Worn Out

The Second Law of Thermodynamics. I know, bear with me. It governs entropy, the natural and unrelenting process whereby everything is coming apart, degrading, disintegrating. It quantifies the amount of energy required to merely keep all things, very literally, from falling apart. To stop the world around us from vanishing into stardust.

Time and entropy go hand in hand. Just as the seconds tick by despite any desire to prevent them, so too will everything, eventually, give way to entropy. It’s just a matter of time. To slow it down, even for a while, requires enormous energy. When your source of energy runs out… well, you get it.

We are at that moment now, in British politics. The sun has gone out. Everything is falling apart.

The need for an election, a moment to restore that energy, is now not just politically overdue, but socially urgent. We simply cannot let this disintegration continue until the cold returns in the autumn. It is now, in the most mundane and literal sense of the word, dangerous.

Consider the evidence. On all sides, the system is struggling to remain anywhere close to cohesive, let alone intact.

Lee Anderson is pub-crawling his way to populist big-beast status, one dog whistle at a time. Louisa Alvarez, wife of Sliding Doors dystopian thriller Jeremy Corbyn, peruses Keir Starmer’s itinerary at the Munich Security conference, dozens of world leaders long, and decides his hour with the Israeli President means he’s wrapped tight in a tentacle of the ‘Zionist’ octopus. Liz Truss nods her ascent while Steve Bannon, loved by actual Nazis, calls hate-monger and convicted criminal Tommy Robinson ‘a hero’.

Meanwhile, the people of Rochdale wake to the prospect of George Galloway (and permit me this, George fucking Galloway) on the brink of being known once again as Right. And Honourable. in taking (correct) action against the antisemitism of one candidate, they have inadvertently enabled the likely coronation of an even worse, notoriously antisemitic alternative. Words that the vast majority of Jews take to be a call for the genocide of half the global population of Jewry are sung by gleeful Welsh choirs, projected onto Big Ben, paraded up high streets and stuck in windows across the country. I walked past them this morning, on my way to the station, beside some kids’ scooters and the recycling. This is what entropy feels like, at a social level.

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, actual news is relegated to the background. Junior Doctors scream their latest strike into a void of attention, now the endless ‘The Gap’ sale of industrial action. New data show 15% of homes living in food insecurity. Putin has described war with NATO as ‘inevitable’ as Macron says French troops could be deployed to Ukraine. Sweden’s joining NATO, the very move Russia said they were going to war to prevent, has been confirmed, surely one of the most profound moments in recent European security. China has deployed a fleet to the Red Sea to counter the Houthi threat, bringing Chinese military assets into a wholly new theatre of conflict, within human error range of British and American Navy vessels. Trump has trounced Haley in her home state. And that’s all this week.

We have run out of energy. That’s what is enabling the entropy we all surely feel. The energy to pay attention. The energy to call out absurdities, lies, obfuscation. The energy to respond to naked racism with the vehemence it demands. The energy to maintain the empathy for those suffering, really truly suffering, some of our nation’s lowest real term living conditions in generations. The evidence of entropy is all around us, from potholes and picket lines to racism and threats of violence at popular protests and the fact that half of our governing party seem to be primarily GB news anchors and only occasionally public servants. We have allowed it, because we are knackered. We have run out of energy, nationally.

The energy to report it, be surprised by it, even notice it. We’re not even angry. We are just tired.

In marketing, we have (absurdly) a specific term for this moment. We call this ‘wear out’. It’s the moment at which once you’ve seen the Oak Furnitureland sale announcement seventeen times, the eighteenth is unlikely to propel you into a wooden, discounted wonderland. There is no energy left to care. It’s time for a change.

An election will be that change, restore that energy. A new injection of heat into the cooling system, the acute jolt of scrutiny, attention, belief in the possibility of change. It will force us to address those fissures that have opened in recent years, rather than simply to ignore them. Socially. Economically. Domestically and internationally.

Another six months without that energy will see only further entropy. More protests, more polemic, more extremism. More suffering and delays and declines in the expectation of what a state can, should even try to, provide.

It’s no longer about whether the PM does, or doesn’t have a mandate. Or whether the polls show a demand for change. Or whether Sunak’s unsteady balance atop the performance art project formerly known as the Conservative Party is untenable. It’s just a matter of energy and entropy. We have run out of the former, and the latter runs riot. We need the heat, urgently, and not just in the way we always do as February ticks over to March. We need an election.


This column is part of media strategist Alex Hesz’s ‘Mission Messaging’ series for Progressive Britain. If you enjoyed this piece, check out the previous instalment, The Crisis of De-meh-cracy.