BY DAVID EYLES
I’ve had enough.
What follows may well turn into a Jonathan Pie-type expletive-riddled rant. I make no apologies to those sensitive flowers who might read this article and feel a little faint. That’s tough. Go and read Winnie The Pooh if you are feeling a little peaky.
The thing that has triggered me, the thing that has finally caused my patience to lie down – an exhausted and desiccated husk – and draw its last breath, is the tweeted image below:
It appears that Defra and Mr Gove (eyes shining with the zeal that only the recently converted can muster) are giving up single-use plastic for Lent. But this worthy scheme has reckoned without the inestimable and sharp-eyed Harriet Line, who is a political correspondent for the Press Association. Harriet quite correctly drew attention to what look like plastic cups filled with water in front of the Defra team, sitting like a row of righteous stoats in front of a Commons Committee of some sort. Prompted by this apparent contradiction with their principles, the Defra Twitter team (obviously lurking in wait for just such a moment) pounced triumphantly to declare that the cups are compostable; and so imply that said cups are environmentally friendly in every possible way.
Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that heart-warming? Aren’t you so pleased that the environment is safe in the hands of these people?
Except that it isn’t.
The equally sharp-eyed and knowledgeable Sam Chetan-Welsh has looked it up on the Vegware website and found that Vegware is not compostable in the natural environment or in the sea, so it won’t solve the problem of plastic waste. In fact Vegware is only compostable in commercial composting systems which operate at very much higher temperatures than your average garden compost bin. So you won’t be spreading Vegware on your allotment any time soon. And for the most part, Vegware has to be either incinerated to recover its intrinsic carbon in the form of heat; or else go to landfill where it still won’t break down because temperatures inside landfill are not high enough. Its manufacture from corn means that it requires inputs of fertiliser. Artificial fertiliser is a product of oil. So, in the context of Mr Gove’s virtue signalling, the Vegware plastic cups are not much better than …. well ….. ordinary plastic cups.
Defra are the government department responsible for policy and regulations on waste management and should be aware that re-use is above recycling in the waste hierarchy. So it seems odd that this department has not yet discovered ceramic and glass cups and mugs. These have the huge advantage of an indefinite life span and can be used many, many times. You just need to rinse them out before using them again. But apparently this is far too difficult for our environmental masters in Defra.
But even these contradictions, hypocrisy and just plain stupidity from the permanently intellectually challenged Defra are not what has caused me to lose it.
Take another recent example: Examine, if you will, this tweet from Claire Perry MP, Minister for Energy and All Sorts of Other Things:
Here she has correctly written the top part of the waste hierarchy: Reduce, Re-use and Recycle – which is a slightly clearer understanding of the thing than her colleagues in Defra have managed – so full marks for Miss Perry. But notice that this tweet was put up on the 18th March 2019. This was the day that the Speaker, John Bercow, ruled that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement could not be re-presented to Parliament unless there were real, substantive changes (because it had been comprehensively rejected by Parliament twice before). So whilst the Parliamentary classes (aided and abetted by Bercow) are busy buggering Brexit into oblivion, Claire Perry is busy tweeting out feel-good messages about recycling.
Here is another example:
Here is Miss Perry, with cheesy ear-to-ear grin demonstrating exactly what it takes to become a ‘Cameron Cutie’. (Those with long political memories will remember a photo of Tony Blair in the first few days of his government posing with all his new female MPs. These ladies were dubbed ‘Blair’s Babes’ by the press. When Cameron did exactly the same thing after the 2010 election – following faithfully the guidance of his master – the fresh young Conservative ladies became known as ‘Cameron’s Cuties’). In this photograph, Claire Perry is casually dominating the women around her by wearing that Kermit-the-Frog-coloured top and ensuring that she stands next to the two shortest women in the group, thereby making herself even more conspicuous. Claire Perry is good at dominating things. Her brilliantly timed interruptions of loud and unstoppable banalities are guaranteed to bring a halt to any intelligent conversation.
Now let us move on – away from the hurly-burly of Brexit – to the happier, slower moving and more gentle times of the Conservative Party Conference in October 2015. Here, for example, is George Osborne:
This legs-wide-apart position was known as a ‘power stance’ and was adopted by more than one delegate at that particular conference. Precisely how this was supposed to convey ‘power’ to the public is a bit of a mystery to all of us. George Osborne simply makes himself look like a complete prat. Some would say that this image is confirmation of his permanent condition.
