I don’t believe you can tell someone else how to live their life unless you’ve lived their life. I said that to someone recently about a well-meaning friend whose advice can sometimes be dispensed in a manner that often comes across as slightly condescending; it’s not from a position of assumed superiority, but simple ignorance of what it is to walk in my shoes. We all know people who make this mistake – and, hell, parents are as guilty as any friend could ever be; but on the whole the advice, however poorly expressed, is generally coming from a good place. It’s mildly irritating because, as the radical psychiatrist RD Laing once said, ‘Within the territory of ourselves, there can be only our footprints’; but we usually let it go on account of recognising the fact that no offence was intended. Perhaps it irritates more in the present climate due to finding ourselves in a virtual epidemic of condescending advice emanating from public figures; and what makes their condescending advice especially hard to stomach – aside from the holier-than-thou manner of its dispensation – is that most issuing it don’t practice what they preach. Throw hypocrisy into the mix and one reaches the point whereby anything these public figures say, even if it should make sense, is received with resentment and contempt.
Politicians, of course, specialise in this field. Margaret Thatcher famously yearned to ‘roll back the power of the State’ and David Cameron expressed similar statements 30 years later; yet the posh pig-f***er presided over a government that continued the interference of the State in the private sphere that had accelerated under Blair and Brown. Advice on how the masses should live their lives increased on Cameron’s watch – even if the majority of this Nanny State interventionism probably emanated from the Tories’ Coalition partners for the first five years of Cameron’s premiership. Maybe the finger-wagging Lib Dem line on telling people what to do infected the Conservative Party far deeper than many realised and could well be the one lasting legacy of the Con-Dem administration. Although the Labour Party in England and the SNP north of the border remain the worst standard bearers of this mindset, neither shared power with the Tories at Westminster, and neither were consequently able to exert the kind of influence the Lib Dems appear to have exerted over government policy that affects the greatest number of people in these islands to this very day.
It goes without saying the unique circumstances of the past eighteen months have intensified this approach; the old – and fondly-recalled – Public Information Films produced by the Central Office of Information (until the Coalition Government abolished it in a fit of Austerity pique) were both unintentionally entertaining and genuinely scary, yet the pseudo-PIFs we’ve endured throughout the pandemic – along with the ‘advertising campaign’ of posters on the sides of bus shelters – have felt closer to old-school Eastern Bloc propaganda in their unambiguously threatening tone, not necessarily suggesting the recommended route is a wiser one than the alternative, but telling the viewer there is no alternative and that they will effectively burn in Hell if they don’t comply. If they were still around and had been hired to run Covid Project Fear, the Kray Twins couldn’t have delivered a more persuasive argument to the sceptic.
Mutual respect is always a better starting point than one party demanding respect with menaces, and it’s difficult to take any advice on board when it comes from somebody one has absolutely no respect for whatsoever. I think I’ve perhaps reached the age where I hold almost all politicians in complete contempt, so when a politician tells me how to live my life, my back is instantly up. Even if one removes the Covid factor, there’s still no shortage of issues that should be down to the personal choice of the individual and have nothing to do with the State whatsoever. The SNP entering into partnership with the Greens – yet another political party that embody all the worst elements of this patronising lecturing and hectoring – is one of the most natural marriages in politics for we-know-what’s-good-for-you authoritarianism masquerading as social progress. An administration that proposes making saying something ‘offensive’ in the privacy of one’s home a criminal offence and advocates infants being able to change their genders in the classroom without recourse to parental consent or consultation is approaching the apex – or nadir – of State interventionism where it’s neither wanted nor needed. Yet, even if this is quite possibly the most extreme example to be found anywhere in the UK, it often feels like barely a day goes by without one more edict from on-high that is aimed at everyone in Britain, parent or no. And it usually comes from those who are eventually exposed as shameless hypocrites.
My gut response to any politician interfering in something they have no place interfering in is to turn the tables, to tell them okay, so I’ll do as I’m told if you follow suit; so, don’t fiddle your expenses or shag your PA when you’re a married man or snort coke when you’re forever warning us how dangerous drugs are. But we all know they’ll carry on regardless because they are born to rule and we are born to be ruled – by them; therefore, they are entitled to special privileges. To be honest, if they want to flout the rules behind closed doors, I really couldn’t care less because I couldn’t care less about them; it’s just when their public persona contradicts their private one that I really resent their unwelcome presence behind my own closed door.
Former Grauniad journo and ‘Newsnight’ reporter Allegra Stratton, a bezzie mate of Carrie Johnson (née Symonds), was until April this year the Downing Street Press Secretary and now works as spokesperson for Alok Sharma, President of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (AKA COP26), scheduled to take place in Glasgow this November. I shouldn’t imagine the numerous VIPs pencilled-in to attend will be arriving for the conference by ship, hot air balloon or horse & cart, and Ms Stratton and her new boss were recently named and shamed as drivers of diesel cars. This mode of vehicle is now regarded as one of the worst on the roads in terms of pollution – far more than petrol-driven cars – yet who would even give a f**k what type of cars such figures are reluctant to surrender in favour of more eco-friendly, carbon-neutral models if they weren’t so eager to lecture the rest of us on how we’re responsible for the death of the planet?
Probably the best example of hypocrisy exposed of late was that of Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook. She was outed as another diesel car driver, and laid bare her eco warrior credentials by claiming it was the only way in which she could take her children to and from rugger practice on a Sunday due to poor public transport. And it won’t have escaped your attention that this is the week in which no one’s favourite bourgeois anarchists have apparently received permission from London’s impeccably unbiased authorities to resume the disruption of life in the capital with their tedious theatrics, bringing traffic to a standstill on London’s bridges and provoking the ire of the ordinary working people that ER couldn’t give a shit about unless they’re prepared to submit to a fire & brimstone sermon – probably via ‘the magic of dance’.
Maybe even more than Covid restrictions, preaching one thing in public and practicing another in private is a recurring own goal when it comes to green issues. Just ask Prince ‘air miles’ Harry. In fact, why bother? I wouldn’t think twice about any of these arseholes if they just got on with living their luxury lifestyles and stopped pretending they have a social conscience when in reality their contempt for me and thee is even greater than ours for them.
© The Editor