Friday, October 24, 2014

Fear Itself

Off the top of my head, I can think of the following recent political meltdowns that basically amounted to David Cameron's government conjuring supposedly frightening problems out of thin air, where once there were none -

- The petrol crisis, after Francis Maude urged citizens to stock up on flammable liquids;

- The national debt, aggressively and terrifyingly marketed as larger than that of Greece, despite the fact that the UK economy is effectively Richard Branson licking champagne off a platinum yacht to Greece's comparative pauperdom;

- The human rights crisis, after the government decided that the issue of prisoners voting was more useful as an expensive political hobbyhorse to be ridden like an old 10p children's ride at a supermarket, than it was as a fairly simple legislative correction; 

- The proposed EU referendum, skooshed onto flaming backbench discontent with all the effectiveness of a quick piss into a blazing bonfire, gaining only the most short-term benefit;

- The EU surcharge, long agreed upon by member states, which the Tories knew full well was coming long in advance and chose to pounce on as an opportunity to show off their throbbing, manly girth, and

- So on.

Of course, the list of actual disasters that the Tories have presided over - whacking a forty-grand pricetag on higher education, the Leveson debacle, Libya, the bedroom tax, to pick just a few - were downplayed somewhat.

I can't think of a government that has invested so much time and effort into fostering raw panic to combat phantom terrors, except perhaps the obvious administration during my childhood. 

Reader, can you think of any other utterly confected disasters to add to this list of recent Tory alarmism, or advise of any other UK governments that spent quite so much time pretending to soil their frillies over things that really, they weren't frightened of in the slightest?

God knows the last Labour government were prone to freak-outs about, oh, tinpot dictatorships with imperial ambitions, but this bunch are beyond comedy.


Ken Eadie, the Prince of Strikers said...

Cameron hitting the lectern repeatedly in his response to the EU €2bn bill was reminiscent of Khrushchev's shoe.

organic cheeseboard said...

You might want to ad lots of and lots of stuff about terrorism too, almost none of which has come ot anything.

As Septicisle says, they're following the tony Blair/Alastair Campbell model of constantly chasing column inches and the 'news agenda' through populist scare stories. But something isn't working - it's testament to the enduring unpopularity of the Tories in general, meaning fewer people buy this bullshit than did with Blair, and also the ease with which this stuff is immeditely unpicked nowadays. So it's clear that they held onto the already-foreseen 'Brussels bombshell' for two days, working out how best to use it for their political advantage, for instance.

My two favourite things from this bullsiht:

1) David Cameron's pisspoor feigning of indignation. Best seen in the 'how dare you' bollocks in his speeches about the NHS, where he repeatedly uses his dead son as evidence that he didn't renege on every pledge about the health service in the manner of Lois Griffin in that Family Guy episode saying '9/11' over and over again - you'll note that e.g. Gordon Brown, whose psin doctors were horrific human beings, never did the. What's even funnier is how often Cameron actually does get angry - invariably because his bullshit has been caught out and he can't cope. He's the heir to Blair in the same way Prince Charles is heir to the Queen.

2) Having tea in an illegal immigrant's house for some reason. That really worked, didn't it?

For all the media's discussion of Ed Miliband's supposed weakness, he is clearly very capable of sticking to his core 'narratives' and has stood up to backbench dissent in a way Cameron has never managed - the latter has preferred near-constant PR stunts, none of which have even remotely looked like working. I genuinely think history will look back on Cameron less favourably than John Major.

organic cheeseboard said...

Thinking about the EU surcharge thing, it strikes me that it's not a brilliant idea to make such a big deal of it. We all saw how well Cameron's previous tought-taking with the EU over Junker went, right. (Actually that's another example of a Tory problem-out-of-thin-air right there).

I mean, after Cameron threw a hissy fit and 'talked tought to Brussels' over Junker, the latter was forcibly removed from the presidency race and we anointed a much more amenable candidate, right? And with that, support for UKIP nosedived as Cameron demonstrated how tough he can be with the EU.

All of those things happened right? Or did, in fact, the party start losing MPs and supporters to UKIP at a far faster rate than before...? And did Cameron not demonstrated he has more or less no allies at the EU, also demonstrating his total inability to 'negotiate a better deal' over there, derailing his entire EU Referendum strategy and effectively making him a no-campaigner - all in order to have a possibly slightly better chance of holding onto one single constituency?

He genuinely is one of the worst prime ministers of all time.

flyingrodent said...

And with that, support for UKIP nosedived as Cameron demonstrated how tough he can be with the EU.

It is very strange. You'd have thought that the Tories would be better sticking to the "UKIP are absolute zoomers talking nonsense" rather than "Watch as we fail to destroy the EU, because we don't want to destroy the EU" - the former is very easy, not least because UKIP are absolute zoomers and demonstrate it daily - but who am I to advise?