Here, Theresa May presents us with a similar image:
Once again, it is difficult to imagine how this stance conveys ‘power’ when she is standing on a stage in full view of hundreds of people with her legs wide apart. They might just as well have put a shiny pole on stage and got her to dance around it. This might have increased the excitement value, but added little to the dignity of the great office of state that is the Home Office (she was Home Secretary at the time). Even without the shiny pole, it is difficult to see how making herself look as if she is about to hitch her skirt up and take a pee, adds to the public respect that she obviously craves.
For a while, the very public piss-take sent this kind of thing into hibernation, until unfortunately it reappeared in the form of Sajid Javid when he was first appointed Home Secretary by Theresa May. Here he is, aping his mistress:
Since becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May has muted her appeals to the onanists and frotteurs in the Parliamentary Conservative Party and instead gone for the restrained and dignified look:
Whilst this tweet is not exactly a St Crispin’s Day speech, there is nevertheless an attempt to get people to pull together. The trouble is that we are not sure to whom this is addressed. If it is her own MPs, then she is pissing in the wind because they have all made up their minds about which course of action they want to take. If it is for the public to support the vassalage intrinsic within her atrocious deal, then she is being even more ineffective.
It isn’t just images of politicians that are irritating, nor even their twitter activity. The kind of thing I am talking about is also verbal. How often have you heard Theresa May standing at the despatch box replying to a friendly question thus: “Can I say to my Honourable friend that we take X very seriously (where X = recycling rates in Milton Keynes/fluffy pussycats/whatever). And that’s why we are taking steps to improve X (recycling rates in Milton Keynes/fluffy pussycats/whatever).”
These tweets, these images, these platitudinous, unctuous, insincere, patronising statements, like so many others issued by her government, are utterly pointless. So why do they do it?
The tweets, the stupid body language, the images, the banal, sentimental, platitudinous crap are all expressions of virtue signalling. In making these signals, the politician is doing one or all of the following things:
- They are emphasising their own virtue by pretending to care deeply about an issue which is often remote or inconsequential like “Global Recycling Day”.
- They are offering us a distraction, no matter how trivial it might be, in the face of far greater matters of import. e.g. ‘Global Recycling Day’ at a time of national upheaval such as Brexit.
- They are offering a distraction away from their own incompetence or blatant cock-up.
- They are promoting themselves as being caring people.
- They are getting their image out there in front of the media.
- They are telling us how incredibly important they are and how essential it is for us to continue to vote for them and keep them in office.
To cap it all we have had, on the evening of 21st March 2019 (eight days before we are due to leave the European Union) another of those inane lectern moments in No. 10. Once again, Theresa May told us that nothing has changed. If nothing has changed, why did she summon the reptiles from the press pack to listen to her words? Why did she get the country sitting on the edge of its sofas in anticipation of a momentous event?
The answer is now becoming increasingly clear that she is not informing us about events, but that she is merely signalling to us how important and indispensable she is to conclude these great matters of state – from which we, the great unwashed and unimportant, are excluded because we do not know enough. These lectern moments have little to do with Brexit and much more to do with the unquenchable ego of Theresa May. They are also a sign of her own weakness and that she is daily losing more and more support from her own party and cabinet colleagues. She is desperate for public support because she has none from within her own government. She has moved from being a case of mild Asperger’s to the madness and desperation of clinging on to power.
And this is what has caused my patience to curl up and die. These signals of virtue, this craving for our attention, are not just about the trivia of politicians’ ego-massaging. They contain a signal which is far deeper than their ostensible message. What they are saying to all of us is that we are so stupid that we will believe this utter rubbish. These signals are the final proof that almost all Westminster politicians think that we the public – Remainer and Leaver alike – are so irredeemably thick that we are going to swallow their bullshit in the belief that it contains nourishment.
But there are two edges to this particular sword.
Whilst the political classes have no respect for the intelligence of the voter, their contempt for us actually blinds them to the fact that the voter is at least as intelligent as they are. Furthermore, we are better educated and informed than we have ever been. Our levels of intelligent discrimination and analysis are at least as good as theirs (and in many cases, considerably better). The online, 24 hours news cycle means that their indiscretions, indecisions, greed, stupidity, dishonesty, mistakes, foolishness and facile dissembling are exposed as never before.
Brexit has done us all a favour. It has shown these charlatans for what they really are – a collection of inadequates and scoundrels. The punishment this lot will receive at the ballot box in 2022 or sooner, will change the course of this country’s destiny.