Jonathan Freedland has an interesting piece in the Guardian at the moment on whether Miliband & Co should treat and characterise Cameron & Co as useless or evil. It’s an important point, for getting the message right in traditional megaphone pyramidal politics is just about the most important thing that you can do. He does conclude that:
Put another way, should the opposition say this government is hopeless or heartless? The funny thing is, Labour may not even have to choose – for the government is doing its level best to be both.
And here I think we get to the nub of the issue: this Coalition government is driven by a consummate PR man – a man who believes whole worlds can be shaped through the use of well-chosen words for the broader benefit of paying company clients. When transferred to our body politic, it’s about as conditional a view of the matter as you can get. Cameron really should not be underestimated though, for he has never underestimated the facility cunning advertising has for turning a situation upside down.
Freedland argues that the choice is twofold: between useless or evil. I think this government can actually be characterised with a third description: deliberately destructive. The process used has developed thus: early on in its time, the Coalition has employed to its advantage our uncertainty as to whether it was incompetent or horrible to deconstruct our ability to focus properly on which megaphone would best be shouted through. Our resulting uncertainty of tone has allowed them to continue being horrible whilst cloaked in apparent ineffectiveness. Yes. We have all been very clever on the data and content of our detailed rebuttals to almost every single policy idea the government has put forward over the past two years – but this is really not enough: the government is still firmly in place; we, meanwhile, are still occupying the role of moaning – and perhaps moderately anal – minnies.
Through the cloak of incompetence, then, the government has managed to continue with its evil intentions, the final goal being the total destruction of those sensible English socialist instincts which the NHS and Legal Aid at their best represented. By cutting away the safety nets of both, and releasing huge private sector activities and impulses from their control, Cameron has managed to be useless, evil and – as I suggest in the title – deliberately destructive too.
For Cameron’s long-term aim is to rid this country of anything which might stand in the way of the Tory Party’s sponsors. This is One Nation Conservatism brought firmly up to date: the Nation in question is a capitalism built around large companies; the Conservatism in question depends entirely on making it impossible for a government of a different hue to reverse any of the changes – even if it were possible to find and vote for such a government.
Not just useless. Not just evil.
Deliberately detonating just about anything and everything that once served to counter the unimaginative, soul-destroying and – ultimately – fossilising “one best way” of corporate mindsets everywhere.
But politics – at least my vision of politics – shouldn’t be about finding ways of slotting people into a system; rather, it should be about fashioning a system around the needs of the realities of individuals. The difference is subtle; the implications and consequences for the wellbeing of the individuals concerned immense.
We love the way that Barça plays – but the goals themselves only ever really get scored when people like Messi or Iniesta flash brilliance.
And Messi has never achieved the kind of brilliance at national level which he clearly has achieved at club level.
Systems are needed – but they need to respond to the characteristics of real people.
New Labour attempted and failed to grapple with this challenge.
Cameron & Co have simply unashamedly gone down the “one best way” road: pork-barrel politics and shock-and-awe tactics leading to a napalming of all and any other ways of seeing or doing.
So Freedland, in the piece I link to at the top of today’s post, is kind of right about useless and evil: what he gets wrong, though, is that both are actually tactics chosen intentionally, not characteristics exhibited unavoidably.
And as they lay waste to our nation in order to make it impossible for Labour to undo their evil, so a “one best way” will inevitably become a “one only possible way”.