Thursday 8 January 2015

The Weak Man of British Politics

In the German Ideology, Marx and Engels liken ideology to an image refracted through a camera obscura - everything is reversed, it's a world upside down. British politics today is much the same. The walls of Westminster, the media, the focus groups, the party propaganda conspire an aperture so tiny that light coming in from the real world is reproduced and projected all topsy turvy. And nowhere is the truer than for the largest of the governing parties, our friends the Conservatives.

Consider this. The Tories lambast Labour for economic chaos. Tory austerity gave us economic stagnation, falling living standards, insecurity and unbalanced growth. They attack Labour for its record on the NHS, and yet have overseen a chaotic part-privatisation of the NHS and a growing winter beds crisis without a cold snap and without a flu epidemic. And most audacious of all, they attack Ed Miliband as weak. Easy when some time ago the Tory press came out against him, he has nevertheless shifted economics from the heights of alchemical wonkery to the language of living standards, has packed off some (sadly, not all) of neoliberalism's sacred cows to the abattoir, has taken on Murdoch and the Daily Mail, defeated the government over Syrian intervention, and offed real and imagined opponents. How does Dave measure up by comparison? On the floods this time last year, dithered. He was practically nowhere in the initial and closing stages of the Scottish referendum campaign. He's been played like a violin by his europhobic backbenchers. During the summer, he mewed pathetically as the Israeli military massacred Palestinian civilians and his lieutenants openly squabbled about who should succeed him.

Through all this the media have slavishly gone along with the David Cameron Show. He looks the prime ministerial part, he terminates interviews by walking out of shot. And all his faults - his prevarication, indecisiveness, and fear of confronting his own idiot troops have been projected onto his opponent. Until now.

For some time, Dave has been looking for a way of wriggling out of the TV debates dues to take place with the other party leaders. A regular watch of Prime Minister's Questions reveals why: he is incapable of answering a question, he swerves and gyrates to avoid being held accountable for his actions - even if it means misleading the House through dodgy stats and "factually accurate" answers. And now, the perfect excuse has presented itself.

On Ofcom's turning down the Greens' complaint about their exclusion from the leaders' debates, on BBC North West this afternoon Dave very quickly ruled out taking part if Natalie Bennett was excluded. Principled politics? Not on your nelly. A fig leaf for his own cowardice, more like.

As it happens, I think the Greens should be allowed to take place. However, if Bennett is refused they should still go ahead. And if then Dave refuses in "solidarity" he should be empty chaired. The Greens are a minor party, they won't be forming a government any time soon and can be unsure of even holding onto Caroline Lucas in Brighton. Dave is still in with a shout of being a core component of the next government. His refusal to attend is a refusal to have his record scrutinised in front of the voting public, to have to explain the class war policies and self-harming, and, of course, looking hopelessly out of his depth compared with the demagogue to his right and the forensic policy wonk to his left. Sorry Dave, on this occasion even Nick would be out to get you.

Not an enviable situation to be in, but one to be avoided like clap if your sole talent is playing Prime Minister, not being one. Thanks to this Dave now stands exposed for what he is: the weak man of British politics.

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