This is our truth, tell us yours
Rafael Behr is a senior member of the commentariat. He’s concerned about the rise of crackpot ideas in the UK. He’s written a column about it.
In the middle of his column Behr argues that
“There is one place in particular where conspiracy theory and mainstream opposition politics cross-fertilise. It is the assumption that ministers spend their time lying because they dare not reveal their wicked true motives. You don’t have to stray far along the spectrum of left opinion, for example, to encounter the view that Tories are evil. Not just incompetent or misguided, but thirsting for cruelty. Jeremy Hunt is presumed to wake up of a morning pondering ways to destroy the NHS, while Nicky Morgan masterminds the privatisation of childhood. Their public personas are masks that hide those ambitions.
Few of us know anyone so systematically duplicitous or vindictive. It is possible that public office attracts sociopathic personality types. It seems more likely that most MPs come to the job with honest intentions and that unhappy outcomes are best explained by the mundane forces of stupidity and bad luck.”
Frankly, even by the mendacious, apologist standards of the Guardian, this is bullshit.
The dismantling of the NHS, the removal of all local government control over schools, the constant attacks on trade union rights and the huge shift in taxation and public spending are not an accident. To believe they are is self-deception on the highest scale.
This government is not accident prone, it is resolutely ideological. It’s decisions are not the clumsy whims of nice people in a hard place, but calculated, deliberate choices that reflect entirely the political mindset of their originators.
Now, to be fair to Rafael Behr, it’s probably safe to say that there are two types of politicians. Type A, as we’ll call them, are the narcissists who’re in it for the glory it reflects on them -or as we’ve put it here before, reflecting LeoAbse’s theory, the ones who’re in it for the blowjobs. Type B are the zealots, the true believers, the people who genuinely believe, for instance, that our schools would be so much better if there were no teachersunions, no national pay bargaining, no national curriculum, and no democratic oversight or scrutiny of school governors.
Now. here’s the problem. If you’re either type A, like David Cameron and George Osborne, or Type B, like Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt, are you evil if wicked consequences follow from your policies? Let’s leave aside the subjective definition of culpability, that you’re only to blame if you were aware what you were doing was evil, and focus on the objective. Are you evil if you do wicked things knowing the consequences that will arise? If you change tax and public spending policies so that inequality will widen, the poorest will become poorer, and, in a first world country, people will rely on charity to feed them via foodbanks, living in insecure housing on short term tenancies depending on insecure supplies of heating and lighting via pre-payment meters that amount to a tax on poverty, are you just unlucky, or are you genuinely wicked to the point of being evil?
Asking that question,using that kind of language, is not the sign of being a member of a crackpot tendency. It’s an attempt to return to a moral accountability in politics, to ditch the language of there is no alternative and to ask hard questions about policy decisions that are rooted in an ideology of unfairness and inequality, a devil take the hindmost worls in which the lucky are dubbed winners, and the unlucky are regarded as moral failures for daring to wonder why they should starve while others gorge themselves.
To forgive Jeremy Hunt for breaking up our NHS, for handing over huge slabs of its funding to the private sector,while blaming the poor for being poor, as Ian Duncan Smith did, repeatedly, is to apply a heinous double standard. Rafael Behr should take a long hard look in the mirror.