The view through the Overton window must be changed, and fast

The image that encapsulates 13 years of Tory rule.

This week, under cover of darkness, 100 mature trees were felled in the centre of Plymouth, ripping out the green lungs of a city which had pulled itself up out of the ashes of WWII. In fact, these were the very trees planted to celebrate the city’s rebirth. This act of environmental vandalism has so many parallels with the insults perpetrated by the government in Westminster – wreckage and destruction wrought against the will of the people.

Last week, I wrote a Twitter thread, reproduced below, which tried to capture the elements of decline and the sense of loss. When Jeremy Hunt has the temerity to call people who can see exactly what’s going on ‘declinists’, he is unintentionally identifying what his party has done to this country and, frankly, he can jog right on.

What follows is a bit like a verbal version of Cold War Steve:

In 2012, as we gazed through the Overton window, our vista was filled with the London Olympics and the love, pride and kinship it generated. In the right hand corner squatted the ERG/UKIP, barely visible.

In 2016, the Overton window had shifted. Suddenly the frame was filled with Vote Leave and their lies, Brexiters triumphant and triumphalist, standing on the bodies of Remainers. To the right, we got a clear sighting of Putin, Johnson, Trump and Farage, ready to exploit their victories.

By 2019, the view from the window had deteriorated. Now all that was visible was Johnson, bragging of an oven-ready deal. Remainers, moderates no longer in the frame.

2021, and the scene is one of tragedy. Johnson has let the bodies pile high, while he, Hancock and the rest party and share the spoils of the war on Covid with their mates and cronies.

Now it is 2023. There seems to be no view to the left to speak of. The landscape is dominated by watchtowers from which Braverman, Sunak, Rees-Mogg, Jenrick, Raab and the rest monitor the beaches, guns at the ready.

A shoreline is visible, littered with the bodies of the drowned. The viewers sit within the ERG-run prison island, either with union jack mug in hand and a rictus grin of hate or with a face of absolute despair, mouth taped up.

“We’ve got our country back”, smirks one.

“Whatever happened to that beautiful view?” thinks the other, with tears in his eyes.

We urgently need change before these Conservatives complete the destruction of all the things we hold dear along with our international reputation for integrity, decency and honesty.

Human rights are under threat. The rule of international law is casually threatened. Public sector workers are being exploited. The NHS is being dismantled. The environment is being polluted and degraded. The BBC has been turned into a machine of state propaganda. The far-right make crazy calls for us to leave the international European Convention on Human Rights (The ECHR: NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EU!), which would mean leaving the 46-country-strong Council of Europe (NOT THE EU, either!) and joining that ultimate pariah – Russia – outside a very big tent indeed. Just because the ERG headbangers hate anything and everything with the word Europe in it!

Sunak and Hunt seem to be managing to con some people into thinking they are, somehow, benevolent new brooms. They blithely distance themselves from their party’s record, even suggesting that the Truss/Kwarteng debacle was somehow nothing whatsoever to do with the Conservatives. Their new deputy chairman, Lee ’30p’ Anderson has openly admitted that the next election will be fought on culture wars, which means that anyone with a scintilla of compassion for anybody else will be demonised as ‘woke’ and un-patriotic, while the strategy of blaming the country’s ills on desperate people arriving by dinghy will continue to dominate the political and media narrative.

We can’t let them get away with this. The first blow needs to be struck on May 4 in the local elections and we need to follow it up by voting – tactically, where necessary – to get them removed from power while we still have some shreds of democracy and decency left.