spiked-geist: Day Two

Tory Story: the end; New Labour, new hospital food; Real people? Get real; Rock the vote, not the boat; Blair's other babies; R-word bad, A-word good?; Overexcited about apathy; Anti-smoking smokescreen.

Tory Story: the end

Who needs to make fun of the Tories when they do such a good job of it themselves? Tory Story, a photographic essay by David Modell with words by Kevin Toolis, was launched last night in a London gallery. The Conservatives and their supporters were pictured over decades of gangliness, haplessness, goofiness and craziness, True Blues in glorious black-and-white. By all accounts the exhibition had gone down rather well with the objects of its mirth. ‘They didn’t see the pisstake element,’ somebody told me. Maybe the prints should have been sepia. JB


New Labour, new hospital food

Just in time for the election, the government has announced details of new hospital menus to be brought in later this year. The menus, prepared by a team of seven chefs coordinated by Loyd Grossman, former presenter of BBC TV’s Masterchef, will consign the stereotypical soggy boiled cabbage to the past - replaced by old, easy-to-make favourites with a modern twist, like olive oil mash and chicken thighs with lentils.

This might be good news for victims of the dreaded hospital mush - but it is also an example of New Labour’s policy-by-photo-opportunity in vivid colour. Firstly, why is the government making such a big fuss about edible hospital food, which is surely something we should take for granted?  Secondly, precisely why is Mr Grossman involved at all?  The BBC love making programmes about doctors and nurses but Hospital Masterchef never made it to the airwaves. New Labour policy seems to be, ‘Why use an expert when a celebrity will do?’.

This new initiative will cost £40million. I wonder if this budget provides a service to the corridors so that the many patients waiting on trolleys can also indulge in these new delights. Maybe they’ll have to make do with the ‘snack box’ of crisps and a chocolate bar for those who were out when dinner got served.

Helpfully, for wannabe patients on a year-long waiting list who can’t wait to try out the new grub, the recipes are available
online. Remember, for that authentic NHS experience, eat the meal cold, sleep in a room that hasn’t been cleaned for a week, then contract a post-operative infection. Tasty. RL


Real people? Get real

Standing on his soapbox, William Hague said he wanted to reach out to the ‘real people’ of Britain. How do you know if you’re a ‘real person’? Simple: if you’re more ‘interested in the price of petrol than proportional representation’, then you’re ‘real’. If you’re more into ‘repealing Section 28’ than worried about ‘the GCSEs your children will get’, then you’re ‘unreal’.

It’s just a shame the Tories didn’t enlist some ‘real people’ to do their electioneering yesterday, instead of those creepy Tim Nice-But-Dims who handed out Tory leaflets at Tube stations across London to all us ‘unreal’ commuters. BON

Read on:

Hague on his soapbox targets ‘the real people’, Daily Telegraph


Rock the vote, not the boat

On the first full day of election campaigning, UK chancellor Gordon Brown offered voters a ‘radical vision for a new progressive era in Britain…a great Britain of ambition and high ideals’: ‘stability yesterday, today and tomorrow.’

What could be less inspiring, less inclined to motivate people into the voting booths, than the thought of a ‘long-term culture of stability’? ‘To avoid changing things very much’ is hardly an ambitious agenda.

But according to Brown, the alternative to this exciting policy is a return to the boom-and-bust politics of the past: ‘The choice is between stability and stop-go.’ So he criticises Hague’s proposed tax cuts not on a financial level, but on a moral one - denouncing them as ‘irresponsible’.

When the Opposition’s policies are not discussed, but just dismissed as beyond the pale, there is not much room for debate. Or, as an Iron Lady of the past once put it: There Is No Alternative. JA

Read on:

The stupid economy, by Mick Hume

Gordon Brown’s speech, BBC News Online


Blair’s other babies

Was Tony Blair’s decision to announce the election to pupils at a south London girls’ school merely trite PR - or is there something more significant behind New Labour’s constant desire to mix politics and children? Read Jennie Bristow:

‘The essence of youth, for Young Britain, was not the scruffy boisterousness of real teenagers, or the critical minds of a generation on the cusp of adulthood. It was the childish innocence of kids - untainted by politics, prejudices or principles, ignorant of everything except the here and now. Somehow, it was hoped that this very innocence of the grubby world of politics could soothe the insecurities of their parents’ generation and take us through to that brave new world of New Britain.’

Read on:

Blair’s other babies, by Jennie Bristow

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian: ‘Tony Blair took off his jacket and several hundred schoolgirls screamed. The election campaign had officially begun.’

Matthew Parris in The Times (London): ‘Tony Blair, who last year ran into trouble with women at the Women’s Institute, yesterday chose girls of a more gullible age.’


R-word bad, A-word good?

Politicians have been banned from mentioning the R-word - but the A-word is apparently too good to miss. Having signed a pledge not to make race into an election issue, Blair - and now Hague - have pushed asylum to the fore of their campaigns. Read Mick Hume:

‘The use of the race issue today is more about establishing a new etiquette for the political class than addressing real problems facing people in Britain. In practice, both parties can compete to see which treats refugees the worst, just so long as in principle they have signed a promise not to use rude words in front of the Commission for Racial Equality.’

Cook plays the curry card

Read more about the race card


Overexcited about apathy

The more politicians bemoan an ‘apathetic’ electorate, the less likely we are to be inspired to vote. So why do they keep going on about it? Read:

Your vote counts! (to Bush, Blair, Gore and Hague, anyway), by Frank Furedi in spiked-election. Should voting be an act so banal as flushing the toilet? 

Wake up! The truth about youth apathy, by Jennie Bristow in spiked-election. So what if young people’s attitude to politics is ‘so what’? Every proposal made about how to engage them in politics will only make them more apathetic.

A-pathetic excuse, by Mick Hume in spiked-central. ‘The major parties are planning short election campaigns that will not start until Blair announces polling day, for fear of “boring” the electorate.’

Anti-smoking smokescreen

Broadcaster Trevor Phillips, Labour chairman of the Greater London Authority, has called for a ban on smoking in public places in London. That means bars, restaurants and offices. ‘We have a legal responsibility to consider the health of the nation’, he told the London Evening Standard. It’s good to see that the GLA has now got two big issues to campaign on during the election - smoky pubs and, of course, those pesky pigeons. SS

Read more on the smoking issue

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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