. Cassetteboi cuts and edits footage of politicians and celebrities to make them appear to be saying stupid and ridiculous things. One of their greatest hits was at the 2012 London Olympics, when they made Boris Johnson look even more of a pratt than he already is.

The people of Joe.com have done the same to Tweezer, mocking her reliance on Arlene Foster and the Loyalists of Northern Ireland’s DUP. It’s a relationship which is increasingly looking very rocky since Foster’s withdrawal from their Confidence and Supply agreement over the issue of Brexit and a hard border with Eire. Yesterday, as Mike explained in his blog post, the government’s position was so precarious that they had to swallow their pride and accept all of Labour’s amendments to their wretched budget, otherwise the result could have been that it was voted out completely, followed by a ‘No Confidence’ vote on Tweezer and a general election.

So the channel has put up this video of Tweezer singing about their dubious relationship to Foster, which has the lyrics

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
I’m begging of you
Please don’t break my plan.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
Please don’t break it
Just because you can.

I gave you one billion pounds
So that you would not vote me down
So please don’t turn your
Back on me, Arlene.

When you’re not denying dinosaurs,
You insist on having UK laws
Except abortion and Gay rights,
Arlene.

You only have 10 MPs
But it’s you that I need to appease
My time is up
Without your help, Arlene.

If you vote this budget down,
You end up with that Boris clown,
Be careful what you wish for,
Arlene.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
I’m begging of you
Please don’t break my plan.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
Please don’t break it
Just because you can.

Visual highlights include May pulling back the bedcovers in front of Foster to reveal masses of pound notes, Boris Johnson in clown make up, and copies of Foster’s head appearing from clouds to surround Tweezer.

Trust in GPs Lowest for 35 Years, And That’s the Way the Tories Want It

March 2, 2018

A few days ago, a report in the news concluded that people’s trust in their doctors was at lowest for 35 years. I’m not surprised, and I have absolutely no doubt that people’s dissatisfaction with their GPs is part of their ongoing assault on the NHS. The Health Service is immensely popular. It’s been described as the closest thing our increasingly secular society has to a god. Which is why the Tories want to destroy public confidence in it so that they can privatise it and replace it with one where we’ll all have to pay the likes of BUPA, Circle Health, and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health for treatment, while taking out expensive and unaffordable medical insurance from the likes of Unum.

I’ve already put up on this blog a video I found on YouTube, which featured an academic stating that the way the Tories will do this is by running down services so that the middle class – those that can afford private treatment – will abandon it, as a way of creating the public disenchantment necessary to make its privatisation anything less than electoral suicide. Margaret Thatcher, despite the self-serving lies in her autobiography, did want to privatise the health service, and was only prevented by a massive cabinet revolt. Afterwards, she merely confined herself to wanting to increase the proportion of Brits with private health insurance to 25 per cent or so. Jeremy Hunt has made it clear that he hates state medicine and the NHS. As does Daniel Hannan, the Europhobic Tory MEP for Dorset, who is flagrant his use use of untruths that Guy Debord’s Cat calls him ‘The Lyin’ King’.

And the Tories are privatising the NHS. 70 per cent of NHS contracts are going to private firms, despite the fact that these offer worse service and are much less economical that state medicine. They also want to make it possible for private firms to run whole regions. It won’t be long before they sell it off completely, if they have their way.

And some rightwing sites are very honest about it. While the Tories lie through their teeth about what they’re doing to the Health Service, claiming to ‘treasure’ it, in Hunt’s mendacious little words, some groups and blogs are quite open about their longed-for destruction of this most precious British institution. A couple of years ago I found a piece posted from the Traditional Britain Group, which said that they wanted to privatise the NHS. But it was so popular they were afraid it would have to be retained for reasons of electoral expediency. The Traditional Britain Group, I needn’t remind you, were that bunch of Nazi toffs, whose annual dinner Jacob Rees-Mogg happily attended before the Independent published the pics. Then he tried to excuse himself, saying that he didn’t know anything about them when he accepted their invitation. Which is a likely story.

