Political protests

Personal: I don’t often talk politics in blog posts but I’m becoming increasingly alarmed by the present UK government. I’m not usually a Conservative voter, but I know plenty of people who are and I respect their views, and in many respects I agree with them. However, many of them will surely change their affiliation soon because our government is not only betraying Conservative principles, it is also treating core British values and our cultural legacy with contempt.

No reasonable person would wish the events of the past 2-3 years on any government. They didn’t handle the Covid pandemic particularly well, making one or two serious miscalculations, but thanks to the NHS we’ve weathered the storm better than some countries. They couldn’t have predicted the global financial crisis accompanying Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, though their attempts to protect the poorest in the community from the worst consequences have so far proved inadequate. Then they’ve had Brexit to cope with. Of course we can say that they brought the disaster of Brexit on themselves. Sadly, they’ve brought it on the rest of us as well.

However, they’ve done, and are doing, far worse and far more sinister things. First, their response to the European Court of Human Rights, who challenged their policy of dispatching intending immigrants to Rwanda, reflects their desire to vitiate the strength of our human rights legislation. Second, they’re trying to suppress legitimate public protests. Third, they want to place further restrictions on the abililty of trade unions to call strikes – which by and large unions don’t do unless there’s very good cause. Fourth, and I think most seriously, they have no compunction about breaking laws that don’t suit them. Thus, we have a prime minister who by attending parties during the Covid lockdown broke laws that he himself had put in place; and then he lied about it. We have a government prepared to make unilateral changes in the Northern Ireland protocol, a hopeless mish-mash designed to protect the integrity of the UK against one of the deplorable consequences of Brexit. Thereby, they’re breaking international law.

Britain led the way in establishing human rights legislation internationally. Our government is now betraying that admirable legacy. Eight centuries ago, England established the principle that no one, from the monarch downwards, is above the law. Our government is now betraying Magna Carta.

I’m sure I’m not the only Brit who’s alarmed by them. In that context, I’ve just read a surprisingly relevant book…


Review: Why should world-saving superheroes with superpowers be the exclusive property of American comic books and films? (Sorry, not films – movies. In this context I’m supposed to forget that I’m British.) Ra Page has edited a collection of stories by twelve authors who don’t believe it should. Instead, they’ve resurrected a healthy sample of the revolutionary spirits who led protests in Britain in times gone by against the factories, against mechanisation, against toll-gates. They grant each of them a suitable superpower and then turn them loose against the cynical developers, bureaucrats, corrupt politicians and exploiters of our own age.

What results is a book unlike any other. It comprises twelve short stories, each protesting against one of the evils of the modern world, each centring on a superpower-inspired hero (more often female than male) whose focus is on that evil. Some are a delight. I loved the fire-starting woman who destroys exploiting factories, and the single mother who uses her shape-shifting power to steal food and other goods from supermarkets to supply foodbanks. Each story is followed by an afterword written by a historian with expert knowledge of the historical original from which the idea was taken: General Ludd, Captain Swing, the Servants of the Queen of the Fairies, and others.

Not all the stories work particularly well, but some are excellent, and the overall idea of the book is strong enough and distinctive enough to persuade me to recommend it to our local literature group. Congratulations to Comma Press for giving us this celebration of the long British tradition of communal protest, which our present government wishes to terminate.

Ra Page (ed) The Cuckoo Cage, Comma Press, 2022; ISBN: 9781912697403

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