Greater evils, election time

Pity the Brits today. An election between a man who is marginally more evil than Bush (the margin consists of his much greater intelligence—Blair is Iago to Bush’s Ubu Roi) and a conservative leader who is campaigning to bring the paramilitary right back to the fold. Howard is simply another sign of the disaster Margaret Thatcher wreaked, like some medieval comet shedding plagues, on a party that at one time boasted Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan. The socialist side of the British political economy, one should always remember, owes a lot to Conservatives – from the willingness to break with the liberal/free trade orthodoxy in Lord Salisbury’s era to Macmillan’s normalization of the welfare state.

A Macmillan would recognize the opportunity that Blair has given the Conservatives to repair the social compact by opposing, wholeheartedly, the ill conceived alliance with the U.S. to invade and subjugate Iraq. A Macmillan would also recognize that a conservative defends those instruments of social cohesion that have passed the test of time – and thus would be for strengthening National Health, for instance, not looking for illusory savings. A Macmillan would recognize that, given the country’s enormous wealth, the cost of a higher education should be going down, with solid state support for taking the financial burden from the student and his or her family – for surely there is a direct relationship between conservatism and the expanded property-holding possibility given by higher education. A Macmillan wouldn’t be captured by the silly tinker toy called ‘conservatism’ in the United States, which consists of enormous handouts to corporations, a permanent state of war justifying a permanent inflation of the Department of War, and a taxphobia that is less a reasoned position than a cause for psychotherapeutic intervention.

Unfortunately, as long as the Thatcherites have their withered, dying talons on the throat of the Conservative party, they will keep squeezing the life out of the thing. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in the Guardian the other day rather beautifully:

“What's more, Howard's enthusiasm for the war puts him quite out of step with his own followers, as opposed to the quasi-neocons and quisling right who dominate the Tory press, as well as the Tory leadership. Anyone who lives in middle England, otherwise known as provincial England, will be aware of what the polls have regularly confirmed: the Iraq war was markedly more unpopular among ordinary Conservatives than among Labour voters.

One of the most electrifying moments in the past month wasn't directly related to the election. George MacDonald Fraser was talking on the Today programme about the latest of his marvellous Flashman novels. Now an octogenarian, a Tory of Tories, this splendid writer is for ever groaning about the dismal modern age and every woe from political correctness to the metric system. More relevantly, a lifetime earlier he was an infantryman, who saw his best friend killed beside him.
Suddenly there was an explosion on air. He had never in his life felt more ashamed of his country than he had over Iraq, the old soldier said. He could not get out of his head two pictures, one of a small Iraqi boy with his arms blown off by American bombs, and another of our prime minister smirking sycophantically at President Bush's side.

It was riveting, but not surprising. I would have a large bet that if the 60th anniversary of VE-day on Sunday were marked by a poll of MacDonald Fraser's surviving contemporaries - the men and women who served this country in 1939-45 - an easy majority of them would be opposed to the Iraq war.”

And so the spectacle will continue – a country moving right under a nominally left leadership, opposed by a rightwing party that stands for the worst kind of servility to a foreign power, etc., etc. Sad days.


Deleted said…
Pity for the poodle? Roger, Blair is a thug who enjoys aromatherapy, getting in touch with his feelings and long walks through the spilled guts of people who lack the means to really fight back.
roger said…
Harry, the pity is not for his getting spanked for walking through the spilled guts -- it is for his very public humiliation. I always get embarrassed and empathetic about those things. This is why I am not a good candidate for a jury from the prosecutor's point of view. I admit it!

I'm not lamenting the result, far from it -- but simply registering the contradictions that turn and turn about in my peon soul.
Deleted said…
Men of his caste take pride in their public humiliation. It's proof to them that they were in the right. The more opprobrium, the greater their sense of weary martytdom. I'll bet he smuggles a bondage dom into No. 10 to spank him as ennumerates his misdeeds, a practice he picked up from Clinton.

There's no place for you on the vigilance committee either, Roger.