Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Well, I confess, I have no idea what is going on any more. Toby Young steps down from his appointment to the OfS, falling victim, not to a few off-colour comments that would go unremarked in the average workplace, but to the indignant mob of bien pensant robots, programmed to fly off the handle at the merest whiff of Tory insobriety. It would sit easier if, for instance, the same sort of treatment was meted out to the odious Keith Vaz but the oily little boy-renter is still an MP and continues, Teflon-like to shrug off all charges.
I was going to write about this renewed taste for mob rule, whereby the baying hounds, the self-appointed arbiters of what will and will not be tolerated, can decide who does and does not deserve to be able to earn a living; whose voices will be heard and whose will be silenced, but plenty of far more eloquent others beat me to it. So I will content myself with one aspect of it. In Toby Young’s statement he referred to the caricature with which he had been portrayed and I realised that this reductive discourse is taken far too seriously.
Caricatures, lampoons, cartoons, soundbites, frozen stills of punches thrown, grimaces pulled, eyelids closed and gestures which (if you are so minded) can look a little like a Nazi salute; we use emotive shorthand to convey an image. The great cartoonist’s art is to capture the essence of a personality, an event, a movement in the fleetest of brush strokes, the most minimal of captions and make that thing instantly recognisable and ideally memorable. But is it true?
For those of a certain generation the grotesques created by Peter Fluck & Roger Law for the excruciatingly acidic Spitting Image have taken the place of reality. Who can think of Michael Hesletine without imagining Tarzan; who can only see John Major in monochrome, desultorily pushing peas about a plate? Maybe we kidded ourselves that we knew the difference, but I’m pretty sure that for most of us the cipher is sufficient. Thus the land-grabbing, poor-kicking, cruel Tory is cemented in the brains of leftists as surely as is the image of welfare-scrounging entitlement whores in the brains of Conservatives.
Thus Theresa May’s reshuffle, despite nodding to political correctness and replacing white men with a colourful array of ‘diverse’ options is lazily portrayed in the media as pathetic. Because Theresa’s tag is ‘weak and wobbly’. You wonder what is going on at Tory HQ when they didn’t recognise that a pledge to be ‘strong and stable’ is so easily subverted by the other side. Maybe we have gone too far down this road to turn back, but surely it’s not too late to put the complexity back into our lives.
Can’t we excuse past transgressions as youthful folly and recognise that people do learn and grow? Can’t we ever accept that the ground troops of both left and right ultimately want similar things and consider blended politics? Can’t people reconcile themselves to the possibility that there can be such a thing as a Liverpudlian Tory, or is Esther McVey a riddle too far? And is it just possible that our convenient labels obscure that fact that we are more alike than we allow ourselves to believe?