The sense of panic when politicians leave the script.
How our politicians’ pretence at appearing normal is so delicately held together that it can be unravelled by a tweet or a bacon butty.
By E.F Nicholson.
How pathetic is the state of politics in the UK. The latest “scandal” hot of the press is Tweetgate, or “Thorngate” as I assume it will shortly be called. Tweetgate is the result of Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeting a picture of a house with two English flags draped outside it. Shocking, I know. Like a boring version of Falcon Crest, we get the revelation, the shock, the sacking, the apology, the backtracking, the sucking up and then the promises, oh the sweet promises. All the while Labour is desperately hoping that Russia invades Ukraine to take away attention from this tweet. The whole “this is such a bad thing she did” is so artificial and lacking in any authenticity that I wonder why they bother. The tweet in question (of the house with the flags of St George) which is assumed to translate into: “Oh God, look it’s the house of the rising pleb”.
So it is a bit snobby, I agree, but I challenge you to look at pictures on “People of Walmart” and not inwardly smirk with the warm glow of not being them. So it is a bit inappropriate for “all” to see, but it’s really not that big a deal. What is astounding, in my view, is the furore that has subsequently erupted within the Labour Party. There have been comments like:
“Senior MPs are warning that Ed Miliband’s chances in the General Election are being actively damaged by the fallout over the affair”.
So it’s now not just a stupid tweet, but has morphed officially into an “affair”, as, apparently:
“Thornberry’s actions would be “deadly” for MPs campaigning on the doorstep.”
Should they now expect to greeted with a shorn-off shogun? There is talk that this could erase their 3 point lead on the Tories in the polls; that this single picture could lose them the election. None wonder Ed’s pissed off.
Then I think: really? Does Labour assume that its credibility as a party that is not “just another vote for more of the same” is that fragile and paper-thin? That the slightest revelation that strays outside the polished script, determined by countless focus groups, could bring the house of cards tumbling down? Looking back to “Butty Gate” I now know why Ed Miliband, tucking into his bacon butty like an amateur butty-eater, could have cost him the General Election. Luckily, his request for Dijon mustard and hummus went unheard. Maybe he could have dropped some ketchup on his tie, licked it off and followed it up with a tuba-level fart. He then would have regained the “common man” persona that has been so delicately assembled by the spin doctors.
Yet can’t they see that their over-reaction just creates the exact impression they are so desperate to avoid. “We are here for British working people” is the bullshit line all the parties espouse, as they all know full well that’s just not how the “system” works. Nonetheless, it’s understood that’s exactly what has to be sold, projected, polished and repeated over and over, ad nauseam. Elections aren’t democracy in action, they are just a competition as to who is the best bunch of liars. Russell Brand produced an excellent Trews episode the other week, pointing out how contrived and false Ed Miliband sounds. Watching Miliband talk, it’s hard not to agree: he comes across like a robot that has had the talking points data-programmed into him and then set to shuffle. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had accidently started saying “Exterminate, Exterminate” revealing his true identity to be a next generation Dalek.
This whole pantomime reminds me of when I was 14 years’ old. My parents went away and my 18-year-old brother was foolishly considered mature enough to look after us. Obviously he just went out the pub, leaving me and my other brothers to do whatever the hell we liked. So we raided the liquor cabinet, made some rocket fuel and had a party. It was awesome. The next day the house was a total mess, so we got to work cleaning it from top to bottom. When we finished and looked upon our handiwork, we impressed even ourselves. When my parents came home, my mum instantly smelled a rat. Not because we missed a beer bottle behind the curtain, but because it was so clean. It was the cleanest the house has ever been. What would compel three lazy teenagers, who normally would never lift a finger around the house, to suddenly clean up? So after some Gestapo-style integration, we buckled and Mother Morse had cracked the case of the “unnervingly clean house”.
Our mistake was that we tried too hard. Trying to be normal doesn’t look like “normal”, it looks like “trying to be normal”. Which is to say that it simply looks rehearsed, contrived, fake and uptight. For all the political parties, there is such an under-current of distrust and suspicion that it takes something as slight as this tweet to derail their chances of winning. Emily Thornberry is in the political doghouse, not because of her tweet, but because of its public nature. They all know that they have to bullshit the public to get into power, and then bullshit the public some more to stay in power. The end result, of course, being that 100% of the time they are bullshitting to the public. How else would David Cameron have managed to stay in power? The biggest sin any politician can make is to go off-script and actually be normal. They just can’t take the risk of being themselves.
So all this pretence and dishonesty has left an opening: enter UKIP. They have cunningly tapped into that “can’t trust those out-of-touch snobs in Westminster” sentiment among the disaffected public. So Farage prances about: “Look at me, Milliband; watch how I can eat a bacon butty like a real British person!” They print a few bumper stickers with “Keep Britain British” and “Back off Brussels, this is still England”. Then they stoke fears about the hordes of non-white people taking over Britain; and, all of sudden, they are getting 19% of the national vote. Yet what’s so farcical about UKIP is that it’s like the fox assuring the chickens that they’ll will be safe from the wolf’s hungry jaws if they come and hide in his den. People who buy it are as smart those chickens, maybe less. The current three main parties are so pathetic that I seriously think I could make up my own party. Just work out a couple of the public’s deepest fears and play on them mercilessly, giving them some promise I know I’ll never be able keep. The rest is just repeating, and repeating: “You can’t trust those snobs in Westminster. So vote for me so I can go to Westminster in my non-snobby way”. The transparency and stupidity of it all beggars belief, and if it wasn’t such a serious problem, it would be hilarious. The politicians need to get a grip, fast. And the public need to wake up.
Thanks Again to Steve Jack for the helping editing. He never has easy job 🙂