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Jerry Hayes

Murdoch anoints the Coalition and old men not in a hurry.

October 22nd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Yesterday an elderly man in a faded uniform, his breast clanking with medals of past triumphs, creeked his way to the podium. There was a hushed and expectant silence as he surveyed the massed ranks of his followers. Wrinkled and dewy eyed former comrades in arms fondly remembered past victories. Behind him ancient standards fluttered in the breeze. The names of fallen enemies, engraved in gold on granite tombstones, rekindled the glories of battles from a bygone age. Natsopa, NGA, Scargill, Galtieri, Major, Brown. All of them gone.

The ancient, but proud man, conqueror of the largest empire the world has ever  seen, is flanked by an adoring, flame haired woman. “Oh, Rebecca, if only I had been younger”, he thinks wistfully. An elderly woman cackles dementedly in a corner, whilst a cadaverous old man glares at the the blonde blue eyed young men for any signs of disloyalty or imperfection, with rheumy eyes. “Ah, Thatcher and Tebbit, my ablest of generals, together we ruled the continents”.

In the front row, two young men shift nervously in their seats. “But I see the future”, the old man muses, “and it is Cameron and Osborne and perhaps, in the fullness of time, young Clegg”. With fear in their bellies and joy in their hearts, Cameron and Osborne are assisted by a grinning Blair and sombre Mandelson to the Podium in the white robes of innocence, to be anointed with chrism and printer’s ink. For on this great day Rupert Murdoch gave his blessing to the Coalition.

Well, this is how I imagine the Guardianistas and the ghastly trolls of the left imagine it. A squalid little deal has been done with Cameron whereby Murdoch’s empire devours the British Media with the speed and compassion of a swarm of locusts in return for the slavering support of News International.

Of course, it is utter bollocks. Newspapers, despite the hype, never win elections and rarely change minds. All they do is tap into to the primal  urges of their readers; a wonderful inkstained comfort blanket. Murdoch hasn’t warped the minds of the public to favour the cuts. They are just hefted by bitter and weary experience of being lied and cheated to by governments of all colours for generations. The left have never forgiven him for breaking the power of the print unions, who at a whim would down tools if any of their Spanish practices were under threat. Ironically, Murdoch only finished the job started by Eddie Shah.

This may not last. The spending review will not be lauded or destroyed by the views of worthy think tanks. Whether it is progressive or regressive. Or in the fine details. But by the countless human lives it touches. If the public regard  it as as fair as any adjusting of any complicated labyrinthe of regulations can be, the coalition will survive. If not, it will be time to start readjusting the deckchairs.

The argument that is so hogg-whimperingly banal, is the squeal that these cuts are in some way ideological. As necessity was the midwife of this Coalition and pragmatism is it’s godfather, such a charge flies in the face of reality. Perhaps a clue is that the Tory right don’t think Osborne has gone far enough, whilst the LibDem’s representaive on Earth, Simon Hughes, has said that the cuts  are as fair as they can be.

But I can understand why an opposition that has presented no credible alternative, wants to give traction to the idealogical narrative. Dear old Alan Johnson can’t joke his way out of this one. The real difficulty for Miliband is that he cannot answer a simple question as to why they are reticent about explaining where Darling and Byrnes’s axe would have fallen had they won the last election. There must have been a plan and it must be in writing or in cyber space. I’m just amazed that nobody has leaked it yet. But it can’t be long.

Sadly, like so many of the middle aged men who inhabit the Commons the argument is all about the size of their respective choppers. The new generation. Pleeeease. It’s old men not in a hurry

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Comments [ 11 ]

  1. Nigel Hobson Nigel Hobson says:

    Best opinion on the CSR I have read yet. Why the heck are you no longer in Parliament man???

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      That’s kind of you to say so! But I did do 14 years in the Commons and I think I’d find it difficult to cope with the utter bollocks that many feel they are obliged to spout.

  2. Colleen, in Old Harlow Colleen, in Old Harlow says:

    How refreshing to hear the truth from a former politician. Beautifully written too, thank you for that. It encourages me to ask you if you would be willing to write a piece about yourself and your experience of being Harlow’s MP for a book I’m working on at present: it’s about the politics and politicians of Harlow (and Essex, prior to Harlow having its own MP) from the days of the ‘here hlaw’ (Saxon: “army hill”) probably to be identified with the burial mound, or meeting place, near Churchgate Street and Mulberry Green. It would be great to have a piece written by you in your own words about your time as our MP.

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      Thanks for that. I’d love to write you a piece. My time in Harlow spans over 14 years so I’m not sure where to start or how long you would want it to be!

  3. Colleen, in Old Harlow Colleen, in Old Harlow says:

    That’s really kind of you, thank you so much for agreeing to write a piece. I shall be donating any proceeds (not that there shall be any!) to Harlow’s museum, which is now in the old stable block of the demolished Mark Hall manor house on First Avenue. So your piece could help the museum with funding it badly needs. I hope it will be an interesting record for future generations and pose a few questions.

    How much should you write? As very few former MPs of Harlow are still alive: Lord Tebbit, Stan Newens, Bill Rammell and you, I think a chapter from each of you of, say, 2 to 4 A4 pages, or whatever length you feel able to write, would be perfect. There will be a chapter by Robert Halfon, Harlow’s current MP too.

