Like the smog in south-east England, this week an air of unreality descended to blanket the election. On the one hand voters were faced with a blizzard of promises and threats, on the other the whole charade was revealed to be a micro-managed publicity stunt. The Conservative Party promised to properly fund the NHS; Labour promised to take on the super-rich. Both hoped people would overlook the tiny detail that neither has any track record in either of these areas.
Both continue to demand a blank cheque. The Tories refuse to spell out where they’d make their cuts, or how they’d fund the NHS; Labour prevaricates. One minute it’s sticking with its pledge to match Tory/Lib Dem austerity and merely replace ‘Tory’ cuts with ‘sensible’ cuts, the next it’s implying that perhaps no further cuts will actually be necessary, although ruling out the tax rises that could make this possible.
Meanwhile, the great British, or should that be English, electorate stumbles on in the dark, no wiser and a large chunk of them unable to get up the energy to care any more. Bribes and cajolements are one half of the parliamentarians’ assault on our senses. The other is threats. The politics of promises have to be laced with a strong dose of fear. If we don’t vote Conservative we face a ‘coalition of chaos’; if we don’t vote Labour we might as well volunteer to carry Cameron back into Number 10 on our shoulders.
Interpellated by the parties as ‘hard working families’, real families work hard to sieve understanding from a process designed more to legitimate the power of a well-heeled and well-entrenched ruling elite than enable us consumer-subjects to choose our representatives. There’s nothing new in this of course. Almost as soon as the landed class began reluctantly to extend the franchise in 1832 political parties have been pulled into the breach to organise and discipline voters as well as MPs.
For almost two centuries now parliamentary parties have functioned to channel the potentially unruly energy and vision of ordinary folk into support for a parliamentary elite. Activists’ dreams and desires are sucked up by these party black holes as they’re transformed into a supporting role. This meets its nadir in the banal spectacle of appearing as bit-part actors in a parliamentary tableau. A gang of credulously naïve supporters are cajoled into standing behind candidates holding up witless and irritating signs and grinning moronically. Seemingly pioneered by the Liberal Democrats, who deserve to roast in hell for this innovation, this excruciating form of self-abasement is now commonplace.
This role as a willing but essentially brain-dead tribalist backdrop was exposed here in Cornwall this week when Cameron visited ‘all the nations’ of the UK in a day. Either taking his own nation – England – for granted, or unable to count beyond four, Cameron ended up at the show ground at Wadebridge, apparently under the delusion Poldark had been filmed there. What looked on TV like an eager crowd of hundreds of supporters was later revealed as a small bunch of Tory enthusiasts huddled at the very end of a large, cavernous exhibition hall.
The symbolism of this, bromidic sound-bites chaotically colliding in a vast empty space, was not lost. Even journalists from Britain’s shackled press and the BBC’s Ministry of Truth were by the end of the week pointing to the absurd levels of micro-management being applied by paranoid party spin-doctors. Despite jetting around the UK (greenest government ever) Cameron for example has yet to have an unplanned, spontaneous encounter with an actual voter, someone not invited or vetted by his team.
As the hydra-headed Cameron/Clegg/Farage/Miliband monster stalks the land with its message of quiet desperation and business as usual, one of the most popular questions on Google has been ‘can I vote for the SNP if I live in England?‘ While demonstrating that the project of dumbing down the population to the point where it’s fit only to languish in a neo-liberal hell is working well, this question has undertones of an endearing yearning for something, anything, better than the current ‘offer’.
And no, they can’t vote for the SNP in England. But in Cornwall surely we can vote for something very close. It comes in the shape of
MK, the party that must not be named, even if it’s banned by the Ministry of Truth until polls safely close on May 7th. Perhaps MK should make more of this.
And if anyone is able to raise a flicker of interest, here’s this week’s poll movements to peruse while I return to lie down in a darkened room.
|w/e April 10||w/e April 3||change|