My take on the UK’s snap General Election – my only post about it because … headdesk

EU responses since Article 50 was triggered make it absolutely clear that Theresa May can’t have a Hard Brexit to satisfy UKIP and the Bigot Vote as well as single market access, keeping the customs union and a whole lot of other things vital to the UK economy.

NB I am not saying *all* Leave voters = Bigots. I have had enough discussions with those whose Referendum vote I disagree with but can respect as thoughtful people holding a considered view. Just so we’re clear on that.

Big business was firmly for staying in the EU. They will not stand for the loss of the UK’s financial sector, free movement for key staff etc and they are the Tory Party’s paymasters. Do not forget this.

If Theresa May wants to keep them happy, her current majority is far too small and vulnerable to Hard Brexit die-hards in the parliamentary Tory Party & selfish chancers like Boris, David Davis et al troublemaking for their own short term, personal gain.

Oh, and let’s not forget those 30 seats where Tory election spending illegalities could trigger by-elections and wipe out that majority.

An election now offers May the chance of getting a significantly increased majority by hoovering up the Bigot Vote before Brexit price rises and job losses etc really start to bite

As well as by benefitting from the current perception/media portrayal that Labour couldn’t win an arse-kicking contest with a one-legged man, with UKIP still a shambles & other parties starting from a point of having so few MPs – other than the SNP who can’t expand beyond Scotland.

If May gets an increased Tory majority, she can ram through a Brexit to satisfy the City & Big Business before Bigot Voters realise their dreams of Empire 2.0, closed borders and cultural purity etc simply won’t happen – and there’ll be sod all they can do about it.

With the added Tory Idealogue bonus of gaining the unfettered ability to now shaft the NHS, see themselves and their pals get rich off education & health care for profit, and to make hay with exploitative labour laws, tax breaks for the super-rich etc. etc.

So I’ll be doing all I can to stop this.

Why this weekend’s reading has got me writing.

Longstanding readers will know that I generally sign off a year’s blogging on Christmas Eve and resume around January 2nd. They’ll be wondering what’s happened, given this is my first post of 2017. Well, I simply haven’t known what to say.

Charlatans and crooks have got hold of the reins of power in the UK and the US. Our alleged leaders have been lurching from one glibly aspirational sound-bite to the next, with no clear plan for anything and even less understanding of the complex issues they’re facing. Insulated by wealthy and privilege, they’re going to make narrow-minded, dogmatic decisions which will have a devastating impact on ordinary people’s lives. All of which is sufficiently apparent in the mass media without this particular blog adding to the chorus of despair.

Doing book promo stuff instead? That’s been feeling like saying ‘well, yes, I know the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, but while you’re waiting for the sky to fall in, how about an enjoyable read?’ Just for me, please note. I’ve been seeing other people’s book stuff and thinking, ‘how nice, something positive for a change’. Logic does not necessarily apply in these circumstances.

So what’s changed? The Women’s March. All the women’s marches, all around the world, from Antarctica to Alaska and everywhere in between. Reading all those placards; witty, funny, furious, uncompromising. Seeing so much support for all women, of all ages, regardless of race, religion, disability, cis and transgender alike. So much support from men, gay, straight, whatever. So much collective determination to defend human rights for all.

Seeing SF&Fantasy so evident in the images and quotes on display, from Princess Leia to Xena, Warrior Princess to Wonder Woman. Not to mention Doctor Who/Peter Capaldi and Gandalf/Sir Ian McKellen marching in London (carrying a poster of Jon Luc Picard/Patrick Stewart).

Within 24 hours though, I was also reading attempts to undermine that millions-strong opposition to selfishness, bigotry and greed. Possibly the most ludicrous tweet was that bloke claiming this wasn’t a spontaneous movement because ‘no one could have manufactured and distributed so many pink hats so quickly’. Er, there speaks a man who has no clue how quickly an experienced knitter can work with some spare yarn and a simple pattern freely available on the Net. But there have been more serious attempts. I’m highly suspicious of some of those trying to turn what are vital conversations on understanding intersectionality into blazing rows between one group and another. The selfish, bigoted and greedy have had so much success with ‘divide and rule’ of late.

