It says something about the state of the UK when over ten million of its adult population choose to spend an hour of their time watching three virtually identikit politicians regurgitate three almost interchangeable responses to a series of preset questions and go wild with excitement. The media claimed the next day that the American-style format ‘leaders debate’ had ‘electrified’ voters and galvanised a previously lacklustre campaign and made the previously unelectable Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg the viewers’ favourite, a bit like the X-Factor, though with Peter Mandelson taking Simon Cowell’s role, Brown playing Subo and Clegg and David Cameron doubling up as Jedward. So far there’s all to play for, though, whoever wins, the loser will be the UK and its people.
Since the ousting of Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Conservative party in 1990, British politics began the process of morphing from nasty to nice and from nice to bland and from bland to banal. Firstly, the inability of the Labour Party to mount a credible campaign against the Conservatives kept them out of office for over eighteen years, necessitating the creation of New Labour and the election of a media-savvy leader in the form of Tony Blair. Secondly, Blair transformed Labour’s fortunes to such an extent that the Conservatives in turn became unelectable and ensured that New Labour has had thirteen years in office, a feat almost unimaginable a decade ago.
Blair’s triumph was that he was able to tap into the psyche of New Britain in a way that no one else, except perhaps Simon Cowell, could and, in doing so, stymied the opposition to such an extent that it was effectively dead. So dead, in fact, that the Conservatives have, rather than reinvent themselves as a credible alternative to New Labour, sought to become New Labour, Right. The Liberal Democrats in turn, have slowly moved from a party of ban the bomb, lentil-eating greenies to a slightly fadish and more socialist version of their previous selves and become, in effect, New Labour, Left. Blair, ironically, had admired Thatcher and her strength in sticking to her beliefs, something Blair, to his credit, did over Iraq but, to their shame, our opposition have no sense of. To them, belief is what they think voters want or what their focus groups tell them we want or, worse, is a watered down, or beefed-up version of an existing Blair or New Labour policy. If it worked for Blair then it will work for us. Radical ideas, like radical politics, are out. British politics is now lite and trite.
Now Blair’s Dauphin, Gordon Brown, the anointed one and his chosen successor is seeking to carve out his own niche and to wear the crown of elected office, something that has so far eluded him in his sham role as unelected Prime Minister and saviour of the world. Likewise, Clegg and Cameron are seeking the voters’ approval so that they too might savour elected office and yet they offer nothing. No new ideas, no new initiatives, no nothing. We have weak men, appealing to a weak electorate with neither able or willing to accept or utter the truth that our country is teetering on the abyss; financially, socially and morally.
Now, our would-be leaders feed and nurture belief that the worst is behind us that by some clever trickery and word manipulation, printing money became quantitative easing for instance, that they have all but conquered the recession. That we can avoid any hurt by cost cutting ‘savings’, by making our public services more efficient. This is against a national debt that is increasing by half a billion a day, which currently stands at £776bn and which, according to the governments own figures, is due to reach £1,406bn by 2014/15. Further, if government spending continues at current levels then as a percentage of GDP it will rise from 70pc now to 500pc of GDP by 2040 with the interest alone equaling 27pc of GDP. These figures are from the Bank of International Settlements the body for the world’s central banks and are contained within a report called The Future of Public Debt: prospects and implications. What they mean is that the UK is bankrupt and borrowing like a man possessed, with the report showing that, aside from Japan, which has higher savings, UK public spending is the highest in the world, totally out of control and heading for disaster.
Yet, our three main political parties are now virtually interchangeable, sub-Blair clones, scared of offending, scared of losing and scared of being different. Not for these men the hard choices and true cost cutting that hurts, that will bring protest and pain yet ultimately might go some way to averting disaster. No, what we have instead is inaction and inertia, the politics of fudging and prevarication, of sound bites and friendly chats on TV sofas, all driven by the politics of needing to be liked. Gone is the genuine passion of the convicted politician whose ideal’s drive him and in has come the need me, like me, fay politicians of today, the X-Factoresque Tweedle Dee’s and Tweedle Dum’s who will dance to almost any tune provided enough of us can hum it. Men and women whose message is vote for me because I’m nice and leave the nasty stuff to someone else.
Leaving the nasty to someone else is fine of course, provided that whatever bogey man is lurking in the wings stays away. We all like the nice and calm but, by and large, we don’t elect politicians to be nice and, more to the point, it’s usually the nasties that we ultimately remember and respect. Churchill’s demands to rearm and resist Nazi Germany weren’t exactly popular at the time as most of the electorate dismissed his dire warnings as warmongering. Thatcher was almost universally loathed when she tackled the Trade Unions and government overspending. In the US, Reagan was shot and mocked for his stand against communist Russian but all three politicians had stood up for what they believed to be right and more importantly had done what they knew had to be done at a time what doing so made them reviled by many.
Are Brown, Clegg or Cameron prepared to be reviled for tackling this countries spiraling debt? No, though they may well be reviled later for being nice and delaying the pain. But right now, they want to be liked so much that they’re not even admitting the extent of the problem. They’re lying, in fact; lying because they’re still spending and promising to do what we can’t afford; lying by printing money; lying by hoping that inflation will magically reduce the debt and, most of all, they’re lying because they all refuse to address our debt honestly and by doing so they cheapen and discredit our democracy, devaluing it to the point that one day soon someone might just kill it off and put it out of its misery ...