In February 2017 I wrote a short story: The Minister’s New Clothes | A completely unbelievable short story. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both feature in the tale. The uproar on Sunday (11th November 2018) over Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of outerwear, the colour of his tie and his chosen poppy for Remembrance 2018 led me to reread it. Last year when I posted the story to various pro-Corbyn Facebook pages some responses focused solely on the Prime Minister’s clothes and appearance. For me the story was about a government that values the few at the detriment to the many; the ‘pantomime’ that parliament often descends into; and the demonisation of those who are defined as ‘other’, as less deserving, and of a man who is working to challenge this injustice and inequality. Given the title of my piece I guess it’s clear that my aim was to adapt the original The Emperor’s New Clothes to highlight these issues and Theresa May’s love of clothes and accessories helped me in building the ‘story’. So, in my tale clothes, and specifically the ‘cloak of lies’ the PM is given to wear by those who will do anything to retain their control, their privilege, at the expense of the many, was for me a metaphor for political power in Britain. I appreciate that stories can be read at many levels but regret that my story led to (further) critique of the PM’s appearance and I received some criticism for this. To clarify my position I am not, and I don’t think any of us should be, overly concerned with what our politicians wear. Although, and I appreciate the contradiction here, I do find obvious displays of wealth and privilege distasteful to say the least. But, what distresses me more, so much more is the explicit #ConsciousCruelty and #HostileEnvironment embedded within Conservative policy and practice AND the ways in which they are still able to convince so many people that this is not the case.
Before going any further here is the story I wrote last year. I hope you’ll be as struck as I am by its significance to what happened on the 11th of September 2018.
There is an estimated 13,000 homeless veterans (see @TheProleStar for an article and twitter thread focusing on ‘The Known Soldier’ (i.e. just some of veterans that have died whilst sleeping rough)). There are also obvious deficiencies in the health, work, educational and financial support (for this group and many others). Given this it is clear that the ‘
|Mr Corbyn righly yawning at yet another inaccurate attack|
…. I don't consider myself to be part of a cult. Neither do I think that I am deluded or stupid or any of the other things I and similar others have been called in recent months. What I do passionately believe, with reference to my own life experience to date - as a sometime carer and as someone who has needed professional (as patient) and personal (as daughter, wife, friend) care from others, as a student, a teacher, a researcher, a volunteer, a women and a citizen - is that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour is our best hope, our only hope of a decent future for all.
It’s not the coat they hate.
That’s not really their cause
What gets up all their noses?
He opposes all the wars.
Sunday’s response (from all sides) to Mr Corbyn’s appearance at the Cenotaph and his, and his Party’s, ‘Lest we forget’ focus encapsulates, I think, the relevance of The Minister’s New Clothes to political understanding in Britain (and elsewhere) in 2018. We are told again and again and again that the Conservative government is dedicated to correct the ‘burning injustices’ of society and that a Corbyn-led government would be a threat to us all both in terms of domestic policy and international affairs. And sadly, just like those that lined the streets that the Emperor in the original ‘New Clothes’ tale paraded along, there are many who, despite what they see before them, believe this twisted, manufactured ‘truth’. But, there are others – politicians, activists (both on the streets and online), some journalists – who like the boy in the tale who spoke up about the nakedness of the Emperor, call this lie out for what it is.
A few weekends ago there was another media outrage. This time about an anonymous Conservative MP who drew on violent language to describe Theresa May’s precarious hold on her position as PM and leader of the Conservative Party. The Labour MP Angela Rayner tweeted:
I agreed with Ms Rayner and with many others who made similar points. Indeed, I tweeted @brandonlewis (chairman of the Conservative Party responsible for the Party’s ‘Respect Pledge’) three times to ask for his response. Unsurprisingly I received no reply. (There are many more examples to show that this pledge is less than worthless. Maybe I’ll write of those another day.)
Yes indeed which perhaps explains why one twitter user felt it acceptable to write of Mr Corbyn; ‘he should be in a concrete overcoat’ on Sunday 11th November.
Once final example to demonstrate the ways in which the MSM acts as a cloak to manipulate our perception of what is and what is not (as reported by @skwarkbox). Following the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack various news stations and papers made ‘connections’ between the atrocity and concerns of antisemitism in the Labour Party. See this from Harriet Sherwood in The Guardian:
As Skwarkbox noted there was: ‘[n]o mention of the Tories’ proven and recorded mass support in the European Parliament for racist, antisemitic Hungarian premier . . . but, as ever Corbyn is fair game for criticism and attack
One of the first pieces I wrote when my writing turned more (Party) political in the summer of 2016 was another short story entitled Sticks and Stones http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.com/2016/08/sticks-and-stones-short-story.html. It ends:
The end of this story is yet to be told. The man and the people who accept and help to promote what he stands for remain under attack. The often confused and confusing negative stories continue to fester. But the resistance of many continues also. Although the kingdom is in many ways rotten, and there is a real danger that things could get even worse, there is also much hope for a better world. Many more people believe in fighting for a more positive future. Many more people believe in the power of community and the value of people powered politics. What is clear is that whatever happens next things will never be the same again.
Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Anchor books