All for Brexit’s Wedding

A Modern Political Fable.

Brexit. Is it the most stupid action ever by any UK government, perhaps the most stupid action ever by any government in the world? Heaven knows what was going through Cameron’s tiny mind when he embarked on this utterly ridiculous exercise. To solve the problem of the idiot right wing Tories defecting to UKIP and damaging the Tory’s electoral chances (step forward and take a bow Messrs. Cash, Redwood and Rees-Mogg, you know you want to), he decided to shut them up permanently by proving once and for all that most Brits were European at heart. He was so confident that he would win, that he did very little proper campaigning and, worst of all, he didn’t bother to think through what he would do if he lost. Well, when I say what he would do, I meant what the country would do, because we all know what he personally would do, because he did it. He pissed off to make loads of money, helped out by the mates he helped out when he was PM, and left the rest of us in a great pile of steaming ordure. In any case, what made him think that the loony Tory’s BritNat wing would shut up just because they lost a vote. Was never going to happen.

With Cameron off to make money elsewhere, The Tories needed a new leader with a plan to stop them sinking into the aforementioned ordure. All seemed lost until Treeza started spinning and, in a puff of smoke, revealed herself to be WonderMay. We must embrace Brexit, she said. Brexit is Brexit, she said. We’ll have the biggest, hardest Brexit that anyone has ever had, she said. We’ll show them all that we’re the bestest Brexiteers in the history of Brexitting, she said, especially those f’ing Europeans. Cue Tory cheering. We’ve found our saviour, they said.

Little did they know then that their idol had feet of clay, or do I mean head of clay, and, unfortunately, events over the following year only showed that the clay was of the thickest, most impenetrable kind as May stumbled from one self-made crisis to another, her only solution being to throw money at them. She threw money at the DUP. She threw money at the EU. She even threw money at Scotland, although that turned out to be more like Monopoly money, the kind you can’t spend, except when you’re playing games.

But even the peasants were starting to get restless. Some of them were openly expressing the opinion that SuperMay wasn’t really all that super, that she wasn’t in control of Brexit, that Brexit was really in control of her, that she was just as stupid as she appeared. Some were even questioning the whole Brexit idea and saying that another referendum was needed. This had to stop. Money was at stake. Super-rich money.

Make no mistake, money is what Brexit is all about. The ability of the super-rich to keep all the money they’ve got and make much, much more. Brexit has nothing to do with improving the lives of most of the UK population. Taking back control is nothing more than a slogan invented by the Brexiteers and parroted by the media to sway enough the masses. It is years of anti-EU propaganda finally paying off. There was never any intention to take back control. If the intention had been to take back control, why the efforts to prevent the UK Parliament having any involvement in Brexit, why the secrecy about putting documents before parliamentary committees and why have the government not bothered to work out the impact of Brexit on the economy. The intention has always been to remove the EU from any involvement in UK lawmaking and transfer total control to the super-rich, fronted by a bunch of compliant politicians, well paid for their efforts. The EU was proving too big for the super rich to control and the last straw was an EU proposal to introduce rules to prevent multi-national companies from transferring their profits out of higher taxed EU countries to lower (or zero) taxed off-shore tax havens. A proposal likely to take effect in the Spring of 2019. Does that date ring a bell? The proposal would particularly impact the City of London, which has been described as the world’s biggest tax haven through its use of a multitude of British Overseas Territories and Dependencies where serious amounts of super-rich money is hidden away. The UK and its territories represent a haven for over 25% of the world’s offshore funds.

But it was all going wrong. NoLongerSuperMay had proved incapable of driving the changes necessary while keeping enough of the population onside. A popular movement against Brexit could derail the whole project. But what to do? Replacing NoLongerSuperMay would almost certainly strengthen the feeling against Brexit among much of the population, so that was not really an option. The choice of actions was extremely limited.

There was only one last hope. They had to deploy their ultimate weapon. They called in the “Family”. Yes, it was time for the thermonuclear royal device. Never previously known to fail, the thermonuclear royal device could take two forms, either the baby royal strategy (BARS) or the wedding royal strategy (WARS). The only decision to be made was which to go for. It was a hard choice, but there had to be something to take everyone’s attention away from Brexit and the disaster it had become.

