Last week I had occasion to visit the city of Hereford. Now, you'd think that a place like Hereford would be the zenithal apotheosis of all that was pleasant and clean and good about England. It was a dump. The cathedral was nice enough, but the rest of the city was marked by the usual city-centre rash of chain stores and fast-food joints, and the population consisted largely of spotty, obese young women pushing prams. Finding it hard to find a decent place for lunch, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that the populace subsisted by eating their own offspring. With chips.
As for Hereford, so for much of the rest of the country: a place where people such as myself no longer belong. For I am the kind of person that this government hates the most - white, male, middle-aged, middle-income, middle-class, middle-England - disenfranchised, yet expected to pay for everything, including the babies (and chips) of the fecund and indigent youth of Hereford. The time is coming when I shall have to make a choice - to put up with this, or go into battle, a battle for Middle-earth.
My opinion on this government will be abundantly clear to anyone who reads this blog. So I shall move quickly over Mr McBroon's raids on our pension funds, which has contributed, more than anything, to the probable penury of any in the workforce who has tried to be (in his words) 'prudent'. I shall also draw a veil over his many fiscal finaglings, such as his abolition of lower taxes on company dividends, ostensibly to claw in the 'fat cats', but which has strangled at birth the aspirations of small-time sole traders to form limited companies.
Likewise, I shall not discuss the proposal of his creature, Mr Darling, to introduce a higher tax band on those earning more than £150,000, which will drive high-earners abroad while netting less than £2bn for a government that's about to borrow £700bn. Neither shall I mention the hike in National Insurance that will affect lower-paid workers most and discourage those few people still minded to form limited companies from employing anyone.
I shall pause only briefly at the ambition of Mr McBroon's predecessor, Tony Bliar, to send all young people to University so they would come out with degrees that employers don't need, while racking up enormous debt. In the same way I shall pass quickly over the proposals of the Home Secretary, Dolores Umbridge, to monitor every last social interaction of everyone in the country in the name of security, while presiding over a police force that arrests opposition MPs on the flimsiest of charges; and the Minister for Women, Harridan Hitlerperson, who wants to make it legal for employers to discriminate against people for reasons of gender and ethnic background.
I shall come to rest, back in Hereford, where it is clear that the current government is promoting a society made of compliant, welfare-dependent proles, devoid of education and the ability even to ask questions of their situation, so long as there's chips and Britain's Got Talent on the telly. Panem, and, moreover, circenses. Of how social mobility in Britain is now at its lowest for generations, when good schools - even those provided by the state - are available only to the affluent, rather than to all.
This government's attitude to Middle England is like that of Sauron to Middle-earth - his desire is to reduce it to a bland uniformity over which it has absolute power and control, its inhabitants reduced to the status of mindless, uncouth orcs. Never mind that his empire is a polluted, blasted wasteland, his government inept, corrupt and moribund. Like Sauron, Mr Brown's government is motivated by envy, spite and hatred - of anything different, fresh, new or aspirational, and most of all, against anything which it cannot control. 'What can men do against such reckless hate?' asks King Theoden, gearing up for the possibly hopeless battle to save the last redoubt at Helm's Deep. We are entitled to ask the same questions.
Consider, if you will, the Shire, a place in which everyone is content despite the almost complete absence of government. People seem happy with their lots, and yet there is a place for talented people of humble origins to make something of themselves - Samwise started as a gardener but rose to become the Mayor. But consider then, the Shire when the hobbits return to it from their adventures and find it defiled by Saruman, explicitly as an expression of envy and rage, to cut the hobbits down to size - a society enslaved, with taxation levied by brutal militia, the poorest and the weakest coming off worst. The parallels with our own government are so close that they do not need me to spell them out.
Neither need I discuss what the hobbits did next. They realized that there was something they could do to restore their happier lot; that they didn't have to lie down and take it. But they had to fight for it.
4 weeks ago