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Nobody is interested in hearing your views

Posted by Richard Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Thus spoke the great leader, addressing his troops in the aftermath of the Euro-election debacle. Not the great, great leader, His Excellency Tony Blair, of course, but the leader of the opposition, Mr Michael Howard QC, MP.

Back benchers must stop debating the party's European policy in public. We are not going to talk about it, we don't want to hear about it and we’re not going to change our policy. Everything is fine and nothing can go wrong, go wrnong, go wonrng….

If ever there was a classic case of what the psychologists call "in denial", this has to be it – a performance that left not a few MPs shell-shocked. One described the meeting as "surreal" as the mindless drones banged their desks in approval before scurrying gleefully to the door to collect their "excused thinking" chitties on the way out.

From now on, the agenda is going to be "public services" – the "schools 'n' hospitals agenda" that everyone knows that everyone is really, really interested in and wot is going to sweep the Tories into power at the next election.

It was left to Mark Steyn in The Telegraph to point out that this "mainstream" thought is in fact the minority – in last Sunday's results, the only two parties most Britons have ever known couldn’t muster 50 percent of the vote between them.

Furthermore, UKIP and BNP pulled 32.6 percent of the vote. Between them, Labour and the Lib Dems got 33.9 percent. "What, other than the blinkers of the media-political Westminster village, makes 32.6 percent the fringe and 33.9 percent the mainstream?", Steyn asks. Yet here are the Tories responding not to what the people are saying, but to the agenda of these "mainstream" parties.

Actually, UKIP and BNP are wrongly named. Taking the cue from Prescott, who occasionally does hit the spot, they are just different wings of the "give politicians a kicking" party - the "U-KIK" party, so to speak. And their spokesman articulated their message, not from the "mainstream" columns of the Telegraph, but from the letters page in the form of Suzanne Taberner.

Writing of the "intellectual snobbery" from all the main parties about UKIP, she notes that they "have all assumed that the great unwashed are simply not clever enough to grasp the real issue of Europe". "But", she writes, "we take a lot of satisfaction in knowing that we have demonstrated our contempt for those politicians and social commentators who insist on patronising us in this way".

Unfortunately, Mr Howard has just given Suzanne Taberner, and the many others like her, his considered response: "Nobody is interested in hearing your views…". Come the next election, I suspect that the response will be to give the politicians another kicking. This time, they may not be able to get up.