Saturday, November 17, 2012

My riposte to the complacency and misplaced patriotism of Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris in The Times today has an article of such venal complacency and bombast that it demands a riposte.

Let me start with a disclaimer. I like Matthew Parris and admire his writing. I don’t share his politics but I usually find I share his values. He is self-evidently a good man, a bright one and a generous one. That said this piece is the biggest load of bunkum I have read in years!

I won’t attempt to question Parris’s motives for writing this piece because frankly I can’t imagine what they might be! So let’s skip that and just look forensically at the content and then the underlying premise.

“British politics is performing magnificently”. Well apart from the fact that we have a Coalition Government whose partners are at war, whose majority Party is malignantly split and whose elected members are rebellious.

“Our administration is on even keel”. Except that hardly a week goes by when there isn’t a U-turn and for whom a new word had to be coined “Omnishambles”

“There are no threats to public order”. Riots, protest matches, strikes and other disorders aside I assume he means.

“Finest and strongest parliamentary democracies in the world”. But one which disenfranchises millions has corrupt and expenses-fiddling members and which has an Upper House which nobody chose and is an abomination.

“We’ve run out of money”. Actually we haven’t. The core of the economy is sound - the issue is over how long we take to reign in the budget deficit. We have got the resources to do this.

“…we are electing Governments to make us poorer. The vast majority understands this.” I very much doubt that the “vast majority” has a clue about this. This is a nuanced, metropolitan, chattering classes view. And it’s debatable anyway.

“British politics keeps passing the test”. No it doesn’t! It is a cosy world, dominated by an Oxbridge-educated elite in the Civil Service and on the front benches. British politics is more out-of-touch with ordinary people than it has ever been. And to suggest that the “electorate [has an] understanding of what has happened” is risible.

Our free press is “vigorous, impertinent and unruly” boasts Parris. It is, or the tabloid end of it anyway, also venal, simplistic, biased, mendacious, intrusive and the purveyor of trite populist cant.

We voted in 2010 for “parties that promised austerity”. What choice did we have? There were no “tax and spend” manifestoes on offer.

“Mr Miliband and Mr Balls Are decent, realistic and intelligent democrats”. Well that may be true but the Jury is out. At the moment they are short-sighted players of political games voting with unpleasant allies in the House of Commons with the sole purpose of embarrassing the Prime Minister.

“Careful plans for a referendum in Scotland”. What nonsense! Parris tries to give a post imperial context to his article and if we do look back then surely the risk of the break-up of the United Kingdom (along with the risk that we might have to withdraw from the European Union” is greater than it has been in the last 40 years. Utterly incompetent central government had brought us to this.

“No election that fails to return John Prescott can be entirely without merit”. That is cheap, unfunny, unworthy and unnecessarily provocative and contentious.

The underlying premise of Parris is that all is well in the kingdom – especially when compared with the ghastly foreigners the other side of the channel. Well that’s just playing Patriot Games. They do things differently in foreign countries – as Parris should know from his deep knowledge of Catalonia. It is just balderdash to suggest that our muddling through is better than Greek or Catalan conflict. Sometimes you need to bring a problem to a head rather than just bumbling on. Time will tell who emerges from the current difficulties in better shape. That it is conceivable that the shape we will end in is a broken United Kingdom, cast adrift from Europe, with our antediluvian institutions utterly unable to cope is quite possible. But maybe the 'Old maids [will be] bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist' – as the rest of us die the death forced by our own inaction and complacency.


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