It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that the fresh intake of young MPs that entered the House in the wake of last May’s General Election contains a large contingent of airhead dipsticks. They are the first full wave of newcomers elected to Parliament that belong to the social media generation, the first to have lived their entire adult lives online and to have obsessively indulged in the juvenilia that constitutes debate, the first to represent the extended adolescence that now grinds to a halt around forty. They are the first to have graduated from university when academia had ceased to be the route to intellectual expansion and had instead become an inclusive alternative to the minimum wage, providing frivolous courses and worthless degrees for classroom clowns. They are the first to have had their political eyes opened in an ideologically bankrupt age where savage cynicism renders nothing below the belt, an age without principles, conviction or conscience. Many have little or no memory of the pre-Blair and pre-Campbell Westminster landscape, where there was often substance beneath style, and the best were defined more by what they stood for than what they were against.
Of course, there has always been a sizeable chunk of MPs who are in it to feather their nests as well as a minority on both sides whose reasons for standing are motivated by a genuine desire to effect change for the better. But if the Commons exists to represent the people, it’s no wonder that some of the latest recruits are as dim as those they represent.
In an ideal world, the left and the right would be personified by heavyweights along the lines of Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, whose clash on US TV’s Dick Cavett talk show in the early 70s stands as a timely reminder of how celebrated public figures have dumbed down beyond comprehension. Compare it not only to a contemporary edition of Graham Norton’s equivalent programme, but to the kind of gleefully lowbrow thought processes of those looking to gain access to the political arena today. An MPs hinterland once encompassed classical music (Ted Heath), historical literature (Churchill) or photography (Denis Healey); today, bar the inevitable exceptions, many unwind by tweeting running commentary on ‘The X Factor’, ‘Gogglebox’, f***ing ‘TOWIE’ or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’; some even stoop to appearing on the latter – stand up, Old Mother Cable.
It’s hard to resist the temptation to regard the upsurge in low art that has characterised the past couple of decades as something that has been socially engineered to enable those in power to get away with murder while the Yahoos are distracted by addictive trivia. That some from amongst those ranks have now progressed to the Lower House is a natural development that seems preordained. We already have a lightweight at No.10 who by his own admission is not an especially deep ideological person, issuing a stream of vacuous sound-bites his Spads assure him chime with public opinion whilst his Ministers sell the family silver to China and offshore tax-exiles as well as handing over the remaining beauty spots to industries whose drilling will complete the country’s transformation into a landfill of hope and glory.
With self-aggrandising bullies on one side and venomous gangsters on the other, the Commons is a microcosm of the rotten society it is supposed to speak on the behalf of – a society in which the police, the judiciary and the CPS are in thrall to bureaucratic box-ticking and PC pressure groups, refusing to acknowledge innocence even when a jury has awarded it; a society in which self-appointed moral watchdogs monitor speech and issue severe guidelines on what can and can’t be said; a society in which name-calling constitutes a crime and the recipients are encouraged to revert to helpless infancy rather than displaying the dignity of an adult above the insult; a society in which women are ordered to simultaneously be ball-breaking glass ceiling-smashers, Virgin Mary’s with babies at their breasts, chaste Victorian maidens and sexually promiscuous skanks whose bedroom recklessness can either be curtailed by an STD or crying rape; a society in which every man is a potential paedophile and every child is in eternal peril from the male of the species.
A society in which the plebs are supposed to be grateful that their living wage or zero-hours contract is helping the Government get to grips with the deficit whilst they are taught to view those unable or unwilling to settle for any old shit as scrounging scum deserving of the punitive punishments devised to dehumanise them; a society in which previously beyond-the-pale far-right, ill-informed opinions of immigrants are sold as perfectly acceptable and reasonable viewpoints – as long as the immigrants in question are penniless and can’t buy ministerial favour with a sack full of rubles or yuans; a society in which the few who enjoy a perfectly legal form of intoxicating relaxation are pursued and pilloried by hypocritical, fascistic lobbyists and a series of discriminatory curbs on their civil liberties; a society in which public libraries are seen as expensive luxuries when the needs of the lower orders can be met by fried chicken or pound shops; a society in which idiocy is a virtue and intelligence is mistrusted and frowned upon; a society that those born before around 1990 no longer recognise.
Whenever BBC Parliament transmits live proceedings from the Commons and new arrivals get their moment in the spotlight, I despair. At one time, I used to look at politicians and even if I disagreed with what they had to say, I could tell they’d lived a full life before donning the ministerial mantle and had come to their particular opinion via a combination of experience and education. They had earned their position. I no longer feel that. I see people I’d cross the road to avoid, people I’d want to throttle within minutes were I stuck next to them in a supermarket queue, people who are inherently stupid and devoid of both common sense and personality. Welcome to the future.
© The Editor