Friday, October 05, 2007

Democracy in Action

The spin and hype surrounding David Cameron's "unscripted" speech still makes me laugh. Does it comfort you to know that he spent all that time memorising his lines so that he'd come across as talking from the heart? Would he continue to do that if he won the election?
Civil servant: Prime Minister, we have an urgent matter of national security which needs your immediate attention.
Dave the boy wonder: No can do. I'm in the middle of memorising my off the cuff remarks for next week's press conference. Come back in a few hours...
That'll work.

It was impressive that he managed to remember so much, I grant you, but then, Christopher Biggins can also memorise lines (for panto, you know) and I wouldn't want him running the country.

Anyway, his "unscripted" speech was a veritable smorgasbord of crowd pleasing measures adrift in a sea of wishful thinking. Here's one example. He said that "we need to scrap that early release scheme in prisons". I'm afraid I don't have the time to look up the figures but given that most prisoners serve approximately half of their sentence, we're talking here about nearly doubling the number of prison places and the amount of "tax payers money" (copyright of the Conservative Party) spent on the prison budget. Can anyone tell me if this Daily Mail wet dream has been fully costed?

(By the way, I love the way that some on the right criticise the BBC for allegedly adopting a "government should spend more money" approach to every problem. Because the right wing press and the Conservatives never do this... )

There was lots of that sort of thing: national citizen service, increased spending on the armed forces, ending the couple's penalty in the benefit system, a pension "lifeboat" fund and talk of tax cuts too. Just how quickly will the economy have to grow to fund all this stuff? Fantastically quickly, it would seem.

The speech was filled with just the sort of vacuous promise filled guff which brought Blair to power way back in 1997. Blair's broken promises damaged trust in the democratic process in the UK enormously and led to the historically low turnouts of 2001 and 2005. Cameron's decision to adopt a similar approach may well lead to even lower turnouts somewhere down the line. At the risk of sounding over dramatic, I genuinely believe that British democracy could be in a real spot of bother before too long. That will be of no concern to Cameron of course, as long as he wins the next election.

(I should add that Gordon Brown is hardly an innocent bystander in this. More on that in another post.)

No comments: