Clegg’s interview in today’s Guardian reveals a lot about the Tories. Osborne comes out of it worst. Apparently he didn’t care in the slightest about the effects of his cuts on the lives of ordinary people, as long he could pander to anti-welfare prejudices stirred up by the Daily Mail, in order to boost the Tories in the polls. This was quite blatant and deliberate. ‘I don’t understand,’ Clegg reports him as saying (or it may have been Cameron – Clegg isn’t quite sure) ‘why you keep going on about the need for more social housing – it just creates Labour voters.’ Isn’t that more than just wrong? To my mind it’s sheer evil.
I always regarded Osborne as the most unattractive of that awful bunch of Tory ministers: white, waxen features, cold eyes, public-school arrogance, that smirky grin: he’d play well as a Victorian or early silent movie villain; but I’m always reluctant to let first superficial impressions colour my opinions of people unfairly. In George’s case, however, his face – not just his eyes – would seem to be the window into his soul.
Clegg’s other main target is the awful Gove – the fish-faced one – the pretentious superficiality of whose views on just about everything Clegg characterises well.
The more I governed with Gove and his team, the more I realised he was just striking a series of superficial poses. You’ve got a generation of politicians very close to the media, people like Boris Johnson and Gove, and the problem is, the skill of tossing off 800 words on one subject and then on another a week later is completely different to governing… With Gove it was just a series of throwaway poses …. There’s this ersatz intellectual heft that Gove and his people have that I don’t think is merited.
I like the ‘ersatz intellectual heft.’ That chimes in with my own analysis: see https://bernardjporter.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/michael-gove/.
What may have disguised the personal awfulness of that government was the smooth urbanity of its leading personality, David Cameron – the velvet glove around the iron fist. For a while his rhetoric suggested that he wanted to put paid to Theresa May’s famous put-down of the Tories as being perceived as ‘the nasty party’; but that reformation came to appear more and more threadbare as his government went on. Clegg lays into May too, mainly for deliberately understating the number of Brits working on the Continent in order to make the case that European immigration to Britain was disproportionate. And she certainly looks evil. On the other hand, she was the originator of that ‘nasty party’ gibe; has seemed in her utterances to date to be distancing herself from Osborne and Gove, clearly casting them in her ‘nasty’ role; and has come out as a social reformer, concerned about inequality and bankers’ bonuses, in a way that – if she lives up to it (and it’s a big ‘if’) – could bring about a revolution in our politics radical enough to disarm the Corbyn threat. (See https://bernardjporter.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/st-theresa/.)
British politics seem, for the moment, to be moving broadly leftwards. The Tories could, if they’re clever, ride this to long-term victory. Osborne and Gove, brutally excluded from May’s cabinet, would be permanently consigned to Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors, its eerie light reflecting horribly off their waxen features. They’d look at home there. They’d be replaced by May’s Joseph Chamberlain or Harold Macmillan-like social Conservatism. Labour, of course, whatever colour it takes on after its leadership vote (or colours – plural – if it splits), would be out of it. I suppose it’s my tribal loyalty to Labour that makes me hope that May, just like Thatcher and Cameron before her, is revealed later as a liar and a hypocrite. Then only Labour would remain as the true social reformers.
Except that there is, of course, a third alternative, which hardly bears thinking about: the right-wing authoritarianism that seems so powerful in the USA and France (among other countries) just now. I intend to blog later on how Labour might harness to its cause the less racist elements of Brexit’s support. But that would require a Corbyn win in the leadership contest first. It’s complicated. (And of course there’s Brexit itself to deal with first.)
(For the Clegg interview, see http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/03/nick-clegg-did-not-cater-tories-brazen-ruthlessness).