Why wasn’t I marching myself? Because I have a stinking cold and the worst earache I’ve had since I was a kid. So I’ve been on the sofa, re-reading some Terry Pratchett – specifically Going Postal and Making Money. Both of those are books castigating selfishness, bigotry and greed. So much of Pratchett’s writing challenges us with the cold, hard truth that all that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.

Meantime, my friend Catie is reading my Lescari Revolution books. She’s had a couple of questions that had me checking the text to make sure I was giving her the right answers. That’s reminded me I wrote a whole damn trilogy about ordinary people deciding they’re mad as hell about being trampled by the selfish and greedy and getting organised to oppose them. Okay, that’s fiction, but I researched enough real revolutions and popular uprisings throughout history before I wrote those books to know it can be done.

So it’s time to get writing again. Fiction. Non-fiction. Letters and emails to my elected representatives.

And let’s support all those writing the investigative and analytical journalism that will be crucial to exposing our so-called leaders’ lies and restoring democratic accountability.

If you’re going to tell lies, what’s your justification?

We all get used to the idea of little white lies; of resorting to minor dishonesty to smooth over social difficulties. Saying ‘I’m so sorry we can’t come to the party, I’m coming down with some sort of cold and I wouldn’t want to spread it around’. When actually, it’s just been an exhausting week at work and we’d much rather spend Saturday night on our own sofa with a movie on Netflix. Okay, it’s fudging the truth but surely that’s better than causing needless offence?

But where do we draw the line? How far will we go, insisting that the ends will justify the means? I first recall this debate during the ‘Operation Countryman’ investigations into the UK’s Metropolitan Police in the late 1970s. Among the allegations made was the police fabricating evidence, justifying this on the grounds that the crook in question might not be guilty of this particular charge but he had got away with so many other crimes that fitting him up for this one was serving justice regardless. Or that these people were so obviously guilty, even if no one could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, that the police just gave the prosecution a helping hand by burying something that undermined their case. Wrongdoing for the greater good is excusable, surely? It’s even got a special name now; ‘noble cause corruption’. Just try that phrase on for size a few times. Noble cause corruption. Isn’t it seductive? We all want to think we’re doing something noble. Except, as so many cases have shown, the consequences can be appalling miscarriages of justice. Who’s left feeling so noble once those truths come out?

What has this got to do with storytelling? Well, as the writing cliché goes, conflict is the essence of drama. Writing epic fantasy across four series of novels, I’ve set up my heroes and heroines with all manner of conflicts; murderous sneak-thieves, brutal invaders, arrogant nobles waging war to serve selfish ambitions, and renegade wizards threatening everyone’s peace. In all these stories, a broad array of characters are all serving the greater good with courage, guile and their quick wits. Granted, there’s deception and misdirection involved but that’s understandable and excusable. Noble, even.

Artwork & layout by Ben Baldwin
Artwork & layout by Ben Baldwin

But what if we take this one step further? What if the truth about something is so dangerous, if the consequences of it being revealed are so horribly dangerous, that bare-faced lies must be told to conceal it? Where’s the heroism in deliberately upholding something you know to be calculatedly false? What if those who discover this truth must be silenced by whatever means prove necessary? Where’s the heroism in using violence and threats to coerce innocent bystanders who’ve accidentally stumbled onto a secret? How does someone convince themselves that this sort of behaviour is in any sense noble? If they can’t, but they still have no choice but to act this way, what will that crisis of conscience mean for them? How corrosive will those lies be for their soul? This is the tension that underpins the Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom.

Not that I consciously realised this, when I started writing these stories back in 2008. But that’s the thing about fantasy fiction. It has an uncanny knack of reflecting the world we live in right back at us.

We need to talk about lies, because we live in a world where the celebrity-obsessed rolling-news media are so seduced by ideas of ‘narrative’ that they persist in fitting ‘breaking news’ events into a pre-existing framework before even half the facts are known. When inconvenient facts emerge later, proving something significantly different happened, the truth will struggle to catch the lies which have already gone round the world.

We need to talk about lies, because we live in a world where ‘reality’ TV no longer means documentaries bringing harsh truths into the light but ‘scripted’ and ‘constructed’ entertainments masquerading as real life. Somehow all this has become normalised, even acceptable, even as it colours attitudes and reinforces dangerous prejudices about religion, unemployment, poverty and black and minority ethnic issues.