In conjunction with the Family, the Tory government did what they always do in such circumstances, they set up a committee. And here the Tories made what might turn out to be a fatal mistake. Given the seriousness of the problem, they set up two committees, one to examine the BARS option and one to examine the WARS option. But each committee was determined to be the winner in the race to prove that their strategy was the bestest, that their strategy was the one to give the best possible result in the shortest possible time, so neither team wanted to share information and, as a result, communication between the BARS team and the WARS team was almost non-existent.

With the agreement of the Family, the BARS team had set out a development plan with a scheduled completion date of April, 2018, so, because of the strict timetabling in place for projects of this type, a start had to be made in July. Everything was put in place. The Royal Prince Willie was prepared to do his duty and the Royal Princess was said to be receptive, though, as with any plan (except Brexit, Ed.), a number of backup strategies were readied, in case the first attempt flopped. However, we won’t go into details of the backups just now.

The WARS team had more flexibility in making their arrangements and initially had aimed for the merger to take place much earlier, but their plans were delayed by indecision on the part of certain senior members of the Family and uncertainty that the Princely participant had completely run out of wild oats. Finally, agreement was reached and a date in May 2018 was set.

Imagine the shock when it was realised that the two events almost coincided. Images of babies being breast-fed during the wedding ceremony or even crying while the Royal vows were being exchanged flashed through people’s minds. How would that go down with the TV audience? After all, the solemnity of the occasion was what kept the audience glued to the screen. Turning it into a comedy show could have the opposite effect. Was this bad timing just an unfortunate coincidence or was it proof that, under the stress of the situation, even the Family were losing their touch? Another Royal baby and another Royal wedding in the same year? Surely one of them should have been delayed for twelve months to take our minds off Brexit. Isn’t that what the Royals are for?

To be slightly more serious for a moment, does the whole ongoing fiasco that is Brexit, combined with the disaster it represents for most of us should it actually happen, not mean we need to be doing all we can to get away from it? Do we really want to be ruled by a bunch of BritNat idiots who can’t tell truth from lies. Do we really want to live in a world created by David Davis, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Theresa May. David Davis, who doesn’t seem to know if he has any documents or not. Liam Fox, who tells us he can magic trade agreements out of thin air. Michael Gove, Rupert Murdoch’s little placeman in the UK Government. Boris Johnson, surely the UK’s worst ever Foreign Secretary, who’s desperate to do whatever it takes to be in charge. And Theresa May, whose only interest is in creating laws which allow her husband to further enrich himself and his super-rich clients. And that’s before we get to the likes of Jeremy Hunt, whose job it is to give away the NHS as quickly as possible, mainly to Richard Branson.

Is that the future for Scotland we are happy to see? Or is there another way? Surely now is the time for us to create our own future. Surely now is the time for another indyref.

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Memories of the way we were

“Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were”
(with apologies to Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch)

Memories are defined as the ability to recall the past: to have a store of experiences you can bring back to help you understand the present.  Memories can also help to shape the future based on past experience.  Remembering what turned out well and what turned out badly, what worked and what didn’t, allows you to build on previous successes and avoid previous failures.  So memories are useful.

Of course, memory can play tricks on you.  Memories can come back wearing rose-tinted glasses.  Most of us remember that, in our childhood, summers were a long series of sunny days, full of games with friends, picnics and trips to the beach.  Summers were so much better then.  Nothing ever went wrong.  If only there was a way to make summers in the future more like those in the past.

That can be applied to countries as well.  There are those who want to create a better future by building on the successes and avoiding the failures of the past.  There are those who believe that the way to success is to recreate the past in all its rose-tinted glory.

No, it’s not Scotland I’m talking about.  Most Scots have a clear understanding of the sort of country they want Scotland to be and they’ve long since got rid of those rose-tinted glasses.  Most Scots want to live peacefully in a country which develops friendships and mutually beneficial trading relationships with other nations.  They want to live in a country where the needs of the many takes precedence over the greed of the few.

