Spoiler: it’s total shit
With the UK’s general election quickly followed by Christmas and New Year, maybe you thought you could escape dystopia with festive pints and low-tier family arguments about veganism. But the festivities are over, and it’s time to face up to the political hellscape.
After ten years of Tory austerity, the Conservatives were somehow re-elected in December with the biggest majority in over 30 years – largely because their Brexit stance curried favour in the north, the Liberal Democrats split the Remain vote, and Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity deterred people from voting Labour.
Just days after the win, Boris Johnson’s government outlined its vision for the next potential decade of Tory rule in a Queen’s speech that pushed towards a hard Brexit, revealed tougher laws on prison sentencing, and suggested the return of archaic treason laws.
As we enter 2020, Dazed outlines what the first month of a Tory government looks like. Unsurprisingly, it’s less new year, new me, and more new year, same cunts. Here we go.
MORE EMPOWERMENT FOR THE FAR-RIGHT
Two weeks ago, as a special post-Christmas, pre-New Years treat, Britain First revealed that 5,000 of its far-right members have joined the Tories since the party’s re-election in December. The group – whose leaders were jailed last year for anti-Muslim hate crimes – said many of its supporters were attracted to the Conservatives because of Johnson’s negative attitude towards Islam. Very cool! Speaking to the Guardian, Britain First’s spokesperson – who was recently investigated by counter-terrorism police – Ashlea Simon said the organisation’s members wanted to form a movement of far-right activists within the Tory party. Her comments came after former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson became a Conservative member, and the Tories were forced to deny accepting Britain First’s leader Paul Golding’s application to join the party.
While the press vilified Corbyn for anti-semitism within the Labour party during this election campaign, Johnson seemed to get off lightly for his abhorrent racist comments, including calling Muslim women in burkas “letter boxes”, and describing black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. By brushing these comments off as innocuous mishaps by ‘bumbling Boris’, both the press and the public have emboldened racism within the UK, empowering the far-right.
BROKEN MINIMUM WAGE PROMISES
In September, chancellor Sajid Javid – who was instrumental in implementing the Tories’ evil hostile immigration policy – announced his party’s plans to increase the national living wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024 for those aged 21 and over. Javid hilariously described the Conservatives as the “workers’ party” and “the real party of labour”, despite two thirds of Johnson’s cabinet going to Eton, the prime minister earning £2,291 an hour for his weekly Daily Telegraph column, and prominent Conservative Brexiters receiving tens of thousands of pounds for speeches and articles about the EU referendum. At the time, Labour MP John McDonnell warned that Javid’s promise was a “pathetic attempt at catchup” – AKA bullshit – and now he’s been proven right. The national raise was set to be achieved by raising the low-pay floor from 60 per cent to two thirds of median earnings, but during the Queen’s speech, it was revealed that this change will only happen if “economic conditions allow”.
As well as this, the Tories have missed former chancellor George Osborne’s 2015 target of raising national living wage for over 25s to £9 an hour by 2020. Instead, the wage will go up to £8.72 an hour in April, translating to lost wages of approximately £1,600 for full-time workers this year. The 2010s – which saw a decade of Tory rule – have been the weakest ten years for wage growth for 200 years.
UK government is throwing a few crumbs to workers, raising the minimum wage to £8.72 per hour in April, whilst PM Boris Johnson relaxes in Mustique in £40,000-a-week villa. In 2015, the same Tories had promised a minimum wage of £9 by 2020.https://t.co/YUygdqmYGn— Prem Sikka (@premnsikka) January 1, 2020
SPEEDING TOWARDS A HARD BREXIT
On December 20, MPs passed Johnson’s EU withdrawal agreement, meaning the UK is on track to leave the union on January 31. Though the bill was first published in October, it has since seen several changes that prove the prime minister is pushing towards a hard Brexit. Johnson has removed clauses that would enable MPs to extend the transition period – instead actually outlawing an extension beyond December 31 2020 – approve future deals with the EU, or scrutinise the Brexit bill. He has also erased the pledge to align with the EU on workers’ rights, suggesting that these would instead be “protected and enhanced” under an employment bill. Protections for refugee children reunited with their families in the UK have also been watered down in the new agreement. Next week, MPs will have just three days to inspect the bill, reducing the possibility of any significant changes being made.
Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar expressed fear that Johnson’s hard Brexit will “undercut” Europe on food, product, and health standards. He added: “It’s going to be difficult to secure a good trade deal for Ireland, principally because Boris Johnson has fixed on a harder Brexit than we anticipated. The harder approach is a risk to us and that is evident.”
So now that the Brexiters have got absolutely everything they want. Now that they have a harder Brexit than even Farage proposed prior to 2016. Now that the process of registering foreigners is well underway. Now, and only now, they want us to unite.https://t.co/nr0CxFY8DS— Simon Bruni (@SimonBruni) January 1, 2020
THE REVIVAL OF ARCHAIC TREASON LAWS
Despite the UK’s 1351 Treason Act not being used since World War Two, it seems Johnson’s government is looking to update it. When you hear the word ‘treason’, you likely think of Bonfire Night and the burning of Guy Fawkes effigies – sounds archaic, right? That’s because it is. High treason is defined as “disloyalty to the Crown”, with offences including plots to murder a monarch, committing adultery with a royal family member, or shagging a monarch’s eldest unmarried daughter. Now, according to last month’s Queen’s speech, the government is going to look at “the case for updating treason laws”, despite the law being irrelevant in modern times. In July last year, parliament said it would not consider a new treason law that proposed jailing Islamic extremists, with critics asserting that the suggested offence was too broad and “unworkable in practice”. While there’s no details about what the updated act might look like, it’s worrying to think that a Medieval law could return to practice.
VOTERS WILL NOW NEED ID AT POLLING STATIONS
In October’s Queen’s speech – after Johnson unlawfully prorogued parliament – it was revealed that voters may soon have to show ID at polling stations. Dubbed the ‘Electoral Integrity Bill’, the new rule supposedly aims to reduce voter fraud, but in reality will be disastrous for poor people and minorities, and is – as described by Labour MP David Lammy – “a blatant attempt to rig the system”. December’s Queen’s speech confirmed these measures, meaning anyone without photo ID won’t be able to vote in local or general elections. With an estimated 3.5 million UK citizens not having access to ID, and young people, those with disabilities, transgender people, the homeless, those who are BAME, and travellers impacted the most, it’s clear that the change will skew votes based on who it alienates – likely Labour voters.
ALL THE LADS GETTING PEERAGES
Despite losing his Richmond Park seat to the Lib Dems in the general election, last month Zac Goldsmith – the son of a billionaire – was given a life peerage, enabling him to keep his role as environment minister. Goldsmith previously ran to be Mayor of London in 2016, though his campaign was accused of being racist and Islamophobic after he attempted to smear Labour’s winner Sadiq Khan as “a closet extremist”. Speaking after the peerage announcement, Labour MP Jon Trickett perfectly summed up the public’s dismay: “It says everything you need to know about Boris Johnson’s respect for democracy that he has ignored the voters of Richmond Park and appointment Goldsmith to government. The public deserves better than a government appointed by ‘jobs for mates’.” Johnson also made culture secretary Nicky Morgan a life peer, despite her standing down before last month’s election.