From Tony’s Cronies to Chumocracy
21st March 2016
Watching the awakening of Iain Duncan Smith’s conscience is a jaw-dropping live event, like OJ on the run in his Bronco or the Iranian Embassy siege. It’s compelling car-crash TV that’s made for the 24 hour news cycle. “Tory Death-Throes Live”: like cage-fighting with suits.
Let’s take a brief moment before returning to the Blue on Blue Carnage to double-check we’re all paying attention here because there’s a worrying trend for us to pretend that somehow “One Nation” Tories exist or can somehow to be distinguished from the Full-Bloods. Such a distinction is a false. If you are involved in the wholesale re-ordering of the social contract you’re all culpable. Close the doors, no-ones getting out.
Let’s start with the IDS epiphany.
His Damascene experience wasn’t a flashing moment of self-honesty, waking and with a blue light-bulb flashing above his head realising: “Oh shit I’m a total bastard.” For which you could have given him a grain of credit, though perhaps reflecting that he was on a bit of a slow-learning curve.
So wait a fucking minute. We know Iain’s not the sharpest tool in the toolbox but there were a few clues kicking about. You might have thought presiding over a country that designs anti-homeless architecture, views the exponential rise in food banks as a good thing, or witnesses people living in bins might have been a wake-up call. You might have thought the rioting students, striking doctors, or the one in five young people unemployed might have interrupted his wee snooze. Or, as we reported last year – the fact that as many as 13 million families lost an average of £260 a year from the 2015 Budget as Child Poverty Action suggested.
But why would it? If the simple reality that death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system didn’t rouse the Quiet Man, what else would?
Today, as government ministers scramble about like a nest of vipers under a hot sun we are told that they will not explain where it will find the money lost by the £4bn Personal Independence Payment U-turn until the autumn statement. Delay, dodge, distract. It’s not as easy as you think while you’re trying to bite each other to death.
Okay, it is a fun sport watching the Conservatives at war, and Labour are relishing every moment. John McDonnell commenting: “Looks like Gauke standing in for my UQ. I appeal again to @George_Osborne to do the honourable thing & personally come to defend his budget.”
That was never going to happen.
Once again, as with the momentous EU referendum, the latest bout of in-fighting makes your realise that government in this country is dictated not by policy or principle but by the ruthless egotistical power-mongering of a handful of public school-boys. That would be bad enough but it’s worse than that.
For the past few years we’ve been governed by a clique of Old Etonians who were pals at school and have now given each other all the best jobs running the country.
David Cameron, his chief of staff Edward Llewellyn, Boris’s brother Jo Johnson (head of Cameron’s policy unit), Oliver Letwin, Jesse Norman, Rupert Harrison, and the Government’s Chief Whip, Sir George Young — who you might remember he was the guy who once complained he hated tripping over beggars when he came out of the opera – ALL went to Eton. That’s not a government, that’s a school reunion.
So Iain Duncan Smith’s ball-crushingly hypocritical talk of a Chumocracy isn’t wrong. What you’re watching isn’t just a massive ego-trip – it’s a public schoolboy spat. Here’s the reality bite: we are ruled by a failed elite we didn’t elect from an absurdly narrow and privileged sect of of English society.
It goes without saying that we live in a country characterised by vast social inequality, political centralisation and cliquish mob rule, which is designed to retain power in the hands of those who profit most from this arrangement. But occasionally the carefully orchestrated deception falls part and this is one of those choice moments. As Suzanne Moore points out today: “Austerity no longer makes sense even in terms of his own logic. This is an ideology of callousness. And it is brazen.”
But it’s been brazen for a while. What gives? Something about the relentless build-up of public hatred combined with the naked self-interest of politics actors has combined in a perfect storm. While this can be seen, and is often framed by the media as a matter of individual battles, there is now a real chance that the government will face defeat tomorrow.
Never faithful, Tory vultures like David Davis are circling as they sense blood, and in a wonderfully timed statement a spokeswoman from the Prime Minister’s office said, George Osborne “still has full confidence of the PM”. You’ve also got to love the viperous semi-coded dismissals coming out of the top team. Amber Rudd, the woman single-handedly responsible for effectively destroying the Scottish renewable sector said: “I don’t really understand it, I am perplexed but I have sat at cabinet with him every week, and then to launch this bombshell at the rest of us, it is difficult to understand and is really disappointing.” While Priti Patel said: “Iain has spoken very passionately today, with great conviction and dignity in terms of making his case.” Ouch.
This is a political class at each other’s throats and it’s a spectator sport. But while we should enjoy the spectacle don’t kid yourself that it’s the individuals who matter. This is about structural endemic institutional economic inequalities and injustice. This is Broken Britain. As the SNP’s Stewart Hosie said:
“Iain Duncan Smith’s crocodile tears are a distraction from the real issue at hand – while the deep divisions at the top of the Tory party widen and the mud-slinging continues, disabled people and those on low-incomes are still expected to bear the brunt of the Tories’ obsession with austerity.”
This may have the look and feel of The Thick of It meets House of Cards as directed by The Onion but it’s worth separating pausing from the glee to consider this: the level of trust, solidarity and comradeship we are witnessing amongst the upper echelons of the Tory party is a mirror of the politics of hate they have been foisting on this country for years. It’s a doctrine of semi-eugenics that’s been exposed by their own self-serving brutalist lust for power. Let’s hope the rest of the country wakes up and we can make the most of the present crisis.