And way back as the London Olympics, I found the Canadian Tory blog, Five Feet of Fury, moaning about Danny Boyle’s celebration of the NHS in the opening ceremony. After ranting about how terrible this was, the transatlantic rightists then began to discuss how they could destroy public confidence in it. They decided that the way to do so was to encourage people to complain about it, because that would apparently break our socialist brainwashing that makes us all praise it.

No, it’s not because we’re all brainwashed or conditioned to accept the NHS unconditionally. It’s because we know what a colossal train wreck private medicine is, if you don’t have socialised medicine. And many people in this country can still remember how expensive medicine was before the NHS.

So despite what the Tories may so to the contrary, I’m very sure May, Hunt and the rest of her corrupt gang and their supporters and donors in private medicine are absolutely delighted by this new. If you don’t want to see the NHS privatised, vote Labour and Corbyn, as he has promised to renationalise the Health Service. And that terrifies them, the Blairites and the right-wing press. It’s why Paul Dacre and the bizarre Barclay Twins have spent so much ink vilifying him as a Trotskyite.

Public Dissatisfaction with NHS Rising, Report the ‘I’

February 9, 2016

Today’s I newspaper has an article stating that the British public’s satisfaction with the NHS is falling. The article begins

Public dissatisfaction with the NHS is rising according to new data.

IN 2015, overall NHS satisfaction fell to 60 per cent, down from 65 per cent in 2014, the British Social Attitudes survey found. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the NHS rose by 8 per cent to 23 per cent the largest single year increase since 1986.

Dissatisfaction is now back at the same levels reported between 2011 and 2013, the survey, published by The King’s Fund charity found.

The decade of NHS funding growth during the 2000s was accompanied by increasing levels of public satisfaction, it said. This reached a peak of 2010 at 70 per cent and, although satisfaction is still high by historic standards, it is 9 per cent lower than in 2010. The report is entitled, Public Discontent with NHS is Rising, and it’s on p. 4.

This is no accident. It’s a deliberate part of the Tories’ over all long term strategy to sell off the NHS. Remember the meme from Noam Chomsky Mike’s put up at Vox Political on how the right operates to privatise industries by defunding them. And the Tories have vested personal interests in selling it off. 95 of the Tory and Lib Dem MPs in the last parliament had connections to health firms looking to profit from the sale of NHS services. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he wants the NHS privatised. And the Tory conference last year was sponsored by private health firms, and included debates on topics like opening up the NHS to private industry.

If you want further proof, consider some of the stuff that gets posted on the right-wing Canadian blog, Five Feet of Fury. This is an ugly little blog that makes absolutely no secret of its hatred for organised labour, immigrants, indigenous Canadians, feminism and socialised medicine. It also has a venomous hatred of Italians. It was urging its readers to send in stories about how awful the British NHS was, and went absolutely berserk at the 2012 London Olympics because it dared to include the NHS in the opening display. Socialist propaganda, it roared. It would be tempting to write this off as just a North American blog, whose readers are safely confined to the other side of the Atlantic. This would be a mistake. It’s part of a network of right-wing blogs which link Conservatives over here with their counterparts in Canada and the Republicans in the US. It says openly what the Tories over here only say amongst themselves, and then start lying when it gets out.

Be warned. Don’t be taken in. Protect the NHS from these profiteers.

Farage: Don’t Ring-Fence NHS Funding

March 23, 2015

UKIP’s purple Duce continues to present two faces on the NHS. The Independent today also has this article, Nigel Farage: ring-fencing the NHS is ‘nonsense’ reporting his remarks about the NHS in an interview he gave to Prospect magazine. In the interview, Farage said that he would make further cuts to the NHS’ budget, despite the fact that there is already a £2bn black hole in its finances. He also claimed that it was misleading for Labour and the Tories to claim they would ring-fence its funding, and said that the mainstream parties were too afraid to make negative comments about the Health Service.

The article quotes Fuhrage as saying of NHS funding “Even ring-fencing it is a waste of time—it’s moonshine to think we can.”

“We’ve reached a ridiculous point in the debate over health in Britain. Every time I’m on Question Time all the other politicians say is how wonderful the doctors and nurses are. Then everyone claps. Just because I’m not scared to criticise the NHS doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important.”