Scots don’t want a Scotland that makes the poor and disadvantaged even more poor and disadvantaged. They don’t want a Scotland which treat the disabled as if they were parasites. They don’t want a Scotland which only benefits the rich, the so-called “wealth creators”, whose talent is only to create wealth for themselves. They don’t want a Scotland which only treats the sick who can afford to pay for treatment. They don’t want a Scotland which attacks or invades other nations. They don’t want a Scotland which takes part in illegal wars. They don’t want a Scotland which hosts nuclear weapons or threatens other countries with using them. They don’t want a Scotland which builds aircraft carriers that, even if they had any planes, could only be used attack other countries. And they definitely don’t want a Scotland which acts as poodles to a United States of America led by Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, Scotland is part of a union whose government seems to want all of these things

Tory Governments have long memories. They remember the times when the map of the world was almost all pink. They remember the times when Britain ruled the world, when Britain ruled the waves, when Britons never, ever, ever were going to be slaves, and they don’t really understand why things have changed. They yearn for the times when Britain had an empire. They don’t understand why things can’t be like they were in Victorian times, or even in the time of Henry VIII. In fact, they remember Henry VIII so well that they’ve decided to give him a starring role in their latest attempt to destroy the future for everyone in the UK, except the rich, of course, while reducing the Commons to an irrelevance and virtually annihilating the devolved parliaments and the devolution agreements which created them

The only thing wrong with the Tories’ memory is that it’s only a long term memory. They suffer from short term memory loss. They entirely forgot the promises they made to Scotland in 2014. Do you remember the vow? They obviously don’t. They entirely forgot that the Scottish Parliament was going to be positively deluged in shiny new powers after Brexit. Or at least they forgot that the powers were going to be transferred to Westminster first so they could be “sanitised”, or changed so they work only to London and the South-East’s advantage, and to make sure that the few, if any, of the powers that are eventually transferred to Holyrood would not be of any benefit to Scotland.  They will prove to be yet more examples of powers not intended to improve the government of Scotland.  Only pretend powers that fool some people into thinking the Scottish Government can make things better by using them, but, in reality, only a trick, only there to provide something that can’t work except as a means for Unionists to claim that the Scottish Government are rubbish and aren’t fit to run a country.

So what sort of future do you want?  One built on a respect for the past, using our knowledge to construct a better future for all our citizens, or one imagined through the rosy glow of the Tory spectacles where, when the glasses are taken off, the benefits are seen to be going only one way, and it sure ain’t towards you.

You decide.

Democracy, Tory style

No government, no matter the size of its majority, can expect a completely problem-free period in office.  For one reason or another, all governments will face a number of mini or maxi crises during their period in power.

For example, what happens when you don’t win an election that you expected to win and it mucks up all your plans to convert your country into a tax haven for the very rich.  Do you talk to the opposition and come to an agreement about the policies you’ll put before your parliament and give up on all that tax haven nonsense?  Well,  not if you’re the Tories, you don’t.  You just pretend you really did win, say it will be business as usual, then sneakily try to change the rules to make sure the result doesn’t matter.

We have already been given a good idea of what democracy in Scotland will look like if the Tories get their way and if we hang around long enough as a part of the UK to allow it to happen.

While all political parties might exaggerate their potential achievements before an election, the difference between what they promise and what they deliver is generally small enough to allow them to explain it away before the next election, or they won’t get re-elected.  However, in the case of the 2014 referendum, the difference between the promises, like the Vow, like “don’t leave the UK, lead the UK”, like all the rest, and the delivery, no you can’t get home rule, but you can get EVEL to reduce the status of your MPs to second class, would have made chalk and cheese embarrassed.  Of course, the difference here is they thought there would never be another one.  As one after another of the proposed transfers of power from Westminster to Holyrood was voted down in Westminster by both the Tory and Labour MPs (including the Scots), they just laughed at us for believing them.

