BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE
COVID-19 has revealed the tragic futility of contemporary politics. Spirited efforts by sections of the Left to undermine each and every government response to the virus wearies even those who would ordinarily take an interest in Westminster proceedings. How is Parliament to be taken seriously if £330 billion of spending is to be criticised by the opposition as ‘not going far enough’?
It is now clear that politics and its reporting are dominated by people of outstanding mediocrity, whose curiosity and ambition never transcends the realm of inane point-scoring. Take Labour activist, Owen Jones, who is now exciting himself with the idea of making five furious ‘demands’ to the government yet doesn’t know what these demands should be, just that some ought to be made.
Revolutionaries without a cause like Jones can not only make these juvenile comments without reputational consequence, but are rewarded for doing so by our broadcast media. Lifelong enemies of the Tories are invited by studios to analyse Conservative Party policy as if they have anything to offer other than uninspired ad hominem, the whole event often being treated as if it were a serious and sincere exchange of ideas. Of course, it’s easier to do this if the political interest of the guest is never declared, as was the case with Prof. John Ashton on last week’s Question Time. Whilst it isn’t unusual for the audience to be treated to diatribes against the Conservatives, the scorn offered by Prof. Ashton was given a veneer of credibility as he was introduced as ‘the former Director of Public Health England for the North West’. No one in the production team cared to mention the professor’s activism for the Labour Party.
The Guardian demonstrated similar journalistic integrity when they published a letter boasting 200 signatures from ‘scientists’ criticising the government’s approach to COVID-19, the inference being that their field of study was of relevance to the virus. It soon transpired that none of the signatures were from virologists, moreover, almost a quarter had come from students. As if further proof were needed that the BBC are a de facto broadcasting arm of the Guardian, they gave this non-story a top slot on their news channel and titled an article on the subject ‘Scientists say UK virus strategy is risking lives’ despite the article acknowledging that ‘no leading experts in the science of the spread of diseases’ signed the letter.
Since the act of using COVID-19 for political capital has entered the stream of social media, its practice has spread at an alarming rate. In a since deleted Tweet, former Vote Leave volunteer, Shahmir Sanni, announced that the Conservative Party revel in the deaths of the old and infirm as they are a burden on society. Sanni claimed to have bore witness to this sentiment in ‘conservative spaces’. But if the Conservatives are as ruthlessly pragmatic as he claims, then surely they wouldn’t wish death upon the age bracket most likely to vote for them?
Perhaps more contemptibly stupid than the culture of ‘lies for likes’ on Twitter is the reverse nationalism espoused by the hard-left and #FBPE cultists. Former Liberal Democrat MEP Caroline Voaden gave her unwavering support to Emmanuel Macron on his Corona strategy seemingly for nothing more than the virtue of not being Boris.
Even the most insignificant of interactions are sensationalised in an attempt to generate outrage against the government. The allegation that Boris Johnson jokingly suggested that an initiative to build more ventilators should be called ‘Operation Last Gasp’ was described as ‘jaw-dropping’ by Sky News’ political correspondent Joe Pike yet was received by most of Twitter with laughter or indifference.
Is this all that there is to be from now on, an endless succession of feigned outrage and hollow pronouncements? Being a conservative, one finds oneself in the curious position of wishing that at least some talent would manifest itself in an opposition party in the hope that the taedium vitae of social media era politics may one day be broken.
James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.