Sunday 26 May 2024

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Sunak?

By all accounts, the godly folk of Middle England were mocking National Service from one end of Lanchester to the other. The Tories are demob happy. This was on Thursday. Thursday.

Still, it is useful for this debate to be revisited from time to time. Ignore anyone who advocated a military intervention unless you could imagine that person as an 18-year-old in battle. The call for war always comes primarily from the liberal bourgeoisie. That is the class least likely to join the Armed Forces voluntarily, or to see combat even in periods of conscription. Operationally, that is of course just as well. But if there is not a strong enough case for conscription, then there is not a strong enough case for war. Unless a country needed to mobilise its entire healthy and able-bodied male population of fighting age, then it is not under sufficient threat to justify going to war at all.

In a supreme act of what would now be an unthinkable level of Tory realism, it was a Conservative Government that abolished National Service, thereby both admitting explicitly that the Empire had gone, and admitting implicitly that the Soviet Union was not a military threat to Britain. It was all very Enoch Powell, who was a Minister, albeit for Health, when the last conscripted servicemen left the Armed Forces in May 1963, 61 years ago this month. Due to the manner of its phasing out from 1957 onwards, no one under the age of 85 has ever done a day of National Service in his life. Those who did, will tell you about serving as Privates under public schoolboys of their own age who were on short commissions, and who had either come straight from organised drunken vandalism and violence, sometimes complete with uniforms and membership lists, or who were going straight on to them, or both.

This is class politics in the raw, as it would be whatever form National Service took, not least because the Government took it as self-evident that care work, or things like building flood defences, could be done by anyone and did not even need to be paid beyond bed and board. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak cut by two thirds the funding of the National Citizen Service, which he had wanted to abolish altogether. He now wants this instead. Well, of course he does.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage must be thinking of the mercifully tiny rabble of the tanked up and the tooled up who screech racial abuse and extreme profanity while making an American obscene hand gesture at the vast, and entirely peaceful, marches for Gaza. That rabble has a propensity for assaulting the Police, and would indeed be difficult to integrate into, well, anything at all, really. Sadly, its political party is treated as a serious player because that party's leading figures are considered funny uncles of the media. That will not change when, yet again, it had won no seats. Farage himself is no longer even trying to be elected. Yet he is all over the airwaves.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

At this General Election, I have been a declared Independent candidate for the constituency containing Lanchester since before the last one. The boundary changes have moved Lanchester into North Durham, which I will contest unless the Workers Party of Britain did so. I am of course supporting the Independents whom it is also supporting because they were already established on the ground, although the ones who were in that position four and a half years ago are mostly or entirely sitting MPs, and hardly any more than those have stood for Parliament before, as I did in 2019.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start. But I do need an answer from the Workers Party. Will it be contesting North Durham? If so, then I will stand aside. But I need to know by nine o'clock.