Following the result of the EU referendum, the Tories have now given us the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, or the Great Repeal Bill as it’s more commonly known.  The Government propose to make the Great Repeal Bill subject to the so-called “Henry VIII rules” which would allow them to make whatever changes they like after the bill is passed by Parliament by the use of “statutory instruments” with no parliamentary scrutiny.  Effectively, it becomes government by proclamation.  This means that the Government is free to make any changes it wishes to EU laws being transferred into UK law.  While some of these changes will be benign, for example to change a reference to a European institution into one to a British equivalent, there will be nothing to stop the Government introducing changes which fundamentally alter the original EU law,  or remove it altogether.  The Tories have promised they won’t do that (honest, they have), but is there anyone in the UK who really believes they won’t take the opportunity to make changes to any EU laws that they would rather hadn’t been introduced.  What are the chances of workers’ rights, environmental regulations, consumer rights or trading standards coming through the process unscathed?  Would that be no chance, or perhaps less than that?

Looking at what the Great Repeal Bill doesn’t say, it tells us what political life in Scotland is going to be like following Brexit.  Powers will all be reserved to Westminster, even in areas which are currently devolved, such as farming and fishing.  Trust us,  they say.  We’ll sort out the details later.  Unfortunately, later, the Government will be able to change the rules in any area without consulting the Scottish Government (or any of the devolved governments).  They will be able to overrule the Scottish Government, even in areas of devolved responsibility.  They can take back powers, reduce the Scottish Government to an impotent shell or even close it down altogether, though even the Tories may consider that a risk too far.  Trust us, they say.  We’ll sort out the details later.  But who is brave enough to forecast just how far the Tories will go to rid themselves of the annoyance that the Scottish Government represents.  Devolution was never intended to create Westminster’s conscience, Westminster’s Jiminy Cricket.

But aren’t the Tories a democratic party?  Surely, whatever they might do, can’t you always depend on the Tories to act democratically?  Well, if anyone still thinks the Tories are committed to democracy, just think for a moment about the replacement Scottish Tory MEP and the reason for there being a need for one.  When Ian Duncan, Scotland’s only Tory MEP, tried and failed to win a seat at Westminster in Theresa May’s snap election, his efforts to get into the UK government looked to be over.  But ignoring the verdict of the electorate (doesn’t that ring a bell?), Duncan was given a peerage and appointed to the post of Deputy Scottish Secretary, under Fluffy McFluffyface.  As a Peer, Duncan couldn’t retain his position as an MEP, so he had to resign from Europe and that meant a replacement was required.  The expected replacement should have been the person who came second in the ballot for the Tory list for the EU election, but the Tories (or do I mean Ruth the Mooth) decided to ignore the result of that ballot as well (surely not another one?) and instead gave the job to Baroness Mobarik, who was third in the ballot, and who then had to take leave of absence from the Lords to take up the position.  And this was just a relatively unimportant internal ballot.  How many more times will the Tories just ignore the result of an election because they don’t get the result they wanted?

For their latest trick, even though they have no Commons majority, the Tories plan to push through a rule that says the Government (even a minority government just like today) will always have an effective majority on all Public Bill Committees (formerly called Standing Committees), those which debate bills and have the power to alter them.  Currently, the makeup of Public Bill Committees is required to reflect the relative number of MPs in the Commons for each party, which means a minority government would not have a guaranteed majority in committees.  The change means the Tories will be completely in charge of the content of all bills brought before Parliament.  Pity they hadn’t thought of this idea before they offered a £1.5bn bribe to the DUP.  They could have spent the money on something more important, like offering tax rebates to their mates.

Theresa May had called the election to give her a big enough majority to steamroller all the Brexit changes through the Commons with no real opposition.  When that didn’t work, she’s now changing the rules to give her the majority that the voters refused to provide.  So we see that, if they don’t get the “correct” result from the electorate, the Tories are quite happy to ignore the result and make up their own.  That’s Tory democracy!  Or do I mean Tory dictatorship?

What’s next, I wonder?  Perhaps, next time, the Tories will just miss out the inconvenient part of an election, the asking the voters part, because, if you can give yourself a majority by ignoring the views of the electorate, why bother asking them in the first place.

Getting out of hand, Brexit style

It was David Cameron’s idea.  I suppose a lot of the Tories’ really bad ideas can be traced to Davie.

