IT IS a theme of Western literature that with age supposedly comes wisdom. Gerenian Nestor, Agamemnon’s adviser in the Iliad and counsellor to Telemachus in the Odyssey, may (like some of us) have been too old to be leaping into the back of a chariot to take part in a race. But as the latter pointed out, ruling over the lifespan of three generations of subjects made him widely respected for his aggregated acumen. His counterpart two thousand years later in the Song of Roland was old Naimes. In the Arthurian cycle, it was Merlin. Readers will recall other examples from literature, typically sporting flourishing Gandalfian beards, mentally enriched by their years.
The passage of time, though, can also bring forgetfulness.
How else can one explain the way Labour’s Politburo gerontarchs have so blithely forgotten all the lessons learned from the 1970s, and still aspire today to drive the country towards repeating the very same mistakes? The country was wildly lucky to have the likes of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies to lay the foundations for the Thatcher Revolution; the stars might not align so readily next time.
Reactionary and disproven nineteenth century ideology will underpin Labour’s election manifesto. It will be pushed by partisans who failed to learn from their errors, to be swallowed whole by groupies from a generation that was not alive to witness the consequences.
This is the motive that pushed me to write a book, Land of the Superwoke. It takes the form of a travel guide, fortuitously brought back in time from a future where Britain is run by Jeremy Corbyn – or in many cases, not run at all.
It is a parody, of course, with examples heavily drawn from precedent, both from our own period of post-war decline when we were the ‘sick man of Europe’, and from the case studies that are so commonly praised by the inner circle of the Labour leadership.
We have had some fun along the way, partly because the Extreme Left hates being mocked, but also to make things more readable. There is only so much theory on dialectical Marxism that a person can take, particularly if it does come straight from the nationalised horse’s mouth. But throughout, even where we have inked out fiction rather than simply cited forgotten precedent, it is satirical rather than conjured out of nowhere.
Take the lingo. There is already a measure of distinct Leftist jargon, such as ‘woke’ and ‘gammon’ or the long-hijacked and misused term ‘progressive’. It’s not going far to visualise how this might evolve, to generate new words like a ‘spagbol’ for a messy policy, or (to extrapolate from Mr Corbyn’s pastimes) renaming the Downing Street Think Tank the ‘Jam Factory’. It’s also a bit of fun exploring the kind of hotspots and tourist sites that might exist in the future, from the Left-wing nightclubs with their proletarian Andean percussive beat, or the live action recreation of the Poll Tax riots clambering over Trafalgar Square’s bin bag mountains. Alternatively, and more depressingly, the reader might be drawn to reflect on the guards in their plastic bearskins dejectedly posted outside a vacated Buckingham Palace, or a British Museum whose rooms are being stripped of their treasures for repatriation or simply foreign sale for hard currency.
But these are vignettes. The central thread of the book is ultimately about explaining the vulnerability of our society and our economy to wrecking if you have people schooled in Leninist doctrine gripping the levers of power: a system based on revolution through destruction. It’s also about pure precedent.
When putting together the bleak landscape of what such an Old School Socialist dystopia would look like, I merely dug into material setting out how the bureaucracy in this country once operated. A decent starting point was reviewing the list of quangos and busybody entities that were scrapped in the early 1980s because they got in the way of good government, and imagining them or their like reinstated.
Then add to the mix a reflection on what happens when a state’s economy goes south and it runs out of money.
The next layer of the trifle of despair is to consider how trades unions reacted in the past, and how they might again in such a serious economic downturn once the 1980s legal curbs on their excesses were removed.
Then you can add such elements as the consequences of aggressively forcing a politically correct agenda on the country.
What would happen if someone in some state-backed faction chose to self-identify in gender terms as ‘Two-Spirit’, and then another state-backed campaign declared it cultural appropriation of Lakota gender rights? The inherent absurdities of PC radicalism are unveiled as the irresistible force hits an immovable object.
While avoiding that peculiar Canadian scenario in the book, we have seen its like already in the UK over women’s prisons and safe spaces. Blindly decreeing the absolute sanctity of ill-defined and fluid human rights will lead to such intellectual rabbit-holes, bringing with it risk to real rights when legislation and enforcement are drawn in.
All this will only exacerbate societal breakdown elsewhere, as it distracts an already-muted police and justice system from keeping a lid on street ideologues striving to ‘smash the system’.
We forget the past at our peril. Sometimes it pays to reflect on old errors to avoid repeating them. In this instance, we may at least have a bit of a laugh while we review the prospects, and still can.
Land of the Superwoke: A Travel Guide to Jeremy Corbyn’s Britain is available in hard copy and e-book format here.