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May. 14th, 2012

Recently I was showing some American friends around Parliament, and we found ourselves behind a jovial Liam Fox also giving some guests a tour. I explained who he was, and that he had had to resign as defence secretary after being caught essentially running a shadow UK foreign policy. They stared at me, and explained that in the States something is deemed to be wrong if your defense secretary isn't running a shadow foreign policy. (Fox would probably still have had to have resigned in the States, but only because he was running his shady contacts with the help of a non-security-cleared man widely assumed, though obviously never proven, to be his boyfriend.) This left me thoughtful. How much else of what the coalition has been getting up to would be considered a problem only in the UK? Your suggestions are welcome but here are a few:
* The French, who really know about political corruption on an epic scale, wouldn't even blink at what Hunt, Osborne and Cameron have been accused of over News International.

* Iain Duncan Smith's doublethink when he preaches the gospel of liberation and salvation, even as he cheerfully strips thousands of sick and disabled people of their state support and dripfeeds stories to the press that cumulatively serve to demonise them, will be instantly recognisable to anyone who ever lived in a Soviet country.[1]

* The coalition's onslaught on employment rights, which by the end of this parliamentary term will be almost non-existent, is designed to compete with, and will no doubt gratify, China.[2]

* The assistants from African countries I have met at international conferences who apologise sheepishly when they predict (accurately) that their delegates will turn up late for every official appointment because “they run on African time” would know how to work around Teresa May's grasp of the calendar.

* Ministers with personal interests in the industries they are legislating for, such as Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly and the insurance industry or Andrew Lansley('s wife) and private health... hmm, France again.
Clearly, we in the UK are too uptight about all this. In a world that is increasingly—in that truly excellent non-tautologous phrase—global, it's only right that we should look abroad for our inspiration. Far from being an administration whose cancerous malice is tempered only by its unspeakable ineptitude, the coalition in fact turns out to be composed of true internationalists, scouring the world for examples of awful practice and straining to emulate them. So while this year's Queen's Speech may have been a bit thin on legislation because Parliament confidently expects to be tied up in knots for a year over Lords reform, expect next year's to contain more bold coalition gambits including, but not limited to, death squads for union activists, prosecutions for sorcery and the introduction of child soldiers. It will be worth it just to watch Nick Clegg earnestly explaining how these measures will aid social justice and mobility.

Say what you like about Tony Blair (well, that's the rest of the day gone), but at least when his administration made its peace with Colonel Gaddafi—the usual sour commentators were quick to accuse him of the base motive of ensuring access to cheap oil, but more pertinently it's worth remembering that Blair never shied away from an opportunity to befriend owners of spectacular beachfront properties—and started surreptitiously forking over Libyan dissidents to the very secret police that it had previously protected them from, it was acting with the exquisite hypocrisy that the British spent centuries making our very own.



[1] The comparison with such a godless system might seem slightly ironic with regard to a man who professes himself a fervent Christian, but of course he is no such thing. The gibbering demented imp that has taken up residence on his shoulder is identical to the one that haunts Tony Blair. It starts by convincing its victims that it is the voice of their conscience, but soon enough it persuades them that it is actually Christ.

[2] Watch out in particular for proposals to allow employees “flexible leave”. The suggestion is so at odds with the comprehensive measures designed to reverse a century of employees' rights—and all but wipe out their representation at tribunals so they can't fight back—that we can only view it with suspicion. Just as “simplify” has been used in welfare reform as an unsubtle code for “cut relentlessly”, we can only imagine what “flexible leave” means to the government. You can choose when you take your holiday but you have to keep returning to work every other day? Only part of you is allowed to leave the building at any one time? Christ alone knows what they're dreaming up—and, sadly, it's Iain Duncan Smith's vicious drooling Christ, so he'll be no help.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
a_pawson
May. 14th, 2012 10:35 am (UTC)
The entire expenses scandal wouldn't have happened in any number of countries across Europe. I have a number of Italian and Greek colleagues who find it completely baffling that people in the UK have a problem with politicians exploiting the perks of their job for personal gain. This is in their opinion not just the norm but expected of anyone in public office.
moleintheground
May. 14th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
But that's just it - in Italy and Greece, EVERYONE agrees to be bent and to trade freely in a shadow economy. But here we are told - literally - that we are to play it straight and others will too. I actually feel sorry the MPs over the expenses scandal - I think they were told that it was kosher to stretch their claims as far as they could, in lieu of a competitive corporate salary. It's like in the late 2000s, when employers worked out that all the people in their offices were being paid for looking at the internet for six hours a day. If something is tacitly permitted, then it's decided it's not, you don't fire them, you tell them to stop, then fire them if they don't.

Edited at 2012-05-14 04:35 pm (UTC)
noradre
May. 14th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
Does the past count? It is 'a foreign country' after all. I ask because, as I said to you on Twitter once, IDS and Grayling's schtick is straight out of Victorian Britain with its workhouse mentality. The helping hand that smacks you round the back of the head, just so you know how little you deserve their concern and how grateful you should be for it as you give the grinding handle another turn.
webofevil
May. 14th, 2012 11:53 am (UTC)


Edited at 2012-05-14 11:58 am (UTC)
noradre
May. 14th, 2012 12:44 pm (UTC)
Haha! Needs a couple of people in wheelchairs pulling it.

Really do wonder sometimes if we're going to go through the whole cycle again: the failures of laissez-faire and the organization of its victims to attempt to address and correct them.
moleintheground
May. 14th, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
I have thought often that a lot of what the Tories want is to produce a working class who will work at salaries competitive with BRIC countries. But this would of course require housing to not be so mind-bogglingly dear in cities, which would require the housing bubble to pop which would destroy civilization. And all trace that that civilization had ever existed.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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