Benedict Brogan penned a beautifully written piece for the Daily Telegraph this morning. It was about dying for democracy in the military, but how – as George Orwell once wrote – the abiding achievement of the United Kingdom has been to conduct its own politics ‘without killing each other’.
He ended the piece with these cheering words about the electorate:
There was ballot-box stuffing, beatings up, dirty tricks to make Mandelson look like a genuine pussy cat, and vile heckling at political meetings. I heard numerous first-hand accounts of swastika-daubed skinheads and wild-eyed mullahs screaming for the death and destruction of their opponents. I went to racist and fundamentalist websites and read genetic pornography of the worst kind. And in the middle of all this was ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway, seeming to relish the mayhem and hate he was helping to stir up – a smug showman puffing on his fat cigar aboard an open-topped bus, greeting Islamist supporters in his smattering of C’ran-speak and looking more pleased with himself than any truly caring politician should.
There has always been a lunatic fringe in British politics – the Oswald Mosleys, Arthur Scargills, Vanessa Redgraves, George Galloways, pop-eyed clerics and Harriet Harmans. The difference today is that they have more power, they understand how to discreetly undermine the State, and they have that same knack Hitler had of looking harmless – even reasonable – when it suits them. Mad people can do this. And Mad people are going mainstream in Britain.
This isn’t just in politics. Those in charge of the real EU Government and administration seem, much of the time, to be at least partially deranged. The men and women at the top of Friedmanite capitalism display frequent signs of both blindness and altered reality. Bourse floor-traders appear manic most days, buying stocks and bonds no balanced person would ever consider. The head of Goldman Sachs Loyd Blankfein last week look puzzled when asked to whom his first duty lay; his reply suggested he could see no viable objective beyond making more and more money for the coterie of people around him.
Former RBS boss Fred Goodwin fantasised about his sporting prowess, hoped the stars he hired might sprinkle some pixie-dust on him, and continues to be unclear as to why he was toppled, or indeed what all the fuss was about anyway. Soccer stars insist they cannot live as befits their social status on less than £90,000 a week. Soccer managers pay £60 million for one player, and gamble that this might earn them a place in Europe. A senior Christian cleric asks why the British should object to living under Sharia law. A judge awards £80,000 damages against a Council for planting a tree (half a century before) into which a citizen – who admits she was drunk – walked.
An electorate is only the sum of millions of products of a culture going down the tube, round the bend and up itself. It only takes one truly severe fisco-economic earthquake to make a lot more of these damaged folk not only heroes but also leaders. And cliched as the parallel might be after four weeks of desperately searching for new definitions of mediocrity, the same people who think the X-Factor contestants have genuine star quality are the same ones who flocked to the cause of Nick Clegg as a genuinely different type of politician.
We are about to consign one very disturbed and ambition-consumed Prime Minister to history. His replacement as Party leader may well be a woman so bigoted, she truly believes all male Ministers should have a female ‘decision-worker’ to guide them at all times. The most surprising events of the last three years for me have been Labour’s spineless lunacy in letting Gordon Brown become leader, and utter naivety in making Harriet Harman the second most voted-for person on the National Executive. That both of them survived in their posts suggests that the Parliamentary Party electorate is far from wise.
Only tonight’s results will tell us if the national electorate is still smart enough to get rid of people like Ed Balls, George Galloway and John Bercow, while at the same time ensuring a solid majority for the Party most likely to tackle the genuine reality of our fiscal profligacy and structural economic problems. I used to agree with Benedict Brogan’s view of The People, and I’d like nothing better than to carry on having such faith. But I’m no longer quite so sure.