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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Silly Speaking

So: David Cameron made a last-minute deletion from his Great Speech, toning down his pre-announced  admonition to the British people to pay off their debts. What a cock-up!
Tens of millions of those people are net debtors: their mortgages plus unsecured debts greatly exceed their assets. Many people do not even have one month's income in reserve. Meanwhile the overwhelming majority of the population have declining real incomes;  their wage or benefit increases - if they have any - do not meet the rise in prices and taxes that they must pay. If they are able to pay anything off their debts [and some people are being required to do so] this is a small sum each week, and it causes them to reduce their standard of living commensurately
Until today The Prime Minister's silliest utterance was his repetition of the meaningless 'Big Society' tag, which has never had any meaning for either the media or the public.
Now he has just avoided plunging headlong into a display of profound incomprehension and insensitivity. He and his team clearly have no understanding of everyday life under his own regime. Unlike the greatest Tory Prime Minster, the Marquis of Salisbury, David Cameron does not have daily conversations with the grooms, keepers and tenants whose lives were entwined within the routine of a great estate and who were used to speaking with complete frankness to the great man. Unlike Disraeli, Cameron clearly does not have the common sense that enabled the founder of modern Conservatism to say - and to mean - 'Trust the people'. Harold Macmillan was much criticised in the establishment for the 'vulgarity' of his adopting the phrase 'You've never had it so good': but it resonated with the mass of the population and ensured an election victory. Stanley Baldwin had managed a steelworks before he went into politics and he kept the lessons in mind. Winston Churchill was brutally blunt with aides whose recommendations showed an absence of common sense or a failure to appreciate the public mood.
David Cameron's intended admonition to people who simply can't do it to 'pay off their debts' shows a profundity of ignorance that is comparable with Marie Antoinette's 'Let them eat cake'. It is comprehensible [though it proved to be inexcusable] for an eighteenth-century Habsburg to have lived in ignorance of the condition of the people.  It is inexcusable in a twenty-first century Prime Minister to allow a similarly silly assertion to get into the text of a major speech. It may be comprehensible, given Cameron's origins and the fact that he has spent almost all his adult life in the political bubble; but it will not be forgotten as he and his chosen Chancellor stick to their increasingly isolated programme.

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