May Day Poem

A blog post by Albert Semple

1 May 2023

I wrote this poem over the weekend, and it landed well on Reddit. I thought a video performance of the poem with relevant imagery would be powerful, which is now available on:

When learning the facts about World War II,
The names of the tyrants "our chaps overthrew".
The sacrifice made by brave women and men.
The promise it never would happen again.
Naively I thought if the fascists came back
We'd spot them returning in uniforms black,
Their faces adorned with malicious moustaches,
Their followers wearing their armbands or sashes.
But after the great referendum to leave
It feels that we're slipping, or so I perceive.
They may lack the leaders who give them their clout
But still we're familiar with how it's played out.
First they estranged those who didn't conform
Or follow a gender identity norm.
Then Roma and Travellers, both are fair game,
Then boatloads of immigrants shouldered the blame.
They demonise people — it's part of their stealth,
Distracting us from their great transfer of wealth.
The law doesn't help us — the rules are abused —
Selective enforcement is frequently used:
The ruthless harassment of claimants of aid —
Attempting to stifle the benefits paid;
While bigger transgressors they choose to forget —
Forgiving their cronies of dubious debt.
They're building the camps and its all a distraction.
They're planning to outlaw industrial action.
Our leaders are Tories — some blue and some red.
We cannot pretend that all fascists are dead.
Accessible version

Some people might think its a bit harsh to compare the current Conservative government to fascists, and there are certainly some definitions of fascism that they do not fit. But the comparison of our Conservative government is not my own, and in fact harks back to a 2021 article published on Canary Workers' Co-op listing 14 ways in which the UK resembles a fascist state. That article, in turn, cited Che Scott-Heron Newton, Laurence Britt and Johanna Drucker.

The Brexit referendum, in which the UK elected to leave the EU, precipitated the rise of Boris "Big Dog" Johnson as our own populist leader, who demonstrated a tenuous relationship with the truth both during and after his premiership.

Textual References

"First they estranged those who didn't conform // Or follow a gender identity norm."

This line references the treatment of trans people by the UK government, where they have opposed trans equality in Scotland and their attempt to change the Equality Act to restrict the definition of sex to "biological sex", i.e. sex at birth, rather than gender, effectively paving the way to exclude trans people from spaces and organisations currently operated as single-gender rather than single-biological-sex. This could in effect force some women to use male toilets, and be subject to harassment and violence as a result.

"Then Roma and Travellers, both are fair game"

According to a 2019 article by Open Democracy "Tory candidates across the country have made inflammatory and discriminatory statements about Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in their campaign material".

"Then boatloads of immigrants shoulder the blame"

The Conservative government have a strong anti-immigrant sentiment going so far as to arrange for the forced deportation of immigrant to Rwanda in order to exclude them from the country.

"Distracting us from their great transfer of wealth"

Conservative policy under this government has consistently given advantage to the wealthy, facilitating the transfer of wealth from the poor to the already-wealthy. At the end of 2022, wealth inequality was at a 3 year high.

"The ruthless harassment of claimants of aid // Attempting to stifle the benefits paid."

This references the outsourcing of DWP assessment for disability benefits to Capita. The privatised system has led to 80,000 rejected claims being overturned at initial review. This has led to people not receiving, or having to fight, for the benefits they are entitled to under the rules set by the government.

"While bigger transgressors they choose to forget"

This references Michelle Mone, whose homes in London and the Isle of Man were raided by Police investigating potential fraud relating to her recomendations to award contracts to MedPro, starting 5 days before the company existed. She remains a member of the Conservative Party, eligible to represent them as a Peer in the House of Lords.

"Forgiving their cronies of dubious debt."

This references the three companies ("The New Craftsmen", "Mrs Wordsworth", and "Digme Fitness") in which Rishi Sunak's wife invested. These companies recieved loans from the government's British Business Bank (BBB), and then subsequently went bust owing money to the government via both the BBB and unpaid HMRC tax bills.

Lord Brownlow, a conservative party donor who famously helped pay for the refurbishment of Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat, also part-owned "Money Concierge", a company that benefited from from a BBB loan then subsequently went bust.

"They're building the camps and its all a distraction."

This references the construction of migrant camps in Rwanda, in ex-military bases, and even interred on an near-shore barge in Dorset.

"They're planning to outlaw industrial action"

This references the UK's plan to effectively legally limit striking in healthcare, transport and schools.

"Our leaders are Tories — some blue and some red."

This references the attempted populism of the Labour leadership in failing to support strikes and inconsistency in trans rights policy.

"We cannot pretend that all fascists are dead."

The final line reminds us that we still need to remain vigilant againt any rekindling of Fascism in the UK.