A Stronger Stable
Is there any other walk of life where you are allowed to make the kind of rash, frankly pie in the sky, promises that politicians make? Advertising? Sales? Finance? All of them are under strict legal control about what you’re permitted to get away with. You can’t promise a rate of interest that’s unachievable. You can’t make direct claims for a beauty product. You can’t sell something that doesn’t exist. Politicians however have free reign to stalk the land with their ‘better education with lower taxes’ nonsense, their ‘the economy will be fine, I mean we’re British aren’t we?’ slipperiness; promising everything for that one extra vote and with no comeback whatsoever.
In a way, it’s almost admirable of Theresa May to avoid interaction of any kind with anyone not on message. She might be led down a dark alley of policy and the problem with policy is that some people might not like it. Whereas if all you’re promising is ‘strong and stable’ leadership, people can’t really object. 48% of the electorate aren’t going to attend the focus groups demanding an end to ‘strong and stable’ and a future commitment to weak and rickety. She might sound like a cracked record, or like she’s buffering, but she’s not going to be held ransom to promises that might come back to embarrass her. Jeremy Corbyn comes out with a load of policy ideas and is immediately ridiculed for doing so, free university tuition fees, free hospital parking and so on and he’s lambasted for apparently taking Britain ‘back to the 70s’. Lambasted incidentally by the same people who’ve been campaigning to take Britain, er, back to the 70s and pre-EU trade and ‘sovereignty’. You can’t nationalise the railways or energy companies? People scream, ‘What is this, Russia?’ But many railway companies (Gatwick Express, Docklands Light Railway, Southern) and electricity (EDF) are already nationalised because they’re owned by French state-owned companies. French. State-Owned. Companies. So, it seems that some people on the right are all for British industry and services to be nationalised and owned by government, just not to be owned by the British government.
Again, no one can really argue against a lot of what Labour promises to do, ‘what do you mean you’ll build affordable housing? Are you mad?’, but there’s simply no way it can all be paid for if you go ahead with Brexit, certainly a Brexit which removes the principle of Freedom of Movement, and is therefore a Hard Brexit. These policies are as much of a pipe dream as the Leavers’ pre-referendum promise to ‘increase the number of skilled curry chefs allowed to enter the UK should we leave the EU.’ ‘It hasn’t happened’ cried leading curry-restaurant owners in the papers this week. Really? No way! It’s almost like these charlatans will promise anything to anyone…
Maybe I’m just a bit sore about commitment right now, like anyone I fall for the pledges every time, hoping that this time, just this once, I won’t be conned. Well. I’ve been conned. I’ve been had, duped, treated like a rube. I feel like the old man hoodwinked out of his life savings by the slick door to door salesman; I’m crushed in defeat, ashamed at my own naivety.
I distinctly remember the early conversations. ‘Yes Natalie,’ I said, ‘you can rescue that pony but the two bullying, aggressive goats have to go first.’ I remember too Natalie’s response.
‘OK.’ She said, ‘it won’t be easy though…’
She may as well have written that early campaign pledge on the side of a sodding bus. Remarkably a new home was found for the goats, the Chateau de Valençay had a couple of goat-vacancies in their mini-farm and were prepared to take the wretched beasts off our hands. Then the rolling back of the campaign vow began, then the politician in Natalie emerged. What if getting rid of the goats upset the balance of things as they are? She said, what if the existing horse and the remaining goat pined for their missing colleagues? Yes, well, the horse I couldn’t vouch for, but my guess is Bambi, the remaining goat, might possibly rediscover the spring in his step should he not be subject to vicious bullying and attempts at male prison rape style rodgering every few minutes. But goats are odd fish, maybe he enjoys it. Also, Natalie continued, laying it on thick. She couldn’t live with herself if they had to be parted and it turned out for the worst.
It’s clever politicking that’s all. Democracy. We had a policy discussion, concessions were made, and after due consideration a new policy was forged to reflect the reality of the situation. It’s how these things work. Theresa May has suggested there’ll be a Parliamentary free vote on Fox Hunting if she’s elected, because she’s always ‘believed in Fox Hunting.’ She’d always ‘believed’ in staying in the EU too, but she buckles at a similar level of parliamentary involvement there. The thing is, she’s just done what Natalie did that’s all, dangled a carrot to get people on board. She’s no fool, she needs the countryside vote in the future because she’s well aware that a post Hard-Brexit Britain, with little international trade, a banking system that’s moved to the continent and a farming industry no longer subsidised by the EU, will probably have to live off fox meat anyway. It’s all we’ll have left, by ensuring that their capture will also involve some form of exercise might equally be a way to cure the childhood obesity problem.
Natalie was doing basically the same, selling me a policy that I’m dead against and dressing it up as beneficial and for the greater good. Field animal living, she oozed, is a delicate, fragile relationship and one must avoid upsetting the successful dynamic. Right. Whereas adding a new pony into this brittle ecosystem is a surefire winner, is it? We’ll just have to see about that, I was told, and the new pony duly arrived to join the throng ‘on a trial basis’. ‘It’s just here on a trial basis’ is Natalie-speak for ‘We’re going to set up a public inquiry.’ It’s a news burier basically. She knows it, I know it, and I swear the new pony winked at Natalie as she walked in through the gate, because she knows it too.
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