Did you watch the Prime Minister’s little speech in Downing Street? Did you notice what he said, in amongst all the ‘Bright New Dawn’ stuff that is mandatory in situations like this?
I want to build a more responsible society in Britain, one where we don’t just ask “What are my entitlements?”, but “What are my responsibilities?”
As a guide to that society: those who can should, and those who can’t we will always help. I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country.
I want us to build an economy that rewards work
So, do you notice the criticism of those who are entitled to benefits? Do you notice the commitment to reward work – always code, in a rightwing politician’s mouth, for making standards of living worse for those on benefits, not making standards of living better for those in work? Did you spot the implied reference to the presumed many (the fantasy many) who ‘can’, but wilfully say ‘Shan’t!’? Do you notice, above all, the people who are singled out as deserving help – the poor, the elderly and the frail? Notice that word at the end there? Not ‘the sick’, not ‘the ill’, not ‘the disabled’ – the frail. In other words, people with an obvious physical infirmity. In other other words, not people like me, with my irritatingly invisible illness – no mentals on this list of the saved.
Now bear in mind, this is what Cameron is saying in his moment of consensus-building, his “let’s build a better country together” speech, his attempt to forge the disparate strands of the country into a single entity. At the equivalent moment, Margaret Thatcher talked about sowing harmony where there was discord – before going on to the single most divisive figure in modern British history. And David Cameron started way to the right of that, he started with the iron fist clearly visible through the velvet glove. If this is his moderate stance, then what in the name of crap is he going to be forcing on us in a year’s time?
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe the tougher rhetoric was designed to reassure the right of his party disgusted by the alliance with the Lib Dems, and necessary in a way it wouldn’t have been if he’d had an outright majority. Maybe, above all, I’m not placing sufficient confidence in the ability of the Lib Dems to rein him in – apparently they’ve already blocked the “law to let me inherit more of Daddy’s lovely dosh” which was going to be Osborne’s first action in government.
But I don’t like this rhetoric at so early a stage. I really, really don’t.