Tribalism and dumbing down – party leaders speak out

ORIGINALLY POSTED APRIL 23, 2013

It’s clear that the Tory/Lib Dem notion of ‘localism’ is a hollow sham, masking what is in reality the exact reverse, the centralisation of planning powers in the naked pursuit of mindless and unsustainable ‘growth’ at all costs while providing an outdoor relief scheme for hard-hit property developers and volume housebuilders. But what about ‘local’ elections? The Westminster-fixated parties treat them as mere opportunities for voters to pass judgement on the only thing that really matters to them – those who sit at the dark heart of the British state. The last thing they, or the London-orientated media, want to do is to unleash a serious discussion of the real issues facing us in next week’s unitary elections in Cornwall.

Clegg preaches austerity at Eden Project (cost to taxpayers £squillions and rising)
Clegg preaches austerity at Eden Project (cost to taxpayers £squillions and rising)

Recent party launches for the ‘local’ elections perfectly illustrated their approach. They shared three things. First, they were generous with vague and meaningless promises. Clegg assured us that Lib Dems would ‘spread the burden of austerity fairly’(!) while Miliband said Labour would ‘stand up for the right people’.

Second, they spouted irrelevant or inaccurate claims and occasionally, to be brutally frank, downright lies. Miliband talked about cancelling the tax cuts for the rich while Cameron promised to ‘restore fairness’ to the welfare system (by cutting it). But what have either of these things got to do with local councils? The answer is nothing at all.

Meanwhile, Clegg came up with a classic reason to rush to the polling booth to put a cross by the nearest Lib Dem. ‘This year the Lib Dems haven’t closed a single library’. This is supposed to be a reason for dancing in the streets?? In other respects though, Clegg was a bit short of the truth. Launching the Lib Dems’ campaign at the Eden Project Clegg told the assorted depressed and miserable Lib Dem candidates that the Lib Dems had ‘successfully stopped’ the Cornwall council tax rise proposed by the Tories. Which was quite a spin on events. In the real world the Lib Dems, supported by a majority of the Tories, saved the hard-pressed householder around 40p a week (at the cost of another 300 jobs) by rejecting the budget proposals of the Independent administration backed by a minority of the Tories.

Finally, promises and lies are coupled with relentlessly negative campaigning. We are urged to vote against something or the sky will fall in, but rarely to vote for something. Miliband spent his time attacking the Tories, desperately trying to suggest these elections in rural England and Cornwall were only a choice between Labour and Tories. Clegg said that a vote for Labour or the Tories would be ‘the same thing’, again getting it dramatically wrong. Even a semi-conscious BBC news hack might conclude that this was presumably a slip of the tongue. What Clegg had meant to say was surely ‘a vote for the Lib Dems or the Tories will be the same thing’, given they are the constituent parts of the same coalition government, an embarrassment Clegg is apparently trying to keep secret.

Meanwhile, Cameron echoed Miliband by assuring us that the only ‘real choice is between Tories and Labour’. He dispatched his party chairman Grant Shapps to Cornwall to inform the credulous masses that voting Ukip would ‘put Ed Miliband into No 10’. This dumbing down, in addition to treating the Cornish voter as a complete moron, must be scraping the bottom of the idiot’s guide to the elections barrel. Until now I thought was voting for a local councillor but apparently I’m actually voting for or against young Ed.

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