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|Saturday 7th June 2003|
Animal Farm Meets New Labour
This week Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, said that New Labour risked falling into the same trap as the power-crazed pigs in George Orwell's Animal Farm. Unless their policies gave "power to the people", she warned, Labour "will be painted as the party of technocrats and managers - indistinguishable, as in Orwell's Animal Farm, from the very establishment we worked so hard to overturn". Well, our reporter Dominic Arkwright has been analysing that comment. And he's written for us a NEW version of Animal Farm..
Word had gone around in the mid-nineties that Hartlepool, the first of a new breed of pig, had had a strange dream the previous night and wished to communicate it to the other animals. Hartlepool was highly regarded on the farm and everyone was eager to hear what he had to say.
"Let us face it. Our lives are miserable. Mr Major and all he stands for are evil. This is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion."
Some months later, almost before they knew what was happening, the rebellion had been successfully carried through. The old farmer, Mr Major, had been forced to flee the farm. Manor Farm was theirs. For the first few months the animals could scarcely believe their good fortune.
The work of organising and teaching and handing out rations, naturally fell to the pigs. Pre-eminent among them were a young boar named Anthony, and a large sow named Prudence. The best known of the others were Hartlepool himself and a talkative young boar named Campbell who was responsible for delivering news of all achievements to the other animals. The others said of Campbell that he could turn black into white.
It was unanimously decided that Thumper, a large brute of a pig, should become deputy leader. Thumper was not his real name but he had acquired the nickname after an incident in which he struck, with one of his trotters, a chicken who had deliberately laid an egg on his back
Hartlepool remained in close touch with Anthony despite being forced to leave the sty after an incident in which it was alleged that in a moment of extreme hunger he had borrowed some swill from another pig. The other animals decided that this contravened the rules of the farm. But he was never far away from the sty and it was widely believed that his trotter could be detected in many of the decisions taken thereafter.
Between them they managed to reduce the principles of New Labourism to a few basic principles. Whatever goes on two legs and reads the Daily Telegraph is an enemy. Whatever goes on four legs or has wings, and reads the Guardian, is a friend. No animal shall be required to pay for reading and writing lessons. The farm shall entirely fund all veterinary services.
Anthony and Prudence were by far the most active in debates. But it was noticed that the two of them were never in agreement whatever suggestion one of them made, the other could be counted on to oppose it. Each had his own following and there were some violent debates. But of all their controversies none was so bitter as the one that took place over the issue of using the same fertiliser as neighbouring farms. Just when Anthony believed that the plans for introducing a common fertiliser were finished, Prudence surveyed them, then suddenly lifted his leg and urinated on them. The whole farm was deeply divided on the issue of whether to adopt the same fertilisers as other farms.
For several summers the animals toiled happily, eager to get the harvest in earlier and raise even bigger crops than old Mr Major. But after a while some animals began to notice that happy though they were, their rations had not increased, and nor was there a noticeable improvement in the quality of the stables and the pens. It was, however observed that some of the pigs did not seem to face such hardships. One, known as Chancellor, was even rumoured to have lined his sty with gold leaf. Others appeared to own more sties than was fair.
One morning, an event occurred involving one of the horses, known as Adair, because of his daring exploits in saving animals who were placed at risk during the annual stubble-burning. Adair had taken to wondering why his rations were less than those of the rabbits and the chickens and the cows, and especially of the pigs who seemed to do little more than strut around all day barking orders. The horses withdrew their co-operation from the harvesting and refused to contribute to the building of the windmill. For the first time since the expulsion of Mr. Major, there was something approaching rebellion. Anthony and Thumper reacted swiftly and ruthlessly and the horses quickly capitulated and agreed that their rations were, indeed, sufficient. But this rattled many of the animals, raising memories of previous owners, especially the hated Mrs. Thatcher. In the end, however, they agreed that, yes, this WAS part of the original aims of the farms and that the horses HAD been a little greedy. The incident was soon forgotten about.
In the autumn of one year, it became clear that some of the more senior pigs had developed a curious interest in the rare breeds farm in the neighbouring county. It was rumoured that they were interested in making a raid to steal some oil to fire the generator and to help build the windmill. The pigs had quite a time of it trying to explain that no, this was not the aim. At a series of meetings Anthony explained that the exotic breeds farm had the capability to infect the swill and the seedcakes with poison. And even to launch a cropsprayer within forty-five minutes. The very future of the farm was at risk. None of the animals quite knew whether to believe this, and two of the more independent-minded pigs left the sty and went to roam freely with the other animals. Was it true that Anthony had been LYING at the farm meetings? If he could lie about the cropsprayer, what might he NOT lie about? Some argued that this was was the work of the moles. One of the pigs even suggested that there were rogue elements in the mole holes, who considered it their job to destabilise the farm.
Associated with this event, the rabbits began to spread a rumour that one of the pigs, a handsome beast known as George had been seen leaning over the fence which separated animal farm from the exotic breeds farm, and had allowed one of the farmhands to stroke his snout.
"It isn't true. I didn't," cried George.
Three days later he disappeared, vowing revenge on the rabbits, but disowned by all the other pigs.
One day, Billy, the old carthorse, was plodding past the cowshed.
"I must be wrong," he murmured, "but didn't commandment number three say, the farm shall entirely fund all veterinary services? And number four that lessons in reading and writing should be free to all piglets, foals, calves and leverets?"
Campbell was standing behind him.
"You are mistaken Billy. Free vets good. Foundation vets better. And the privilege of reading and writing lessons for older foals shall be paid from the rations of horses thrifty enough to save."
"But wasn't this just what Mr. Major would do?" Billy wondered. And other animals began to remember that immediately after the rebellion, when Prudence first entered the sty, she had given no more rations than Mr. Major had. Nor had she devoted any more of the farm's income to maintenance and repairs.
It was about this time that some of the senior pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse itself. Again the animals were conscious of a vague feeling of uneasiness. Never to have any dealings with humans or adopt their practices and lifestyle? Had that not been one of the earliest resolutions?
Afterwards Campbell set the animals' minds at rest. He assured them that the resolution had never been passed, or even suggested.
Nevertheless many animals began to feel that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves to overthrow the human-run farm a few years ago.
A few months later Anthony was distinctly seen to emerge from the farmhouse wearing a pinstriped suit and bowler hat, holding an old copy of the Daily Telegraph.
Soon other pigs began to be spotted engaging in similar behaviour. It barely came as a surprise to anyone when first Anthony, and then all the other pigs were seen walking on their hindlegs, all dressed in pinstriped suits looted from Mr. Major's wardrobe, all reading the Daily Telegraph, and all singing with gusto Farm of Hope and Glory. And the animals looked from pig to man and from man to pig, and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which.
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