The article mentions that in his memoirs, published last week, he blamed the NHS for misdiagnosing the testicular cancer that nearly killed him, and urged those who could to take out private health insurance.

In the Prospect interview, he praises the NHS for saving his life after he was hit by a car in 1985, and again when his light aircraft crashed five years ago when he was campaigning in the elections.

Despite this, the Independent points out that his comments about ending the ring-fence around NHS funding mean that he has turned his back on his promise to increase funding by £3bn.

The Indie’s article is at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/nigel-farage-ringfencing-the-nhs-budget-is-nonsense-10123958.html.

Farage’s comments on the NHS are confused, and deliberately so. He has said repeatedly that he wishes to see it privatised and replaced with an insurance-based system, as in the US. So has his deputy leader, Oberleutnantsturmgangfuehrer Paul Nuttall, last seen this weekend ranting about ‘cultural Marxism’. Farage is also acutely aware that if he makes his intentions public, he will wipe out immediately any electoral gains he thinks he can make. So are his followers. The other Kippers even told him to shut up about it.

Hence he deliberate shows two faces – appearing both to support the NHS, while wanting everyone to denounce it and get private health insurance if they can.

Don’t be deceived. And as for his comments about breaking the taboo about saying only good things about the NHS, this is the line taken by the Repugs over the other side of the Atlantic. One Repug site was fuming about the inclusion of the NHS in the celebration of British history in the opening pageant at the London Olympics. This particular Republican site also loudly denounced the minimal state health provision in America, like Medicare and Medicaid, in which the state pays the medical bills of those too old or poor to have health insurance.

It is these people with whom Fuhrage was mixing when he turned up at CPAC the other week.

As for Prospect, the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has pointed out that, despite its mildly left-wing appearance, it has more than a little similarity to the Encounter. This was another cultural magazine, that was revealed to be funded by the CIA as part of its cultural campaign against Russia and Communism.

Private Eye on the Dodgy Foundations of the Troubled Families Programme

February 17, 2015

I also found this article in the 27th July – 9th August edition of Private Eye criticising the government’s Troubled Families Programme. This was an initiative to tackle the problem families that feature so much in Tory propaganda and the pages of the Daily Mail. They’re the type of neighbours for whom ASBOs were invented, and whom Gordon Brown famously declared to be ‘feckless’.

The problem is, as the Eye reveals, there simply aren’t that many of them to require the massive amounts the government wishes to spend on the programme. Coupled with the fact that the contractor hired to carry out the programme is G4S, with its superb reputation for quality. Here’s the story:

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is itself troubled after coming under sustained attack from critics who argue that it’s simply blaming people who are poor rather than tackling anti-social behaviour.

Ever since it was launched by the unlikely figure of community secretary Eric Pickles, experts have criticised the foundations of its claim that there are 120,000 “troubled families” whose behaviour costs the country£9bn. They point out that the 120,000 statistic is based on an estimate of families with multiple disadvantages, not antisocial behaviour, and that nobody can come up with figures to justify the £9bn stated.

Just as well, then, that extra help is at hand. Under a £200m outreach service run in conjunction with councils and companies delivering the Work Programme, six firms will be staking their own money on their ability to turn troubled lives around under the government’s second big payment-by-results project.

Troubled families and local authorities in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington are especially fortunate to have assistance from a company that specialises in managing and co-ordinating the provision of services “to support workless people into meaningful, progressive employment”. Step forward, fresh from its triumph at the Olympics, G4S.

From this is appears that the Troubled Families Programme has been launched not because there is an actual need for the programme, but to satisfy the ideological and propagandistic needs of the Tories. As well as provide a nice little earner for the welfare-to-work companies.

Tory unemployment policy is based on the principle of ‘less eligibility’. Poverty isn’t due to economics and poor circumstances. It’s due to laziness and poor character of the unemployed themselves. Hence all the stories in the Daily Mail about problem families, and areas of high unemployment riddled with crime and plagued by drugs. The criminality and drug problems in those areas aren’t due to lack of job opportunities and poverty. No, they are the results of the immoral character of the people themselves, who prefer the squalor and misery of their lives to one of honest and respectable toil. and if people like them don’t exist, or exist in much smaller numbers, then it also casts doubt on Tory welfare policies as a whole. Without them, there is much less justification for harassing the disabled and ordinary unemployed. In order to keep up this façade that unemployment is all down to the anti-social bad attitude of the unemployed themselves, the government needs to be able to point to a large number of such ‘problem families’. And these clearly are invented through exaggerated and massaged statistics when they don’t exist. Hence the inflated statistics.

