Ah, bless! It’s conference season again, and here we are watching the Prime Minister (and I still can’t quite believe that happened) trying to rally the troops. Not just the stiffs mouldering gently in Manchester, but us. You know, the plebs.
According to the BBC website, Cameron’s speech ‘urged a “can-do” attitude and the “spirit of Britain” to see the country through to better times’. For some reason I have visions of the melty-faced man standing on his platform leading a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at this point, or piping the Dambusters March into the conference hall to rouse the post-lunch dozing of the geriatric masses.
It’s really hard to know where to start on why this speech, and the conference in general, is so idiotic and patronising. But, one must start somewhere, so let’s go for it:
- Remember before the 2010 election when Cameron re-branded the Conservatives and got rid of all that blue in the party image, and all that flag waving? Strange how it had all marvellously reappeared on the Conference stage this week. You couldn’t move for the Union Flag. Which annoyed me no end, because it’s not theirs to appropriate. But still, this is a minor quibble…
- This morning, a draft of Cameron’s speech was released to the press, who picked up on a phrase he used about management of debt. The original text read:
“The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.”
This magically became:
“The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That’s why households – all of us – are paying off the credit card and store card bills.”
But that was only after a shitstorm of criticism for the rather patronising off the cuff remark that only a very wealthy man could make so easily. But that’s not what annoyed me the most. What did annoy me most of all was the fact that, not actually having the balls to say what he meant in the first place, he cowered behind a “drafting error” and, ever the slimy PR droid, watered down what he originally said. Except such remarks stick, all it has done in the minds of many is confirm him as the arrogant pissweasel many of us already knew he was.
The coverage wasn’t entirely positive, including this, earlier post excoriating the PM for his lack of basic macroeconomic knowledge and using JM Keynes’ Paradox of Thrift to smash him repeatedly around the head for his stupidity. And still, he tries to exclusively blame the previous government for all the economy’s ills, at least to the public. At the recent inter-governmental meeting to try to paper of the cracks of the Greek fiasco, Cameron was forced to admit it was a global problem. Better yet, until 2008 and the banking crisis, Cameron’s Conservatives had pledged to match the then government’s spending commitments. Something doesn’t add up, so his pop at Ed Balls (even though he’s a bit of a tool) is a bit rich.
- Noticeably, Gideon’s well out of the way in Europe, and so unable to put his foot into his mouth once more. His speech to conference this year was so memorable I can’t remember a single thing he uttered. As a student of Modern History at Oxford, you’d think that our non-economist Chancellor would at least have a nodding acquaintance with the last time a government tried a massive austerity plan after a major financial crash (Herbert Hoover in the US in 1929). Too much to hope for, clearly.
- Theresa May. Sweet Jesus! Nothing to see here, move along…
- Which brings us to Michael Gove. Unfortunately. Or rather, to Cameron’s praise of some of the policies implemented by the man selectively bred over generations to remove his chin. Cameron was fulsome in his praise of the momentous step giving teachers the power to search pupils’ bags, but not so vociferous about the mess that getting a school place or the entire exam system is. And he was noticeably very, very quiet on universities, which are a disaster waiting to happen.
- Then another lazy pop at the benefits system which, though it does suffer from abuse, is not as big a money pit as money lost through tax evasion. Strangely silent on that one. As ever.
The worst part is that the message is the same across the mainstream political spectrum. None of the major parties is engaged with the public in any meaningful way. Clegg is a dead man walking; Milliband’s just a twitchy dork in an anorak. All from the same self-selecting and hermetically sealed off socio-politcal class. None of them are in any way convincing, or even credible. So the antipathy towards the political class is only going to get worse. And the hacks are fiddling while Rome burns around us, scoring their schoolboy debating society points over each other.
If anything, Cameron’s speech shows just how out of kilter he is with the country at large. Cuts are only just starting to bite, and are getting worse; the cost of living is spiralling, especially for heating and fuel bills; economic growth is flat-lining. Now, even the IMF is yelling at them to rein back on the scorched earth deficit reduction “strategy”. But there is no plan B, no clue, no idea. If his speech was pitched to make him sound somehow Churchillian, or even like Captain Mainwaring at a push, all he’s done is make himself look like Private Pike.