“I know how we can get rid of those nasty UKipper Little Englanders for good.  They are dead against the EU, but we can adopt their policies and their language and replace them with good solid Tory Little Englanders who will also be dead against the EU, but, at least, they’ll be our Little Englanders and, if push comes to shove, they’ll vote for us.  We’ll have a referendum on staying in the EU and, when we win, that’ll put UKIP’s gas at a peep and get rid of them as a threat for a generation”

You would have thought he could have learned a lesson from Scottish devolution.  Remember when George Robertson (now Lord Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie) told us that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead.  I wonder how that worked out, George.

Unfortunately for Davie, he had reckoned without a number of factors.

Firstly, he forgot the mainly right-wing media’s history of rubbishing the EU at every turn, pandering to a Little Englander agenda, spinning every EU decision in as bad a light as possible and making up stories if they couldn’t get a real one.  Straight bananas anyone?  Were the media likely to support remaining in the EU?  No chance, and that’s how it turned out.

Secondly, he forgot the years of effort our right-wing media have put into telling us that all foreigners are awful.  Foreigners who might make decisions that we Brits would have to pay attention to are awful, but foreigners who want to come to the UK because we have bombed their countries back into the Stone Age are even worse, much, much worse.  The media tells us the immigrants (they’re not refugees, of course) are only coming over here  to steal our jobs, occupy our houses, use up our NHS resources and take advantage of our benefit system.  All just because we and our American pals have bombed their house, killed their neighbours and generally destroyed the area they used to call home.  What sort of reason is that to want you and your family to move somewhere safe and liveable.

Thirdly, he forgot that the Brexiteers could invent largely illusory benefits to be gained by leaving the EU and, with the help of the media, these “benefits” would be the ones that would stick in voters’ minds.  I’m sure everyone remembers the £350M/week to be spent on the NHS.  Unfortunately, putting it on a bus turned out to be much easier than putting it on the NHS.

Fourthly, he forgot to have a list of benefits for staying in the EU.  Always going to be a hard sell because of the first factor, it was made much worse by the Remain crew virtually completely confining their arguments to trying to rubbish the Brexiteers’ claims.

And lastly, he forgot the attraction to many of returning control and decision-making to the UK Parliament and the UK courts.  With years of rubbishing the EU behind them, people have been conditioned to believe that the EU isn’t democratic because we don’t always get our own way, that we pay a fortune into the EU and get almost nothing back and that every EU decision is stupid and anti-British.  Mind you, this makes what happened shortly after the referendum even less understandable.  But more of that later.

So, much to everyone’s surprise, the outcome was a win for Brexit, something no one in Government wanted, not even the Brexiteers, who, it turned out, were only trying to engineer a sufficiently close result to give the UK a bit more leverage in subsequent negotiations with the EU.  To complicate matters further, of the four countries in the UK, only two, England and Wales voted to leave, while the other two, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to stay, as did Gibraltar.  The differing and often conflicting expectations of each country are creating real problems for Theresa May, who replaced Davie as PM after he decided there were better (and more lucrative) things he could do now that the referendum wasn’t going to plan.

What wasn’t planned (I don’t think) was that the language used by the Brexiteers, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee would effectively give permission for the public to speak, and sometimes act, in the same way.  The weeks after the referendum saw a substantial increase in hate crimes, mainly in England it appears, with foreign UK residents and even visitors being harassed, abused and even physically attacked.

So where are we now?  Brexit means Brexit; a phrase that’s been on almost everyone’s lips over the last few months.  So said Theresa May when asked for a full explanation of the UK Government’s strategy for negotiation with the EU.  The Government refused to tell anyone what their negotiation strategy would be on the basis that they wouldn’t reveal their hand in advance of the negotiations themselves.  However, many unkind people suggested it more likely that they were keeping it a secret because to reveal their strategy would have shown that Brexit means Brexit was all of it.  For a government of a party that prides itself in its organisation, it is almost unbelievable that they could have been so complacent, so sure of victory, that they didn’t even bother to think what they would do if the vote went against them.

Not only did the UK Government refuse to tell the public what their strategy was, but they initially refused to allow Parliament to debate the terms.  It was their intention to use the Royal Prerogative decide on the timing and strategy, without involving parliament until after the decision had been taken.  Many were unhappy about this and, as a result, a small group decided to go to court to force the Government to seek parliamentary approval for both timing and strategy before triggering article 50.

