I come from a fairly long line of mercantile family forebears with strong business skills and profit inspired attitudes. Although I chose not to go into business as my brothers did and I became a teacher of English, every emotional nerve in my body believed in wealth creation as being the only way forward for all.
I listened to Margaret Thatcher as my Palestinian ancestors listened to the Sermon on the Mount two thousand years ago. The argument was brilliant in its simplicity: Privatisation creates competition, competition creates better services, better services create readiness to do business, doing business makes money, more money made creates wealth, more wealth produces tax revenues for the public good. Finally, wealth created eventually trickles down to the working men and women of Britain. We will all be better off. Simples.
After the economic disasters of the 1970s, brooding by my candle light during the three day week, I passionately believed that these imperatives were the only way to create our utopia. And, like my favourite horse Boxer, I worked harder and harder and harder.
Over the years under Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron, I had to work extremely hard to maintain my deeply rooted belief in the benefits of wealth creation. My little library is full of political philosophy tracts feeding my beliefs in the humanity of wealth creation. As an avid reader, I must confess that my little library also has many socialist political tracts because I have always believed in listening to every point of view in my search for that which we humans have in common rather than that which appears to divide us. What’s more, I was fascinated by the stupidity of a failed socialist system still being believed in by millions when I could quite clearly see that Thatcherite economics and their hard edges were the answer – if only we would all listen.
I compiled a bibliography of Margaret Thatcher for an American publisher with a brief introductory biographical essay. I sent the latter to her and was invited for a very brief meeting. She told me that my conclusion that she had done very little for women was mistaken. She had created the very essence of equalising opportunities for all. I was young and even more impressionable than I am now in my dotage. I listened, mesmerised by the great prophetess, and was then duly dismissed after sipping from a tepid tea cup with tremulous hands. I departed carrying two photographs of her: one signed – it hangs by the clock facing my desk – and the other blemished with the proximity of the intriguingly called “great communicator” – the then lost for words US President Reagan – it sits in the darkest dungeons of my inept filing system. But then, amazing how time humbles our perceptions, that was well before Trump and Clinton gave us the ‘none of the above’ vote choices and well before Blair’s and Cameron’s rule by empty slogan spinning and meaningless sound bites.
I remained an ardent supporter of Conservative policies out of habit – indeed what other ways were there to improve our individual lot than self-reliance, hard work, perseverance, indomitability of spirit and confidence? These have always been the main qualities each of us needed to succeed. Surely they still are. Aren’t they?
With them went a growing intolerance of all kinds of self-inflicted woes from poverty to unemployment to single parenthood to carcinogenic induced illnesses and so much else. All each of us had to do was take control of one’s life and just, in the words of the most inimitable Conservative of them all, “keep buggering on…” regardless of any impediment. After all, we had the grit that only true Brits have as evidenced by the Dunkirk and Blitz spirits. Okay, I concede that I am only a Brit by naturalisation rather than birth. But, I love this country and all it stands for. Well? Almost all.
There are a few things that we need to talk about when we review my life as a Brit. But that can only happen after I invoke article 50 on 19 September 2017 on the fiftieth anniversary of my arrival in that old England that everyone is now so nostalgically pursuing.
All went so smoothly. Until, that is, some six or so years ago, when, after over a decade of perfidious, self-centred, mendacious, acquisitive, war mongering rule by a Prime Minister happily seeing himself as the “son of Thatcher”, I realised how greed had become the norm as we sleepwalked to an economic disaster again. Then Cameron, who, bizarrely, saw Blair, the “son of Thatcher”, as “the master”, told me that we were “all in it together”. And I looked for evidence of what it was that we were all in together: Poverty? Austerity? Being conned? Indifferent bankers? Failed educational system? Overburdened NHS? Endless little wars – little to us but absolute tragedies to those hoping for regime change to the better? The proverbial sh*t that we were imperceptibly sinking into? Is that what we were all in together?
