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Waking up and smelling the coffee

Having been smug and secure for decades in my conviction that politics is a simply a game played by politicians, I’m rapidly coming to the view that the EU may be the perfect and least hypocritical example of all. The one thing that can be said for the EU powers-that-be is that at least they make no secret of their contempt for ordinary voters – and indeed ordinary nations.

This week, as the extraordinary contest for the Labour leadership lurches towards its conclusion, we continue to see Labour grandees of various persuasions enter the lists proclaiming that the party would be mad to anoint the apparent favourite, left winger Jeremy Corbyn, to the post. Tony Blair (he of the toxic brand), Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and now Gordon Brown are the most prominent Labour’s ‘Establishment’ figures who have been recoiling at the prospect of the party consigning itself to decades of electoral oblivion. They may be totally wrong in their opinions, or indeed they may be right, but they’ve totally missed the point.

It seems to me that Corbyn has struck a chord with the loonier-left Labour/workers-of-the-world-unite constituency – the idealists, if you like. They have taken a jaundiced but totally understandable look at the distinctly unimpressive alternative candidates (Burnham, Cooper and Kendall) – all straight from the elitist (spout crap by the yard to order) professional politician class – and decided to make a potentially futile but deliberate ‘two fingers to the lot of you’ gesture by jumping on board the Corbyn bandwagon.

It’s the classic politicians’ dilemma – whether it is better to stick to your principles and thereby potentially die in the ballot box … or do the practical thing and forget your principles altogether and simply cobble together a raft of policies that hopefully have a half-decent chance of propelling you into power (at least for five years anyway). This presumably on the basis that, irrespective of policies or indeed the vagaries of random chance in terms of the ‘Big Issues’ that might come along requiring you to do in practice the opposite of what you’d actually wish, in the final analysis it’s always marginally preferable to be shat upon by ‘your own’ rather than by the other lot.

cameron2By the same token, the revelation over the weekend that Andrew Lansley has let the cat out of the bag on David Cameron’s strategy regarding the government’s renegotiation of the UK’s terms of engagement with the EU – viz. our esteemed PM is going to set up a dramatic ‘contretemps’ with the French (to impress the UK electorate) before then announcing that ‘whatever changes he has managed to squeeze out his EU counterparts’ amount to a fantastic deal and therefore he can recommend them with confidence to the electorate as one of the reasons that we should vote to remain in the EU, is about as big a surprise as the Pope coming out as a Catholic.

Any cynical observer worth his salt, like me for example, could have predicted this would be the outcome of said ‘renegotiation of terms’ – despite the fact that throughout the process we the electorate have been completely in the dark – rather like Cameron himself – as to quite what terms we were trying to renegotiate and why.

From the PM’s viewpoint, of course, the important thing was to be seen to be ‘batting for Britain’ and standing up to the crazed bureaucrats of the EU commission elite who remain hell-bent on total unification of Europe – this in a desperate attempt to neutralise the perceived UKIP threat to Tory unity at the 2015 General Election.

Now that the surprise Tory outright victory in May has rendered the UKIP threat – and indeed UKIP as a party – a busted flush, the immediate problem has gone away.

Thus the PM can now ‘return to Britain’ at a moment of his choosing, and emulate Neville Chamberlain on the steps of his aircraft after returning from his meeting with Hitler at Munich in 1938, by waving a scrap of ‘Peace in our time!” paper at the waiting newsmen (and women).

Democracy – ‘liberal’ or not – is an inconvenient complication for the political classes. We know that, they know that.

And what’s remarkable about it anyway? It’s one of the truths of the modern world.


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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts