There is a belief among what might be termed the Tabloid Right that in a world of “political correctness gone mad” people are not allowed to say certain things. A quick glance at the Dale Farm hashtag (#dalefarm) on Twitter will demonstrate the absurdity of that view. In a culture that has been brutalised by the bullying meted out by tabloids and their followers on a daily basis, the amount of sheer hatred to be found there is shocking (as well as the way in which hate feeds illusion – the community at Dale Farm owned the land, paid their taxes, and I can find no reliable information about criminality at the site. This was a planning dispute, and as a minority pointed out, supermarket chains and trendy coffee outlets get away with much worse breaches of planning law with never a riot policeman to be seen).
Hatred of travellers may be one of the last socially acceptable form of racism, but it doesn’t stop there. Comedian Ricky Gervais chooses to tweet what he describes as his “mong face” and he and his coterie of supporters – rather like the grinning primary school playground loudmouth and his sad little group of chums – complain that those who take offence at this gratuitous comment are humourless and need to get a life. There is of course the defence that comedy (a strange word to use in the case of a celebrity who hasn’t actually been funny for years) needs to be edgy and challenging – but there’s the world of difference between subverting convention and getting a cheap laugh at the expense of the vulnerable.
But the Dale Farm fascism seems to me to be one – rather extreme – expression of a growing trend in mainstream politics. The issue of travellers – always difficult in its need to balance what appear to be hugely conflicting interest – has always been a political flashpoint, and one that mainstream Conservative politicians appear to be looking increasingly to exploit. Views like those of Chingford Councillor Thom Goddard, who tweeted that the Dale Farm scaffolding tower would make a great venue for a game of human kerplunk, may be extreme (and it’s interesting that the tweet was removed sharpish), but they’re not that unusual.
For example, here in liberal and Green Brighton, the local Tories – smarting from their thrashing in May’s local elections – appear determined to use travellers as an election issue. Despite the fact that the new Green council’s policy in relation to traveller sites is largely indistinguishable from the outgoing Tories’ policy – not least because its options are constrained by law – the city’s two Tory MPs – Simon Kirby MP and Mike Weatherley MP – have mounted a campaign to smear the Green council as being willing to allow travellers free rein to move into the city. Tory Councillor Dawn Barnett is currently under investigation by a Standards Committee for handing out information to travellers on how to reach Green-held wards (interesting that Tories who foam at the mouth about trespass seem all too willing to incite it).
But this is mainstream modern Toryism. There are numerous examples of how this weak Tory administration chooses to smear the vulnerable – whether it be single mothers or the disabled, who have been on the receiving end of what appear to be direct smears emerging from the DWP about the benefits available to the disabled, or the revival of the notion of the deserving poor. As the living standards of millions – including many of the Tories’ core supporters – are trashed, we can expect more and more dog-whistle politics from the Tories and their Liberal Democrat parasites.
Green blogger Viridis Lumen has written powerfully of the racial agenda behind the Dale Farm evictions, and the comment that surrounds them – as well as suggesting why the authorities felt they could get away with the extreme violence used at the evicition. But this is part of a wider picture. Whether its fulminating racists on Twitter, or comedians who think it’s funny to mock the vulnerable, or Government spin doctors smearing the disabled, or the transformation of huggable hoodies into the feral underclass, this is increasingly mainstream in Tory Britain.