    The book will probably be published in A4 size to allow for decent sized illustrations and photographs. I have one signed, official photograph of you (head and shoulders) from the period when you were our MP, if you have any other photographs which you would prefer me to use or which you feel might be interesting, I’ll include these in the book if there is room for them.

    It would be good to have your account of your time as our MP and of Harlow’s politics during that period. A short biog which reaches to the human being behind the political mask would be good too. Aside from the more conventional history of Harlow’s politics, I’d like to look at what has really driven Harlow’s politicians and Harlow’s politics throughout the centuries. What makes someone want to be the MP for Harlow?

    I just love your comment that it’s all about the size of their choppers. Hilarious but very true.

    I’m struck by the conflict between the ethos and the reality of, what seemed for so long, to be the Socialist Republic of Harlow. Our little town declared itself a Peace Zone! Now we are a Respect Zone.Yet those who dream up these lofty ideals never tell us, the great unwashed of Harlow, what this is supposed to mean. All we know is that, one way or the other, each new heady ideal will end up in masses of regulations and bureaucracy that restrict our freedom.

    My parents were two of Harlow New Town’s original pioneers from East London. With hundreds of others they moved into one of Harlow’s brand new houses and loved what was then a clean, modern and healthy new town in the countryside. They had new, pastel coloured paint on the walls instead of London’s dingy browns and bottle greens, they even had electric immersion heaters for their bath water, unknown to most Londoners then. The fact that few of the pioneers could afford to heat the water for the bloody things in Summer was neither here nor there: the ruling elite bragged that we had this wonderful technology. That perhaps exemplifies the contrast between the utopian ethos and the less than utopian reality of Harlow. In a sense, the ruling elite seemed to see us as living in a frozen, socialist work of art rather than a living town, and woe betide anyone who wanted to stamp their own personality on anything here. We’d all of this wonderful new freedom in the countryside, yet weren’t allowed basic rights like fencing off our front gardens because it would have spoiled the work of art and the Master Plan ideal of open fronts to encourage community engagement. So the Harlow pioneers, many of whom relied on bikes and motorbikes for transport because they were too poor to buy anything else, had to keep their motorbikes indoors!

    No way could you invite the neighbours into a house where two motorbikes took pride of place, so people hid away from each other out of embarrassment. Bang went the clean, modernist and community engagement ideals at a stroke.

  4. Colleen, in Old Harlow Colleen, in Old Harlow says:

    As you know, the vision for Harlow was a dream of homes for heroes and of putting post war socialism into practice. Few minded living in largely identikit homes or identikit streets designed to produce identikit people then because they’d come from bomb damaged London. What they did mind was Harlow’s elitism: why have almost all of the decisions taken in Harlow for so long invariably been taken by the same, small group of people, who have decided everything from what colour council front doors must be, to what public sculpture we shall have, to major development issues? Most importantly: given the community engagement ideal here, why is so little community engagement allowed?

    Representation, accountability, scrutiny, proper consultation: we don’t know the meaning of the words here. Adn we are so manipulated.

    Lack of community engagement and community spirit: why do new towns like Harlow have particular issues with this? Were the small elite who quickly took control in the early days of the new town – and held onto that controlling influence with an iron grip – so empowered by our unique legal and civic structure that we, the manipulated and nannied people of Harlow, forgot how to think and act for ourselves or lost the will to do so? We’d had good obedience training during years of wartime, of course.

    Did the original new town pioneers tend to be outsiders who wished to escape what can be the stifling stranglehold of family and traditional community, to such an extent that we withdrew from engagement with our fellows and politics once we were at last free of these old constraints? Did we then heave a heavy sigh of relief as the ruling elite took control of the minutia of our civic lives, leaving us to revel in the velvet lined prison of our new found, heavily controlled personal freedom?

    Perhaps our lack of engagement was also conditioned by the impossibility of living up to Harlow’s lofty ideals. It’s hard to engage with others when you live in a town that’s seemingly a perfect work of art and your own home and life inevitably fails the ideal by being far from perfect or arty. Also, separated from our traditional East End families and community support systems, did many of the new citizens of Harlow suffer a sort of collective angst and withdraw into depression. I think all of these explanations may contain a grain of truth. There’s an old story from the early days of the new town of the desperately lonely women of Harlow forming queues at telephone boxes in order to phone their mums waiting for their calls at telephone boxes at home in the East End. My mother was certainly depressed after moving here, my brother and I have the scars to prove it :o )

    Whatever the cause, the people of Harlow do not engage with or scrutinise our politicians as we should do. Consequently, Harlow’s politicians get away with bloody murder.

    Was it like this in your time here?

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      Interesting. I always found that there was a great community spirit in Harlow. Most of the Labour politicians were grim in policy, but personally very pleasant. There were a few who were just awful.

  5. David David says:

    Nice to ‘find you’ in cyberspace, Jerry. I always thought you were too good to be a Tory MP! Wishing you all the best.

  6. Adam Collyer Adam Collyer says:

    And here’s the leak you were waiting for:

    Labour promised to halve the deficit in four years.
    Half the deficit was structural, and half cyclical.
    After four years, the recession will definitely be well over.
    Ergo, doing nothing will halve the deficit and meet Labour’s promise.

    Really, I believe they intended to do absolutely nothing about it.

    In contrast, Mr Osborne has expressly promised to eliminate the structural deficit. Which is a much bolder promise (although obviously susceptible to fudge in the measurement).

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