Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Victorian lesbian strikes again


It's local elections day on Thursday, and our annual opportunity not just to give Blair a bloody nose but to stick him in the morgue (note to any policemen, security officials or Home Office employees reading: this is irony, OK? Mind you, I'm safe from their prying eyes for a while, as I'm a British citizen and therefore not a priority at the moment).

Understandably, as Davide has already pointed out, Labour are desperate to deflect attention away from their crises at national level and to argue that the campaign is purely about 'local issues'. They're also desperate to frighten their supporters into voting for them no matter what, by conjuring up spectres of something far, far worse, as I've noted before.

Whose turn is it among Blair loyalists on the back benches to attempt this futile sleight of hand? Step forward, Kitty Ussher, MP for Burnley (whose name is not, alas, Victorian slang for a lesbian, but it was a nice thought). Take a look at Kitty's article in today's Guardian.

Now, the Guardian is fast recasting itself as a mouthpiece for the New Labour project (good old Polly Toynbee is pushing her stupid nosepeg idea again - saying, in effect, "we know New Labour are shit, but vote for them anyway, because, hell, just do it; I can't think of any reason why you should, but look at them, the poor dears, they might not have a job on Friday". By the way, Polly, since you brought up the metaphor of Hitler's bunker, aren't you doing the Goebbels job of saying, "we may be surrounded on all sides and being virtually wiped out, but we'll come through and turn the tables, you'll see". Perhaps you haven't seen Downfall - it's jolly good. Might get you thinking.)

Anyway, back to Kitty. Apparently, everything in the garden's Red Rosey:
If you believe everything you read in the papers, it's all going to be a disaster. All I can say is I'd like to invite the people who write the papers to join me knocking on some doors in Burnley. Sure, it isn't all a bed of roses, but it certainly isn't (famous last words) in any senses a meltdown.
The justification for Kitty's optimism? No one's talking about Prescott, Hewitt or Clarke on the doorsteps, she claims. Even assuming that Kitty is talking to real voters and not some reality-starved glass-eyed party loyalists, people aren't going to say to her face something like, "I was all set to put my cross next to Labour with enthusiasm, but when Prescott dropped his trousers I immediately thought, no, I'm not having this, I'm switching to the Tories". As Polly herself reports (Polly? Kitty? Have we been over-run by pets? Perhaps we have - so craven has the Guardian become that we might as well rename every columnist Fido), voters react to Labour with sullen silence or laughter. They don't rationalise their voting decisions based on one incident. The disenchantment with New Labour started years ago, long before the Prescott affair hit the papers, long before Hewitt was barracked, long before Clarke decided he was competent enough to sort out a mess of his own making.

Kitty goes on to plug the 'local issues' line:
You cannot dispute the investment my town is currently receiving. A new leisure centre, a new health centre with new NHS dentists in it, sure start rolling out. Hundreds of millions committed and being spent to sort out our sub-standard housing, with house prices at last rising again as a result. Regeneration projects on the old canals finally coming on stream. Five brand new secondary schools given the go-ahead. Exam results better. Plans to have a new retail centre with the high-street brand shops Burnley needs and wants coming to town. A new hospital building, delivered on time and to budget. Waiting lists down, life expectancy up. Add it all up and it comes to half a billion pounds over the next few years. And that's just in my constituency.
It's an age-old device of political talk that, when you can't think of what to say, you start listing. But let's leave that aside. What Kitty fails to do is to show that there is a connection between what she says is happening in her constituency and the voters' perception of it. She forgets that people use local elections to judge the parties nationally. They don't look at a new leisure centre in the town and think, "cor, Tony Blair must have organised this building personally, I'm definitely going to vote Labour now". They see the things that are going well, but they don't credit national government with it. What we're left with is a list of vague achievements which Kitty sees and marvels at, but people on the ground barely notice (at least in any political sense). Pleading with your voters to ignore all the fuck-ups and "look at the wuvly new swimming pool" is shameful and insults their intelligence and perception.

Undaunted, Kitty plays the other trump card (not seeing that its face value has diminished rapidly): the good ol' BNP. Except, apparently, they're nothing to worry about, either. Careful, Kitty, aren't you going off-message?
I'm fairly confident we'll beat them then. Their popularity has peaked. They were on a roll a couple of years ago but when people realised that they had nothing constructive to offer [...] that support ebbed away just as fast as it had arrived. They're still a large part of the political landscape but they just don't have that kind of fashion appeal that they used to.
Fashion appeal? Oh, so people voted BNP because it was fashionable? Blimey, that Nick Griffin, he's the new Brad Pitt.

Actually, what's probably going on here is the kind of reverse psychology that Curious Hamster once referred to with reference to the government's warnings about the terrorist threat (can't find the post, CH, help me out if you get a chance): only start worrying when they tell you there's nothing to worry about. The government magnifies the threat of terrorism (which is not to deny the reality of 7/7) in order to conceal the fact that the threat is not all that great, and their anti-terrorist measures are not really called for. In the same way, the government has tried to magnify the threat posed by the BNP in order to scare its supporters into voting after all. The fact that people like Kitty are trying to be reassuring suggests that the threat is real and that Burnley Labour councillors are deeply concerned. So they bloody well should be - not because of the BNP, but because their dipstick MP is writing mindless crap like this.

Weather forecast looks good for Thursday. Expect a high turn-out. Of Tories, that is.


Blogger CuriousHamster said...

I remember the post but I can't find it unfortunately. Blogger's search facility really is a bit variable.

That hadn't occurred to me but you may be right, particularly in a place like Burnley with a history of BNP support. The Labour turnout is expected to be so low that they might be genuinely starting to worry about BNP gains.

If the BNP does do well, Kitty will no doubt be on hand to assure us that the simultaneous collapse in support for New Labour is a totally unrelated phenomenon. She'd probably even believe it.

5:41 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home