Street life: David Cameron takes a stroll in Manchester

What law? What order?

Shit, piss and the ever-present threat of violence, as the meek and law-abiding hold back


This article is taken from the June 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

The Critic is based in Westminster. A minute’s walk from our front door takes you to the front entrance of the Home Office. Who or what can you see between us and them? Junkies.

At any time of day or night, here is a Britain that ought to shame politicians into silence. Yet this isn’t a problem that stems from a want of compassion: there is no shortage of that offered up. The disgrace here is the criminally negligent lack of order our rulers inflict upon the governed. Nowhere is this failure of the state starker than here at its heart.

What does this public squalor mean? Shit, piss and the ever-present threat of chaotic violence. Foul, unfree streets, dominated by those with the will to do so, whilst the weak, mild and law-abiding hang back, making their prudent and cowardly compromises with life in the city.

They’d be fools not to. Why end up dead, stabbed in the gut with a foot-long machete as a reward for trying to prevent a weed-smoking teen from loitering around your children’s playground?

Goodness knows, had the victim of this crime lived, he might easily have been guilty of racism for approaching his murderer in the first place. Certainly it’s a mistake fewer and fewer police seem to want to make, even when they feel legally entitled to.

In the last month alone, the Met has abandoned working with Transport for London to prevent fare evasion for fear that literally, physically, doing so is itself unlawful. A ruling handed down by a judge appointed by this government to the Judicial Appointments Commission has been the formal cause of this latest retreat by the police, but the problems are so much graver than even the unchecked march through the institutions.

From our office, 60 seconds can take you to crackheads practising their art in public with no fear of being caught. A minute in the other direction will take you to paranoia, stench, disease, unwarranted euphoria and justified despair, little or none of it fuelled by the crack needed outside of the parliamentary estate.

As this wretched government dwindles towards its end, it’s useful to remember what formed so many of its leading lights these last 14 years: Tory student politics. Inevitably a generation of men in their fifties first came to know themselves as tyro hacks at the end of Mrs Thatcher’s reign.

Then these pustules addressed each other with labels such as “libertarians” and “authoritarians” (the latter being abuse thrown by the former, which its charges then co-opts).

But where are these supposed “authoritarians” (in truth the “Wets” Mrs Thatcher despised) now? Coming to the end of their worthless parliamentary careers, sneering and self-congratulating as they go.

Take this magazine’s local MP, Nickie Aiken. A disastrously poor leader of Westminster City Council, she became MP for what had been the safest Tory seat after her predecessor fell by the wayside in an absurd moral panic (in his case, too vigorously dragging a lout from a room she was protesting in: making the unusual mistake for a Tory MP of actually taking personal responsibility).

Aiken announced that she would be standing down after one term because she’s going to lose the once impregnable seat. Now ordinarily she might be seen merely as being yet another victim of the hapless Tory leader. Aiken, however, stands out for her fecklessness.

Almost her last act in Westminster will be what the One Nation Tories gloatingly tweeted about her having done — her lead role in defeating the feeble whips of Rishi Sunak (and the lethargy of his invisible Home Secretary, James Cleverly), and wrecking the vagrancy bill Cleverly’s predecessor Suella Braverman had introduced whilst still at the Home Office.

And why not? Aiken won’t be around to experience the consequences of her self-indulgent folly.

Another London Tory MP standing down at the next election — when the party seems set to lose every seat it has in the capital — is Bob Neill. He platitudinously warned against the Great Chimera, the party’s supposed drift to the right. “We managed to toxify ourselves,” burbled Neill, tellingly neglecting to say who or how. “It took a long time to detoxify ourselves. Common sense would say, don’t do that again.”

No doubt it would, but what common sense tells Sir Bob about what the party’s detoxified, progressively-led poll ratings mean — the Tories have less than half the support of Labour — is a mystery.

The idea that there has been an endless right-wing Tory “culture war” is not one shared by many contributors to this issue, whether they come from the Brexit Right or the feminist Left or any point in between. Instead, read about the country Julie Bindel or Graham Linehan or Steven Edginton plainly see.

Bindel, and fellow feminist writer Heather Welford, expose a nation where mothers are pretended out of existence, for no reason other than to gratify the whims of male perverts.

Ever more laws are announced, even less law is upheld

Half of humanity obliterated in speech and law, just because the worst men imaginable wanted it done. All of this, of course, upheld and extended by a Conservative government.

The lack of probing from much of the media, which is best equipped to expose this assault on women’s identity, is painfully illustrated by Private Eye — which, as Graham Linehan shows, chose very deliberately to ignore the transgender scandal as fully as it could.

A cause so bad that it rested on the manipulation and mutilation of children in order to give sexual pleasure and affirmation to transparently risible frauds, and yet is solemnly ignored by a country’s satirists and investigative journalists — that is material for a dystopian novel.

But this is Britain. The Tories did not make the professional, licensed smirkers of Have I Got News For You ignore what was in front of their faces. They did that themselves. To cover up their cowardice and collaboration, they engaged in cosplay Soviet denunciations of “madness” for people like Linehan who had the courage and vulgarity to say the simple truth: people cannot change sex.

It is not an accident that the Tories are the most successful political organisation in history, but what has their response to their record been? As Steven Edginton mercilessly shows, it has been to boast: to pretend away reality as fervently as any breastfeeding man, and to produce something as gross and as fake, and to be equally self-satisfied about that.

The 2004 Gender Recognition Act still stands serene, regardless of the feeble damage done to it by what are ultimately conditional and piecemeal free speech victories. Nothing has been lopped off this dreadful legislation in the 20 years since it came into law.

This magazine is merely five years old: as far back as 2019 we said, of the various oppressions and lies this Tory government was then presiding over:

The very imprecision of the transsexual cause is what affords them this opportunity: clarity as to its supposed central act — transition — would end it in an instant. Common sense says that if a thing can’t say when and how it happens, it hasn’t happened (“Lost in transition”, December 2019).

No one can doubt, whatever ridiculous claptrap they now pretend about rainbow lanyards, that the Tories presided over this monstrous state of affairs, and they are about to hand it over to Labour and their looming, implacable majority.

Ever more laws are announced, even less law is upheld: hate marches uninterrupted in the capital whilst the silent are arrested simply for being near such sacred sites as abortion clinics: this has been what Cameron, May, Johnson and Sunak have given us.

What Sir Keir will give us will be worse as, unlike the chancers, frauds, bluffers and dilettantes who preceded him, he has a theory of the state. He knows what he wants to do with power — which is to keep it safe for the settlement we’ve had for at least a quarter of a century.

As Evelyn Waugh said, the clock was not turned back even a minute by the Tories. Well, their time is up, and it cannot come soon enough.

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