The current Tory regime – known at Nowhere Towers as the Simulated Thatcher Government (STG) – is fixated with shrinking the state. They don’t even try to deny it. If Thatcher herself “believed” in Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, then today’s Tory government is inspired by Ayn Rand’s terrible prose. By the way, it’s widely believed that Thatcher hadn’t actually read any Hayek and her knowledge of his ideas were mediated to her by the child abuser, Sir Keith Joseph and former communist, Sir Alfred Sherman.
Four years ago, I spotted, what I’d considered to be, traces of Rand’s ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, contained in the 2010 Conservative election manifesto. Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell (now a UKIP MP) wrote a book called The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. According to the pair, their book was inspired by Objectivism. They gleefully told their readers that some of their ideas had been adopted by Cameron and co. The book itself offers unsourced graphs and a lot of badly thought out remedies for a series of problems that the authors claim are caused by the state. One stand out line from the book is “the state is running at capacity” (Carswell and Hannan, 2008: 18). Does the state have a capacity? Is there a stated “capacity” for the state or is that just an empty rhetorical device? It’s a curious line to be sure. The Plan is essentially a manifesto for a nightwatchman state. Think of a land with no infrastructure, rampant crime and endemic corruption and you’re halfway there.
Rand’s influence can be heard in the language of government ministers: the insistence on “hard work” and the frequent mention of the somewhat vague concept of the “wealth creator” versus the scroungers and layabouts, resonates with the language in any one of Rand’s turgid novels, which cast the rich as downtrodden heroes and pits them against their nemesis: the moochers and looters – the latter being a shorthand for the enemies of unbridled cupidity. A couple of years ago, Bozza wrote an article for The Torygraph which claimed the rich were an “oppressed minority”.
But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.
I am thinking of the type of people who never wear the same shirt twice, even though they shop in Jermyn Street, and who have other people almost everywhere to do their bidding: people to drive their cars and people to pick up their socks and people to rub their temples with eau de cologne and people to bid for the Munch etching at Christie’s.
From this rambling mess it’s possible to deduce that Bozza has at least been exposed to Rand’s trashy philosophy and has internalised its central premise that anyone who doesn’t create “wealth” is a leech. We must slap the rich on the backs, admire the size of their enormous wads and tell them how marvellous they are! What! According to this 2014 Guardian article by Martin Kettle, Sajid Javid (aka Uncle Fester) is also a Rand admirer. Well, blow me down! Peter Hoskin on Conservative Home writes:
Javid explained that this isn’t his favourite movie, but it is the most important to him. He first watched it on television in 1981, aged 12, and even then it struck him as “a film that was articulating what I felt”. From there, he soon read the book, wore out a VHS copy of the film, and brought his enthusiasm for all things Fountainhead with him to university. He even admitted, with a self-deprecating grin, that “I read the courtroom scene to my future wife!”
Uncle Fester’s lack of humanity certainly comes across very strongly in his media appearances, so it comes as no surprise that he would read Rand’s dull prose to his future wife. If I were his other half, I’d be thinking “Why are you reading me this shit? Do you hate me that much”?
The continued destruction of the welfare state; the attacks on the poor and disabled and the emphasis on the slippery concept of “aspiration” are clear examples of Rand’s influence on the STG’s social and economic policies. We can add to this, the compulsion to control all forms of discourse, and their tendency to render all facets of everyday life into neoliberal economisms. This can be seen in the way in which the STG and its allies in the press insist that the main opposition party adheres to the government’s doctrine of presumed fiscal rectitude, thus serving to illustrate not just their desire to shrink the state but to create an authoritarian one-party state as well. Why? Because the Tories despise opposition even if they claim otherwise. If they must deal with an opposition, it is better to deal with one that goes on the defensive every time false accusations are levelled at them.
If the Labour leadership’s rhetoric and policy positions look little different to those of the government, then you’re not really being offered a proper choice at the ballot box. You’re being offered a choice between Coke and Pepsi. Life’s a bitch. Now shut up and eat your shit sandwich.