You have the advantage over me. You know the result of the general election, whereas I do not — a consequence of the moronically linear progression of time. Indeed, you may already have fled to one of those countries with a much lower tax rate and less fantastically irritating politicians — Algeria, for example, or Benin. Or Chad. And you are reading this digitally on some patched-in fibre-optic service, the electricity generated by goats trotting forlornly around a gigantic hamster wheel outside — but you are nonetheless delighted with your new life, despite the flies and the occasional gang of marauding, maniacal jihadis.
At least you’re not here to experience Britain being well and truly sturgeoned. No vaulting ginger munchkin can get her greasy paws on your wallet. It may well be that by the time you read this, the only people left in the country will be me, David Hare and Eddie Izzard, plus a few boatloads of newly arrived immigrants from the Islamic State. But that’s OK. David can write one of his excruciatingly boring bien-pensant leftie plays, Eddie can star in it, perhaps wearing a nice frock, the immigrants can watch it and cheer and wave their black flags, and I’ll write the spiteful review. We’ll get by, inshallah.
So, you know the result of this calamitously inane election and I do not. In which case, this next assertion of mine is a hostage to fortune. I might be proved horribly wrong. But my suspicion is that Ed Miliband’s pledges, etched onto an eight-foot tablet of stone, will not hugely increase the number of people who vote Labour on 7 May. Some 40 or 50 imbeciles may think to themselves: ‘Well, it’s etched on stone, so he must be telling the truth. It’s much harder to alter something written on stone than something written on paper, isn’t it? You can use Tipp-Ex if it’s written on paper, whereas you can’t with stone. Or rub it out, if it’s pencil. You see? I’m transferring my vote to Ed immediately.’
And then there will be 40 or 50 people like me — quite possibly imbeciles too — who think: ‘That is, by some margin, the most egregiously stupid stunt I have ever seen in any general election ever. It makes John Major’s soapbox seem statesmanlike and compelling. I am either voting for someone else — anyone else, frankly — or spending the entirety of 7 May down the pub.’
The tablet of stone was beyond satire, so ludicrous and frankly surreal that nobody in the country noticed what was actually written on it. Or perhaps that was the point. Because the pledges were so anodyne, unspecific and essentially meaningless that the members of every single party in the country, including the BNP and the Legalise Cannabis people, could sign up to them, and without any chance of comeback. Except for one pledge — ‘Controls on Immigration’. That’s a pledge that might find accord with every political party in the country — except, that is, Labour and the Celtic nationalist parties with whom Labour might enter a coalition. Oh, and the Greens.
It is also a downright lie — Labour does not propose to ‘control’ immigration in any way, shape or form. It does not have the appetite to do so and in any case could not do so (unless pledge no. 5 were immediate withdrawal from the EU, which it wasn’t). Labour proposes only to restrict the benefits for some immigrants once they are already here and will face enormous opposition from within and without even trying to do that.
So, the lie aside, the other pledges were merely ectoplasmic and mystifying. ‘An NHS with time to care’. What does that actually mean? Is it a pledge to twist time on its axis and make it last a lot longer in hospitals than it does elsewhere? Granted, I would vote for that, if it were true.
And how about this: ‘Homes to buy and action on rents.’ But there are homes to buy, it’s just that they are expensive. What are you going to do about it? And what are you going to do about rents? Nothing for which you might be held to account, is the answer.
All of this stuff reminded me a little of when Richard Dawkins, having already abolished God, decided to create a new set of ten commandments which He (I mean Richard) believed more appropriate for the modern age than all that tiresome Moses stuff, with its oppressive right-wing profusion of thou-shalt-nots. Here are two of Richard’s ‘commandments’:
Live life with a sense of joy and wonder!
Always seek to be learning something new!
Thank you, Professor, very kind. Vacuous bilge, of course, but at least it’s something with which no liberal middle-class person might disagree. Commandments which have no force or compulsion or — one might add — meaning. Precisely the same as Ed’s tablet of stone, with the words writ in water.
If Miliband had been even remotely serious about his pledges, then no. 1 would have been: ‘No alliance, no deal, no accommodation with the Scottish National Party in the event of a hung parliament.’ Then we could have broken the tablet of stone over his head at 0900 on 8 May when his minions first started their hectic solicitations of the triumphant and grasping Picts.
And what’s wrong with a pledge about reducing our crippling deficit, instead of the vague aspiration that we should have a ‘strong economic foundation’? That really has about as much force as ‘live life with a sense of joy and wonder’. These vapid evasions do not engender trust in the electorate, by their very nature they undermine it: a fitting coda to a genuinely appalling election campaign. I suppose we get the government we deserve.