Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ministry for Silly Ideas

So the Tory farce continues. I was getting worried that the obsolete bunch of kooks and crackpots - resembling nothing more than an escaped Monty Python sketch gone on the rampage - were starting to be taken seriously again. Opinion polls had started to claim that people were willing to consider giving Michael "Poll Tax" Howard... Michael "Criminal Justic Bill" Howard... a shot at being Prime Minister! And apparently sane people were advocating a Tory vote as a weapon against Blair's lies.

Ridding the house of pests by burning it down. A tactic which appears more staggeringly stupid each time I think about it. "We don't like your lies Tony, and we don't like how far Right you've got... so we'll empower some right wing extremists, in the hope that they might do something about it". I mean... what!? It's also the single most conservative argument I've heard lately; thoroughly reinforcing the existing two-right-wing-party system. Yay!

Y'know... I've just talked myself out of displaying the Backing Blair banner. Every time I see that advice to vote for Tory Jane "Friend of The Motorist" Wright in Walthamstow, against a genuinely (and vocal) anti-war Labour backbencher it makes me want to throw something heavy at the screen. A protest vote in this constituency is a Green vote. To claim otherwise is dishonesty. In my neighbourhood, therefore, Backing Blair functions as nothing less than an active part of the Tory campaign. It advocates the repeal of the London congestion charge. It advocates war in Iraq. It advocates immigration policies "like they do in Australia". Yes. Like they do in Australia.

So yeah, as much as I dig Operation Henman, I can't - in good conscience - support a campaign that advocates empowering those who would implement such policies.

But I may not have to worry too much. For a hero has appeared in our time of need... in the unlikely form of Howard Flight. Howard is Tory MP for Arundel, a place I know well... very Sussex Conservative; retired colonels and their immaculately coiffured wives, tea shops and antique shops. Mr. Flight is - of course - a typical piece of Tory pondscum, but he's demonstrating to the whole nation just how obviously absurd Michael Howard is.

Howard Flight is one of the architects of the Tory spending plan. The report he helped put together claims that Labour is wasting 35 billion pounds every year. Tax revenue that is - in essence - going down the drain. And so, claim the Tories, we can eliminate that 35 billion in waste, put lots of it into public services (thereby increasing government spending - popular in Europe), and still have enough left over to ease the burden on us all (thereby lowering taxes - popular everywhere).

The tories promise to raise spending and lower taxes. Hey, they'll promise you the moon on a stick if you promise them your vote. I can just see the next Tory election poster. Oliver Letwin stands against the wall of a dark alley, he's got his wallet in his hand and he's taking a couple of notes out. The caption reads... "psssst. I'll bung you a score for that vote you've got there."

Anyways, it's all well and good. This is the kind of thing we expect during the run up to an election (as an aside... isn't it instructive that most American readers will probably be unaware that there's an election campaign going on over here? Though I guess the fact that most UK-based bloggers have suddenly become political pundits might give it away).

But then what happened was Mr. Flight got recorded talking about all the other "waste" that was identified, but which was considered politically unacceptable to mention just before an election. The implication being (if one were to believe NuLabor) that the Tories were clearly planning to phase out the NHS entirely and make old people work in salt mines in return for their pension.

More realistically however, Mr. Flight's comments did seem to imply that the Tory spending cuts may well go further than was being admitted publicly. That's pretty much the most you could read into them. But it provoked a reaction from Michael Howard, the Conservative leader and self-styled "Emperor of Mars", which was filled with such unintentional comedy that surely the nation has now been saved from voting for this silly silly man.

First Michael Howard fired Howard Flight from the Tory front-bench (the man was Deputy Chairman of the Party and architect of the spending plan, let's remember, not some backbench rabble-rouser). Then Michael Howard withdrew the party whip (effectively putting an MP on double-secret probation). And then told Mr. Flight that he was fired from the party and would not be allowed stand as a Conservative at the next election.

Almost immediately after announcing this publicly, however, Michael Howard found himself in the embarrassing position of having to listen to Howard Flight phone the BBC and tell them that actually Michael Howard didn't have the authority to fire him. That lay with his local constituency party, who could - under party rules - select pretty much whoever they wanted as their representative (and though, by and large, the local party would tend to adhere to central policy, this was by no means a given). Mr. Flight even threatened legal action.

Then Michael Howard made his second error of judgment. He made a televised statement from his kitchen table. The place looked like a freaking TV studio. But you just knew it was his house. That was a cognitive dissonance I'd not encountered before. On top of that, they guy has no charisma at all. None! I mean, I have more charisma than Michael Howard. So when he looks deep into the camera and explains deep from his heart (in, what? 15 takes? 30?) just how deeply deeply saddened he is by the recent deep events, you just want to give the guy a slap!

That's the gut-level response. Thankfully most of us can control those urges (the main reason Michael Howard doesn't sport more black eyes I wager) long enough to hear what he said. With all the charm of your creepy uncle that never gets invited over any more, he explained that Howard Flight was fired because there was no room in the modern Conservative Party for politicians who say one thing in public, but another thing in private.

And all over the nation, people in their millions were suddenly jolted into remembering they were watching a Monty Python sketch, and not actually a serious contender for a position of power. Everyone already knows that all politicians say one thing in public and another thing in private. And everyone already knows what the Tories are saying in public. It took Howard Flight's secret recorder to reveal what they are saying in private.

And Michael Howard's comedy kitchen routine was the hilarious attempt to make us believe that what the Tories are saying in public is the Truth. And what they are saying in private is Lies. Are they mad? On drugs? Or just really, really dim?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Howard is on the James Whale show on Talksport radio (1089/1053 AM) this evening at 10pm. Yes, that's right, James Whale! That James Whale. Could this be Howard's next big blunder? Maybe Whale will be generous to him, still recovering from the shock he agreed to do the show.


29/3/05 13:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And in the Sunday Times I remember reading that Blair phoned in to "The Jono Coleman Show" (on some London station I don't get)last week to commiserate with "Jono" on his show being cancelled. I mean, bloody hell, you'd think that he had better things to do indeed. Another month or so of this taking the piss to go. At this rate what are the odds on Tony or Michael Howard making a guest appearance on Dick and Dom in da Bungalow before the 5th of May?

31/3/05 13:41  

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