When the court’s decision came down, that approval of parliament is a requirement, there was an astonishing outpouring of bile from politicians, the public, and, in particular, from the media, especially the right wing press.  They had insisted during the EU referendum campaign that they wanted to bring decision-making back to the UK to prevent the nasty foreigners in the EU Parliament and the European Court making decisions for us.  Now we had an example of English judges in an English court applying English law and deciding that the UK parliament (you could even say the English parliament) should have the final decision on the Brexit terms.  Wasn’t that what the referendum was all about?  Wasn’t that what 17m people voted for?  But no, many were distinctly unhappy, even incandescent with rage.  How dare these unelected judges try to overturn the will of the people they said, apparently unaware (or not caring) that the judges had only decided that Article 50 couldn’t be triggered without a vote in Parliament.

But their disagreement with the verdict was not the most worrying aspect of the coverage.  What was most worrying was not he fact that the media were annoyed, but it was the tone of the way they covered the verdict.

d-mail-judges      First we had the Daily Mail printing photographs of the judges and calling them “Enemies of the People”, describing one as a Europhile (how awful), one as someone who has made a lot of money through an association with Tony Blair (now that is awful) and a third as an openly gay ex-fencer (what can be said about such a comment in 2016). The Daily Mail weren’t the only ones to print photographs of the judges as the Telegraph did as well (a so called quality paper).  Short of printing the judges’ home addresses and explicitly calling for members of the public to sort them out, what more could they have done to stir up trouble.

sun-judges        Well, what they could have done what the Sun did, describe the group of people who took the action as rich foreigners (a bit ironic when printed alongside a photo of a woman married into one of the richest families  in the UK, or is it only British women that are allowed to be rolling in the stuff) and printed a photograph of one of the group specially darkened down to make her look really, really foreign.

two-faces  Compare the photo from the Sun on the left with the (nearly) identical one in the Times on the right.  I suppose it’s not really surprising for the Sun to do this as another article in the paper described how the proportion of white people living in some English towns has allegedly reduced over the last 20 or so years.  When did the Sun become the house magazine for the Ku Klux Klan?

Cheered on by politicians and the media lying about the court case, pretending that the intention was to overturn the result of the referendum, the situation got really out of hand.  Death threats and other abusive remarks were scattered around like confetti, aimed at anyone perceived to be on the “other side”, because anyone on the “other side” was an “enemy of the people”. ( It must be true, I read it in the Daily Mail).  People were said to be in hiding for fear of attack.  Politicians (mainly UKippers to be honest) called for the judges to be sacked for applying the law and for judges in future to be chosen by the government.  Bang goes the impartial judiciary then.  Who needs it?  It was perhaps indicative of the way things are going that the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, when finally forced to make a statement, refused to condemn the attacks on the judges.  I thought that the Lord Chancellor was supposed to be on the side of the judges, not the lunatic fringe of the press.  Perhaps she’s on the side of the judges in the same way Fluffy Mundell is on Scotland’s side.

What confuses me is the real objective of the media.  It certainly appears that they are trying to stir up trouble, even encourage violence, but to what end?  What would they hope to gain from such a situation?  Should there be violence, would they sell more copies, or is there some other advantage?  Or is this nothing to do with the media, but more to do with the owners of the media.  Do the mega-rich types who own most of the media in this country have a plan to turn the situation to their advantage?  Will civil unrest allow them to make changes which will benefit them and, by implication, disadvantage the rest of us.

It’s difficult to see how this will all turn out, but it’s hard to imagine that Brexit is going to benefit the UK economy, the relationships with our neighbours or the UK culture.  If only someone could think of some way that we in Scotland could avoid all the problems the UK will be facing over the coming years.  Any ideas?

The Return of the Slave Trade

Now the election’s over, we can get back to business as usual on social media, with most postings slagging off the Tories for the latest round of austerity cuts (or proposed cuts), cutting the incomes of the poor and disadvantaged, while, at the same time, boosting the incomes of the deserving plutocrats.

But how can they do that?  How can they sleep at night?  Have they no conscience?  These and other similar questions are often asked, but what surprises me is that the obvious answer to all of these questions is being ignored.

