There's something about a Polly Toynbee article that sets the teeth on edge. It's the combination of a lofty contempt for 'the people' and the relentless banging of the Brown drum (and apologies for that mental image). So today's offering
is little different.
They complain about fly-tipping round the corner or the kids in the street in an aggrieved tone of voice as if the canvasser were personally to blame. It's tempting to retort, "So what do you ever do for democracy, then?" Patient canvassers treat voters as valued customers and passive consumers when a challenging dose of "Ask not what your country can do for you" would not come amiss.
If someone came around canvassing for my vote, and then blamed me for the problems in the neighborhood, I can't say it would increase the likeliness of my voting for them. What do I do for democracy? I pay the bloody taxes that employ the idle buggers. I've given up on asking what my country can do for me - the only services I receive from my council are rubbish collection and street lighting - and they're talking about reducing rubbish collection.
The clipboard picks out doors where erstwhile Labour voters live: forget the rest. Here are some diehard loyalists, the ones who beam from ear to ear when Labour knocks, the ones who say "All my life", "My late husband would kill me if I thought of voting anything else!" and "We're Labour to the marrow, like our parents before us!", or "Never anything else!" But the sad truth is that these tribalists are very old, the widows and relics from another political age.
I simply cannot see the downside here - people have stopped blindly voting for parties on the basis of habit and an irrational fear that ghosts will kill them if they don't. Polly is simultaneously decrying public detachment from politics and the death of irrational voter loyalty. Which is it?
They need reminding that there was no childcare before Labour.
Eh? I have no idea what this might mean, though I'm guessing it's that Polly believes that if omething isn't done by the state, then it doesn't count. Bloggers are bad, remember, because we don't have sub-editors.
Voters in their 20s can't remember any other government and even for the older ones, 10 years is an eternity. Now every aspect of anyone's life that disappoints has to be Labour's fault. Never mind that their grumbles are so local they only refer to the next street.
Well, these are local elections we're talking about here.
Listening to the sounds and the silences on the doorstep is a salutory reminder that politics is not only about policy but also about atmosphere and mood. Ask what exactly Labour has done wrong and few mention the war, some mention immigration but most put their finger on nothing so specific. Ignorance of almost everything can be breathtaking, but the general leakage of trust is a warning that Labour's time could be up.
Stupid electorate, failing to appreciate everything Gordon has sone for them.
A 10-year chancellor must leap out of the starting gate like a fresh contender. He must electrify the stale air with new ideas and new directions strong enough to reach right down to these jaded roots. That takes high voltage jolts of surprise and optimism. Steady as she goes would be steady as she sinks now. He has to break with the past, renounce past errors and find a way to free the party from defending everything done in its name so far.
Try and visualise Gordon Brown leaping out of a starting gate. Try, for that matter, to imagine him renouncing past errors. I can imagine the articles Polly will be writing in two years time, when Labour loses its majority at the General Election (if it's lucky). Ringing denunciations of the timorous foolish electorate: wilfully blind to the glories of Labour. When the people speak, it means it's time to change the people.
Labels: politics, Toynbee