The answer crept up on me slowly over Cameron’s eminently forgettable time as Prime Minister; a time made up of saying all things to all men and women whilst the emerging reality was a widening gap between the rich and the poor. A time of apparently clever yahoo politics in the Mother of All Parliaments – no dialogues, no discussions, no convictions, no links to reality and, most distressing, not an iota of apparent compassion for the vulnerable and the wretched of our rich nation – the fifth biggest economy on earth – with abusive zero hour contracts, with greedy employers docking pay for toilet breaks so that workers took to the indignity of wearing nappies to diminish financial losses to themselves and their families, with bankers wearing their “greed is good” badge with “enlightened self-interest”, with the richest paying little or no tax and being called “smart” for managing not to pay tax, with acquisition and instant gratification becoming the norm, with the education system irrevocably sliding down the international league tables…
The reality was that my long cherished series of linked statements that were meant to be ‘an incontrovertible scientific equation’ had become a misleading and nightmarish syllogism: Privatisation creates competition, competition creates a do anything and say anything to have the client buy your worthless services, these services create an artificial need to do business, doing business makes money for the rich only, money made creates wealth for the very few, wealth created trickles up to make the rich even richer and brilliant at tax avoidance and so not a crump of that created wealth trickles down to the rest of the working men and women… and we will all be worse off (except for the few wealthy ones).
I sat with a Minister of Education abroad trying to convince him that the British educational expertise was the best to buy into for developing education in his country. He laughed gently and quoted the latest PISA and OECD league tables and suggested that his country would be better off buying in educational support from Singapore, Finland, China (Shanghai) or South Korea. I, being a firm and strong adherent to globalisation and Conservatism, can proudly announce that I still managed to sell British educational services using my long acquired business acumen and “enlightened self-interest” (i.e. mendacity and greed). And the contract was a huge success and I was paid my thirty pieces of silver and went home to invest it all in an ISA earning a mind shattering fixed 1.75% interest per annum over two years! … after deducting a self-imposed book tax to buy a few more unreadable political tracts and many poetry books… and, of course, putting aside, also, the tax due because being a small earner I could not afford to avoid tax – indeed I would not even know how to do so even if I wanted to – but then, I do not want to cheat the taxman, being a believer in my civic duty regardless of any temptations lurking behind clever ploys. That was what I really thought that being British was about.
Added to all these disheartening experiences, I finally witnessed Prime Minister Cameron’s last act of pure folly: putting Europe firmly, though utterly unnecessarily, centre stage, negotiating idiotic deals and calling a referendum when we had already had one over forty years ago, leading politicians on both sides with endless scare stories and no real political dialogue… and causing Britain to leave one of the richest clubs in the world – then he resigned leaving chaos unparalleled since his “Master” Blair also, thankfully, resigned. And he walked off humming a tune to himself! Maybe he will now dismantle NATO since he has gained considerable experience at dismantled massive institutions. Jobs for the boys have never had it so good. Worse still, he was replaced by Prime Minister May who “says what she means and means what she says” when she promises that there would be no General Election before 2020 – and, very shortly after, she calls a General Election on 8 June 2017. She daily becomes more difficult to understand as she adopts a new Orwellian Newspeak language.
And, in an unexpected but long due epiphanous moment (I am allowed to make up new words because I am British), watching a single parent sobbing in a headteacher’s office as her fourth child joined the long line of the lost generation, the despaired of, the given up on and, as I saw a line of four boys aged under ten… I realised that she was helpless. She was the victim I had long blamed for her apparent ‘failures’. She was vulnerable. She had been, in her turn, one of the lost generation, the despaired of, the given up on… And I suddenly realised that we were not “all in it together”. I had colluded with the very architects who had built this house of cards crumbling all around us. And I stood outside the school watching her walk away, mobile to her ear, cigarette hanging in the corner of her mouth, a baby in a perambulator, a toddler standing on a footrest and two boys fiercely exchanging brotherly punches behind her – all utterly oblivious of the heavy traffic surrounding them under the oppressive high rise cheap blocks of flats.
So, I went in search of a party that would allow me to help – in a meaningful way. En route, I volunteered to monitor prisoner welfare and well-being, did unpaid work in various schools, started a local youth club, joined a citizens’ panel, volunteered as a school governor, registered as a member of my local NHS and became a chairperson of governors, supported struggling university students and wrote endless articles ranting and raving to nobody in particular because nobody was listening anyhow. All of this made me feel better. The hardest task was finding a political party that would allow me to help. Somehow. Anyhow. To make up for all those years of arrant stupidity.
