Election 2010: Goodbye to all that…


Brown’s dirty protest:

This campaign has been packed with incident but was breathtaking in its vacuity. The only moment of realism for me was Brown’s fascinating condemnation of Gillian Duffy as a bigtoted woman. We don’t know how lucky we are to have experienced an authentic moment of naked prejudice from a leading politician. I thought all moments of unguarded humanity had been successful washed out of the system. Coverage of the incident centred on Brown’s character – evidence of social retardation, his contempt for the mass and so on. The media formed a lightning consensus that Duffy was no bigot, mainly because it fed Brown’s political embarrassment.

Brown’s slip showed the doublethink that’s characterised his professional life – a period that’s seen him hide from the public. On the one hand he’s there to represent the interests of this amorphous blob – a group to which he doesn’t belong and doesn’t understand, while simultaneously he curses the idea that these politically naïve troglodytes are the gatekeepers to his ambition.

The irony is that Brown is part of the educated middle class whose progenitors horrified the intelligentsia, who saw literate swathes of Orwellian proles as the end of their intellectual exclusivity – a sign that the country was drifting toward a state of degeneracy. They’d have spat out their Mouton Rothschild, or whatever an inverted snob might imagine they drink, and burnt their copy of In Search of Lost Time at the notion of someone like Brown becoming Prime Minister. He could read all the books he wanted, get a degree and climb the political rungs but his low breeding, like poor quality iron with heavy concentrations of slag, would always mean that he was from inferior stock. Such a man from the perspective of people like Woolf, Forster, D.H Lawrence, Graham Greene and T.S Eliot, would amount to the opposite of what a Prime Minister should be. Brown, the leader of the Labour Party lest we forget, now sits in the back of his ministerial car, supporting the very prejudices that he entered politics to fight.

This even extends to his loathing of newspapers that late 19th century intellectuals considered to be a deeply retrogressive force. Not only could the stunted cretins read but they chose to read these rags – harbingers of thought waste and vulgarity which threatened their hegemony. When Brown looks at Simon Cowell’s face on the front of today’s Sun and tells Sue, “you realise the fucking idiots will read this and vote Tory, don’t you?” – he’s articulating third generation prejudice which he’s inherited from people who imagined themselves to be his betters.

It doesn’t even matter that no one can truly know what individual voters think or to what degree they’re influenced by what they read during a campaign. Some will be certainly, but there’s all sorts of variables at play – personal circumstances, peer groups, upbringing, etc. I have some sympathy with people, like the woman on the radio this morning who said she’d make her decision in the polling booth, because what hope of making an informed choice when the discourse is so child-like? Hence my contention that your research should begin years ahead of polling day, not four weeks ahead.

If you watched Brown’s Duffy nightmare and thought “well if that’s what he thinks of ordinary people then I can’t possibly vote for him”, fuck you because the notion of an ordinary person is dehumanising and entirely fictional and this patronising campaign is proof positive that all political parties think the same or worse when it comes to the “average” voter.

When Nick Clegg talks about the progressive vote, he’s doing so with his tongue in cheek, as he’s consciously made the decision to talk to the electorate like they were children and he was trying to explain sexual intercourse to them for the first time. New politics would be a system in which transparency coincided with an unprecedented push in political education – the subject being compulsory in schools from nursery to A-level for example, on the assumption that each 18 year needed full training in order to maximise the potential of their vote. Why isn’t politics compulsory you may ask? Surely every politician, having being brought to their position of power by an interest in the very subject I’m advocating, would want a better educated electorate? A cynic might say that this is the last thing they want, which is why it’s never happened. A politically educated electorate is very much harder to manipulate and would, lets face it, have torn this campaign apart.

You may also want to consider your hypocrisy in this bigotry business. Bigotry, let’s not forget is nigh on universal – only the targets differ. Brown was being bigoted when he showed his disdain for the kind of white working class voter he thinks Gillian Duffy represents. Everyone who watched Duffy speak and wrote her off as a feckless prole was showing their own hand. I had the misfortune to recently be at a dinner where one of the diners told me that Labour were certain to get in, whatever the polls said, because “of all the people on benefits.” These work shy scroungers, she told me, many of whom were black, would reward Labour for the increases to their benefits. “Why are they doing so badly amongst their traditional supporters?” I asked the fifty-something fuckwit, only to be told “I’m telling you they’ll win Edward”. You can see she’d given it some thought.


So will the Liberals break through tomorrow? I went to the Armchair Pundit Public House for a drink with my Father on Sunday. My Pere and I were talking about the Election and what we thought would happen. Well, I was talking and he was graciously pretending to listen. My father is one of the working class voters that psephologists find so irritating because he’s difficult to categorise. He’s always worked, mixed with people from different social backgrounds, has an inherent mistrust of organised labour, has generally voted Liberal all his life, except for the odd occasion, when he hasn’t, and is politically well informed. Having been on the shop floor (figuratively speaking) for most of his time, he’s soaked up a lot of political prejudice. Did he think people would actually take an imaginative leap and vote for Clegg’s shaggers on Thursday? No, he thought – not in sufficient numbers. The reason? Fear. People love the idea of change but then they get there, standing in the polling booth with the beads of sweet dripping down their face, alone with their prejudices, and they default to what feels safe. He thought that there was a streak of the population, and quite an influential one, that has that deferential streak and worse, these are the bastards who vote.

Many of the optimists in this election are the so-called soft voters – the young whippersnappers who’ve just woken up after a long political sleep to find themselves being spooned by Nick Clegg (although Cameron’s the only one who goes all night). I’ve enjoyed watching Clegg’s campaign. His pregnant pauses give you time to leave the room and make a snack during stump speeches and he’s always nicely turned out. Not only that but he’s brought back the mystery to elections by refusing to tell us which way he’d jump if, as we expect, parliament’s as well hung as he is (according to the graffiti above the common’s urinals).

Clegg is frightened of the voters and what they might do with hard information. Secretly he hopes for a mould shattering surge of support but this magical constituency is an unknown quantity. We don’t know if the residents of History West (population ???) intend to vote, are sensitive to coercion from more traditional voters and will therefore be influenced to change their mind or worse, will suffer a fatal loss of confidence in their cause and become a group of nihilistic fatalists who go for Cameron because it looks like he’s going to win anyway and he’s probably a pragmatist. Frighteningly for the future of Britain’s democracy, the fate of the so-called “progressive” cause is in the hands of this fickle cooperative of don’t knows. I’m willing the Liberals to do well and fight the good fight in the Commons – I just wish I believed that radical change would follow. My fear is that Clegg is Blair without the ideological baggage.

Labour’s fear is that they will cease to exist as a political force after tomorrow. The Independent gleefully stood around the open plot today and anxiously looked over their shoulders, willing on the pall bearers. Mark Steel is right to point out the branches of the old Labour party that stood them in good stead through good times and bad have withered in a pool of Blair’s urine. They may yet be replaced by the Liberals as the official opposition in the 2014/15 election – a sort of centennial switchback, but I doubt they’ll be wiped out completely on Thursday. The Conservative restoration (assuming there is one), would tell you that you can’t write Labour off.

Alright, Brown’s party is ideologically spent, bankrupt, talent free and looks increasingly irrelevant. It could be that it’s had its day and was, in the grand scheme of history, a 20th century movement that fatally misread the mood of the electorate at the very moment it got its hands on the levers of limitless power and alienated its core support in the process. On the other hand it may once again find its voice in opposition and come back fighting, particularly if a Cameron government decimates the welfare state, shreds the social fabric of the nation and makes us a nation of paupers.

Still, I’ll miss The Prince of Darkness. See you at the polling station.


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