Sitting in the cafe yesterday, I was discussing the situation in Egypt with a couple of friends. One was getting quite heated because he considered the problem to have been created by the “fundamentalist Islamic government they elected”.
He said something like, “These fundamentalists promised everyone the world. They said they would make everything better, did whatever they could to secure the vote – and then once they were in power they forgot all those promises and did whatever they wanted instead. They got what they wanted from the people and then the people could go hang.”
I couldn’t resist. “So you’re saying they’re exactly like the Conservative Party over here, then,” I replied.
Laughter all around. We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true. And because the only alternative is tears.
Let’s not dwell on the Egyptian situation beyond what I said afterwards – that the ‘Arab Spring’ countries seem to need help in establishing the basics of real democracy but there is nobody around who can provide it. They would (rightly) distrust any foreign power that claimed to offer help, but there’s no independent organisation that offers such a service either.
The UK would be one of the last places I would advise Egypt to look. Consider the last general election here. People with a lot of money to spend on it funded a hugely expensive election campaign to get the Conservative Party into power, in order to serve their interests which are to accumulate an even larger share of the available wealth, along with the power that goes with it, while removing and restricting the freedoms of the people from whom that wealth was to be drained.
Those people got involved in politics and worked very hard to make sure they got a government that genuinely serves their interests – selfish and cruel as those interests are. They ended up having to put up with a Conservative-led government, rather than a fully Conservative one, but are now working very hard to finish the job with a propaganda campaign – based on lies – that appears to be swaying public opinion.
So they say (and here I’m quoting Owen Jones in his recent analysis): “We’re clearing up Labour’s mess. Labour overspent and now we’re balancing the books. A national deficit is like a household budget. Welfare is out of control and lining the pockets of the skivers. The unemployed person or immigrant down the road is living off your hard-earned taxes. Labour is in the pocket of union barons.”
All of these are falsehoods. They’re lies. But they’re also very effective soundbites that stay in people’s minds and colour their perceptions of the way things are.
And those responsible get away with it, I’m sorry to say, because the people who stand to lose the most are lazy. They can’t be bothered to get involved and make sure the government they get is one that genuinely serves their interests.
Why do you think Her Majesty’s Opposition is filled with neoliberals who agree with the government that our public services should be carved up and handed to private companies, to run them for profit and not in the interests of the people? Why do you think the Labour Party has agreed to stick to Coalition spending plans for the first year of the next Parliament, if it gets elected? Why do you think Labour has stopped opposing social security policies that have been killing an average of 73 people a week (according to figures that are now well out of date, so the average today is probably much higher)?
Labour doesn’t stand up for you any more. That’s why it has had no effective answer to the Tory lies. The masses can’t be bothered to find out the truth – and certainly won’t lift a finger to get involved and stop the corruption that is eating our institutions away. But that is the only way it can be stopped. You stay away and they get what they want.
At this rate, we’ll all be slaves by 2020.
It doesn’t have to be so hard, though. We could all turn the corner, just by devising a few soundbites of our own.
I was thinking this last night, while I was writing a response to Margaret Johnson. Ms Johnson was commenting on a previous article as follows (apologies to anyone who’s offended; they’re her words, not mine): “It was Labour who signed up Atos, engineered so many civil service jobs that were not needed, opened the borders for the rest of the world’s trash to enter our country, brought in more taxes, actively encouraged the demise of manufacturing and the rise of the banks, signed up to allow Europe to rule us, doubled the rate for income tax for the lowest paid, gave GP’s 100K a year to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, got the most revenue in and still left this country in the worse mess ever.”
So we could say something like (and feel free to include ‘Liberal Democrats’ wherever I have mentioned Conservatives):
“It is the Conservatives who employed a private firm, paying £1 billion to ‘A-toss’ disabled people off the benefits they need to survive.” If Labour was doing its job properly it would add: “A Labour government would save that money by throwing Atos out”.
“No wonder the government can’t make anything work properly – they have been sacking all the professionals. More than 600,000 government employees will have lost their jobs by 2015, replaced by amateurs working for the Conservatives.”
“It’s strange that the Conservatives complain so much about immigration from Europe – they signed the treaties that allow it! The Conservative governments of Edward Heath and John Major allowed the free movement of European immigrants into the UK. Now they see it is unpopular, they want to shift the blame.”
“Simplified tax under the Tories mean the rich pay less and the poor pay more.”
“Conservatives destroyed Britain’s manufacturing base in the 1980s – at the same time they created the conditions that led to the banking crisis.”
“Conservatives want to blame Europe for your problems. Who will they blame when Britain is out of the EU and your problems have multiplied?”
Going back to Owen’s examples:
“Conservatives: The only people who think they can clear up a mess by making a bigger one.”
“Conservatives say Labour overspent – but they have always spent more than Labour. You can’t trust them to balance the books.”
“If the Tories handled their household budgets like they’re handling the deficit, they would all have been evicted by now.”
“Privatisation is out of control; the Tories are using taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of greedy bosses.”
“You paid for Iain Duncan Smith’s £39 breakfast. How much do you spend on your own?”
“The Conservative Party is in the pocket of big business and the bankers.”
Of course, the above are just essays in the craft of soundbiting; I’m just a beginner.
So let’s have a competition to see who can invent the best soundbite, challenging the government’s lies with facts!
Please send your ideas in to this blog – but also put them out to the national media as well, any way you can. Try to get anyone opposing the government to use them, because this may lead to them being picked up by the newspapers and TV news reporters as well.
Above all, please try to make this fun. A soundbite is many times more effective if it makes people laugh, and the Tories and Liberal Democrats are silly, silly people. Let’s bring that out.
Or is it too much like hard work after all?