And I met Jeremy Corbyn. This is not name dropping. I had already met Jeremy Corbyn twice before during two visits to the House to discuss peace between us Palestinians and Israelis. These meetings made us feel good because, long time enemies, some of us were now speaking the same language of peace and coexistence. But this is by the by since powers significantly stronger than we were have, so far, successfully torpedoed all our peace efforts – impediments to peace epitomised by men such as Netanyahu, Obama, Kerry, Abbas, Sisi, Trump and so many other “I’m all right Jack. Pull the ladder up…” self-engrossed and unconscionable characters. Incidentally, has the time not arrived for power to be handed over to women? We men have led for thousands of years and muffed rather badly. Time to apologise and say “sorry” and let women run the world… They can start off by lighting a huge beacon that will shine across the whole world – my numerous political tracts may be used to start the wondrous conflagration.
I listened to Corbyn under siege over the last year and hoped that he would be given a chance. Only time will tell. I even wrote to my local Conservative MP suggesting that this man Corbyn really meant well and was genuinely trying to create a cleaner new breed of political dialogue. All the Nablus soaps in Palestine could not sufficiently wash my mouth out for uttering such blasphemies. Thankfully, I was not challenged to step outside “mano a mano” so to speak. I was given a mouth rinsing cup of English breakfast tea, complimented on my “faith in humanity” and politely sent off to write more poetry. And the said MP slithered, slipped and sloughed off out of my hands leaving them holding shed oily old skin. Politicians can always easily grow new and shinier skins when they need to.
So, I have now done the unimaginable and joined the Labour Party. I can see so many friends of so many years looking in amazement and smilingly welcoming the prodigal son home where he belongs. I can see their faces and can name each one using first names only: Maggie, Jess, Susan, another Maggie, Chris, Mike, another Susan, David… and so many others… Their smiles may develop into loud laughter at the hilarity of this erstwhile Thatcherite joining the “masses”, “the brothers and sisters”, “the comrades”… How I despised these Soviet era terms. I still do. This brave new world will take a lot of getting used to. I can also see the fissures developing in friendships as many will call me a “turncoat”, “a fool” and, the more compassionate, “a senile old git”. But then such people are purely the lumpenproletariats who are not really interested in revolutionary improvements – let alone simple humanity and compassion in caring for each other. Well, at least ‘lumpen’ sounds a little bit more knowledgeable than ‘plebeian’. Not convinced? Check it out with Downing Street gate police officers.
My new membership of the Labour Party was politely acknowledged. I am now a “provisional” member for a period of eight weeks
when they would determine that I am / am not fit to be a member. Indeed, as I review this article before submission, I am pleased to report that I have completed my probationary period and I am now a fully fledged member of the Labour Party (I am seven months old).
Maybe I am not really fit for my record of lifelong blindness excludes me. On the other hand, I am more than fit because, like all neophytes, I am bubbling with passions born of regrets and deep convictions born of years of gullibility – of pure emotional responses to a failed upbringing and worse education.
Sorry Chris. Sorry Maggie. Sorry Jess. Sorry single mums everywhere… Most of all, sorry to my younger self for leading me up the garden path: flower lined, colourful and beautiful – hiding a multitude of sins beneath its glorious surface.
Let me make it easier for my new distinguished brothers and sisters in the Labour Party. I support what Jeremy Corbyn is trying to do. I did not support Tony Blair and I still hold him responsible for eroding true Labour values. Over the last year, during a chronic kidney disease incident causing some incapacity, I have re-read Marx’s Das Kapital, Piketty’s Capital and Houellebecq’s novels, voted to remain in Europe, re-read David Copperfield, kept dipping into Thomas Hardy’s and Chaucer’s poetry and found that I could enjoy Brecht when he used to make me feel sick with his sanctimonious Marxism and supremely uncomfortable alienation – after all, we, the masses do not need to be alienated. The masses, as the inimitable Dickens wrote, “mutht be amuthed, Thquire, thomehow they can’t be alwayth a-working, nor yet they can’t be alwayth a-learning. Make the betht of uth, not the wurtht.”
I would like to believe, like Jeremy Corbyn, that ours is a broad church (do forgive the Christian-centric use of language – just a figure of speech) wherein all can debate, argue, rant, rave and work for the betterment of all in an open and democratic grassroots movement.
We are now truly in it together – striving for sunny heights and turning equalising sentiments into actual realities for all. I, too, have a dream of taking us all to Martin Luther King’s “mountain top” so that we all benefit equally and live happily and peacefully together – whilst no longer caring about individual “enlightened self-interest” but being driven by our mutual and commonly shared interests, passions, feelings, needs and one eternal humanity.
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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi