The General Election result in May 2015 was a shock for anyone of a vaguely progressive bent. It was more than just a shock though – it brought about a sense of profound dread as to what this group of Conservatives would do to our country and society once they had disentangled themselves from the shackles of a coalition government.
This Government (and the powerful array of mainstream media that support them) appears driven by a fervent ideological desire to bring about a market society – to treat every aspect of human life as a function of economics – under the assumption that every person is naturally just interested in furthering their own needs, and that anything that gets in the way of this should be attacked or dismantled.
The current breed of Tories at the top of this government also want to use this opportunity to aggressively pursue a range of other traditionalist conservative prejudices – from the promotion of fox hunting through to the destruction of the BBC.
As I write this, proposals are being discussed to dismantle some of our most cherished and respected institutions – including the NHS, education system, welfare state and BBC.
The scale of these attacks is unprecedented since the war. They attempt to do things that even Thatcher at her most bullish thought were a bit much.
And once these things are gone, we’re unlikely to get them back. It took two world wars for some of the countries of Europe (including Britain) to realise that there was such a thing as society, that life for everyone would be better if we looked after each other and to make the investment in creating institutions that would achieve this, like the welfare state. So, without another epoch-defining event, we are unlikely to get to that point of ‘a society fit for people’ again – so this truly is a battle of life and death for some of these institutions.
Needless to say, what’s happening under this current Government makes me dismayed and angry. But what annoys (and mystifies) me most about these developments is the terrifying lack of dissenting voices or, heaven forbid, action in response to them.
Is it because everyone is happy with what’s happening here? Surely not. Is the lack of action due to ignorance of what’s being done in our name (on a paper thin mandate based on a tiny majority)? Is it because the dominant voices of the mainstream media and the state make it difficult for any dissenting voices to cut through to the public to challenge their views? Or have we been battered into submission by the steady barrage of attacks on progressive society that took place during the 5 years of the coalition?
It is of course a mixture of these things, plus another potent overarching influence – the fact that, over several decades, we have already slipped into a society where the emphasis is on pursuing our own individual needs (and lambasting any groups, institutions and individuals that could compromise them in any way), rather than seeing ourselves as part of a mutually supportive group, in which an important aspect of living a good life is to contribute towards the common good.
Perhaps we simply aren’t shocked about this stuff anymore as we’ve stopped questioning or resisting the overall narrative that’s being offered to us.
But we must resist it – and this may be our final chance before the things that we hold dear vanish before our eyes. So, who’s prepared to fight for them – and for each other?