Ceci n’est pas un election. Surreal is an abused word sometimes, but the General Election of 2017 really does not feel like any election before. Magritte’s painting, La Trahison des images, would be a good logo for the election. The treachery of images, the treachery of slogans, the treacherous election.
Firstly there is the almost comical one-sidedness of the election. The Conservative Party, odds-on winners by a landslide unless the fabled young get off their arses and vote for once, is afraid to mention its own name! ‘Team May’, it says on the bus, now hastily re-sprayed from its old, banished, ‘Stronger In’ livery. Don’t mention the Tories! Local newspapers are being sold with wrap-around covers for Madame May and her Team (but not her Party). I saw a ‘suggested post’ on Facebook this morning from a Conservative PPC. It did not mention his party, nor any policies, but had a lovely picture of the candidate as a blond toddler playing with kittens. As May once famously said, “I’m not making this up”. Incidentally, she was also talking about cats (and asylum seekers), but unlike me, she really was making it up.
Then there’s the boring policy stuff. Labour can’t announce a policy without being pounced upon and asked to explain how much it will all cost, but May’s Team have no such problem, because their policies have no costs!
How so, you might ask, though they rarely are asked. Because Ceci n’est pas un policy!
Take their policy announced at the weekend. They will build unspecified but massive numbers of new social houses for rent. There’s a figure attached to it – a billion quid – but as that is money already earmarked for local government, and local government is charged with delivering this policy, what the policy announcement amounts to is a statement that central government – sorry, Team May – wants there to be more homes to rent, but that they won’t put any new money into it, and they aren’t to be held responsible when the homes aren’t built, because it’s not the government’s job to make their policies happen. FFS, as we say these days.
Today’s un-policy is even more brilliant. It has no numbers, and no mechanism to make it happen. There will be a fabulous gift to workers of rights such as they have never known! Including the jewel in the crown, the right to take a year off work to care for a sick or frail dependent. Yes, the ‘right’ not to be paid for a year whilst taking on the caring role that the state no longer wants to pay for. And if your boss says no to your request? You can always go to an Employment Tribunal – if you’ve got thousands of pounds up front to cover court costs and legal bills.
But why worry about policies anyway? The NHS crashed because it’s running crappy software on outdated hardware. But no one has seen the Health Secretary. It looks like he isn’t in Team May. They sent in the Four Weddings and a Funeral woman to sort that one. Not.
Because, honestly, the government isn’t responsible for running anything, for doing anything. They are there to blame others for anything that goes wrong, and take the plaudits for anything that happens to go right. If anything has gone right, apart from the Tory Party’s extraordinary luck.
As Magritte never said, ‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it’.