David Cameron and Ed Miliband
Published: 31 March, 2015
by ILLTYD HARRINGTON
LAST week I hid from the world and noisy children. For five hours I experienced the gamut of human emotions – hope, anger, contempt, reverence, revenge and, ultimately, triumph. I was transported by the ecstasy of human involvement and endeavour on the rugby field. It was one of those afternoons when television allows people like me to dive into the humanity of it all – cheering the Welsh, encouraging the Irish and cursing the French.
Meanwhile, the rusting political machine clanked on like an early silent movie. The various minnows, sharks, whales and crabs flooded out of the glass bowl of Westminster, and spread inertia in their wake. It was the bull ring without the bull, opera without Maria Callas, and a wet Sunday on the Isle of Man.
Contrast this with the general election of 1945, when teenagers were enthusiastic for Labour. A new age was coming. And it did. Now the major parties are slow in giving the vote to the 16-year-olds and they accuse the young of being indifferent; not stopping for a moment to consider that it might be the politicians and policies that cause these young people to refuse to become voting fodder.
This is a dying parliament that avoided truth by delaying tactics. The Chilcot report on the Iraq war has been delayed until after the election; add to that the reports of horrifying sexual attacks on children, some purporting to have come from the Palace of Westminster. And yet the Civil Service cover their complacency by kicking the report into the long grass – five or 10 years ahead.
The saddest feature on the political landscape is the stifling of satire and criticism. Hecklers are treated as if they are dangerously reeking in body odour. No politician should be beyond criticism, whatever the form (except of course assassination). They have bounced the word irony out of the political dictionary. The BBC has been under constant threat from Tory hard men.
A look at the dramatis personae in the theatre of politics shows a Tory front bench who most resemble pork butchers in medieval Lincoln. The Prime Minister himself has become quite a drama queen, and a dab hand at fixing the make-up. Bring back Spitting Image! Ed Miliband plays a more enlightened role, although I doubt if his arranged speeches talking to the faithful will have any effect on traditional Labour, which comes out conscientiously to support them. It is quite astounding to hear Labour say that in government they will operate a Tory budget for a year, repeating the choice made by Tony Blair on his election in 1997. They need to rediscover John Maynard Keynes’s simple economic doctrine to deal with austerity. It is investment, public spending and raising taxes. It does work.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat Party looks like the retreat from Moscow. Things are made even more ridiculous when Danny Alexander, one of the architects behind the cuts, appears to be a reluctant champion of expenditure. His phony chancellor’s briefcase was appropriately yellow.
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has obviously been overcome by the ghostly presence of Lord Palmerston, his 19th-century predecessor. Hammond threatened Russia last week, almost in Palmerstonian terms. A warship would be sent to warn Russia about the Ukraine, though obviously it would have to be transported over land first because Ukraine is virtually landlocked.
Labour’s is not a happy picture. Its attack troops are not reassuring; too often they have come up from Oxford and never did a 9 to 5 job. Then hope is at hand. Lord Prescott, Labour’s stereotype working-class hero, is summoned to handle matters appertaining to the environment, although to my savage eye it looks as though he has eaten most of it.
The remainder of Labour’s troops hanker for a possible job as Mayor of London or police commissioner somewhere.
But be assured, a television journalist assured me this morning that Ed Balls is more restrained. He has had his hair cut and has lost a little weight – admirable qualifications for a chancellor.
Labour are facing a government which wants to spend an additional £1bn on Trident while, at the same time, social security is requisitioning cars from crippled people.
When I was a young member of the Labour Party, old miners would remind us this: Man, we are told, lives to work; but socialists say, No, he works to live.