But first, a history lesson.  Let’s go back a few hundred years to a time when the European nobles got a bit fed up fighting amongst themselves.  Problem was, wars too often resulted in an effective score draw and many of the peasants who formed the bulk of the armies got killed.  This meant that there weren’t enough left to tend the animals and grow the crops used to feed the plutocrats of the day.  Jolly inconvenient, eh, what!  To solve the problem, they started looking  further afield for people to fight and that’s when they discovered Africa.

In Africa, they found a land populated by strange animals you didn’t see in Europe, lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes and many more.  But best of all was an animal that looked almost like a human.  It stood on two legs, just like a human.  It had opposable thumbs, just like a human.  It could use simple tools, just like a human.  But best of all, they discovered it was able to look after crops and animals and could be used to replace the peasants with no need to pay them beyond a few drinks of water and the odd bowl of gruel.  But they weren’t really human.  I mean, they didn’t wear proper clothes and they couldn’t speak even one European language.

That was the viewpoint of the early European invaders.  The slave trade developed partly because they thought they were dealing with some sort of sub-human species, so treating them like animals was quite acceptable, because they were animals.  Europeans considered Africans were put on the world to provide a means of generating money and food for real (i.e. rich) people.  This was an attitude that persisted right up to the middle of the last century and, in some places, still exists today.  Even many of those who campaigned to end the slave trade did so on the same basis as we would today campaign to improve the conditions of pigs or chickens.

Now, of course, in most developed countries, people views have changed and such thinking is not considered appropriate.  People are no longer identified by their race or colour.  But it is in human nature to seek to differentiate.  There has to be an us and a them.  So how are people differentiated today?  The answer is, of course, money.  There are those who have lots and those who don’t.

So what’s this got to do with the slave trade, I hear you say.  Well, while 15th century Europeans thought Africans were inferior because of their colour, 21st century rich toffs think poor people are inferior because of their poverty.  They believe superior people will find a way to become rich and only inferior people will remain poor because they’ve not got the capability to become rich.

Do rich people think poor people are some sort of sub-human species?  A step up from cattle, pigs and sheep, perhaps, but still only fit for tending crops and looking after animals (or whatever the 21st century equivalents are).  Might that explain why Tories don’t seem to be overly concerned about the impact of the cuts on poor people?  After all, if you decided to (e.g.) reduce the amount of grazing your cattle have, you might be worried if it impacted the profit to be made, but you wouldn’t be overly worried about the impact on the cattle’s quality of life.

There are still a few quite significant differences between poor people and animals.  Two of the more significant are poor people can vote, animals can’t and poor people have human rights, animals don’t.  Until this changes, there is always the danger that some poor people might get really annoyed about something and prevent the plans of rich people going ahead.  However, alive to the danger, we’ve seen the Tory government take the first steps to resolve these two problems by firstly changing the voter registration system, resulting in large numbers of poor people losing the right to vote; and secondly, proposing to replace European Human Rights with a British version, which will undoubtedly provide fewer rights than the European one.  And who will bet against this being only the start of a significant program to remove even more rights from poor people.

But surely that can’t be right, I hear you say.  Surely our government doesn’t really think of the bulk of the population as some lower form of being.  Well, just think of what has happened since the Tories (effectively) took power in 2010.   Their rhetoric has been to demonise the unemployed (shirkers don’t contribute to the wealth of rich people) and to describe the disabled as a drain on society (many of them don’t contribute to the wealth of rich people).  Their actions have added to the misery of the poor and disabled by cutting ESA, introducing the bedroom tax (though the fact that this was first introduced by Labour is a timely reminder that not all rich people are in the Tory party) and Work Capability Assessments, and freezing other benefits or making them much more difficult to claim.  All actions which further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.  Would normal human beings do that to fellow humans; to people they considered as their equals?  I think not.

All the actions of the government point to the inescapable conclusion that rich people (remember the government are nearly all rich people) consider themselves a higher class of being and, by inference, consider the poor as a lower class who don’t deserve the same level of consideration.  Who then can argue that poor people are not the slaves of the 21st century?