It also shows just how much of a scam the welfare-to-work industry is as well. I’ve posted a series of blogs on the repeated scandals of the welfare-to-work firms overcharging the government, to its marked indifference and even, it has been alleged, support and connivance. Private Eye has argued that the economics involved in government outsourcing means that these firms are only commercially viable through such fraud. It would appear from this that the Tories know this too, and so are desperate to give work to the private contractors in order to maintain the profitable illusion that private enterprise really is more efficient than government bureaucracy.

Quite apart from the fact that these companies may also be able to offer lucrative directorships in their turn, when the terms in power of certain MPs come to an end.

Private Eye on G4S Demanding Sanctioning of Benefit Claimants

February 16, 2015

Private Eye also had this story in their edition for 27th July – 9th August 2012. It reports G4S’ demands for 7,000 claimants to be sanctioned, an extremely hypocritical stance given that G4S was claiming money from the government for providing security personnel at the London Olympics, who didn’t actually turn up.

Work Programme
Bad Behaviour

G4S also has its hands on contracts with a combined value of £183m to help the unemployed find jobs running the government’s Work programme in the North West, South East and Yorkshire.

Figures obtained under freedom of information law by the Corporate Watch campaign group show that during the first eight months of the programme G4S asked benefit offices to “sanction” 7,780 claimants. G4S wanted these claimants’ benefits stopped because, it claimed, they had failed to turn up or do as they were told on their employment schemes.

So while G4S still wants to pocket its multi-million pound management fee for failing to find workers to provide security for the Olympics, it wants thousands of unemployed people to lose the dole for alleged misbehaviour.

As Johnny Void in particular has pointed out, the Work Programme is deeply exploitative. Its purpose has less to do with actually finding people work, as supplying a free workforce to industry, and create the illusion that they are actually doing something to help the workers.

No-one should be sanctioned for failure to comply with the scheme. After all, you are far more likely to find work yourself, rather than through one of the welfare-to-work providers.

The scheme should be axed. Now.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Move Parliament out of London

October 19, 2013

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us

-16th Century beggars’ prayer.

Last week The Economist recommended that the government cease trying to revive declining northern towns and leave them to die. The main example of such a town, where further intervention was deemed to be useless, was Hull, but the magazine also mentioned a number of others, including Burnley. The Economist is the magazine of capitalist economic orthodoxy in this country. Its stance is consistently Neo-Liberal, and the policies it has always demanded are those of welfare cuts and the privatisation of everything that isn’t nailed down. It has loudly supported the IMF’s recommendations of these policies to the developing world. Some left-wing magazines and organisation like Lobster have pointed out that the IMF’s policies effectively constitute American economic imperialism, citing the IMF’s proposals to several South and Meso-American nations. These were not only told to privatise their countries’ state assets, but to sell them to American multinationals so that they could be more efficiently managed.

The Economist’s advice that economically hit northern towns should be ‘closed down’ also reflects the almost exclusive concentration of the metropolitan establishment class on London and south-east, and their complete disinterest and indeed active hostility to everything beyond Birmingham. This possibly excludes the Scots Highlands, where they can go grouse shooting. It was revealed a little while ago that back in the 1980s one of Thatcher’s cabinet – I forgotten which one – recommended a similar policy towards Liverpool. Recent economic analyses have shown that London and the south-east have become increasingly prosperous, and have a higher quality of life, while that of the North has significantly declined. The London Olympics saw several extensive and prestigious construction projects set up in the Docklands area of London, intended both to build the infrastructure needed for the Olympics and promote the capital to the rest of the world. It’s also been predicted that the high-speed rail link proposed by the Coalition would not benefit Britain’s other cities, but would lead to their further decline as jobs and capital went to London. A report today estimated that 50 cities and regions, including Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Cambridge would £200 million + through the rail link. The Economist’s article also demonstrates the political class’ comprehensive lack of interest in manufacturing. From Mrs Thatcher onwards, successive administrations have favoured the financial sector, centred on the City of London. Lobster has run several articles over the years showing how the financial sector’s prosperity was bought at the expense of manufacturing industry. Despite claims that banking and financial industry would take over from manufacturing as the largest employer, and boost the British economy, this has not occurred. The manufacturing has indeed contracted, but still employs far more than banking, insurance and the rest of the financial sector. The financial sector, however, as we’ve seen, has enjoyed massively exorbitant profits. The Economist claims to represent the interests and attitudes of the financial class, and so its attitude tellingly reveals the neglectful and contemptuous attitude of the metropolitan financial elite towards the troubled economic conditions of industrial towns outside the capital.

