The Plastic Hippo

June 3, 2017

Air sick

As the English language continues to gloriously expand and evolve, it has yet to create an adequate word or phrase to capture the true essence of what it means to be a spectator of political campaigning.

The German “schadenfreude” or the related “joie mauvaise” from the French describing an evil joy might explain taking pleasure at the misfortunes of others but does not quite capture the feeling of toe-curling discomfiture watching politicians dig holes armed with only sound bites and spurious facts and figures. Even the Spanish “verguenza ajena” which relates to the sublime if guilty delight of seeing total strangers making fools of themselves during episodes of vicarious embarrassment cannot fully encompass the feeling of wanting to look away even though continuing to look through fingers thrown across disbelieving eyes. The invented “freudenschade”, which cleverly flips the German original to mean expressing sorrow at the success or good fortune of other people, does not cut the linguistic mustard. The advantage of a snap election means that the inevitable gaffs, faux pas, howling examples of hysterical hypocrisy and moments of undiluted unmitigated madness are condensed into a few, brief weeks of something that has no satisfactory descriptor known within the English language.

Opinion polls make for a notoriously unfaithful and jealous mistress. The Trump abomination, the European Union Referendum and the return of David Cameron with a parliamentary majority indicate that asking 100 people a set of carefully worded questions will give you an answer that is about as accurate as a winter sundial in northern Scandinavia. There are, however, some that take note of opinion polls together with equally dubious focus groups, television vox pops and letters to the Daily Mail and make political decisions based on the pattern of entrails left by the dead cat that has hurriedly been thrown down on the cabinet table or the dispatch box. One such is Prime Minister Theresa May. The smile is becoming a little too forced, the laughter at a difficult question a little too manufactured, the veins on the neck a little too pronounced. The chunky necklace which is sometimes a rather disturbing thick chain might be weighing down a little heavy and the unfortunate facial grimace when attempting empathy results in awful photo images even though this is no fault of the woman herself.

At this point, we should perhaps suspend our disbelief and examine the circumstances that have led us to the current electoral choice. Purely as an exercise in political theory, imagine that the following took place in what might be described as a failing or rogue state.

The Prime Minister of a coalition government committed to economic austerity promises a referendum on leaving a flawed but generally successful economic union and free market simply to placate a small group of his own MPs and a right-wing, xenophobic pressure group intent on stirring up hatred and division.

By exploiting fear, wilful prejudice, ignorance and indifference, nationalism prevails over common humanity and the referendum result isolates the nation from its neighbours and international partners.

The Prime Minister responsible resigns and runs away to a lucrative career as a Used Country Salesman. He is succeeded by a new Prime Minister who is qualified to rule due to the votes of 35 and a half thousand residents of safe seat Maidenhead and the lack of any votes from Conservative Party members after a very clever leadership campaign involving knives and backs worthy of a Shakespearian drama.

The new Prime Minister, who voted to stay within the flawed but generally successful economic union and free market repeatedly refused to hold a general election on the imperative of securing economic and political stability. With opinion polls indicating a 20 plus ratings lead, she called a snap election.

A manifesto was produced and as the days go by, the promises are being un-promised. Without any financial detail being offered, the pledges are falling apart only to be reassigned as aspirations or as something to be aimed for. Old people who have paid their national insurance contributions for years in the hope of dignity in old age will have their houses sold once they hurry up and die. Children will be entitled to a breakfast costing seven pence. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals will be deported unless they can assure the government that they are not bloody foreigners.

Imagine the reaction of the free world if this manifesto had been published in North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe or Maidenhead. Okay, maybe not Maidenhead, not yet anyway.

Since then, we have had television debates to interview candidates for the job of Prime Minister that the new Prime Minister has decided not to attend. Imagine a benefit claimant not turning up for a job interview and the sanctions that he or she might face. The job interviews that Theresa May attended saw her laughed at by the public, flattened by Jeremy Paxman and running away from any debate with the unelectable Jeremy Corbyn. If Corbyn is such a threat to national security, then Theresa May has a duty to confront this monster face to face and expose his treason. Strong and stable leadership is about preserving the nation and is definitely not about telling lies about opponents or defending Tory MPs who heat their polo pony stables at the public expense.

The Crown Prosecution Service recently dropped charges against a number of Tory MPs and agents who allegedly acted illegally over election expenses during the last bun fight in 2015 because, it seems, there is no evidence of any dishonesty within the Conservative Party. Shall we just let that last statement settle in for a moment?

There is no evidence of any dishonesty within the Conservative Party.

I took an opinion poll over the dinner table before the leader`s debate that did not allow the leaders to debate.

The questions were obviously carefully worded to produce the required response but were, none the less, informative.

One young person; denied an Education Maintenance Allowance and facing considerable debt should they foolishly embark on a university degree course, described Theresa May as being “just air”. Asked for a definition, the reply was that “air” was free, everywhere and of no importance. When challenged that “air” was under threat from President Trump`s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and that Theresa May was happy to hold the hand of this very strange man, the young person shrugged and said that May and Trump will be dead eventually and then we can get on with saving the planet.

An older sibling described Jeremy Corbyn as sick. This, apparently, was a compliment and, astonishingly, a voting commitment.

Fasten your seatbelts and find the sick bag in pocket in front of you. This could be a bumpy landing.

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