Never interrupt the enemy when he's making a mistake, I say. And this looks like being a barnstormer of an error.

organic cheeseboard said...

Again I think it comes from their religious adherence to the Blair playbook - try to look tough all the time because that's what voters love (even though Blair looked pretty much the opposite, in the end, with regard to influencing other countries e.g. George Bush).

But the key difference is that Blair never had to deal with a populist left-wing alternative to Labour - he could always use the 'aha but there is no alternative' line and it was pretty much true. Cameron's trying that, with the 'vote for Farage and you get Miliband' line, but it very, very obviously doesn't work with UKIP (i.e. protest) voters; it probably doesn't even work with tory voters. And equally, people in general (as opposed to people who are Tories) don't dislike Labour in the way they (still) dislike the Tories - they might seemingly prefer Cameron to Miliband, but that isn't enough - we saw how well the Tory attempt to run a campaign for President Cameron went last time, when his party were much more popular. They got a majority, didn't they...?

funny, too, to see the tories this morning once again derail a massively important policy because they can't bear to be nice to the Lib Dems for more than 20 seconds. It happened when they gave up their plans to gerrymander constituencies because they love the unelected Lords too much (for some reason?), and it seems to have happened now, where a European referendum in 2017 is so massively important to them that they, er, wimp out of it in order to preserve the generally hated bedroom tax, because fuck the lib dems. They're just a total shambles. I'm no Blair fan, but there's absolutely no way he'd have fucked both those things up so colossally.

Incidentally, I was thinking this morning about how important Andy Coulson was. He managed to maintain party organisation, a lead in the polls, and seems to have put the kibosh on unpopular policies. He disappears and the supposed genius Lynton Crosby comes in and they just go from one fuck-up to the next.

And one more random thing - it'd be very ineresting to see what the likely outcome of the 2015 election would have been if we'd had Alternative Vote. My guess is the tories would probably have done pretty well. but obviously, 'The constituency MP is a sacred role blah blah blah'

Igor Belanov said...

'Talking tough' is one thing, but the way it is pursued by Cameron and the Tories just seems to be insane. If the EU is so awful, then surely people would vote for the party pledged to withdrawal rather than the party hesitating over a referendum. Similarly, if immigrants are a massive problem, then people will back the ones who offer to stop it, rather than the party that can't make its mind up over whether to be bigoted or let as much cheap labour as possible into the country.
A couple of years ago the Tory strategy might have seemed more logical, but UKIP seem somehow to have attracted too much credibility for it to work now.

Anonymous said...

I do sometimes wonder what is going on in the Conservative Party. Consider this announcement from the Bow Group.

The Bow Group didn't go to the Party Conference. That's a bit like the Fabian Society not turning up to the Labour Party Conference. Major is president and Howe, Howard, Lamont and Heseltine are senior patrons so why wouldn't the Group trundle along to Conference? And what stories lie behind the second paragraph of their announcement? There's a hint that the Group don't think there's much freedom and democracy in the Party.

OC - Andy Coulson. Yes indeed, he was key to keeping the show on the road, wasn't he? What actually did he do to keep things running smoothly?

FR - "Of course, the list of actual disasters that the Tories have presided over - whacking a forty-grand price tag on higher education, the Leveson debacle, Libya, the bedroom tax, to pick just a few - were downplayed somewhat."

Are the fake disasters meant to distract attention from the real disasters? This is William Hague talking about Libya at the party conference three years ago.

Regime change in Libya was a success? I think you spoke too soon William.


organic cheeseboard said...

To continue a discussion on a previous thread, Mark Steel is really good on Russell Brand:

Crucially he identifies Brand's actual appeal - to the young - which I think is why lots of columnists hate on Owen Jones too. Nick et al don't seem willing to accept that the old-fashioned route into political commentary inevitably overstuffs the opinion pages with ageing, rich, cynical men who have a tendency to routinely belittle young people (including telling them that their political writers of choice 'can't write well' for instance) and side with the political establishment. (I've been really amused by people like Chris Dillow who claim that they spend lots of their time trying to promote the work of left-wing intellectuals - it's just not true). It reminds me a bit of when people in the literary and film worlds have massive pops at James Franco, as if his success is somehow not a result of a carefully-cultivated image and is thus inexplicably popular, when in fact the reasons behind his popularity (good looks, enthusiasm, starring in popular films, being very active creatively, *seeming* willing to not take himself too seriously) are pretty obvious.

Steel could definitely have stuck it to Nick Cohen more (surely calling him out on his branding Nelson Mandela a coward!) but still.

AngloNoel said...

One thing I've noticed about this Government, which I don't remember under Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher and Callaghan, is that they put great store on Bank Holidays having a significant effect on the quarterly GDP figures.