Friday, March 13, 2015

The most important political issue of the moment? Ed Miliband’s kitchens By Owen Jones

The puerile nature of political discourse in modern Britain crowds out the issues that matter to ordinary people.
 
‘This will not be an election about issues, but will mostly consist of making Miliband look a bit weird and thus unsuitable for No 10.’ (Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters)
 
The problem with an open sewer is you cannot escape the stench. The Daily Mail is that open sewer, along with a sizable chunk of Britain’s Tory-dominated oligarch-owned “free press”. Let’s just have a quick recap about the level of political discourse we have reached in Britain. The big political controversy of the moment is not the national scandal of low pay or child poverty, not the housing crisis, the lack of secure work, food banks – you name it. No: it’s the kitchen arrangements of the leader of the opposition. The first outrage was that Ed Miliband’s kitchen was too drab. But then came the knockout blow: he has two kitchens.
The temptation with a character like Sarah Vine is to reciprocate the sort of nastiness she has woven into a sickly art form. That would cede too much moral ground, and in any case I suspect she would enjoy it. Let’s just settle on one rather indisputable fact: she is not a nice person. She once savaged the lesbian writer and activist Jack Monroe for becoming a mother, arguing that if she had been “uncertain of her sexual orientation, arguably she should have taken greater precautions”.
It is Vine who initiated this latest assault on Ed’s character. The drab kitchen was apparently sufficient grounds to suggest he and his wife are like “aliens”; Justine is compared to “the late Mr Spock”. But then Ed’s ever helpful friend Jenni Russell revealed that it was in fact, just a “functional kitchenette ... for tea and quick snacks”. And so the kitchen – sink and all – was thrown at Ed, or “two kitchens” Miliband as he is now to be known.
Why do I bother. Why do any of us bother. Try saying “political debate in Britain” without sniggering. It’s not about issues or people and their needs. It’s a mixture of the privileged scapegoating the largely voiceless – immigrants, people in poverty generally – and puerile character assassination.
The modus operandi of the right is to target anyone vaguely leftish and make the debate about them, rather than what they believe. I’ve written this before, but if you believe in social justice, they will find any reason to trash you. If you’re too poor, they’ll accuse you of envy; too rich, of hypocrisy; too young, of naivety; too old, of being a dinosaur. Above all, the right obsessively hunts anything that can be twisted into hypocrisy. If you think poverty is basically a bad thing and something needs to be done about it, then you have to live in a shed and forage for berries, otherwise you are a hypocritical champagne socialist.
The media have a wider narrative about Ed Miliband: sad pathetic geeky loser who cannot even eat a bacon sandwich with any dignity. You can easily select photographs to make any politician look undignified, or generally reinforce whatever narrative you have selected. This will not be an election about issues, but will mostly consist of making Miliband look a bit weird and thus unsuitable for No 10. Yes, if he offered a more inspiring, coherent alternative, he would be better placed to portray the personality attacks as a distraction. That does not deflect from the fact our media represent a colossal, organised insult to our collective intelligence.
And so we end up with the tragic truth of modern politics. A largely unpopular Tory party, bankrolled by rich people whose interests it exists to serve, maintains its grip on power with the help of a campaign of venom fanned by a Tory press run by rich people. Deflect from all the problems that afflict our country. Deflect from the ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny elite. Instead, vilify and humiliate anybody who challenges – however meekly – the status quo. The rich get richer while millions struggle, and we are left debating Miliband’s kitchens.
 
© theguardian.com
 

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