The general election, which will take place 8th June, fills me with gloom. Truth, as we have been made so miserably aware in the past twelve months, is usually an early casualty in a political party’s electioneering. What many forget is that language is used to manipulate our responses, just as it is in slick advertising campaigns because we are worth it. Though that should probably be because we are receptive to positive sounding messages that are endlessly repeated.
I have been quiet about the election here in the blogosphere, but Twitter has seen me splutter a few times. None of the three leaders of the main parties give me hope. I certainly wouldn’t want any of them to be looking after my granny. If leaders are only interested in the powerful, the vulnerable tend to get a bad deal. Theresa May’s mantra of strong and stable leadership/government, a phrase never examined or explained on any programme I have watched, has already entered the public consciousness. Voxpops reveal average Joes and Josephine saying they think May is strong. Nobody asks them to define that strength, or to ask them which other current leaders would come under the same heading. My gut feeling is that Putin sees himself as a strong leader, and certainly Mussolini, Hitler, Mao and Stalin all fall into the category. Strong in political terms means powerful. Powerful does not necessarily mean wise, just or fair. Not that it’s just the politicians who like this muscular language. Another voxpop found pro May voters in Essex saying they thought May would ‘fight’ to get us a good deal in Brexit. If this is a fight, who started it? Not the other members of the EU, that’s for sure.
Aggressive posturing, sabre rattling is all the rage, with a number of politicians from various countries apparently keen to join in and talk tough. Trump has been doing it for months, though did anyone else see the completely vacuous drivel spouted by Ivanka when questioned about her new role? All accompanied by hair flicking and smiles. Meanwhile her father, having said he would not be interfering in foreign affairs has apparently had a look in the toy box of weaponry at his disposal and exploded a bomb so big people thought it was end of the world. North Korea’s Dear Leader has stated he is ready to defend the country, though I somehow can’t quite see him crawling through scrub in camouflage gear.
Jeremy Corbyn has actually said a few things I agree with, but with such lack of passion, and in such a sneering way, that all i recall is the delivery and none of the words. He certainly wouldn’t be someone I’d leave with my granny. Tim Farron, who at times has sounded quite promising, has been outed as probable closet homophobe, and then declared himself ‘tired of this line of questioning’ when journalists have repeatedly asked him to clarify where he stands on LGBT issues. Not a granny option.
Another phrase I would like banned is the British people, a phrase politicians of various hues like to bandy about as though they and they alone are empowered to speak for that said people. Yet I am one of the British people, and so far I don’t think anyone has spoken for me. Marine le Pen is saying she speaks for le people in France. Bollocks. She’s just another nationalist trying to drape herself in the respectable flag of patriotism. But patriotism is a different animal altogether.
Theresa May seems to want the election to be an endorsement for Brexit, but an election is always about many things, and however important Brexit is, it’s the other issues of the NHS, the environment I want to hear about, because Brexit has to be fashioned to protect and accommodate them and not the other way around. If she wants an endorsement of her Brexit strategy she needs to call another referendum, but that might truly push the country over the brink. With Brexit she needs to involve the whole of parliament, to understand that opposition is an important, indeed a vital part of democracy, and the Lords are absolutely within their rights to question what she is up to in the Commons. That is their function; to check and scrutinise the work of the Commons, not to rubber stamp it.
Hope finally came when I was in the City yesterday, and it didn’t come from a politician. A lonely figure stood on the steps of St Paul’s cathedral.
Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo, the first sculpture to stand on the empty plinth at Trafalgar Square.
Closer, and you see it’s a sculpture of Christ, crowned with thorns. Reviled, mocked, sentenced to death. Yet the Christian faith teaches us that he was strong; he didn’t lead armies or beat people up; his strength was in his humanity, his espousal of the poor and the dispossessed.
It’s ironic that Theresa May, a woman who, as she likes to remind us, is a vicar’s daughter yet seems to have such a different concept of what it means to be strong. Christ wouldn’t get much of a welcome in today’s Tory party. His message was not one of stability that she prizes so highly, but it was one of compassion. It makes me wonder what she has been doing in all the church services she has attended. Not listening to the gospels, that’s for sure.
Fortunately Amnesty International, indefatigable defender of human rights is still with us, and working with the cathedral.