AN ERUPTION OF SMOKESCREEN


The good thing about volcanoes is their sense of proportion.

All this week, the people of Britain have been subjected to something over which they had no control at all. Yes, elections are awful – but I was talking about the Icelandic volcano. Without warning, bang it went…..and bang went everybody’s travel arrangements.

Volcanoes have two good points. First, they are enormous and unpredictable. They cut Man down to size, and act as a reminder that we are, ultimately, a bit of a piffling and insignificant species. The Obama man who would go to Mars now cannot get to a funeral.

Second, they show to the climate-change debaters just how nasty the Earth can be when it feels like it. I suspect the anti-warmists won’t notice, because they’re all too busy coming up with conspiracy theories about why big business wants to hypnotise the rest of us into believing in something that doesn’t exist, eg melting ice-caps and dry things that weren’t dry before and daffodils in January. And of course for the Ed Milibands of life, it’s a chance to turn the cloud-shots into striking ads saying look how nasty this carbon stuff is. Well it would be wouldn’t it – we’re all made from the stuff.

For real people, the volcano merely confirms what we know already, because we are all minor variations on normal. That is, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans; and clearly something is happening to the Earth’s climate – and the most likely correlation we have is that Man’s breathing and farting – and his livestock breathing and farting – have trebled in the last fifty years. The population grew just 50% in the 600,000 years before that. This is not good, we have to do something etc etc.

Politicians don’t think like that of course, because they ignore anything they can’t fix – which these days is pretty much everything. And hey – compared to some piss-ant volcano, ain’t no community in the world that can put up a smokescreen like Westminster can. Think about this selection from the last week.

Gordon Brown is being placed on the left of the audience for the TV debates, because ‘his failing eyesight’ means he will be at a disadvantage in any other position. Eight months ago the Slog’s predecessor nby was vilified by the Establishment for suggesting there was anything wrong with his eyesight.

During the last six days, George Osborne’s been on his holidays. At least, that’s what it looks like. Have you seen him in public apart from the Manifesto launch? Have you heard him say anything? Three weeks ago, the Slog scooped the reality of a rift between Cameron and Osborne over election strategy. Osborne broke out and went his own way, while Dave sulked for a few days. Tory HQ dismissed the whole story as ‘utter rubbish’. Now Osborne has become an unperson. The truth is that George has been told to shut up because he’s frightening the children. Hence the lack of any d for deficit words this week. And yes, yes, I know it’s in the LibDem Manifesto – but Nick hasn’t mentioned it once.

If you look hard enough in the LibDem book of the film, you can find everything – except of course the words ‘proportional’ and ‘representation’ in that order. Does this represent a policy shift? Ooooh, nooohahahaha. Is this a prep for a deal with Labour after May 6th? ‘Total nonsense’ says the man at HQ.

A smokescreen can hide anything from bitter power struggles to backstairs negotiations, from high-level corruption on a grand scale to the Prime Minister’s health. It can disguise a drug habit, get MI6 onto the disappearance of evidence about a leader’s sexuality, start a war, kill a senior civil servant and obfuscate national debt repayment. A smokescreen can do anything if the media are too lazy, circulation obsessed and celebrity-distracted to get off their backsides and interrogate. For too many in the press pack today, life has become exactly that – a press pack. Read the release, get it up there by lunchtime, sprinkle on a bit of gossip, and Bob’s yer uncle.

The press/politics relationship has now become so cosy that for all his egomania and fantasism, Guido Fawkes is right: they exist purely for each other – not for us, the People. There was a wonderful example of this slip showing last night, as Jon Sopel interviewed Alistair Stewart about what it was like dealing with three nursery children, sorry, Party leaders.

Sopel said there had been the most ridiculous discussion beforehand about the order in which people would shake hands at the end. Eventually, a format was agreed – which when it came to it, Brown promptly reneged on. That’s what we should be finding out about.