By any reckoning, these are exceptionally low temperatures. Cardiff’s average December daytime temperature is 9°C but currently, at mid-day, it is 1°C – a massive drop from the norm. This ‘cold snap’, as weather forecasters euphemistically call it with their usual tweeness, is now well into a second week with no end in sight. I find the Cardiff climate uncongenially cold even at the height of summer, so the stubborn, unvarying air-flow from the Arctic that is delivering these frightening temperatures is for me the very definition of hell on Earth. Life has stopped. I cannot step foot outdoors. I cannot work. I cannot function. Everything has been stripped down to the most primeval of all human motivations: survival.
If that were not bad enough, energy bills in the UK have tripled in one year to an all-time high with further astronomical rises due by April thanks to the wicked hyper-capitalist doctrines of the Tories which prioritise the interests of the private energy firms ahead of the basic needs of the people. Privatised by the Tories back in the 1980s and now largely in the hands of parasitic, monopolistic corporations and unaccountable foreign racketeers, these energy companies are allowed to charge what they want by toothless ‘independent regulator’ Ofgem and are raking in fat ‘standing charges’, gobbling up vast profits, stockpiling immense reserves and paying out obscene shareholder dividends while 66% of the population can’t afford to heat their homes. Chaos and insecurity are the calling cards of this spectacular failure in policy: no less than 29 smaller energy companies went bust last year alone with the public purse being required to pick up the bill; the much touted ‘freedom’ promised by privatisation to switch provider turned out to be just a massive hassle with barely noticeable and strictly temporary gains; and so badly is energy provision now organised in the UK, power cuts are becoming commonplace and unprecedented rationing is predicted as demand exceeds supply. The result of leaving a fundamental public utility like energy to the tender mercies of the bogus ‘competition’ and rigged cartels of the energy ‘market’ is unsurprising: mass death. All across the cruel, corrupt, murderous British State the old, the sick, the poor, the vulnerable and the weak are simply dropping dead for want of a warm shelter. The question I want answering is this: what will it take for the subservient, forelock-tugging, brainwashed masses to get up off their knees and topple the toxic Tory tyranny?
The vile Rishi Sunak, the richest PM in British history, made his fortune by three tried-and-trusted methods always popular among talentless rightwingers: being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, marrying into money and a sleazy career with City of London hedge funds. His non-dom wife’s tax affairs are organised to minimise payments to the UK exchequer; his secretive and grudging approach to disclosing his many immense financial holdings flout the spirit of the ‘ministerial code’ (a code he has not endorsed since becoming PM) as well as the accepted decencies of public life; he committed a criminal offence while Johnson’s chancellor by flouting lockdown; he is a vain egomaniac obsessed with public image and grooming products who ridiculously tries to conceal his petite 5’5″ stature with flattering camera angles on Instagram; he lives in an astonishingly vulgar mansion complete with the requisite swimming pool, tennis court, gym and four bathrooms, a hymn to pointless consumerism stuffed with tech gadgets and awash with symbols of his disgusting wealth from £500 Prada loafers to £150 coffee mugs; his cabinet is full of failures, crooks, xenophobes, racists, inadequates, morons and crypto fascists; he is a scoundrel, a slime-ball, a fraud, the 3rd worst Prime Minister in UK history (Truss and Johnson have set the bar high), and he couldn’t care less about ordinary people.
With inflation at its highest rate for over four decades and prices rocketing, a responsible government that cared would now re-nationalise the energy companies and raise taxes on the super-rich and big business in order to slash power bills and give proper pay-rises to the vital workers that keep essential services running, thereby alleviating the anxiety and suffering of millions and actually saving lives instead of ruining them – but these are British Conservatives, the very worst people on the planet, and so long as they are in power none of this will happen. It will take a mass collective revolt to turf them out of office and the wave of strikes across multiple sectors that are currently taking place give hope that the lethal Tories might at last be at the beginning of the end of their catastrophic grip on power. Now is the time for everyone to support in any way they can the ongoing strike action by NHS staff, rail workers, Royal Mail workers, civil servants, university lecturers and school teachers. Nothing sums the Tories up better than their response to the industrial action: instead of negotiating and listening to these key workers’ unanswerable case, all the atrocious bastards can do is spread poisonous propaganda via their media mouthpieces (the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Sun, Times, the BBC, etc) and threaten to introduce a law banning the right to strike that would make the UK one of the most repressive and authoritarian states on the planet. They want a war, they thrive on war: let’s give them one from which they’ll never recover.
Although we’re not particularly huge consumers of electricity and gas in our draughty 135-year-old house and have no debt burdens or liabilities, our combined income is very modest and well below the average and there isn’t much slack to take the strain of these soaring bills. Just a year ago if temperatures were this low I’d simply put the central heating on without hesitation. But now I daren’t, for fear of unpayable bills by the end of winter. So now there is no alternative but to retreat to the back bedroom and curl up under the huge, thick duvet, snug as a bug in a rug, and generate an intense hot-house from my own body-heat. Essentially, I enter hibernation mode. Fortunately there is nothing I like more than sleeping, so this is like second nature to me. When I am obliged to emerge from under the duvet and face the agony of 1°C, I wear six layers of clothing (underwear + long johns; t-shirt + tracksuit bottoms; shirt + trousers; jumper; hoodie; all-cocooning slanket). This allows me to go to the office, stick the fan-heater on and rattle off a brief blog like this one before scampering back to bed. Oh, how I long for warm wet westerly air…