Socialist Worker

Prepare for a run on hoodies

by Pat Stack
Issue No. 1953

There is no doubting the reactionary nature of the House of Windsor — out of date, snobbish, prejudiced and utterly out of touch with reality.

Yet it is unlikely that if the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and the queen herself had sat down and written the speech she presented to parliament that it would have been any more reactionary than the one that Tony Blair and his cronies prepared for her.

“Resolutely New Labour” they called it, and resolutely New Labour it was — a declaration of war by the paranoid ruling classes on the rest of us. For in their resolutely Daily Mail world there are Arab terrorists, feral youth dressed in hoodies and skiving pretend disabled people lurking on every street corner.

Amazing when you think of Blair, looking tired and demoralised, speaking outside 10 Downing Street on the day after the election, saying he had learned and he would listen.

Ah, but he forgot to tell us who he would listen to. It wasn’t the huge disaffected anti-war vote that swept George Galloway to victory, and accounted for a large chunk of the Lib Dem swing. Nor to the disillusioned Labour voters, who had had enough of their party sounding and acting like Tories.

If he had been listening to them, then closing the ever growing gap between rich and poor would have been top of the agenda in the queen’s speech.

Real measures would have been outlined to spring people from the poverty trap.

The railways would have been taken back into public ownership, the inexorable move to privatised education and health halted. Pensioners would have been given a decent living standard, and proposed moves to make us all enrich private pension companies abandoned.

Internationally we would have seen cancellation of Third World debt. The huge resources paid for a deeply unpopular war would have been given over to the people who are dying daily from starvation or being wiped out by the Aids epidemic.

Oona’s pain

Of course we got none of that because Blair was going to listen, as always, to those voices that tell him what he wants to hear. The voices that say: we lost the paranoid Tory vote, we lost the reactionary law and order vote, we lost the anti-immigrant vote.

So up he pops, this new “listening” Blair and starts twittering on about “respect” (the one consolation is the deep pain it must cause Oona King every time he uses the word), and launching his war on all things “disrespectful”.

First off we have the completion of a Margaret Thatcher dream of identity cards. This odious piece of legislation is dressed up in the disguise of making us all safe from the “terrorist threat”.

It will do no such thing. The idea that the people who flew planes into the World Trade Centre would have been thwarted by identity cards is plain daft.

However, for some things ID cards are very useful — for keeping tabs on benefit claimants, for policing us all on a daily basis, for storing more and more knowledge on us all.

The real aim of the game is greater power in the hands of the state over all of us.

Then we have the never ending war on youth. Banning hoodies, greater penalties and more Asbos. Even forcing people who have had community service orders to wear Guantanamo uniforms is being looked at.

All this based on a middle class nostalgia for a past that very few of us really experienced, and an apparently deeply frightening present that again in reality very few of us have experienced.

Moral panics about youth are far from new, yet this speech was more obsessed then any I can remember, coming from any government. As for its impact, I’m guessing there will be a real run on hoodies right now, as no self respecting kid will want to be left without one.

And to top off the lot, we have to be tough on the disabled as well. Under the guise of “helping people back to work”, disabled and sick people, who already have to spend much of their life proving that they really are sick or disabled, will now have to do so just to get the bare benefits to live on.

As I say, even the Duke of Edinburgh would have been hard pushed to come up with that one.


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Sat 28 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1953
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