The eruption of another random terrorist attack in the centre of London, on Friday 30th November 2019, throws up many hard and uncomfortable truths about the kind of society we live in in Britain after ten years of successive Tory governments.
The first and most glaring of those is that Tory austerity has ripped the guts out of the country’s public services, reducing them to a precarious shell of what they were and what they need to be in a functioning civilised country. When we learn that over the past decade the budget for the justice department alone has been slashed by 40 percent, the ability of the assailant, convicted terrorist Usman Khan to slip threw cracks in the prison and probation system, isn’t hard to understand.
Thus the culpability of those successive Tory governments, gripped with the fanatical zeal of ideologues whose guiding star is to reward the ‘deserving’ rich and purify the ‘undeserving’ poor with pain, is inarguable. More, with the general election on December 12 fast approaching the breathtaking and roguish dishonesty Boris Johnson and the clutch of extremists that make up his administration — moral midgets one and all — says much about the corruption of the nation’s political culture and establishment.
In any sane society, Johnson’s interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, during which he attempted to blame Labour for the Usman Khan’s brief orgy of violence, and during which his pristine disregard for even the most basic norms of human decency, reflected in how he sought to make political capital out of the gruesome murder of two innocent people and wounding of a further three only the day before, would have immediately brought his political career to a shuddering halt.
But we are living in an age when truth and ethics have been slain on the altar of power at all cost — when any lie, no matter how blatant, can be excused in a dog eat dog society that has been wrought in the name of greed.
Thus, the fact that Boris Johnson, this Trump ‘Mini-Me’, possesses the ethics of your average plank of wood, matters not in this Trumpian- Bannonite time of Western political decline. All that matters is that he and his are successful in obfuscating the issues in the minds of enough voters to persuade them to cast a vote for the Tories on December 12 in what would be an act of self harm.
When Nye Bevan averred that ‘Without an ordered economic life the individual frustrates himself in a morass of fears and insecurities’, he described perfectly Britain at the tail-end of the second decade of the 21st century. Millions have been so bludgeoned and battered by austerity that their political compass has been knocked askew. How else are we to explain the irrationality of Brexit, this political inversion or reality?
Brexit, in sum, was a scream from the bowels of austerity Britain. For decades those at the top had been filling their boots at the expense of those at the bottom. When, therefore, David Cameron in his born-to-rule arrogance and ignorance unwittingly provided those at the bottom with the opportunity to bring the entire edifice crashing down, they did precisely that. The result, three years on, is a political, economic and constitutional crisis that shows no signs of abating, no matter the hoary Churchillian rhetoric deployed by Boris Johnson to the contrary with his promise to ‘get Brexit done’,
Speaking of Brexit, one of the heroes of the London Bridge attack was Lukasz Koczocik, a chef at the venue at which the conference on prisoner rehabilitation was taking place that Khan was attending before launching his attack was taking place. Despite being stabbed five times after confronting Khan with a pole, Koczocik continued to confront him, allowing others to escape.
It should not be lost that Lukasz Koczocik is a Polish national, living and working in Britain under the rubric of free movement — the same free movement that has been a particular hobby horse of a resurgent right, both leading up to and in the wake of Brexit. In consequence, Polish nationals such have been among the most maligned and demonised in British society, depicted as the enemy within, flooding the country and despoiling it with their foreign ways.
Meanwhile, on the Brexit-supporting left we have borne witness to a clutch of false prophets and renegades pushing a worker v worker dynamic, under which Eastern Europeans such as Koczocik have been dehumanised as ‘cheap labour’, responsible for driving down the wages and conditions of their British counterparts.
The shame attached to such a squalid narrative is immeasurable.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the attack on London Bridge levels another withering j’accuse at British foreign policy, with particular emphasis on the disaster of the Iraq war in 2003 and how it brought not democracy to the Middle East but chaos and carnage, opening the gates of hell out which the monster of Salafi-jihadism emerged, producing an untold number Usman Khans. This is not condone for moment what Khan did. On the contrary, he died the death of murdering brute. However it is necessary to understand the role that Britain’s slavish addiction to regime change wars — in Iraq, Libya, Syria — have played in the radicalisation of such people.
London Bridge, this world-famous historical and tourist landmark, has been turned into a symbol of British cultural and moral decline. It has come to represent a place where innocent people have been slaughtered time and again, and where they will continue to be slaughtered for as long as the lie continues to prosper that this is the best of all possible worlds - the best that we can do.