Coupled with this is a condescending attitude that sees London exclusively as the centre of English arts and culture, while the provinces, particularly the North, represent its complete lack. They’re either full of clod-hopping yokels, or unwashed plebs from the factories. Several prominent Right-wingers have also made sneering or dismissive comments about the North and its fate. The art critic and contrarian, Brian Sewell, commented a few years ago that ‘all those dreadful Northern mill towns ought to be demolished’. Transatlantic Conservatism has also felt the need to adopt a defensive attitude towards such comments. The American Conservative, Mark Steyn, on his website declared that criticism of London was simply anti-London bias, but didn’t tell you why people were so critical of the metropolis or its fortunes. This situation isn’t new. At several times British history, London’s rising prosperity was marked by decline and poverty in the rest of the country. In the 17th century there was a recession, with many English ports suffering a sharp economic decline as London expanded to take 75 per cent of the country’s trade. The regional ports managed to survive by concentrating on local, coastal trade rather than international commerce, until trade revived later in the century.

It’s also unfair on the North and its cultural achievements. The North rightfully has a reputation for the excellence of its museum collections. The region’s museums tended to be founded by philanthropic and civic-minded industrialists, keen to show their public spirit and their interest in promoting culture. I can remember hearing from the director of one of the museum’s here in Bristol two decades ago in the 1990s how he was shocked by the state of the City’s museum when he came down here from one of the northern towns. It wasn’t of the same standard he was used to back home. What made this all the more surprising was that Bristol had a reputation for having a very good museum. Now I like Bristol Museum, and have always been fascinated by its collections and displays, including, naturally, those on archaeology. My point here isn’t to denigrate Bristol, but simply show just how high a standard there was in those of the industrial north. Liverpool City Museum and art gallery in particular has a very high reputation. In fact, Liverpool is a case in point in showing the very high standard of provincial culture in the 19th century, and its importance to Britain’s economic, technological and imperial dominance. Liverpool was a major centre in scientific advance and experiment through its philosophical and literary society, and its magazine. This tends to be forgotten, overshadowed as it has been by the city’s terrible decline in the 20th century and its setting for shows dealing with working-class hardship like Boys from the Black Stuff and the comedy, Bread. Nevertheless, its cultural achievements are real, quite apart from modern pop sensations like the Beatles, Cilla Black, Macca and comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. The town also launched thousands of young engineers and inventors with the Meccano construction sets, while Hornby railways delighted model railway enthusiasts up and down the length of Britain. These two toys have been celebrated in a series of programmes exploring local history, like Coast. Hornby, the inventor of both Meccano and the model railway that bore his name, was duly celebrated by the science broadcaster, Adam Hart-Davis, as one of his Local Heroes.

And Liverpool is certainly not the only city north of London with a proud history. Think of Manchester. This was one of Britain’s major industrial centres, and the original hometown of the Guardian, before it moved to London. It was a major centre of the political debates and controversies that raged during the 19th century, with the Guardian under Feargus O’Connor the major voice of working class radicalism. It was in industrial towns like Manchester that working class culture emerged. Books like The Civilisation of the Crowd show how mass popular culture arose and developed in the 19th century, as people from working-class communities attempted to educate themselves and enjoy music. They formed choirs and brass bands. Working men, who worked long hours used their few spare hours to copy sheet music to sing or play with their fellows. The various mechanics institutes up and down the country were institutions, in which the working class attempted to educate itself and where contemporary issues were discussed. It’s an aspect of industrial, working class culture that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and which does show how strong and vibrant local culture could be in industrial towns outside London.

