The guy who is currently running the country has the support of only 12% of the population (and other such stories)

Apparently, the honeymoon is over. But at least we’ve all been fucked. Last week, the Daily Mail unleashed a report based on a Harris Interactive Poll that contained some genuinely interesting findings. In true Daily Mail fashion, their summary is a lesson in spin:

The Coalition Government’ s honeymoon with the British public is all but over… the survey finds that some of the shine has come off the Coalition, with 57 per cent of people describing its performance as ‘disappointing’.

But the Harris Interactive poll also identifies strong support for Mr Cameron personally, along with backing for the Coalition’s programme of cuts.

I suppose that’s true (and are we supposed to be capitalising coalition?). But while 57% described the coalition as ‘disappointing’, 52% described it as ‘effective’. “Strong support” for David Cameron turns out to be that 26% of those polled thought he was performing better than expected – only 4% more than the 22% who said worse than expected. What the Daily Mail reporter Jason Groves interpreted as backing for the Con/Lib’s cuts was presumably based on the 56% who said yes, deep cuts are essential to tackle the deficit. What this analysis doesn’t seem to take into account, however, are the 41% who disagreed with the coalition’s programme of cutting quickly, compared to 37% who agreed, and the 38% who believe the coalition has the wrong balance between cuts and taxes, compared to 32% who think they have the right balance. (It could be more accurately said, in this case, that the country was divided on the issue, but with slightly more people seeming to favour Labour’s system of cuts).

But I suppose that’s what makes this such an interesting poll: the questions are vague enough so that any interpretation is valid. With this in mind, I’ve made a few observations of my own…

Why aren’t the Lib Dems doing their own bit of soul-searching?

According to the Mail, 28% of those polled said they would vote Labour at the next election. This is down slightly from 29% at the election. This election loss has triggered an immense period of reassessment and analysis from those in the Labour party, with many members calling for a rethink of just about everything that made the party electable since 1997 and, unsurprisingly, a major lurch to the left. This followed a crushing 5% loss in share of the vote compared to 2005.

Meanwhile, after the most high profile Lib Dem campaign ever, in which Nick Clegg was widely hailed as the winner of the televised debates and both the Independent and the Guardian came out in support of the party, their vote share increased from 22% in 2005 to… 23% in 2010. (I’ve rounded these results up to the nearest whole number; for the record the actual increase was 0.9% – for those who prefer mathematical symbols, that’s <1%). Of course, votes didn't matter to the High Prophet of Politics 2.0 after he'd secured entrenchment in Cameron's government.

But with the Lib Dem vote having now collapsed to just 12%, I find it strange that Clegg's party appear completely unresponsive to these damning figures. Of course, they are technically in government, so I don't expect them to embark on the sort of excruciating process of introspection currently boring anyone following the Labour leadership contest, but Clegg's arrogance seems inversely proportional to his support. If an election was called tomorrow, the man who is supposedly running this country in his boss' absence might only expect 12% of the popular vote.

For The Party of Perpetual Opposition, a stubborn, high-minded adherence to so-called principles, at the expense of the will of the people, may have held a certain noble/underdog charm. In just over 100 days of government, however, we've seen how easily such self-righteousness has been channeled – at the glaring expense of the righteousness. If the Lib Dems ever want to be anything more than a prop for whichever of the two main parties are found the least unpopular at the time, maybe they should start the difficult job of figuring out how a clique of disaffected idealists can build support in advance of the next election.

In 100 days, super-slick “Call me Dave” transforms into Calamity Cameron… and yet is considered to have performed “better than expected”. WTF?

Cameron’s litany of gaffes has been well-reported. And with one of the more prominent examples elevating the non-existant role of the U.S. as Britain stood alone against the Nazi war machine, it can hardly be said that this wouldn’t have touched a nerve. Despite this, Cameron has the exaltation of being the only minister in the Mail’s poll to exceed public expectations – in that 26% of people said he’d performed ‘better’ and 22% said ‘worse’ than expected. Crucially, 42% said he’s performed “as expected”, with no indication of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Regardless, as the other ministers (Cable, Clegg and Osborne) were deemed to disappoint, Cameron must be doing something right. If it’s not pissing on our country’s “finest hour” or pissing off the Iranians and Pakistanis, then what is it?

