Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Power to the People?
So, Maria Miller finally resigns and I continue to resist having an opinion either way except to observe that while Tories were clamouring for her removal – as were the voters - the leader/s of the opposition seemed to be curiously tight-lipped about it all. Maybe I missed Red Ed’s impassioned demand for a ministerial resignation; maybe he was saving himself up for Prime Minister’s Questions, but something is very wrong here. A member of the government had misbehaved in a manner deemed, if not actually criminal, then deeply insulting to the office and to the electorate and yet the opposition were not baying for blood?
If ever there was a feeling of unease about corruption and collusion in politics the expenses scandal was surely it and yet nothing appears to have changed. Oh sure, they say, the whole system has been reformed; but why then, were the broken eggs not mopped up when the omelette was being made instead of being left to rot? The stench is so overpowering you have to wonder what else is going on, concealed by the all-pervasive miasma of sleaze. Is it any wonder that people despair of ever getting democratic representation?
It’s not very nice where I live. When Alan Bennett grew up here, literally just over the Tong Road from my humble abode, it was still pretty rough, but rough in that nostalgic, working class solidarity kind of way. Now - despite legions of apologists denying the facts – work is something many have never known. It is a stubbornly Labour constituency, a reliable seat despite the fact that the local MP, Rachel Reeves, knows nothing about the lives of her voters. The locals may be proud of one of their own, a butcher’s son, making it to Oxford but they are deeply distrustful of an Oxford PPE being parachuted in to exploit their loyalty.
I crossed the Tong Road on Monday night, to attend the UKIP roadshow - within a fondant fancy’s throw of the former Bennett household - and far from being surrounded by retired half-colonels from the shires, there wasn’t an obviously recognisable old Tory in the hall. Despite the true blue war machine pumping out warnings that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Miliband – and I’m not saying there isn’t a risk in many wards - this is a constituency in which the Tory war horse is always going to limp home riderless.
I’m not sure how many of the old working class actually signed up for socialism - I well remember the seventies and for most it seemed more about sticking it to the bosses than about any ideological struggle for proletarian rule. The well organised big unions may have waged class warfare but ordinary working men and women despise another class in Britain today – the career political class. As we took our seats in the well-attended, spacious venue an old boy plonked himself next to me and unbidden said, “I voted Labour all my life, but I can’t stand that Rachel Reeves.”
What I then witnessed was a clear demonstration of what Nigel Farage has repeatedly said of late, that far from simply denying the Conservatives, the upstart party will take substantial support from disillusioned voters leaving Labour. People are thoroughly pissed off with the two main parties and don’t generally care one way or other about the Limp Dems; all of them are utterly disconnected from the electorate who reject especially Labour’s 2010 proclamation that “British history has to be revised, rethought or jettisoned”. The biggest cheers went up for unreservedly old-British values and sentiments and every time the phrase ‘the people’ was used, applause spontaneously broke out.
I have to say, as an individualist I felt a little uncomfortable among rousing consensus but one thing was certain - UKIP’s message undeniably hits the spot. Reeves, Miliband, Balls, Cooper – what are they doing here in northern seats? It’s because they are relying on Old Labour solidarity even as they shit on the democracy it used to stand for. I’ve always had a mistrust of unchecked democracy, after all lynch mobs are a form of it and if Paul Nuttall, following his tub-thumping delivery of the UKIP message, had produced a noose I daresay we could have had a mob on our hands… an asthmatic, geriatric, wheezing, creaking mob maybe (and that’s just me) but a mob nevertheless. Maria Miller today; who’s next?