Soviet – Laurence Fox

Imagine a country where the borders between its constituent parts are shut down, travel between them forbidden and enforced by the police.  Supermarkets have shelves roped off and the state deems what shoppers might find essential. Right of assembly, not just in public places but between families and households, is under legal constraint. Neighbours are encouraged to inform on anyone who might be in breach.

Pubs, restaurants, concert halls, theatres, cinemas and sports stadiums, if they operate at all, do so in desultory fashion. Limited numbers, curfews, tracked, traced.

The state broadcaster keeps the population placid with a diet of fear. Fear of an unseen enemy against which only the state can protect them. As long as they obey the rules. Travel to other countries is difficult, if not impossible, and the state must be allowed to track you on return.

The economy is being rendered moribund. A bankrupt state provides in its absence.

But beyond the physical constraints, those of the intellect are more sinister. A remorseless doublethink is required. We are invited to believe, worse, it is insisted that we believe, that men can have periods too. Women are now ‘people who bleed’. We are invited to believe, worse, it is insisted that we believe, that one section of the population is inherently discriminatory, oppressive and wicked that it traps another in a permanent state of victimhood, unable to contribute, devoid of agency, forever disadvantaged, always second place.

Schools and universities slowly dismantle the great thread of Western achievement and the notion of nationhood. Religion, some religions, dare not speak their name.

Historical figures are either airbrushed from history or their names traduced. “Who controls the past, controls the future.”

The population divides into those who just shrug their shoulders and determine to ‘wait it out’, a few active dissidents and a chunk who welcomes the situation. Like all good Communists they want the certainties of the state, an end to the tyranny of choice that markets brought, a fairness of mutual poverty where everyone is equally miserable, the streets grey, the shelves empty and a penniless state is the only employer.

And yet I’m not writing about the Soviet Union. No pre-fall of the Wall, red star state presided over by a paranoid dictator who has to keep his population pinned in fear. I’m talking about the United Kingdom. Here. Now. And under a Conservative government.

Locked down and lucked out. A  state of dependence. And in case you think the Opposition is any better, Andy Burnham, Manchester’s Labour mayor, wants to keep his city open. Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour mayor, to shut his city down. Keir Starmer, Labour’s national leader wants to support Burnham while shutting the whole country down and, in Wales, Mark Drakeford has. In Scotland, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon willingly trumps any authoritarian measure in England with her own special Scottish ratchet and does so on the back of a leadership cult with which Eastern Europeans would surely be familiar. Any minute now, a new broadcast to the nation.