Cameron’s greatest skill has been distancing himself from almost every decision and action being made by his government. Instead, he’s touring the country, visiting the downtrodden and answering questions ‘from the hip’. He’s flitting around the world, hitting it off with The Hope Incarnate and leading a vast entourage of seemingly important businessmen, doing seemingly important things. He’s encouraging tourism, not in the despairingly modern New Labour sense, but in a proper English sense using words like heritage, in a way that will, presumably, attract the ‘right’ kind of tourists. Cameron’s been reassuringly traditional and superficially ineffectual: a perfectly non-threatening example of aristocratic folly.

I wonder if, as a schoolboy at Eton, he was perceived as ‘keen’. He certainly fits the type. And you can’t dislike the ‘keen’ kids. Though they may not be as bright or as imaginative as the others in his class, you’ll always give them an A for effort. Osborne can’t pull this off. He comes across as the spiteful little tosspot cheering on the bullies in the hope that they’ll leave him alone for another hour. Clegg is the egotistic overachiever, and Cable the sanctimonious nerd. The problem with the ‘keen’ kids, though, is that they too can be right little bastards. Only worse, because they seem so utterly harmless (after all, they want to do right, they really do). Behind this facade lies… well, that’s the point, who knows? 100 days as Prime Minister and Cameron is still playing the act of facile do-gooder, saying whatever he must to get people to like him. That may mean slagging off Israel in Turkey, Pakistan in India, or… uh, Britain in the US. As an example of his super-teflon mutant powers, which of this government’s cuts can you really pin onto him?

He doesn’t want these cuts. No, no, no. To cut hard and cut now is a difficult decision, made unavoidable due to Labour’s legacy. These next four years are going to be painful and he wishes there was another option. But there isn’t.

When asked in one of his PM Direct town hall meetings if these “painful” cuts will be reversed in better times, he stressed that these are “once and for all” measures. As Hélène Mulholland reported in The Guardian’s live politics blog: “He is not for turning things back once the country’s finances have improved.”

Something doesn’t add up here. But, I have to admit, he has performed better than I expected.

“We want the troops home as soon as practically possible!” Define as soon as practically possible…

The final question that caught my eye in the poll asked, “when should British troops pull out of Afghanistan”. A whopping 66% replied, “as soon as practically possible”. The Mail chose to present this piece of information with the headline, “Voters Want Troops Home”. Which is understandable really. I’m sure the Independent would have opted for a far more decisive angle, probably along lines I’m already overly familiar with due to excessive exposure to left wing bloggers: the war can not be won, we’re making things worse, the Taliban weren’t so bad, we just don’t understand their culture, women like to have their noses cut off… stuff like that.

The beauty of such a vague question means I too can choose to read it in a way that suits my world view…

Only 14% of voters want our troops out of Afghanistan within 5 years. Two-thirds say they believe we should wait until practicalities allow us to withdraw – presumably, this means waiting until the country is stable, secure and the people finally have some hope that, after decades of being fucked over and forsaken by foreign powers looking after their own interests, they can enjoy some of the comforts taken for granted by these invaders. Even if this takes a generation.

Whose analysis are you going to trust, dear readers? The Mail’s or mine?


What kind of new lifestyle awaits the British public at the end of this Tory/Lib Dem detox?

I was unfortunate enough to read this pile of garbage by Matthew d’Ancona in today’s Evening Standard. It’s an oddly toothless piece considering it covered almost an entire page (that’s valuable advertising space), seemingly designed to push several of the coalition’s favourite narratives. My favourite has to be where d’Ancona casually, slavishly, refers to 10-20% cuts in defence and education as “efficiencies”. And thus develops a fresh piece of unspeak.

Trust me, the vast majority of d’Ancona’s commentary is crap and not worth even a quick scan. However, one remark did get me thinking:

Tell somebody he has to scale back his mortgage, his family’s food bill, his spending on his car, his holiday budget by 10 per cent, and he will wince. Tell him that he has to slash 40 per cent from his monthly spending and he will have to change everything about the way he and his family live.

What d’Ancona’s inadvertently getting at is that, thanks to our government’s excessive cuts, we’re soon to experience a dramatic change in our “national lifestyle”. Sounds quite exciting in a “change we can believe in” kind of way. Who reading this hasn’t pledged to reinvent themselves at some point in their lives?

The scary thing, however, is that nobody seems to have a clue what this new “us” looks like.

To use a personal analogy, so favoured by coalition politicians, if you make big, restrictive changes in your life you usually have some sort of desirable end result in mind. Partly to help encourage you through the difficult times, but also to help you structure and plan what to keep and what to cut.

