We should be interested to note too that the statue of him which was torn down was not erected until 1846 – some 174 years after his death, during the reign of Victoria – ‘the famine queen.’ Statues are rarely set up to celebrate people. Even though it is a person on the pedestal, if it were the case that great people were memorialised in this way simply because of their greatness or their contribution to their community, city, or nation, we would not be able to move for statues. There just is not enough bronze in the world. Such statues are erected to glorify ideas and ideals...
Right-wing populist governments with designs on capturing the state and fascism, such as Donald Trump’s and Boris Johnson’s are, are bringing home the shock doctrine consecutive US and British governments have employed on their foreign interventionist adventures since the US-backed coup and military takeover of Chile in 1973. This is the neoliberal dream; to see powerful and cohesive democracies softened up by truncheons, rent asunder by socio-economic division, and fractured into thousands of squabbling factions of the oppressed.
As if on cue, no sooner was Brexit Day over than news began circulating of a notice posted for residents in a Norwich tower block telling people to speak English or go home. ‘We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,’ said the notice, before going on to encourage immigrants to return to their own countries and free up housing for white English-speaking British people. Monika Wiśniewska, a Polish author living in England, took to social media to describe how Polish people were now being described as ‘vermin.’
In 1914 they began leaving the slums, taking the King’s shilling, to escape the dirt and the disease, to send some worthless pennies home to feed the wives and children they had left behind in buildings swarming with humanity and rotting with piss, shit, and vomit. You may think I’m being crass, but if we could revisit those dwellings, these rude words would be the least of our worries. The government that sent them to war had caged them like animals in these hell holes to work and to die for the good of the empire and the ruling class.
You may have noticed that Brexit has entirely replaced terrorism – the staple of British news between 2001 and 2016 – in the British broadcast and print media. Not even the suicide bombing of the Manchester Arena in May 2017 was able to unseat the Brexit agenda from our television screens for more than a month, which is interesting considering the British media’s prior behaviour in response to non-fatal terrorism stories and acts of terrorism in other western countries.
On the Remain and the anti-no-deal side of the Brexit debate, we have developed a tendency to magnify even the slightest glimmers of hope into reasons to believe this Brexit won’t happen. This fallacious logic has become a house we have built on the sand of normalcy – the erroneous and dangerous belief that the conditions which prevail at present will remain the same in the future. Together, these beliefs have conspired to create in our various camps a form of political wishful thinking.
Robinson deserves to be where he is today. He has not been sent down for journalism or free speech. He is not a martyr. He is a criminal. Robinson was put away before for contempt of court and he has done the same again. The law he has broken exists to ensure that people get a fair trial, and Tommy should know this – he has been up before the courts a few times. He’s a convicted criminal and he has plenty of experience of prison life. Looking back over his career, it is fair to say that the ‘big house’ is Tommy Robinson’s natural habitat. I am glad he is where he belongs.
Students of the far-right are well acquainted with this strategy of waiting. Since Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, all the essential ingredients of true ideological racism – white supremacism and fascism – have been patiently waiting in the undergrowth, moving through a series of permutations; the National Front, the BNP, UKIP, and the Brexit Party – to name a few. Farage is not like the more obvious racists. He’s not like Nick Griffin or Tommy Robinson.