Back in the 1990s the magazine, Anxiety Culture, suggested a way of breaking this exclusive concentration on London and the interests of the metropolitan elite to the neglect of those in the provinces. This magazine was a small press publication, with a minuscule circulation, which mixed social and political criticism with Forteana and the esoteric, by which I mean alternative spirituality, like Gnosticism, rather than anything Tory prudes think should be banned from the internet, but don’t know quite what. In one of their articles they noted that when a politician said that ‘we should think the unthinkable’, they meant doing more of what they were already doing: cutting down on welfare benefits and hitting the poor. They recommended instead the adoption of a truly radical policy:

Move parliament out of London.

They listed a number of reasons for such a genuinely radical move. Firstly, it’s only been since the 18th century that parliament has been permanently fixed in London. Before then it often sat where the king was at the time. At various points in history it was at Winchester near the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings’ treasury. It was in York during Edward I’s campaign against the Scots. In short, while parliament has mostly been resident in London, it hasn’t always been there, and so there is no absolutely compelling reason why it should remain so.

Secondly, London’s expensive. The sheer expensive of living in the capital was always so great that civil servants’ pay including ‘London weighting’ to bring it up to the amount they’d really need to live on in the capital, which was always higher than in the rest of the country. The same was true for other workers and employees. As we’ve seen, these inequalities are growing even more massive under the Tories, and there is talk of a demographic cleansing as poorer families are forced to move out of some of the most expensive boroughs in the capital. MPs and the very rich may now afford to live in luxury accommodation in the metropolis, but I wonder how long it will be before the capital’s infrastructure breaks down because so many of its workers simply cannot afford to live there. The government has declared that it is keen on cutting expenses, and public sector employees’ salaries have been particularly hard hit. The government could therefore solve a lot of its problems – such as those of expense, and the cost in time and money of negotiating the heavy London traffic – by relocating elsewhere.

Birmingham would be an excellent place to start. This has most of what London has to offer, including excellent universities and entertainment centres, such as the NEC, but would be much cheaper. Or York. During the Middle Ages, this was England’s Second City. It’s an historic town, with a history going back to the Romans. The excavations at Coppergate made York one of the major British sites for the archaeology of the Vikings. It also has an excellent university. One could also recommend Durham. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Durham University was considered the third best in the country, following Oxbridge. Manchester too would be an outstanding site for parliament. Apart from its historic associations with working class politics, it has also been a major centre of British scientific research and innovation. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer and maverick cosmologist, came from that fair city. While he was persistently wrong in supporting the steady-state theory against the Big Bang, he was one of Britain’s major astronomers and physicists, and Manchester University does have a very strong tradition of scientific research and innovation. British politicians are also keen to show that they are now tolerant with an inclusive attitude towards gays. Manchester’s Canal Street is one of the main centres of gay nightlife. If parliament really wanted to show how tolerant it was of those in same-sex relationship, it would make sense for it to move to Manchester.

Furthermore, relocating parliament to the north should have the effect of reinvigorating some of these cities and the north generally. The influx of civil servants and highly paid officials and ministers would stimulate the local economy. It would also break the myopic assumption that there is nothing of any value outside London. If the government and its servants continued to feel the same way, then they would have the option of actually passing reforms to improve their new homes by providing better road and rail links, improving local education, building or better funding theatres, orchestras and opera companies, investing in local businesses to support both the governmental infrastructure, but also to provide suitable work for themselves and their children, when they retire from the Civil Service. In short, moving parliament out of London to the midlands or the North would massively regenerate those part of England.

It won’t happen, because the current financial, political and business elite are very much tied to the metropolis as the absolute centre of English life and culture. They won’t want to leave its theatres, art galleries and museums, or move away from nearby sporting venues, like Ascot. They would find the idea of moving out of London absolutely unthinkable. But perhaps, as Anxiety Culture suggested twenty years ago, it is time that these ideas were thought, rather than the banal and all-too often ruminated policies of cutting benefits and penalising the poor.