So you’re miffed about the UK election result. That’s ok, so am I. And pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to in real life and on social media in the last couple of days, which makes me wonder who voted for the Conservatives in the first place, but ho hum. We’ve got them now for the next five years, and so we’ll have to try and make the best of things (and try our hardest not to end up ill, disabled, or out of work, because then we’ll really be stuffed).
With that in mind, here’s my recommendations of books you should read if you’re not best pleased right now. Some are political, some aren’t. Some might comfort you, some won’t. Any more suggestions? Please leave a comment – I’m getting through books like wildfire at the moment and would love new ideas!
Let’s Re-Great Britain Al Murray, the Pub Landlord
Stand-up comedian Al Murray recently entered a different sphere as he stood against Nigel Farage to be MP of Thanet South. They both lost, and the Conservatives won, but The Pub Landlords’ FUKP (Free the UK Party) looks like it’s still going. This book is hilarious. In his guise as the stereotypical right-wing, British patriot Landlord, Murray sets out “Common sense solutions” to the country’s problems, including fixing Britain’s youth unemployment by building a load of pyramids around the M25, burning down the Houses of Parliament for the insurance, and nationalising the pub gaming machine industry to pay off the deficit. His explanation of economics makes the whole thing seem surprisingly straightforward, and the book is peppered with variations on modern soundbites, such as “together we can make new history” and “tax evasion: never has so much been owed to so many by so few”. My favourite is “Britain deserves Bitter”.
House of Cards Trilogy Michael Dobbs
No doubt you’ve all heard of the American Netflix series based on the British TV series, based on these original novels. (That US show is addictive – I’ve found one does not simply watch one episode at a time…) The trilogy follows the career of Conservative MP Francis Urquhart from party Chief Whip to the end of his reign as Prime Minister. Along the way there’s plenty of blackmail, intrigue and murder. Michael Dobbs was, variously, a speechwriter, advisor and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party between the 1970s and 1990s, so he knows what he’s talking about. Though I would like to hope that real-life British politics has a little less killing in it – it’s not awfully respectable.
Yes, I’ve recommended this in my last blog, but that’s because it’s something everyone should read. It’s an excellent examination of how the current political system came to be as it is now, along with its intertwined relationships with big business and the media. The last chapter is so relevant now, as it practically suggests how the status quo can begin to be dismantled and turned into a system that benefits everyone, not just the upper echelons who are already pretty comfortable in the cash department. It’s this section that might cheer you up a bit. I am particularly heartened by the fact that there are already think tanks and organisations pushing workable solutions and creating an intellectual case that resonates with peoples’ experiences – for too long the left has seemed to consist of disparate ideas that wouldn’t work in practise. The depressing conservative message of “there is no alternative to austerity” will soon be challenged if a broad section of people are confident enough about the practical possibility of far-reaching change. I certainly think we’re starting to see this, since so many of my friends are now more politically engaged than ever, and starting to push for change in the electoral system, for example. This makes me currently cautiously optimistic about the future.
Sane New World: Taming the Mind Ruby Wax
This book is a guide to the basic neuroscience or depression, anxiety and general stress, and offers a method to help you cope: mindfulness. Sounds a bit heavy, but Wax’s humour shines through as she explains the fascinating set-up of the brain and how this triggers certain responses to situations. She explains that, in short, by understanding how our brains work, you can change the way you think, and with practise you can shrink the power of harmful thoughts and find yourself some calm. Mindfulness is not a cure-all to mental illness, but take it from me, it can really help. (And the exercises in the book are good ones that can be done anywhere, at any time.) It’s about accepting the present as it is, and not dwelling on the past or what might be in the future. Probably helpful to give yourself a breathing space if you’re worried about what the next five years might bring.
Just a reminder that it could be much worse. In fact, if the Tories bring in the Snoopers’ Charter they were prevented from passing last time, incredibly increased surveillance could be the order of the day.
Actually, depending on your feelings about politicians in general, you may want to read Orwell’s Animal Farm. It is based on the hypocrisy of Communism, but it does show how someone can go into a system wanting to change it, and end up promoting it instead.
How to Start Your Own Country Danny Wallace
Actually, this is a DVD; I thought he’d done a book to tie in with his TV series, but apparently not. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because sod it, I’m off to make my own socialist utopia.
Not really. But I can’t help but be tempted. The important thing is, if you’re miffed about the election now, is to stay angry. But constructively angry – shouting at people with a different view from you rarely works in making them see your point. I know, I tried it. We need to stop the drop into apathy, because a resigned, miserable country is easy to govern over. Instead, let’s hold the politicians to account properly. Volunteer at a food bank, join your job’s union, raise awareness of issues and engage in debates (but don’t be that guy who always wants an argument: that’s not the same as debating).
Let’s not put up. If you’re miffed, stay miffed, though remember that there is much room for hope. In the past, social justice has not been gained by the niceness and generosity of the people in charge, but through the tenacity and hard work of the people at the bottom. And that’s still going to be the case today.