We need to talk about lies, because we live in a world where massively significant political victories are currently being won by people who tell deliberate and calculated lies. People who just shrug and carry on lying when the truth is waved in their face. Why are they doing this? Because those liars are getting their reward when those desperate and disadvantaged people who desperately want to believe those lies are voting for the lies not the truth. Because, to take just one example currently applicable to the UK and US, the lie of ‘vote for me/my plan and I’ll bring those old jobs back’ is quicker to tell and easier to swallow than a detailed explanation of decades of economic and industrial change which means those jobs are gone beyond recall and creating alternatives requires focused investment, hard work and new thinking.

What’s our excuse for letting such lies go unchallenged? We’re not trying to keep out the monsters from a shadow realm. In our world, allowing these lies to take over means the monsters get a hold over us all.

It’s time to write letters to MPs to emphasise our opposition to Brexit – here’s why and how

Parliament’s back in Westminster today, and over the weekend, the media were reporting a cross-party initiative to insist on a House of Commons vote over leaving the single market, as well as high-level Conservative unease at how badly the general public, and the heavy-weight business organisations, responded to the Tory conference’s Hard Brexit and isolationist rhetoric.

The energy the Pro-Leave press are putting into rubbishing all this, turning their sneers on whoever they think is involved, and insisting it’s all a done deal anyway, makes me pay even closer attention. Because this is not a done deal. This was not a quiet revolution or an overwhelming mandate or anything remotely like it, and there are serious challenges going through the courts as we speak.

So now’s the time to have hundreds, thousands, ideally tens of thousands of letters landing on MPs desks and making the majority opposition to this unfolding disaster undeniable. They need to be hard copy letters, because MPs have a legal obligation to record and reply to those, unlike email which can and will be ignored. Individual letters, because anything that looks like cut-and-paste can and will be downgraded as not a serious expression of personal belief.

The time and effort which handling a large volume of letters demands of your MP’s office and staff is one of the most effective tools we have as constituents. It really gets attention.

It only needs to be a single page and no more than two at the most, even if like so many of us you could write a 10,000 word essay on the calamitous consequences of this botched referendum. Pick three, maybe a handful of the points that matter most to you. It’s not as if there’s a shortage.

If the bare-faced lies of the Leave campaign infuriate you, say so. Where’s that £350 million for the NHS?

If the utter lack of democratic safeguards when voting on such a vital issue appals you, say so. Where’s the legitimacy of 37% of the eligible electorate overruling the rest?

If the catastrophic impact that this has already had, and will have, on the economy and the tumbling Pound dismays you, say so.

If your own and your family’s employment prospects have and will be significantly harmed, say so. If for instance, you’re one of the 800,000 people whose jobs rely on motor manufacturing – or if you work in any of the many other globalised industries that can and will swiftly relocate when the UK is no longer an entry point to the Single Market.

If the price rises for day-to-day essentials that will go with a sinking pound and higher dollar costs for fuel will hit your household budget hard, say so.

If the Brexit Ministers insisting they can dictate terms to Europe enrages you, when the representatives of the 27 nations who will decide such things keep saying the exact opposite? Say so.

If the conspicuous lack of coherent policies from any of the Brexit Ministers irritates you, say so. Ask how exactly they intend to deliver closed borders without cutting the UK economy off from the Single Market?

If the lack of proper Parliamentary scrutiny of such far-reaching changes dismays you, say so.

If the way your MP behaves over this will influence your vote at the next general election, say so.

If you’re active in local party politics, whatever your party, and consider this a reselection litmus test, say so.

If your MP is one of those already opposing Brexit, assure them of your support, irrespective of party affiliation.

If you’ve had direct experience of, or have observed, the uptick in racist, xenophobic and other bigoted behaviour enabled by this result, spell that out.

I could go on – and on – but you get the idea. So get writing.

Don’t get aggressive. Don’t get abusive. Don’t give anyone any excuse to dismiss your letter as anything less than a valid expression of your opposition to this social, economic and political catastrophe.

If you get a mealy-mouthed, formulaic reply, write back and say that’s unacceptable. Outline a few more reasons why. Like I said, there’s no shortage.

If we want to take back control of our democracy, this is the time to speak up and be heard.