We have a new Prime Minister. We shout about the constitutional absurdity of his selection by a tiny group of mainly older, wealthier, white men. He’s given us a new government; not merely a reshuffle, but a ‘New Government’, as though he was fresh from a general election triumph, and keen to hit the ground running. The key ministers have us fuming – they are liars, cheats, dissemblers, people sacked for breaches of security, for freelance ops with foreign powers, they’re celebrators of the wildest fringes of neoliberalism, who, challenged to defend austerity, say in effect, “Let them eat chlorine-washed chickens”!
Thus we fume. I’ve done so, and if you are reading this, the chances are, you have, too. Every outrage seems like a gratuitous sprinkling of salt in our wounds. They’re acting as though they’ve won a huge victory, banished us from any likelihood of power, and yet, in reality they’ve the sliver of a majority, they are in hock to the DUP, and it’s entirely possible that, when tested, they can’t command a majority in the House of Commons. Why, in these objective circumstances, do they behave like Masters of the Universe?
Dominic Cummings, their strategist, has been quite open about why they act like an all-conquering army, keen to anger their opponents in the most egregious ways possible. As he said of their most notorious slogan on the side of a bus in 2016, the point of their campaign is to “enrage” their enemies.
So perhaps it’s time to step back from the enragement? Our anger is genuine, but it looks like we are being treated like Pavlov’s Voters, primed to respond on cue, dissipating our energies on pointless rage, whilst Dr Pavlov, newly ensconced in No.10, calmly gets on with ‘delivering’ a political revolution.
What is the appropriate response to these provocations?
Firstly, it’s August. Chill. It’s the Summer of Lies. Let them wash over you. The media’s big names, the politicians great and small, are on holiday. Their WhatsApp groups are probably still buzzing, but from poolside, or walking holiday, or island hopping. In the absence of a sitting Parliament, nothing can really happen, however many outrageous kites they fly in a complicit press.
Secondly, plan. Come the end of the month, it all kicks off again. They want us all to be exhausted, demoralised, spent, by the time the real battle begins. So deny them what they want. Tweet jokes. Post cat pics. Share recipes. But in the four weeks ahead, work out how to be most effective once the new political season starts.
We will need to draw on our reserves of anger. They have to be made to fear us. That means unity of purpose, and no party political opportunism or posturing. That’s hard, I admit. Our differences are real, and they are increasingly important when it comes to looking forward to tackle the really big, global crises that we need to turn to after Brexit. But for now, for the duration of this last, almighty battle, all guns must be turned on democracy’s mortal enemies, not our mere political opponents.
But for now, don’t rise to the bait. Turn the other cheek. Look away. Whistle.
Don’t give them what they want.