For example, if you’ve lost your job, you’d do well to cut down on booze, fags, satellite TV and might consider selling the Xbox. On the other hand, you’d be foolish to cut spending on transport, broadband and may even want to invest in some shirts from Peacocks. Similarly, any company wouldn’t dream of “efficiency” savings or, let’s be more accurate here, huge fucking cuts, without some sort of strategy.

This is what bothers me the most about the Tory/Lib Dem hack-frenzy; there’s no clear direction. Like crime scene investigators we’re slowly discovering the victims of the coalition massacre piece by bloody piece, but we don’t really know the killers’ motives.

There’s a vague understanding, evident in the articles of certain columnists, that a crippled public sector is a desirable thing. It’s generally assumed that this is the Tories ideological intention, but this wasn’t communicated to the electorate by David Cameron before the election, this wasn’t what Nick Clegg promised his voters, and this still hasn’t been addressed since the formation of the ConDem alliance. Also, what does a small state actually MEAN!?

Ok, we’re being told that nobody wants to do this and it’s unavoidable. For the sake of argument, let’s say this is true. That still doesn’t make the need for a strategy any less valid. There must still be some sort of end result in mind that’s guiding these cuts. Or is it simply a case of hack away what you can?

I would speculate that the Tories have plans so hideous they intend to keep it silent or risk terrifying the voters. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen from the ‘new politics’ so far, I don’t think even they really know what they’re doing.

Style slashed as Tories cut more political waste; follows substance as Cameron wages war on rhetorical inefficiency

Here’s an interesting, if partial, view of the Tory party from an American politics student: The Tories a joke in Washington.

As successful as David Cameron’s been at making the right noises (or lack of the wrong ones) to win over much of the domestic media and readers thereof, he strikes me as a political lightweight on an international level.

Regardless, the Tory war to win over the hearts and mindlessness of the public continues with all the subtlety of Manatee gang rape. With the shepherd on his side, Cameron proceeded to woo the sheep, publishing his 10 key pledges in The Sun on Friday.

For what purports to be the 10 most important policy areas Cameron has under his well-tailored sleeve, they are depressingly uninspiring, weakly phrased and a bizarre mix of piddling specifics (see no. 5: introduce a free sports and entertainment Tickets for Troops programme) and vague platitudes (no 7: we will get to grips with national debt and public spending).

The Financial Times dissects (demolishes?) Cameron’s 10-point plan and come to similar conclusions. By my count: two of the ten are already taking place under Labour, three raise too many questions, another three are token gestures* and only two are considered new and worthwhile.

For the record, the two pledges the FT are most favourable towards are #5, a new Military Covenant with the troops, and #7, tackling the national debt. I’ll point out that Cameron does not mention a ‘new’ Military Covenant but simply pledges to honour the current one (who wouldn’t?) and that “getting to grips” with debt and spending is something any serious political party would be expected to do.

Nobody can deny the power of style over substance (of which popular love songs are the best testament; this morning I had the misfortune of listening to Maroon 5’s She Will be Loved, which, while clearly encouraging guys to prey on vulnerable teenage girls, will still be dedicated to Becky on every Late Night Love radio show…). Unfortunately, this list fails even to possess style. Annoyingly, I doubt that’ll matter.

The most frustrating point, in its sheer tenacity, is #3 which continues the Tories’ four-year mission to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Despairingly jingoistic and fundamentally stupid, I simply can not see why anybody could possibly care about this issue. What is it about the present Human Rights Act that rankles? The right to life? Prohibition of torture? Right to respect for private and family life? Despite Cameron announcing his intent to overturn this fifty-year-old convention way back in 2006 (did people even Tweet back then!?), a search on both the Conservative party website and the wider infowebs did not produce even a draft alternative**. At best the elusive Tory Bill of Rights is nothing more than populist pageantry; at worst, it’s a plot to enshrine Conservative (big ‘C’) values into British law.

Most likely they haven’t given enough thought about it either way.

And that seems to be the best summation of Tory policy. These are worrying times for Labour supporters and Tory distrusters. The Gordon Brown narrative is so deeply embedded in the national thought-hole, I think spectators (i.e. voters) would feel cheated if this play didn’t have the obvious cinematic ending – what this means for the country is, as always, second to how good a story it makes.

*My favourite of these is #8, promising to “restore discipline to schools by giving heads the final say on exclusions”. As the FT point out: “Out of 8,130 children excluded last year, only in 60 cases was a head’s exclusion overturned on appeal”. That’s only 0.7% of cases!

**If anyone does find this slippery sucker, let me know.

Why I hate the Tories with a passion

Some of you reading this may be wondering why I hate the Tories so much and why I’m so angry that people are voting for them – I’ll give you one reason:

Nobody knows where they stand.

David ‘smary-cunt-of-the-century’ Cameron has successfully managed to speak enough hot air to shroud the Conservatives in some sort of mirage of reputability. He hasn’t, however, effectively communicated exactly why the fuck we should give a shit about them.

At best, they’re still the same-old elitist, xenophobic, nationalistic bastards we know and fear still desperately trying to drag England back to a mythical ‘golden age’ which only existed in the depths of their privilege-addled minds. At worst, they have discarded their deplorable principles in the soul interest of obtaining power – by hook or by crook. Why is this the worst option? Because why the hell are they chasing power when they’re not even sure what they’re going to do with it!?

Now, anyone who’s read between the lines of this blog will be aware that I don’t really KNOW anything – I just strongly believe in a lot of things (although anyone who takes enough of an interest in human behaviour would probably suggest they both mean the same). One thing that I do believe is that the national consciousness is tied into whoever runs the show more than we like to think. Before too long, we’ll begin to notice the (often subtle) progressive changes introduced by Labour. Casual racism will meet a resurgence with all its crudity, bile and bitterness; Britain’s vibrant cultural scene will stagnate; Tolerance and acceptance will be replaced by the arrogant English superior sneer; Europe will become more distant and the world will be seen as a place simply of foreigners – not of opportunities.

I’m not saying that everything’s perfect now, only that there was a distinct flavour in the English breeze that I liked the taste of – and I’ve felt it turn sour over the past months as the Tory Cult of Ignorance grew in confidence.

Crunking about politics and stuff

I’m sat here on the sofa watching two cross-dressers, high-kicking their way to the approval of the judges on ITV2’s ironically-titled Britain’s Got Talent. I mention this to not only symbolise the depths of despair and self-punishment to which I’ve sunk, but also to use this particularly atrocious example of ‘entertainment’ as a microcosm of our nation as a whole.

As an eight-year old ginger kid twats his way to three ‘yes’ votes, the truly offensive examples of British talent on offer proves beyond all reasonable doubt that my fellow English-folk are as deluded, hopeless and ignorant as their voting habits suggest. In fact, the most exciting performances seen were from a pair of Eastern European women dressed a giant slinkies, and two men of Asian origin offering a surprising and imaginative dance routine – seriously, it was better than it sounds. Revealingly, the “stand-out” English contestants (in that whenever they took to the stage I was forced to step up and stand out of the room) seemed to be entrenched in the…well, I would arbitrarily insert a decade in here, but I’m not sure if there ever was a period in which such acts were genuinely considered something special.

What we have are kids being considered talented surely by dint of the fact that their parents have yet to call them out for being arrogant cunts, comedians reeling off jokes you would kick your uncle in the groin for saying at the Christmas table, impressionists of Cilla fucking Black and (to cut a long rant short) people of such an obvious lack of creativity and imagination that their individual contribution to society is of less value than the blue cat’s eyes showing a slip-road on the M40.

And these fuckers are allowed to vote.

No, that’s not right – not very democratic of me. For shame. Of course, these clueless spunkwits are permitted their votes the same way that I am. So who’s to blame for the rape of sensibility which has resulted in such careless squandering of our most basic of democratic privileges? Is it television (back to Britain’s Got Talent) endlessly promoting the celebrity culture which has turned even the most serious of contests into some Big Brother-esque spectacle? Is it the newspapers, who unashamedly promote their political agenda with hardly a nod towards respectability and integrity? Is it the leaders who bow to the pressures of the above at the cost of what they believe in, meaning that (on the surface at least) an important choice hardly seems like a choice at all?

The fact is that, on the whole and despite my wishes to the contrary, television vomits forth whatever crap will be eagerly swallowed by the viewers; people don’t buy newspapers to be challenged or informed, they buy whatever piece of propaganda supports their own self-focused belief (this applies to you arrogantly superior Guardian and Independent readers too); and our so-called leaders are the sheep that shamefully pander to populist bullshit while shamefully hiding any individual stance or beliefs aside from the usual soundbytes.

I guess then, that the answer is that the problem is us. I’m sure others have made the comparison more pithily than I, so I’ll leave it up to you to find out what they’ve said, but there’s definitely something to say about sheep being released from the pen only to mill around for a bit, before running back inside and then biting themselves on the ass.

Rant over.