Monday, April 18, 2005

Tripping over the flag

Alas, the absurdity of the election campaign does merit a little further comment. At least four parties in the last week have come out with manifestos majoring on the meme of "giving Britain back to the British" and, best of all, preserving "British culture", a somewhat nebulous construct which I have yet to see any of them attempt to define. Either they're thinking of drinking and fighting, the first two national cultural activities which leap to mind, in which case we're preserving our heritage damn well already thank you, or their thoughts have turned to idle reverie concerning village cricket matches, fetes and jam-making competitions, in which case, aside from some of the backwoods constituencies, someone needs to invent a time machine to keep them all happy. Kilroy-Silk and co are painting a picture of the country which I'm finding rather hard to recognise - a land in which persecuted white middle-class middle England is wrestling bravely against a tide of pesky "political correctness", presumably finding itself underachieving in schools, under-represented in employment, constantly stopped and searched, wrongly imprisoned, harrassed, demonised and misunderstood, while minorities of all types are attracting nothing but the sympathy of the press and public. Perhaps this, frankly insane, perception explains the focus on immigration as an election issue. (Powell peddled the same logic in his hateful 1968 speech, you may recall with a shudder, so this portrayal of "native" as "victim" obviously has a continuing appeal). And yes, while it is certainly possible to be anti-immigration without being racist, a "drawbridge up" policy will still appeal to the ardent racist too: and, given that the BNP got 3/4 million votes (that is not, distressingly, a misprint) in the last national elections, there is clearly a groundswell of opinion which can be mined if you position yourself appropriately. Hence Howard's recent rhetoric returning to the "small island" cliche beloved of many before him. It's a pity, to put it at its mildest, that so many politicians (including the current government) seem happy to line themselves up to do just that.

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