Saturday 21 September 2013

Damian McBride and Westminster Bubblegum

Deary me. In the words of no lesser figure than Nigel Farage, "Godfrey Bloom has destroyed UKIP conference". Everyone in the media's talking about the self-styled "maverick" MEP after he called a roomful of women "sluts". And amateurish attempts by UKIP spinners to argue that it has a different meaning to "slag" which, in 21st century Britain, it clearly doesn't, is pitiful.

While NF is smarting from "the Bloomster", the owner of Biteback Publishing must have been hoping the oh-so-coincidental publishing of Damian McBride's Downing Street memoir, Power Trip, would similarly derail Labour's annual gathering. After all, feuding with Blairites, skullduggery and calling people names over email is just the sort of thing that should cause major reputational damage to Ed Miliband, or "the emissary from Planet Fuck" as Tony's team once dubbed him.

Really? I'm sure McBride's volume will be fascinating for Westminster watchers and anoraks. I'm quite looking forward to reading it eventually (how about a review copy, Damian?). But let's get real here. "Normal" people don't care. The majority of The Mail's readers will skip the splashed extracts on their way to the beauty supplement, the telly pages and the latest offering on the occult sex secrets of the Third Reich. Few people outside the intersection of Westminster politics and our London-centric media would be able to name prominent ministers of the present government, never mind a backroom fixer who's spent the last four years in obscurity. Instead what the generally interested voter will be interested in hearing about are this weekend's policy announcements, such as the scrapping of the bedroom tax, strengthening the minimum wage, introducing disability hate crime laws, and an expansion of publicly-provided childcare facilities. At last, the slow-emerging positions Labour will go into 2015 with are stepping out into the light. And the Tories and their media running dogs will be forced to respond to them - leaving the McBride stuff as page seven filler.

These sorts of exposes are an everyday occurrence for our politics. There is always reams of material produced by current or former players that almost exclusively addresses itself to the past and present concerns of the Westminster Bubble. It works to "gum" the bubble together by generating matters of mutual interest to participants across the political divides - an issue-based lingua franca if you like. And, helpfully for the media, it is a constant source of mostly inconsequential manoeuvring and tittle tattle that costs very little to report. Yet crucially, it passes the yardstick for newsworthiness too. Few would bat an eyelid if Newsnight gave over an entire programme to revisiting the original Smeargate.

McBride's book, simply put, is bubblegum.


Speedy said...

The emmisary from planet fuck. Ha ha, so true.

Phil said...

amateurish attempts by UKIP spinners to argue that it has a different meaning to "slag"

Say what? I've heard the audio, and it went like this:

Woman UKIP activist: "I've never cleaned behind the fridge in my life."
Other women: [chorus of agreement]
Bloom: "There are a lot of sluts in this room!"

There's nothing amateurish or misleading about explaining what Bloom was actually saying; it's perfectly clear that he wasn't calling anyone a slag. The man's a neanderthal idiot, but that's by the by.

SarahABUK said...

He was using it in the sense of 'slattern' - a word/idea which is itself extremely problematic as it implies that housework is just for women.

Phil said...

Thanks for the context. The problem is when was the last time you heard 'slut' used in this manner? Time moves on and so does the meaning of language - something I'm sure Bloom is all too well aware of.

cjcjc said...

Wwll admittedly 10 years ago here is Woman's Hour using the word in this manner.

Of course I understand why you desperately want to pretend Miliband and Balls had nothing to do with McBride...