L’enfer c’est les autres; so wrote Satre in Huis-clos. It’s not clear whether Satre had ever been involved close up with a UK election campaign, but the sentiment is one that will have been shared by many people involved in the political process. Whether it’s the opposition or your own side, it sometimes all gets too much. No more nauseating is the needless tribalism where supporting a party becomes more of a label of belonging than any kind of label that possesses meaning or understanding.
The most evident sign of this tribalism was the decision by both parties to go negative this week. The Tories attracted a significant amount of ire with a Tombstone Poster based around a Labour policy that, well… isn’t a Labour policy. Labour retaliated in kind with a pun on Cameron’s name. Seriously witty stuff then.
‘one of the last things we were good at as a country was emotional repression’
The thing is, we’re still an age away from the likely election date of May 6th. If I, a Parliamentary Candidate, am finding the campaign tedious and a turn off I dread to think what the man in the street makes of all this. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Valentine’s day will see the edifying spectacle of the Prime Minister crying on TV. I mean, Christ on stilts, that kind of thing might fly on the continent but this is Britain; one of the last things we were good at as a country was emotional repression. Yet since Diana died, it seems acceptable for people to air their feelings in public. Well, I’m saying this now; it’s not.
Brown’s blarting has also attracted a fair degree of cynicism. Here we have a man who was previously so guarded about his private life deciding to go on TV and answer questions about whether he’s ever had sex on a plane in the run up to an election he’s expected to lose. That the PM’s loss of a child was not heart-breaking nor his grief genuine is not the issue- whether it will fundamentally affect people’s judgment of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister seems unlikely.
If the campaign didn’t provide excitement enough, this week has seen two text-book examples of barmy policy suggestions. Firstly, ‘The Spirit Level,’ a book about inequality, was reissued. Amongst other things, this is a book that says that rather than being a hierarchical society, like chimpanzees, we should in fact learn from another primate society and ape (sorry) the supportive behavior of bonobos. However, as one reviewer unhelpfully pointed out, bonobos are incredibly stupid animals (vis-à-vis chimps at any rate) that spend a great deal of their time masturbating. As if that wasn’t enough, the New Economics Foundation published a report suggesting we all work a 21 hour week. We wouldn’t get paid any more (in fact, the reality is we’d get paid a whole lot less) so what we’re supposed to do with so much extra time on our hands is unclear; perhaps the bonobos have the right idea after all…