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Our phony war

Posted by Richard Sunday, May 02, 2010


"Saturday's riots on the streets of Athens, in which police fired tear gas canisters after being pelted with stones and petrol bombs by crowds protesting at the proposed new austerity measures, may prove to be the start of a long, hot summer," writes The Sunday Telegraph.

And, it continues, as the details of an economic life raft from the EU and IMF are announced today, prime minister Papandreou will be forced to survey not simply the wreckage of the Greek economy, but the beginnings of "cultural revolution" that analysts say his homeland's crisis is set to unleash across the continent of Europe.

One cannot help but note the contrast between this troubled country, where reality has come to roost, and the unreality of the UK, where Cameron could afford to get worked up about claims that he was going to abolish free bus passes.

This is a country where the media have actually taken this joke of an election campaign seriously, where The Guardian tells us the "liberal moment has come" just as The Sunday Telegraph announces that the support for Clegg is waning and the Conservatives are "in sight of victory".

This latter newspaper, by the way, tells us that the country needs "a Conservative government with a strong majority in order to tackle the enormous challenges it faces." Despite that, without even batting a metaphorical eyelid, it calls on us to vote for David Cameron's party.

Then we have Jon Snow arguing that this has been "a campaign like no other." There has, he says, "been an engagement with the electorate that those of us who have reported general elections down the years have rarely seen before."

He is wrong – and faced with such intellectual porridge, there is something attractive in the purity of a gloves-off riot, where at least you know who the enemy is, and the issues are couched in black-and-white terms. When we have finally lost patience with our own politicians, our turn will come to express our views in the manner of the modern Greeks.

In the interim, consider this election merely part of the phony war – it means nothing. The real "engagement" is yet to come.

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