Remember this moment from Orwell’s 1984 and don’t let the Tories rewrite history

PUBLISHED: 12:38 16 July 2017

Nineteen Eighty Four

Nineteen Eighty Four


Really Theresa May? Consensus? With the “saboteurs”, the “enemies of the people”?

Say what you like about George Orwell, but the man was even-handed in his scorn for political thuggery: having been shot in the throat while fighting as a volunteer against Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War, he then came home and wrote the two most devastating critiques of communism in the English language. Animal Farm masquerades as a kid’s fable but skewers the pious hypocrisy of revolutionary communism, and 1984 (or, more properly, Nineteen Eighty-Four, but who has time to type that out) deals with the nightmarish reality of established totalitarianism in general rather than communist totalitarianism in particular, but there’s no doubt that Stalin’s Russia was its principal inspiration, although if anything the North Korea of the Kim dynasty has come closest to realising the novel’s dystopic vision (as Christopher Hitchens once pointed out, it’s rather as if Kim Il Sung read Orwell’s book and thought “You know, this could WORK...”).

Drawing specious analogies between current political events and plot points from 1984 is rapidly catching up with patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel, but there is one moment in the book which keeps coming back to me.

For the benefit of the seven or eight of you who still haven’t read it (and if not, why not? It’s a slender enough tome which you should polish off in a couple of days, and you’ll feel so much more at home in political conversations once you have), the protagonist, Winston Smith, works as a clerk in the labyrinthine Ministry Of Truth, where his job consists not of issuing new statements on behalf of Big Brother’s government but of re-writing previously issued statements and news stories so that the official account of the past always tallies with the present state of affairs.

Britain, satirically re-named Airstrip One, has been absorbed into the vast empire of Oceania (presumably incorporating the USA and Western Europe, although this is never specified) which, when the story begins, is allied with Eastasia (one imagines China, Japan etc.) and locked in unending war with Eurasia (Russia and Eastern Europe, most probably). About two thirds of the way into the novel, something (unseen) changes, Oceania forms a new pact with Eurasia and declares war on Eastasia, causing a mad flurry of activity at the Ministry, not to announce or explain the new allegiances to the population but rather to rewrite all recent history to reflect the new official version of events, namely that Oceania has always been allied with Eurasia and at war with Eastasia.

I’m sure many modern politicians, once in power, have wished they had their own version of Orwell’s Ministry Of Truth. What’s bizarre, to me anyway, is how many of them behave as if they already do.

We saw a great example of this a decade or so ago, as the Iraq War started to putrefy from Swift And Easy Victory (remember the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner?) into Unending Quagmire. In the lead up to the war, we were told that the invasion was imperative because of the Terrifying Stockpiles of (altogether now) Weapons of Mass Destruction which Saddam Hussein had absolutely 100% definitely amassed, and was nothing to do with regime change for its own sake. A couple of years, a few hundred dead soldiers and a few thousand dead civilians later, and with no sign of these Weapons of Mass etc., suddenly the invasion was all about regime change and had always been about regime change, because Saddam was a Bad Person, and anyone who pointed out the inconsistency was only doing so because they loved Saddam and wanted to be his boyfriend.

To our collective shame, the bulk of the news media and indeed the population were content with this rewritten history, and bringing up the subject of Weapons of Mass Destruction has been regarded as distasteful since about 2005.

Perhaps it’s with the ease with which that particular scam was pulled off in mind, that our current crop of politicians seem so comfortable telling the most outright whoppers, contradicting their previous statements by 180 degrees even when, in some cases, those previous statements are still hanging in the air. I pointed out a couple of weeks ago that our present shambolic full-speed-ahead course toward Brexit flatly exposes the lie of the reason that was given for calling the recent snap election; that a bigger government majority was necessary to proceed with the Brexit “negotiations”. There is no bigger majority – indeed there is now NO majority – and yet here we are, still proceeding. It was a lie.

Now our (just about) Prime Minister is calling for cross-party and indeed cross-societal help with the preparations for Brexit, insisting that she seeks “the broadest possible consensus” for the project. Really? Consensus? With the “saboteurs”, the “enemies of the people”? Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, says it’s time to move away from the kind of politics where “the two parties sit in trenches and shell each other”. Yes, NOW it is; now the government is out of ammunition.

It’s tempting to throw Donald Trump into this analogous mix, although his habit of contradicting previous statements – indeed sometimes, contradicting a statement he’s actually in the middle of making – seem more to be the result of his own inability to distinguish fact from fiction than any attempt at Orwellian mind control.

