It’s fantasy, but politics is all about that: politicians are essentially salespeople. They speak in the hope that what they say along the way may eventually crystallise in a reality the majority can share.
The good ones are lucky enough to be at the top whilst their pitches become true – maybe because of what they do; maybe entirely because of what they don’t. The bad ones are consigned by the history written by victors to the dustbins of irreparable ignominy.
The good being good because they win out; the bad seen as bad because they lose all.
So let’s take a look at the latest piece of political fantasy. There will be more, of course – but this serves as one of the first salvoes.
- Some have already taken issue with the road depicted. There are suggestions it may even be in the US. As a subtext for the kind of recovery these transatlantic Tory throwbacks are looking to continue engineering, this is probably an in-joke by the poster’s designers – very much at the expense of British citizens too. But there’s more: we’re clearly travelling down the middle of a road quite without obstacles. No left; no right; this is indeed the end of history.
- The landscape at either side of this road is as bucolic as any true-green Englander could hope for. No matter that this government has issued fracking licences for a considerable percentage of it; no matter, either, that the risks of innovation should not be underestimated.
- Fraser Nelson suggests, in a piece I’ll link to in point 5 below, that the third element is perfectly sensible. I’d take issue with the quality of the jobs in question – in particular with respect to the soaring number of unstable zero-hours contracts being dished out. However, let’s be charitable and say: better than a kick in the teeth (even where these teeth are tending towards moderately false).
- The next stat also gets a deal of unabashed support by the same author. This, despite the government’s inaction on the #EUVAT issue which affects thousands of employment-providing micro-businesses across the UK. It’s great to create an entrepreneurial society; it’s rubbish when you collaborate with your business sponsors to destroy the micro-flora and fauna which should really make it up.
- Here, with respect to the claim that the deficit has been halved, Nelson is unyielding in his dissatisfaction. Read, and you’ll see what I mean.
- The penultimate point is one of the longest-serving fantasies of the last forty years or so of British politics: that the purpose of British Conservatism is to conserve the essence of what it is to be British. Again, the joke couldn’t be crueller. The marketing and planning meeting must have been a (fracking) gas to attend.
- Finally, I’d take fierce issue with the comparative “stronger” – as in “stronger economy”. There are too few people benefiting directly; too many who’ve had to dig into savings, credit card debt and other mechanisms of self-defence. Until we return to a perception of “economy” that includes good economic practice – ie conceptualising the beast as a tool to be used by people rather than an environment where people get used – a “stronger economy” is no guarantor of a better standard of living.
And it is this latter idea which lays down the Tories’ very own yellow brick road as the fantasy that it is. This may be that moment too when, at a personal level, I unveil my own conservative (little “c”) credentials: in a way, what all the above leads me to feel is that the Britain I grew up in as a child of immigrant mother was a much better place than it is today.
Let the yellow brick road of the Tory strategists be the place they’d like us to be.
For the rest of us, we’re far better off in Kansas, Mr Cameron. In the metaphorical sense I mean.