Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dave's Speech: It's Just Words

Some journalists are incredibly gullible. On the basis of his rhetoric, Dan Hodges tweeted "Could someone on the Left tell me which part of David Cameron's speech I'm meant to disagree with." How about Dave's outright porkie concerning Jeremy Corbyn's comments on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden? Seeing as Dan's less a journo and more a well remunerated "opinion former", what does a proper one think? Jane Merrick of the Indy on Sunday writes "Labour's gigantic problem: why did I, from a Liverpool comp, who voted for Blair & never voted Tory, agree nearly every word of PM's speech?" Seduced by words, it's never occurred to Jane that what the Tories say might be quite different from what they do.

And that's what Dave's speech was. It's just words and positioning. As I've said previously, the established tradition is to take the chancellor (and shadow) and the leader (and the opposition leader) speeches as a piece. They complement each other. Though, this year, the two leading figures in the two leading parties had different priorities. John McDonnell's speech was outward facing and signalled his intent to contest Osborne's ill-deserved reputation for economic competency directly. Jeremy Corbyn's, however, defined himself and consolidated the position of the new leadership. The audience was primarily the movement and core/swing "values" voters.

Osborne's and Dave's were outward facing, they wanted the so-called centre ground which, they believe, has now been evacuated by Labour. With most of the media on side, they know they can get away with stealing New Labourish language around inclusion and social liberalism while carrying on cutting, carrying on privatising, carrying on undermining the security of everyday life. They're unaccountable and untouchable.

This is no accident. It plays to the enclosed sniffing grounds our indefatigable news hounds inhabit. Just because those bearing the brunt aren't nice middle class journalists allows one to suppose that Dave has gone all nice, that the Tories are no longer nasty, that compassionate Conservatism is back. No, all it means is the Tories are taking care to choose their victims. They're ensuring those who pay for the next five years of Tory government are those people these self-same journos will never give a shit about.


Phil said...

Agreed. Getting in the dig at Twitter early on was psychologically brilliant as a way of softening-up the audience. "That's not reality. This is reality!"

I've just read the speech, with Rafael Behr's annotations. From the way it was received, I was worried it was going to be a wholesale appropriation of New Labour, but there's actually a lot less there that's distinctively centrist than you might think. (The stuff about housing is explicitly about how great it is to be able to buy a house (and wouldn't it be nice if there were more available) rather than actually making sure everyone has somewhere to live; the bit about ending the scourge of poverty is backed by nothing at all; and taking schools out of LA control was never not a right-wing policy, thankyou very much Mr Blair.)

The one bit that really is breaking new ground is the shameless appropriation of the equality & diversity agenda, from opposing discrimination against ethnic minority jobseekers to celebrating Gay Pride. I think it's that that's got people like Jane Merrick eating out of his hand. My inner tankie is hammering on his box to be let out - self-absorbed retreat into liberal individualism... demands entirely compatible with the needs of capitalism... one of these days the Tories will get wise and grant you your equality, so we can all compete freely in the market regardless of race creed colour gender sexual orientation etc etc, and then where will you be? I think my inner tankie has a point.

Anonymous said...

“Thousands of words have been written about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy.” - David Cameron

"How about Dave's outright porkie concerning Jeremy Corbyn's comments on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden?" - All that is Solid

“There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him, to put him on trial, to go through that process.

“This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy upon a tragedy upon a tragedy." - Jeremy Corbyn.

What did Jeremy Corbyn exactly mean then? The assassination was a tragedy rather than Bin Laden being put on trial? His death was a tragedy? Or both?

I wouldn't call it an "outright porkie", I'm afraid. All Corbyn has done, in his usual attack on America mode, is give ammo to the Tories.

As you've pointed out before the Tories are pushing "Security" as a buzzword. The "friends", "tragedy" and the "I won't push the button" comments are going to be rammed down our throats for as long as Jeremy Corbyn is Labour Leader to show how much of a threat he is to "National Security".

As for Dan Hodges, he'll be writing "Vote Conservative to bring Labour to its senses" next May because, as you quite rightly point out, it's not him (or similar) who have to rely on welfare or tax credits.

This is beginning to be some kind of sick replay of the 80s but at least Labour had Scotland then.

John R

Tony H said...

Phil's post is the best thing I've seen yet on Cameron's speech and the (perhaps all too deliberate) innocence of certain 'centre left' journos. The speech is only words but its attempt to take the centre suggests that the Tories are actually reacting to the threat of a (painfully) reviving left. The speech was reactive in that sense and I'd go so far as to say that a spectre was haunting the speech throughout - and no amount of branding Corbyn a terrorist fan boy could fully exorcise it. I was also struck by how stale the speech was, like a K-tel compliation of 30-odd years of tory tropes and memes, and even the 'Britain is not twitter' line - the best crafted line in the speech - is just a reprise of the old Nixonite silent majority trope.

BCFG said...

The media, both unfree and bias (how can it be!), are really pushing the idea that the Conservatives are taking the middle ground, which tells me the middle ground is now just a few leaps from outright fascism! The media don't really want to do this but they will do anything to defeat Corbyn.

When I look at the Tories I just see an extreme right wing and nasty party.

Now we have a genuine political choice we see the media going all out against Corbyn and effectively acting as the media wing of the Tories. The establishment and all its lackeys are longing for New labour to return, the love sick puppies that they are. I was watching Bloomberg a few days ago as some city analyst was bemoaning the fact that Corbyn's victory had allowed the Tories to shift right.

A few days later and we are told they are occupying the centre ground.

With the media words speak louder than actions!