You hold in your hands – those of you who buy the print version of The New European rather than subscribe to the online edition – the first “tabloid” (in format only) New European. I’m very glad to be a part of this newspaper; I admired the Quixotic folly of launching a new print publication in an era in which we keep being told that paper news is a doomed medium and I’m delighted that it’s paid off. And there’s one way in which print is still superior to electronic news; it lasts.

The act of rebellion which sets Winston Smith off on his course to fully-fledged “thought criminal” is the decision to keep his own diary; an unsanctioned, uncensored record of events. The official versions would change as Big Brother required, but Winston’s journal would stay the same.

Those of you who are buying the paper edition of this publication, a.) keep doing so and b.) collect them. File them away. Websites can be shut down and wiped from the server; news sites can be amended; the official version of history can be rewritten. But once it’s on paper, in black and white, it’s there forever.

Vince Cable says he thinks it’s entirely possible that Brexit might not happen; a few months ago such sentiment was immediately howled down, but now it’s been met with a curious silence from even the most hardline Brexiteers.

Keep moaning, keep sabotaging, keep shouting.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest articles

Trump makes Nixon look like the good guy

The US is stumbling towards an autocracy, as it emerges Donald Trump is exploring ways to pardon himself even before any accusations have been made.

What would Doctor Who do?

I find I’m just as uncomfortable with sneering schadenfreude when it’s our “side” doing it as when it comes from the opposition.

Why every philosopher’s death seems to hold meaning

The tragic drowning of French philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle while trying to rescue two stricken children has prompted tributes from across the globe.

Robert Miller update: “I don’t hate the EU… I just don’t want us to be in it”

The New European has finally decided to publish one of persistent Brexiteer Robert Miller’s letters. But was it worth the wait?

Football clubs were ethnically cleansed along with the population during the Bosnian War

The story of the Bosnian War is also the story of its football clubs which were ethnically cleansed along with the population

Fox says ‘I’ll take care of the chicken’ amid chlorine-washed meat fears

Trade secretary Liam Fox has played down claims importing foods under a new UK-US trade deal could mean a loosening of food standards post-Brexit.

Rattenkrieg 2017: How the destruction of Mosul was templated in Stalingrad

The haunting image of a ruined city is nothing new. Here we examine the horrors of urban warfare from Stalingrad to Mosul

Sexuality reality: How the first gay rights movement was destroyed

A burgeoning gay rights movement in Europe in the early decades of the 20th century was crushed by rising authoritarianism.

RIP common decency... welcome to the age of hate in belligerent Britain

We used to be a mild-mannered people. Now random spite is the cornerstone of our crumbling culture

British media fail: Why we need a new cultural education

The British media has always failed in its coverage of European affairs.

Cracks show for Labour as party fails to grasp anti-Brexit feeling of members

Labour’s Brexit divisions have become apparent once again with trade spokesman Barry Gardiner saying staying in the customs union would be a “disaster”.

Brexit will be the great environmental disaster

When it comes to Brexit and the environment our ties to the EU are complex.

What the UK means to me: “Britishness oftentimes hits me in the face”

The zealots who allow the Brexit fiasco to happen are diminishing the UK inch by inch, day by day.

Macron: the rule breaker who smashed up the system

Emmanuel Macron has been lucky. But also courageous. Here’s how the combination has led to a remarkable turnaround in previously gloomy nation

How the Dutch are falling out of love with Britain

We Dutch used to make fun of the Germans and admire the Brits, says Vanessa Lamsvelt. Now, we find ourselves laughing at, not with, the UK

Blow for Hard Brexit as Cabinet ‘unites’ behind transition deal

The Cabinet is “united” in backing a transitional Brexit deal which would mean continued access to migrant labour, Michael Gove has said.

What Euratom really stands for

The Euratom row lays bare the innate flaws of Brexit. But it also gives pro-Europeans their biggest chance yet to regain the initiative

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

Brexit could force UK to set up new healthcare scheme for tourists

Brussels is holding out on the government’s hopes of continuing membership of the European health insurance scheme post-Brexit.

Fox says UK does not need trade deal with Europe after Brexit

Brexiteer cabinet minister Liam Fox has reiterated the government’s widely ridiculed negotiating tactic of “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Watch us on YouTube

The rollercoaster ride of Theresa May's plummeting approval ratings

Views: 325

A year of failure and fiasco in May’s Number 10

Views: 251

Tory minister Steve Baker demands the EU is to be ‘torn down’

Views: 451



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter