The unspeakable v the uneatable
Published in: Daily Mail
People seem surprised that the idea of elected mayors has received such a thumbs-down from yesterday’s UK local elections and referenda on the proposed post for individual cities. Personally, I’m not surprised at all. Elected mayors were always a pretty useless idea – a gimmick dreamed up by political anoraks looking desperately for a Big Idea – any Big Idea that happened to be passing – and who accordingly seized upon the perception that there’s a ‘democratic deficit’ without facing up properly to its cause.
People don’t want elected mayors because they can’t see the point of them. They think all politicians are rubbish. They are disillusioned with the whole rotten, cynical, opportunistic, unprincipled, out-to-ideological-lunch lot of them. That’s what ‘democratic deficit ‘means, duh!
It does not mean that voters think there’s a deficit in the number of politicians representing them. Voters think there’s a deficit in what all politicians have between their ears (and in their souls). It’s not that Britain’s constitution is structurally unable to deliver what the country wants and needs. It’s that the mainstream political class has become constitutionally incapable of delivering what the country wants and needs.
People don’t want yet another bunch of elected politicians to fail to do what they are elected to do. They want the ones who are there already, whether Cabinet ministers or leaders of local councils, to do what they were elected to do. That they are not doing so is why the biggest winner from these local election seems to be (although not all the results are yet in) the None-of–the-Above Party.
The Coalition has taken its expected drubbing. The kick-back against the LibDems was on the cards the day Nick Clegg became the back end of the government pantomime horse. But the catastrophic losses for the Tory party will be blamed by the Cameroons on every reason under the sun except the correct one – their own closely related motifs of tyro incompetence and unprincipled opportunism.
I have lost count of the conservative voters writing to me in despair to say that they will never again vote Tory under the current leadership because David Cameron is simply unrecognisable as a conservative Prime Minister. Such people have been sneered at, vilified and dismissed as dinosaurs by the Cameroon ‘modernisers’ and their sycophants in the media ever since Cameron won the party leadership. Indeed, thus denouncing them was itself an important factor in ‘decontaminating the brand’. The core conservative voters and the principles they upheld were regarded as nothing less than a kind of public health problem.
The Cameroons assumed that, whatever such abuse they dished out to their core voters, these people would still vote Conservative because there was nowhere else for them to go. It didn’t seem to occur to these geniuses that such core voters might become so demoralised they would decide to sit on their hands rather than vote for a negation of their core principles. Even when Cameron failed to win the general election that was deemed to be impossible to lose against Gordon Brown, the ‘modernisers’ refused to accept there was anything wrong with their grand strategy.
Well now they have the country’s response to such arrogance – and nowhere more starkly than in Cameron’s very own constituency of Witney, no less. Before yesterday’s local elections, I was picking up signs from there that -- extraordinarily -- Tories in the Prime Minister’s very own political back yard, who would normally be the most loyal of the loyal and the very last people to turn against their MP, had indeed thus turned in deep disillusionment, anger and disgust at the incompetence, cynicism and betrayal of conservative principles he embodied. Sure enough, the local election results have borne this out, with Labour taking the seats of Witney Central, Witney East and Chipping Norton.
Will the Cameroons now have learned their lesson? Don’t hold your breath.
As for Boris Johnson, all those now breathlessly hailing him as the ‘true conservative’ alternative to David Cameron should calm down. Just because he (rightly) has defended the City of London against the Cameroons’ imbecilic wannabe-leftist banker-bashing does not mean that Johnson is a conservative individual. What he has done is position himself adroitly against the Tories in the government, stood up for London and shown he is his own man. And as we all know, that last point – authenticity – is the holy grail of modern politics.
Nevertheless, if he has won the London Mayoral contest (if Livingstone turns out instead to have won, that will only be because he so shamefully mobilised bigotry, prejudice and communal divisions) this will be in large measure not a vote for Boris Johnson but a vote against Livingstone. After all, if Labour had selected a less objectionable candidate it is very likely that Boris Johnson would have been on the back foot throughout. I don’t detect much enthusiasm in London for Mayor Johnson – but clearly, many Londoners were simply revolted and disgusted by Livingstone, whose campaign revealed him time and again to be a deeply unpalatable character and a hypocrite to boot.
The unspeakable v the uneatable -- Britain’s true democratic deficit.