Monday, 24 February 2014

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...

It’s a confusing world out there for the unwary voter. On the one hand, you are told, the Nasty Tory Storm-troopers will come rampaging through your homes in dawn raids to wrench your children from your bosom, burn down your property and put your old dad out into the street to beg. On the other hand those lovely, caring Labours will fix everything for free, heal the sick, feed the multitude and reverse global warming or cooling - whatever – and it won’t cost you a penny because they will make the energy companies and the bankers pay for it all. I know; it’s a tough call, right? (The LimpDems will, of course, just watch from the sidelines.)

But here’s the thing, see, what evidence do you have that any of those warnings or promises will come to pass? Labour are laying it on thick about the baby-eating ambitions of the evil Tory villains, but is any of it actually true? Seriously, has the sky really caved in? How many hospitals have been pillaged for spare parts? Hasn’t public spending more or less stayed as it was? Have they somehow accelerated whatever it is the climate-changers say is changing? The fact is none of you know; not one of you. People would have died, got sick, become more stupid or polluted the planet whoever was in power and not a single one of us is sufficiently well-informed to accurately apportion blame. You need hindsight for that and even that can be unreliable.

Well, as it happens, as far as Labour is concerned at least, we actually do have some hindsight; not only are they responsible for creating the gory mess that is multicultural, low wage Britain, they even have the gall to admit it and moreover that they spent every last penny – and then some – in doing so. They even confess now that they would have to be just as austere as the coalition, phrasing that as tough talk on the economy. Yet at the same time they appear to be promising to restore the benefits (that the coalition haven’t really taken away) which is sort of tempting if you don’t understand any of this. And by way of largely irrelevant distraction, David Cameron’s father-in-law is going to make a packet from wind farm subsidies. The bastard. You should hate him because he’s rich. Boo!

It shouldn’t be necessary to be politically sophisticated to be able to make an informed choice. But when people can’t even rely on their own memories what chance is there? For instance, which came first, the tax credits or the depressed wages or the immigration flood, all of which are interlinked? And those windmills; are they a good thing, bringing energy security? Or are they just another way to rob the poor and give to the rich? Did the coalition really deliberately flood Somerset? For the average disconnected voter it is almost impossible to discern how much current strife is the result of which administration. Atos, for instance, was appointed by Labour and not as people are eager to believe, by the Tories.

If politics was actually about governance there would be no need for party politics. Like any giant company, the nation would simply appoint the best managers and accountants and scientists and engineers and lawyers and replace them as and when necessary. Regions would act like subsidiaries, responsible to the people who paid their wages and town councils would be hired and fired and held to account directly by citizens. If politics was about governance.

But it’s not. Politics is about power, ONLY about power; getting into power, having power and retaining power. In a private, profit-seeking company the very word ‘politics’ generally implies distasteful and counter-productive manoeuvring, often contrary to the company’s best interests. National politics, like stage magic, is a game played in the public gaze, masquerading as acting in the greater good whilst concealing the real motives which are rarely concerned with such outcomes. The general public and many MPs never quite grasp the prestidigitatory nature of the game and still believe you can genuinely change things in an instant – now that WOULD be magic.

So, in the run up to next year’s general election you can forget about governance altogether. The coalition has made all the changes it realistically can and they are hoping for continued good economic news. The opposition has rushed out so much paper policy in the last few weeks, it’s unlikely they will attempt any more, but they are going to ignore the economy and concentrate on how you feel. From now on it’s all about sloganeering. The governing parties will promise you fiscal responsibility and a steady hand on the tiller, while the opposition will promise, promise, promise knowing that people, having not really paid attention, will vote for bread now, not understanding that, with less government interference, cake is within their grasp.  

It’s a mess, but there is a solution. Belgium recently ran without a government for a year and a half and nobody really noticed because the government doesn’t actually run things at all; it just talks about running things and occasionally rouses mobs of gap-toothed, frothy-mouthed villagers with burning torches to mob the streets and demand… er, something or other. Then everybody goes home and nothing really changes. So, if you’re unsure where to place your ‘X’ next May you could do worse than vote for whichever party is offering you the least. That way, you won’t be disappointed.

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